Venezuela President Hugo Chavez warned Wednesday that his country is ready to take action against any government that takes power in Bolivia if his close ally, Evo Morales, is toppled. Chavez repeated allegations that a U.S.-backed plan was under way to prevent Morales’ administration from governing effectively so that his removal could be justified later.
“Venezuela will not keep its arms crossed if the Bolivian government and people are attacked from outside or within,” he said in a televised speech. Venezuela will “do whatever it can so that the (next) government lasts as long as Carmonazo’s did,” he said, in reference to Pedro Carmona, who headed an interim government for less than 48 hours during a 2002 against Chavez.
The short-lived coup ended abruptly amid a popular uprising that helped restore Chavez to power. Chavez did not elaborate on what actions his government might be willing to take if something similar in Bolivia happens. The Venezuelan leader has repeatedly accused government opponents in Bolivia, the media, and the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, of trying to stir dissidence among military officers and fomenting recent strikes and other unrest in the country.
U.S. officials have denied that they are planning coups against either Chavez or Morales. Chavez’s comments come as Bolivia’s opposition has raised concerns about Venezuelan intervention in the country’s affairs. They have taken aim at plans for Venezuela to help set up military bases in the country and also criticized comments by the Venezuelan ambassador saying his countrymen were willing to die to protect the government of Morales.
Relations between Bolivia and Washington have been mired in mutual suspicion, and since Morales took office in January, cooperation between the two countries’ military has all but disappeared. Previously, U.S. troops held joint exercises with Bolivian soldiers and once created, trained and equipped an elite Bolivian anti-terrorism unit. Morales has quickly forged close ties with Chavez, signing a series of military, energy and other cooperation pacts.