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Can't keep up with the coups

April 26, 2001 | Page 4

WHEN YOU'RE a world superpower, it's difficult to stay up to date on the coups that you help to orchestrate--especially when they don't succeed.

Maybe that's why there still seems to be some confusion at the U.S. embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, about last week's failed coup against President Hugo Chávez.

On April 12, just hours after the coup, the embassy's Web site listed three official statements. But the pages are blank for "Events in Venezuela: Change in Government" and "U.S.-Spain Joint Statement on the Situation in Venezuela."

Clicking on the link "Statement by the Ambassador of the United States (Spanish)" brings up an October 15 press release on "Humanitarian Aid to the Afghan People"--but nothing about the coup.

Fortunately, Ambassador Charles Shapiro's statement is available in the Spanish version. Without mentioning the temporary removal of elected President Hugo Chávez, Shapiro praises the interim government's pledge to investigate the former government's apparent shooting of demonstrators.

Shapiro goes on to praise the "new government" for its "intention to strengthen democratic institutions and processes within a framework of respect for human and civil rights."

Of course, the coup makers' choice for president, businessman Pedro Carmona, suspended the constitution and abolished the National Assembly.

How's that for "strengthening democratic institutions"?

--Washington Post, April 19, 2002

The mouths of babes

CALIFORNIA Gov. Gray Davis got a bit of a shock when he stopped to chat with fourth graders on a field trip to the State Capitol building in Sacramento recently.

When Davis asked the kids what they wanted to do when they were older, he got the usual responses--until one of the 10-year-olds informed the governor, "I want to overthrow the government." Davis was a bit taken aback.

The 10-year-old turned out to be Kathlyn Elizabeth Bening Beatty, daughter of actors Annette Bening and Warren Beatty. After flirting with the U.S. presidential campaign in 2000, Beatty is rumored to be considering a run for California governor in 2006.

--Washington Post, April 19, 2002

Heard it through the grapevine

"I DO believe Ariel Sharon is a man of peace."
--George W. Bush

"IT IS totally unacceptable and horrific beyond belief. The stench of death is horrible. We have expert people here who have been in war zones and earthquakes, and they say they have never seen anything like it."
--UN special envoy to the Middle East Terje Roed-Larsen, after touring the destruction of the Jenin refugee camp

"I WAS never a kid! I started out just like this! I was issued!"
--Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, when asked what he was like as a child

"HE WAS democratically elected…Legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of the voters, however."
--Bush administration official, on Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez

"VENEZUELAN DEMOCRACY is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator."
--April 13 New York Times editorial, celebrating the "resignation" of Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez

"THAT REACTION, which we shared, overlooked the undemocratic manner in which he was removed. Forcibly unseating a democratically elected leader, no matter how badly he has performed, is never something to cheer."
--April 16 Times editorial, apologizing for celebrating the coup against Chávez

"IN MY opinion, gays and lesbians should be put in some type of mental institution instead of having a law like this passed for them."
--Mississippi Judge Connie Wilkerson, referring to a California law that gives gay partners the same rights to file wrongful death suits as spouses

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