Capitol Hill Chronicles

Juan Cristobal says: – Today we have something really special for you.

Dorothy is an American economist who has spent considerable time in Venezuela. Her insightful reports on various issues related to our country have appeared in print and on the web.

Now based in Washington, DC, she has succumbed to our begging and agreed to write for us once in a while – volunteer writing, of course, this being a revolution and all.

Her inaugural post is an account of the latest Congressional hearings on all things Hugo. Please help me welcome Dorothy to Caracas Chronicles!

Dorothy says – As a born-and-bred norteamericana just returned from a year-long sojourn in Caracas, I’d like to think that the US can do better by Venezuela than the government’s cringeworthy post-coup comments, the hard-right Otto Reich ridiculousness or the recent parade of PSF celebrities.

A recent hearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs (“Venezuela: Looking Forward“) gave me a glimmer of hope. In three hours of testimony and discussion, there was a respectable amount of level-headed common sense about how the next administration can improve bilateral relations: make clear that we have no intent to engineer regime change in Venezuela, focus on our commercial (oil) relationship, and, above all, avoid doing anything stupid like designating Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism.

That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty of stupidity–this remains, after all, the Bush administration. Early in the session, long-time NY Democratic representative Eliot Engel (who is the committee chair) congratulated Miss Venezuela on winning the Miss Universe pageant, prompting Republican Dan Burton to blurt out, “Is she here?!”

Engel said that no, she wasn’t here, but that if she were, they would surely have invited her to testify first. Shannon (Thomas Shannon, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere) looked uncomfortable.

Raging Chavez-hater Connie Mack took the prize for the dumbest comment of the session. The four academic experts who testified (Javier Corrales, David Myers, Norman Bailey, and Jennifer McCoy) concurred that it would be unwise for the US to designate Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism. Thankfully, Shannon seemed to agree — he couldn’t say so outright, but he repeated several times that the administration is acutely aware of the potential political consequences of such a move. Needless to say, this did not go over well with Connie, who said that while “this time it was laptops with information about Chavez’s relationship with the FARC,” next time it might be laptops with information about an “increasing relationship” with Ahmadinejad … as if talking to Iran were grounds on which to designate a country a state sponsor of terrorism!

If that were the case, we’d have to add ourselves to the list!

He also pronounced Ahmadinejad “AK-madinejad.” Maybe he should take note of Katie Couric’s trick: say “I’m a dinner jacket” very quickly. But even that’s not right.

Anyway, here’s hoping some of the positive lessons from this hearing get through to the Obama administration. If the comments on his website are any indicator, at least a few Venezuelans are optimistic: a note from someone calling himself the “World Director Venezolanos con Obama” in Los Teques says,

“I’m from Venezuela,i love my country,i’m proud of that,but we are passing for a very hard time in here,i don’t like anything from President Chavez,i never support him,i hope the you be the next President of U.S.A.and not only help your country,i hope the you help my country. I’m really proud of you Sir,because when the people pass for bad time in there lives,we need a person the can move the deep of our soul & make us feel alive again. I’m sorry for my English. Thank you so much.”