Now that Hugo Chavez is out of the picture, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich warns President Obama to tread carefully in dealing with the “evil, evil men” that are now running the South American nation.
“These guys are so tricky and so evil, quite frankly,” Reich, tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview following the announcement of Chavez’ death on Tuesday. “The people in power in Venezuela today are evil.”
Even so, Reich believes that the U.S. will be better off in the Post-Chavez era.
“The United States faces a much better situation today in Latin America with the absence of Mr. Chavez from power,” explained Reich, who was appointed ambassador by President Reagan and served from 1986 to 1989. “Chavez was one of those individuals who comes along in the history of a country once every couple of generations in terms of his charisma, the fact that his enemies underestimated him, the fact that he has a single mindedness of purpose — and a plan.”
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Given his ability to rally — and often finance — enemies of the United States throughout Latin America and other parts of the world, Chavez represented a unique threat, according to Reich.
“The radicals lost a big ally and financier today,” asserted Reich, a frequent Newsmax contributor who has also served as assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, and as a foreign policy adviser to John McCain during is 2008 presidential campaign.
Reich said he is also skeptical as to whether the Venezuelan government itself incited the reported rioting and looting in Venezuela following the announcement of Chavez’ death.
“I would not be surprised if these are instigated by the government itself in order to justify some kind of a military crackdown and eliminate the remainder of the democratic freedoms that still exist in Venezuela,” he said.
Even given such a scenario, Reich believes it may be difficult for acting president Nicolas Maduro to hold power.
“Without Chavez’ charisma, without his ability to give these populist speeches and keep the people psychologically satisfied even if they weren’t physically satisfied, it’s going to be very difficult for the government of Venezuela frankly to maintain law and order,” he said.
That may also explain why Maduro tried to blame "imperialist" adversaries of Venezuela for Chavez’ cancer, and why two American diplomats were expelled from the country.
“He’s articulate as far as somebody with his background goes and he certainly has organizational skills,” Reich said of Maduro, who ran a labor union for bus operators prior to his appointment by Chavez.
“To be a labor leader in any country requires persuasive powers, and organizational abilities. However there’s a big gap between that and being the leader of a nation that has for example the largest oil reserves in the world, larger than Saudi Arabia for example,” said Reich.
Reich also questioned whether Chavez had been dead for some time before Tuesday’s announcement.
“Chavez was last seen 95 days ago and last heard 95 days ago. And that’s very unusual for somebody who was as loquacious as Chavez and who liked to be in the company of the crowds,” asserted Reich.
“There are people in fact who say that he died in Havana in December and they just kept him on ice,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. The fact is that he is now officially dead and that the government in the person of Mr. Maduro is very weak.”
Reich added that Fidel Castro and his brother may be calling the shots in Venezuela.
“Maduro is the chosen candidate of the Castro brothers,” he explained. “Castro practically runs Venezuela. “The most important decisions for Venezuela are made in Cuba by the Cubans and implemented by the Venezuelans.”
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