Thousands Take Part In Anti-Chavez Marches In Several Countries

By Dialogo
September 08, 2009

Large crowds also came out for a demonstration in Honduras led by de-facto leader Roberto Micheletti, who took power after a June 28 coup that ousted President Mel Zelaya.This shows what they want. Thousands of people demonstrated against controversial leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in marches held in several countries and organized via Internet by a group of Colombians. The best-attended rallies, in which white-clad demonstrators marched under the banner "No More Chavez," took place in Colombia, Honduras and Miami and drew several thousand people, while in Caracas a few hundred took part in marches either for or against the Venezuelan leader. Small anti-Chavez demonstrations, none of which attracted more than 200 people, also were held in New York, Madrid, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Panama City, Quito, La Paz, Paris and Berlin. The biggest rally took place in Bogota, where between 8,000 and 10,000 people marched from different parts of the capital to the downtown area. Tensions have arisen recently between Colombia and Venezuela over Bogota's decision to allow U.S. troops access to several of its military bases and insinuations by President Alvaro Uribe's government that Chavez has been arming Colombian leftist rebels. Chavez has threatened to cut off imports from Colombia if Bogota does not back out of the basing deal, a significant threat given Colombia's exports to Venezuela made up a disproportionate share of the nations' $7 billion worth of trade last year. Chavez - who was briefly ousted in a 2002 coup, which he claims the U.S. government supported - says the base deal represents a threat to his country and could spark a war in the region. Colombia, however, contends Venezuela has nothing to fear and maintains the agreement will bolster the fight against drug trafficking and terrorist activity and is necessary after Ecuador ended a lease allowing U.S. access to a base in that country. Tensions also have surfaced over supposed meddling by Venezuela in Colombian politics ahead of next year's presidential election, with the Uribe administration filing a complaint in that regard with the Organization of American States. Chavez's critics see his alleged interference in Colombia as part of a plan to spread communist revolution across the region, pointing to his close ties with Cuba's leadership to support those claims. They also say he buys the support of poorer countries by providing subsidized oil, while Chavez counters by frequently ridiculing right-leaning leaders in the region as oligarchs who want to keep the poor in their place. Oscar Morales, one of the Colombians who coordinated the rallies via Facebook and Twitter, told Efe Friday's marches are just the beginning of a campaign in some 30 countries to push back against "the Venezuelan president and his expansionist aims." Large crowds also came out for a demonstration in Honduras led by de-facto leader Roberto Micheletti, who took power after a June 28 coup that ousted President Mel Zelaya. Zelaya, who turned to the left after taking office in January 2006, was arrested by army soldiers and flown out of the country after his efforts to amend the Honduran constitution upset the political establishment. His opponents say he was influenced by Chavez and wanted to change the charter to stay in power indefinitely, even though any constitutional change couldn't have occurred until after Zelaya's term had expired. Chavez thought "that with a little fuel, not his own but that of the Venezuelan people, he was going to buy consciences in our country: he was wrong," Micheletti said during a demonstration in Tegucigalpa, referring to subsidized oil provided to Caribbean and Central American countries by crude-rich Venezuela. Supporters of Zelaya also held a counter-demonstration in the Honduran capital to demand his reinstatement. In Miami, more than 2,000 Latin Americans marched in spite of the rain to protest "Chavista interference and expansionism in Latin American countries." Meanwhile, hundreds of Chavez opponents marched peacefully in Caracas for three hours against the socialist head of state and his Bolivarian revolution, while supporters of the Venezuelan leader demonstrated elsewhere in the capital.