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Remarks on Chavez Criticized

The flap over a planned visit to Montgomery County by Venezuela's U.S. ambassador and a potential partnership with community organizations has continued to reverberate through the Latino community.

To recap: Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) had hoped to bring Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez to meet with county leaders and to consider investing in local social programs as the Venezuelan government has done in Prince George's County and in other states.

Word of the event raised objections from some local Venezuelan and Cuban immigrants who oppose the government of Hugo Cháavez. Elrich rescinded plans pulled the plug on his plans after he was chastised by fellow council members for presenting the visit as an official county project. And County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said he wanted no part in the visitevent. "Montgomery County can take care of its own problems. Thank you. No thank you," he said in a statement last week.

This week, state Del. Ana Sol Guitierrez called Leggett's comments disrespectful. "There's no reason for that type of rebuff," she said. "It's not about Venezuela. It's about the courtesy we need to show for those who have reached a high level position in representing their countries."

Former county executive Douglas M. Duncan had a relationship with El Salvador's ambassador, she said, even though many people in the Washington area are not supportive of that country's right-wing government.
Leggett's spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the county executive stands by his comments.

The Venezuelan ambassador also weighed in after a Post article last Friday, telling Elrich in a letter that an official invitation had never been issued, so therefore could not have been cancelled.

"This kind of article, lacking in accuracy, does not contribute to our relationship," he wrote, before ending on a positive note. "I am always willing to receive any invitation in order to deepen our ties and foster cooperation between our two countries."

Elrich said he is undeterred by the criticism controversy and still working on establishing a relationship that is separate from the county government.

-- Ann E. Marimow

By Anne Bartlett  |  October 18, 2007; 9:42 AM ET
Categories:  Ann Marimow  
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Um, you might want to mention WHICH county you're talking about. It took me a while to figure out you meant Montgomery.

Posted by: Ryan | October 18, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Umm... it says Montgomery County in the sentence. Isnt' that about as early as you can mention it?

Posted by: NCL | October 18, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

It's obvious by the lack of your reading skills that you have no place in making comments here. Montgomery County is mentioned multiple times. On another note it's rather sad to see the reactions of council members when others are saying they can help. There is no problem accepting help from other countries such as Venezuela.

Posted by: FrankyFourFingers | October 18, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

The main reason we have so much illegal immigration from Central and South America is that the jobs in the United States are better than the jobs south of our country. In fact there is a shortage of jobs in Central and South America. Would not it be wise to at least be on speaking terms with the government of Venezuela which has lots of oil money would could be used to provide jobs to our south?

Posted by: Roin Ficker of Robin Realty | October 18, 2007 1:57 PM | Report abuse

In fairness to Ryan, I added Montgomery to the first graph after reading his comment

Posted by: Phyllis Jordan | October 18, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Venezula, just like Cuba has no business spending money on social programs in the U.S. Those governments have a greater responsiblity to their own people, which they oppress and provide a much lower standard of living.

On the U.S. side, county governments are ill advised to deal with foreign governments and have no legal powers to do so.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2007 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Del. Guitierrez and any other politician that allows themselves to be knowingly used in a foreign propaganda campaign should face treason charges. They all know that there's NOT ONE shanty town in Montgomery County but how many are there in Venezuela? Why is Venezuela eager to help us? Because acceptance of any assistance from Venezuela is used by Chavez in an attempt to paint us as oil-hungry Americans that will sell our souls to keep the pipelines flowing.

Hugo Chavez can keep his assistance, his oil, his state-run media and his sham elections. This guy is acquiring Russian made fighter jets and other military equipment and is an enemy of the United States. It's that simple.

I'm no fan of Ike "tax your arm and Leggett" but one thing I can say to his credit is that he's on the right side of this issue.

Posted by: BG from PG | October 18, 2007 6:24 PM | Report abuse

?A quien[`] no le gusta el coco?

Posted by: sawargos | October 18, 2007 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Well, it is clear that Leggett is unwilling to meet with Chavez during his first year in office and without preconditions.

Posted by: PGVoter | October 19, 2007 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Why so much fear of Venezuelans? America is not THAT weak yet that we have to be afraid to work with emerging nations in the hemisphere. Lets get real, put those irrational fears away and lead the world again. TGIF.

Posted by: R U Dreaming | October 19, 2007 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Most people here are missing the point. The Chavez government is turning a democracy into a dictatorship. A dictatorship, whether from the left or the right, is not beneficial to its people in the long run. The Chavez government is attempting to influence other nations in South and Central America by using its wealth to prop up governments that are beholden to it (i.e. Bolivia (financed that President's campaign); Argentina (helped pay off its national debt); Ecuador (financed political campaign of candidate that is in line with Chavez) etc.) The list goes on and on. These governments, which are reactionary left governments, play to those countries' nationalism but do not deliver anything to their people. Chavez, who like Castro, has made a sport of attacking the U.S. He uses the U.S. to create an enemy that will help the people rally around him. Unlike Castro, however, he is not delivering anything to the Venezuelan poor. Atleast, say what you want about Castro, they at least have the highest education rate in Latin America and probably have the best health care system there. The horrible thing is that those people can't do anything with their education. They are healthy but they are starving. The facts are the facts. The Venezuelan poor, the Bolivian poor, the Ecuadorian poor, are not getting anything from these governments, other than nationalism. And last I checked nationalism does not buy groceries in the super market.
So, before championing any cause related to Chavez, people should check the facts.
This includes council members or delegates. It is particularly disturbing that local officials are engaging in international affairs with governments that have ill will towards the U.S.
Are we in so much trouble that we are willing to take money from a dictator (for all tends and purposes, Chavez is becoming one). Would the leftist legislators eager to take money from a Pinochet (a right wing dictator)?
I think this was a simple case of not really understanding world affairs and latin american politics. What can they offer to Montgomery County residents if they don't really care about their own people?
As a latin american myself, I will definitely look at Mr. Elrich differently and I am disappointed with Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez who should know better.

Posted by: Alo | October 19, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Pinochet- took power by murdering Allende; Bush - took power by stealing Gore victory via Supreme Court denial of recount; Chavez - elected as President in election regulated by international observers including (U.N. and OAS representatives and former President Jimmy Carter). No one can argue that Chavez is not ruling with a heavy hand, but lets not be hypocritical...can we be so sure that those new Deibold electronic voting machines (built in Texas) are counting fair? My point is that who is a "democratic leader" and who is "not democratic leader" in the world today is debatable...upon point of view. This debate should not prevent us from meeting and discussing with other peoples especially in our own hemisphere. To begin isolating ourselves is a bad move strategically. Agree?

Posted by: R U Dreaming | October 19, 2007 2:46 PM | Report abuse

BTW, I feel USA is still the strongest power in the hemisphere...if we do not LEAD and attempt to show EVERYONE in this hemisphere how things are done and their ROLE - we will lose that power. We need to speak of this and meet with any nation that will meet and listen. Also, we should listen when they speak...perhaps we disagree...but don't stop meeting. Soapbox closed. TGIF

Posted by: RU Dreaming | October 19, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse

The election part of Chavez is somewhat of a fair point. Although let's not forget that he first came to national politics in Venezuela was when he led a failed coup as a general of the Venezuelan army. Granted, he won elections afterwards. But once in power, if you look at his policies and official actions, he is concentrating more power in the executive branch (disbanded congress at one point, disbanded the judiciary, changed the constitution dramatically etc.) Whether you win an "election" or take power by force, a dictatorship is still a dictatorship.
Chavez does not want daialogue with the U.S., he needs an enemy so that he does not have discuss his failed policies (to date he has not improved the lives of his people and all social indicators show that their lifestyles have actually diminished). There is nothing wrong with populism if you actually do something. At least, Castro delivered what he promised.
Regardless of how broken our political system is, we at least can debate issues just like we are doing on this forum. Unfortunately, Venezuelans cannot do the same (he cancelled all free television stations and the media is now completely state run).
In any event, it is not the job of local officials to engage a foreign government, it is the job of the federal government to do so.
The problem with American foreign policy is crystalized by the incident described in the article above, a lack of understanding of the political cultures of the world we live in. There is a lack of understanding of what is actually happening on the ground, not simply reading news reports and drawing conclusion from it. Chavez and the puppet governments he is creating (which by the way, he is simply doing what the US does gain support of others by throwing around money) are just as bad, if not worst, than the right leaning governments they are replacing because, although they claim to speak for the poor, they don't do anything for them, those are the facts. In the process of pushing nationalist agendas, they are suffocating their economies and as a result, the poor become poorer. They are not doing anything, nothing at all, to improve the education of their population.
To conclude my point, we cannot advocate for or against foreign governments without really understanding what they are about and what they are doing and what policies they advance. I agree that communications has to flow between the US and other countries but we cannot and must not help legitimize regimes that do not deserve legitimizing.

Posted by: Alo | October 19, 2007 5:38 PM | Report abuse

RU Dreaming,

Stop making excuses for a despot just because you and he share the same hatred for George Bush. Jimmy Carter "overseeing" one polling station proves what? You're not even in touch with reality to know that the votes in 2000 were recounted. Gore lost. Bush won. Get over it. Still more than 14 months to go too.

If you want to talk about hypocrisy then why would a liberal such as yourself want Montgomery County taking assistance from the Venezuelan people? That would be akin to Bill Gates taking a social security check from an old lady that's living on cat food. You and the far Left are something else.

Posted by: BG from PG | October 19, 2007 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the responses. Alo, I see your point of view, but agree to disagree.

BG, get real...Bush did not win...America lost...if anyone won in 2000, ALQueda won the upper hand. Bush ignored all the analysis of AlQueda done by Clinton's team including Richard Clark. My point is that the time for the Bush doctorine of folding our arms and holding our breath like a spoiled unhappy rich brat are over. We need to being communicating with and leading the world as we did prior to the Bush kleptocracy. Continuing to ignore parts of a world where we lead will lead to more catastrophes.

For the past six years, this administration has tried to leverage fear on the once courageous American people...they have succeeded in turning many folks into cowards - I hope its temporary..because weve got to awaken from this fear and face the world including those we consider enemies.

Posted by: R U Dreaming | October 19, 2007 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Despite the bumper sticker on your Prius, a study showed that even if the Supreme Court had not halted the recount, Bush still won.

You also seem to be forgetting Clinton's isolation of North Korea and how well that worked too. Now that the Bush administration has engaged North Korea in talks, real progress is being made there.

No one is leveraging fear on anyone. It's naive to think that we don't live in a dangerous world. What was Clinton's first clue? The Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania? The USS Cole? If Clinton had so much detailed information on Al Queda to pass over to Bush, apparently he derilicted his duty by failing to act during his term.

There needs to be a balance of diplomacy backed by a REAL possibilty of military action. That's what brings people like Kim Jong Il, Ahmadinejad and Chavez to the table.

Posted by: BG from PG | October 20, 2007 11:19 AM | Report abuse

BG, what are you really so afraid of?

Posted by: R U Dreaming | October 20, 2007 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Prius? LOL


Posted by: R U Dreaming | October 20, 2007 10:37 PM | Report abuse

R U Dreaming, I hate to break this to you but no one has ever found a way to count the 2000 Florida ballots in a way that allows Al Gore to win.

You guys lost, get over it already.

And the only disenfranchised voters ever found in Florida were the absentee military voters who had their votes tossed out by little Al Gore's legal team.

What you are displaying is know as "projection." You take the things you are willing to do and declare the people opposed to you and your "ideas" as being guilty of doing them.

It just makes you look as dishonest as you look foolish.

Posted by: Rufus | October 22, 2007 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Rufus, so you are not a Gore supporter - cool - are you telling us that you actually voted for "W"? If so, are you proud of that vote? Just for the sake of argument, lets call the 2001-2009 period in America, spilt milk. Who are you supporting for Prez in 2008? Honest curiousity - though I understand if you don't want to disclose.

Posted by: R U Dreaming | October 22, 2007 8:55 PM | Report abuse

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