I think we should just appoint Pat Robertson as U.S. ambassador to Venezuela and get this over with...
CARACAS, Venezuela - The United States is not planning to invade Venezuela, the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela said Thursday, disputing claims by President Hugo Chavez.
Chavez has said his government has documents showing Washington has a "Plan Balboa" to invade his oil-producing countrywide with aircraft carriers and planes. He said Venezuela is preparing to repel any attack.
"No 'Plan Balboa' exists," Ambassador William Brownfield said.
Brownfield told reporters that Spain, not the United States, had included Venezuela in a simulated military exercise titled "Operation Balboa" more than four years ago.
Relations between Washington and Caracas have been tense in recent months. Chavez has accused the United States of meddling, while Washington has criticized Chavez's decision to buy 100,000 Russian-made Kalashnikov assault rifles.
Chavez, an ally of Cuban President Fidel Castro, has accused the governments of
President Bush and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of playing roles in a short-lived coup against him in 2002. Both governments denied it.
Differences between Venezuela and the United States were exacerbated this week when a U.S. immigration judge ruled against the deportation of a Cuban militant wanted in Venezuela for a 1976 airliner bombing.
The judge in El Paso, Texas, cited conventions against sending a person to a country where he could face torture — a claim made by 77-year-old Luis Posada Carriles that Venezuela has strongly denies.
Chavez said during a visit to Brazil on Thursday that the U.S. ruling allows the Bush administration to protect one of Latin America's most notorious terrorists. He called Posada "the (Osama) bin Laden of Latin America — a torturer, an assassin."
Brownfield denied that the U.S. government had a hand in Monday's court ruling, saying "it's the U.S. courts that decide."