Chavez Still a Threat Despite Referendum Defeat
by Steven Emerson
December 3, 2007
Multimedia for this item
NEIL CAVUTO: My next guest says don't break out the champagne just yet for Chavez – Chavez can still do lots of damage in the four years he has left in office.
Steve Emerson is a counterterrorism analyst. Steve, what do you mean?
STEVE EMERSON: Well, he's got an incredibly tight relationship with Ahmadinejad and the regime of Iran. He has invited them to Venezuela several times. He has been to Iran. He has cultivated a relationship with Hezbollah, HAMAS, and other Islamic terrorist groups, and it's probably not secret that there is a military relationship in the offing between some of those groups and Venezuela.
He can do a lot of damage. Also, he is bringing in Iranian diplomats who, under cover, really are working as intelligence assets into neighboring countries and to Venezuela. He can do damage in the remaining years that he has in office.
CAVUTO: …and that's assuming that it's just those remaining years that he has in office. Anything can happen between now and 2012, right?
EMERSON: He can change his mind. Look, Putin – I call him a totalitarian democrat – he says that he abides by the rule of the people, but he's really a totalitarian. So is Chavez. And who knows whether he'll bring another referendum like this and stack the decks because the difference in the vote was only 1%.
CAVUTO: Alright, so, now play it out for me. If we know that Hugo Chavez is a guy that likes his office, he became all but a dictator in that office, who's to say that even reading the will of the people in 2012 he leaves office?
EMERSON: There's nothing to say that. He could change his mind tomorrow or in 2012. He could create a national emergency – the way that he shut down the opposing television station under those national emergency rules – and say that now the country requires me to stay on. And in the meantime, the relationship with Hezbollah, HAMAS, and Islamic Jihad, and other Islamic terrorist groups are going to continue and flourish. And that's very dangerous because it not only brings him into the Middle East, but brings them into our hemisphere.
CAVUTO: You know, Steve, there are so many turning points when you could say that he lost this and many point to the economy and the fact that despite all the oil, the Venezuelan economy is hiccupping. But for my money, I think it was when the Spanish leader told him to shut up – that that was a worldwide turning point. What do you think?
EMERSON: You know, you may be right. I think his opponents were galvanized by two things: one is, the ferocity and the blatant illegality of some of his moves against his opposition; and two, the way he was put down by the Spanish president. I think you're right – I think they were galvanized. His opponents went out in the street and voted in a much higher percentage than his supporters did.
CAVUTO: Could I ask you this – I'm just curious as you know the region very well.
Do most Venezuelans share his contempt of America that he does?
EMERSON: You know, it's hard to say because public opinion polls shift. There is a large anti-American fervor sweeping the world today, so, to a certain extent, the anti-American sentiment there, Neil, is not much different. But it could be certainly changed by a populist who is pro-American and says "we've got to ally ourselves with the North Americans." And that could change over night if somebody else was in power.
CAVUTO: Well I think you and I are in agreement on this, Steve. He ain't going anywhere in 2012 – my prediction, for what it's worth.
But, Steve, thank you very very much.
EMERON: You're welcome.
CAVUTO: Steve Emerson.