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| 11/24/2009 12:00:00 AM

Chavez destabilizes region; don’t blame U.S., Colombia

Nov 24--In his op-ed in The Hill (“A step backward for the hemisphere,” Nov. 11), Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez argues that a bilateral Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) between the United States and Colombia has “provoked regional instability.” As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, I know that nothing could be further from the truth.

Colombia is an important friend and ally, and the U.S.-Colombia DCA strengthens the already excellent partnership between our countries. In spite of reports to the contrary, this bilateral agreement simply regularizes existing security cooperation between the United States and Colombia. It envisions no permanent U.S. bases or increased military deployments.
 
In fact, it is not U.S. cooperation with Colombia that has “provoked regional instability”; it is the increasingly bellicose words of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. His negative rhetoric against the U.S. and our allies in Latin America and around the world continues almost unabated every day. On Nov. 9, he urged Venezuelans to prepare for war with Colombia.

While President Chavez continues to use the U.S. and Colombia as scapegoats for his own domestic troubles, the real challenge for regional stability lies in President Chavez’s increasingly cozy relationship with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair recently said that Venezuela is “serving as a bridge to help Iran build relations with other Latin American countries.”
 
Read more here.
 
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