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Expert Eye: Professor Elsa Cardozo On Chavez's Recognition Of South Ossetia, Abkhazia

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez lifts a cup of coffee as he speaks to students in Moscow on September 10.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez lifts a cup of coffee as he speaks to students in Moscow on September 10.
RFE/RL: Under the Venezuelan system, how is the independence of a new country recognized?

Professor Elsa Cardozo: There are two aspects from a constitutional point of view. The recognition of another state is a presidential prerogative. The president can make the decision and announce it and formalize the recognition. From a formal and constitutional point of view, the moment a president designates a diplomatic mission, the legislative branch would have to approve the appointment of the chief of mission that President Chavez designates.

From the more political perspective, in years past, the recognition [by the Venezuela government] of two nations only recognized by another two countries would have been done with consultation and an effort to achieve consensus. In Venezuela, such consultations are lamentably no longer done.

RFE/RL: President Chavez's announcement has received a great deal of attention in Russia and in Georgia. How much attention is it receiving in the Venezuelan press?

Cardozo: Obviously the news came out too late to be in today's print newspapers. But on websites it appears as the leading story because it comes in the context of another worry shared by Venezuelans: relations between Venezuela and Russia. It is in this context that the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia is seen as two situations in which Venezuela should really stay out of.

There was no reason to participate in a situation that would raise international tension, [a] situation so far removed geographically and politically from Venezuela.

RFE/RL: The announcement by Chavez is of particular importance to both Washington and Moscow. As you look at the landscape, is this more a jab at the United States or a sop to Russia?

Cardozo: It's evidently both things. Chavez is taking advantage of the situation, as he said in his speech on arriving in Russia, that this is part of his struggle against the superpower, the United States.

This is what Chavez has done at all the destinations [of his latest trip, including Iran, Turkmenistan, Italy, Belarus, and Russia] -- giving speeches against American imperialism.

RFE/RL: Is the announced recognition by Chavez of Abkhazia and South Ossetia something that may be opposed within the Venezuelan political system?

Cardozo: Almost the entire National Assembly are allies of President Chavez. The opposition did not participate in the last legislative elections in protest against arbitrary rules set in place to undermine them. The assembly is controlled by Chavez, [so] there will likely be no opposition toward [Chavez's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia], even when the head of mission is named.

However, for public opinion, this is important -- not because the public really knows much about the region, but because it is reflective of the foreign policy decisions and alliances that Chavez is making.

RFE/RL: How was last year's war between Russia and Georgia seen in Venezuela?

Cardozo: It depends on what part of the public you're talking about. Among informed circles, there was [a] rejection of Russian interference in this case of violent separatism.

RFE/RL: Does Venezuela have any problems with "separatism" as Russia has near its borders?

Cardozo: The Venezuelan frontiers are already fixed. Someone once speculated if Columbia's guerrilla [-controlled region] would form a kind of third state between the two countries and if President Chavez would recognize it. This is the only speculation that has been made.

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