Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium
Venezuela's caudillo [strongman] President Hugo
Chávez has his sights set on an extended stay in executive
office well beyond the possibilities of even a second Obama
Administration. Like his hero Fidel Castro, Chávez
aspires to remain a thorn in the side for multiple U.S.
presidents. With his Bolivarian Revolution and "socialism for
the 21st Century," Chávez has harnessed Venezuela's abundant
oil wealth to pay for socialist experimentation at home and lavish
subsidies for the like-minded in Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
He advocates Latin America's independence from U.S. overseas
influence and fosters establishment of a global, anti-American
coalition with Iran, Russia and others. The Obama
Administration has yet to speak on the topic, emitting before
January 20 mixed signals ranging from hope of conciliation to tough
talk about Chávez's authoritarian tendencies and dubious
friends. Forging a realistic policy for managing the
Chávez "threat" will be a fundamental challenge for the
Obama foreign policy team.
Michael Rowan is co-author along with Douglas
E. Schoen of The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chávez and
the War Against America published this year by Simon &
Schuster. Rowan is a political consultant and newspaper
columnist who lived in Caracas from 1993 to 2006. A Democrat,
he is former president of the International Association of
Political Consultants with campaign experience in 14 nations since
1970. In Venezuela's presidential campaign of 2006, he was
the strategist for Governor Manuel Rosales.
Ambassador Otto Reich served as Assistant
Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (2001-2002) and
Special Envoy for Western Hemisphere Initiatives (2002-2004).
During Reagan-Bush years, he was U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela
(1986-1989), a Special Advisor to the Secretary of State and
director of the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and
the Caribbean (1983-1986), and Assistant Administrator of the U.S.
Agency for International Development (USAID) in charge of U.S.
economic assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean
More About the Speakers
Author of The Threat Closer to Home
Ambassador Otto J. Reich
Former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela and
Otto Reich Associates, LLC
Ray Walser, Ph.D.
Senior Policy Analyst