Chávez: U.S., NATO planning an attack

Miami Herald

September 4, 2005

President Hugo Chávez said intelligence has uncovered a U.S.-NATO plan to invade Venezuela, and that the nation is preparing and will be ready to repeal the invasion.

CARACAS - (AP) -- Venezuela has uncovered plans for a NATO U.S.-led invasion and is preparing to defend the country against invading forces if necessary, President Hugo Chávez said, according to a report by the state-run news agency.

The Bolivarian News Agency reported that Chávez made the comments during an interview with CNN. It was not clear when the interview was to be aired.

''We discovered through intelligence work a military exercise that NATO has of an invasion against Venezuela, and we are preparing ourselves for that invasion,'' Chávez was quoted as saying late Friday night.

He said the military exercise is known as ''Plan Balboa'' and includes rehearsing simultaneous assaults by air, sea and land at a military base in Spain, involving troops from the United States and NATO countries. U.S. officials in the past have said such training is meant to prepare troops for general scenarios but not for a specific military action.

''If it occurs to the United States to invade our country -- Fidel Castro said it and I agree -- a war will start here to last 100 years,'' he added. ``Not only this country would be burned up, but a good part of this continent; they shouldn't make any mistake about it; we are preparing to repel an invasion.''

Chávez has made similar claims in the past, and U.S. officials have repeatedly denied them as ridiculous. Venezuela is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and a major supplier of fuel to the United States.

''It's known they have everything planned out to capture the oil fields of the west and the east, the south,'' Chávez was quoted as saying.

Chávez repeated his threat that if the government of President Bush were to attempt an attack, his government would cut off oil shipments to the United States.

Tensions have grown in recent months between Chávez and the U.S. government.

On Saturday, more than 100 Chávez supporters marched through Caracas to demand justice against American religious broadcaster Pat Robertson for recently suggesting their president should be killed. Almost two weeks ago, Robertson drew condemnation from Venezuela's government and others for suggesting Chávez should be assassinated because he poses a threat to the United States.