Venezuela's Chavez says US aggression would meet with Vietnam-style guerrilla wars

The Associated Press
Published: September 9, 2007

CARACAS, Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez warned Washington on Sunday that Latin Americans across the hemisphere would wage Vietnam-style guerrilla wars if the U.S. attempts to topple his leftist allies in the region.

Flanked by Bolivian President Evo Morales, Chavez cautioned against an alleged U.S.-backed plot aimed at toppling the Bolivian leader, saying, "I know that they are conspiring to try to remove him from power, even kill him."

Chavez, who has accused the U.S. of plotting against him and Morales before, did not elaborate or provide evidence of the alleged plot. U.S. officials have repeatedly rejected his claims that Washington is trying to oust Latin American leaders.

"If the U.S. empire violently attacks our people using its lackeys in these countries, here in Venezuela or there in Bolivia, they must be aware that we will not remain with our arms crossed," Chavez said during his weekly radio and television program "Hello President."

Borrowing an anti-imperialist phrase from Cuba's revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Chavez said: "If that occurs, we will shout with Che Guevara and then one, two, three, four, five or 10 Vietnams will have to be created in Latin America."

Since taking office in 1999, Chavez has emerged as Latin America's most outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy while forging strong ties with Washington foes such as Syria, Iran and communist-led Cuba.

Although U.S. officials argue Chavez poses a threat to democracy in the region, they say Washington is pushing for a pragmatic approach to relations that would acknowledge political differences while allowing progress in areas such as anti-drug cooperation.

Chavez also said he is willing to travel to rebel-controlled territory in neighboring Colombia to meet with the commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, as he seeks to broker a prisoner exchange between the guerrillas and the government.

Among about 45 prominent hostages held by the rebels are three U.S. defense contractors and former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian citizen.

"I'm willing to go into the deepest part of the largest jungle to talk with Marulanda," Chavez said. "I have faith that we will succeed. Nobody said it would be easy."