- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2001

Defending Venezuela

Venezuelan Ambassador Alfredo Toro Hardy is tired of political analysts and journalists portraying his president as a renegade statesman who embraces communists and dictators.
President Hugo Chavez drew negative publicity with a visit to Iraq last year and one to Cuba in 1999, but the ambassador says those reports were unbalanced.
"Particular actions and words of President Chavez have been highlighted in ways that ignore the context in which they were taken or spoken," he said in a letter reviewing the events of the past year.
Mr. Toro Hardy, who is due to be reassigned as ambassador to Britain, said the visit to Iraq was only one stop on a trip to members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in preparation for an OPEC summit in Caracas, Venezuela.
Mr. Chavez was the first head of state to visit Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War.
"Everyone hears about the visit of the Cuban president to Caracas, ignoring the fact that days before, President Chavez had been host to 15 Central American and Caribbean presidents and prime ministers with whom he signed energy supply agreements which were the same as the one signed with Cuba," the ambassador said.
"President Chavez's visit to Cuba was extensively covered by the media, but very little has been said about his five trips to the United States, his three trips to Europe or his six trips to Brazil.
Mr. Chavez, who attempted to mount a military coup in 1992, visited Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 1999, and Mr. Castro paid a visit to Venezuela last year.
"Many prefer to see our reality in black and white and avoid the effort required to understand the complexities of the process taking place in Venezuela.
"We are, however, secure in the knowledge that, sooner or later, the deeply democratic nature of the Venezuelan transformation process, its market-oriented laws and its contribution to energy price stability shall become clearly evident to all."

Chile deal on hold

Chile may be hoping for a better free-trade deal with the Bush White House after rejecting Clinton administration conditions that could have resulted in sanctions over labor and environmental standards.
"It would not be acceptable to Chile to include labor and environmental requirements," Deputy Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz said on a visit to Washington last week.
The Clinton administration is promoting trade standards backed by U.S. labor unions that would allow the United States to impose economic sanctions if Chile failed to enforce its labor and environmental laws.
Mr. Munoz told the InterAmerican Dialogue, a think tank on Latin-American issues, that Chile prefers the type of agreement it has with Canada. Chile and Canada dealt with labor and environmental issues as side agreements to the main trade accord. They are enforceable through monetary fines, not economic sanctions, that one country could impose upon the other for failure to enforce labor and environmental laws.
"There is room for compromise, and I think the room is around the kind of agreement Chile has with Canada," he said.
Trade between the two countries totals about $6 billion, nearly 20 percent of Chile's overall foreign business.
U.S. investment in Chile has reached $13 billion.

Solid as a ROC

Lorna Hahn, director of the Association on Third World Affairs, read about Taiwan's slogan contest in yesterday's Embassy Row and could not resist adding her own entry.
Mrs. Hahn included her suggestion in an e-mail she sent to announce the cancellation of her Russian Embassy seminar this evening.
Proclaiming herself an "unapologetic punster," she noted that Taiwan's formal name is the Republic of China (ROC), pronounced like "rock."
She declared, "I therefore submit: 'ROC Solid! Our Democracy. Our Economy. Our Future!"
So inspired, Embassy Row suggests: "ROC On, Taiwan."
Taiwan is accepting entries through Feb. 28 and offering prize money and round-trip airline tickets to the island nation for contest winners.
Entries can be made at https://th.gio.gov.tw/slogan.

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