Letters to the Editor

Who funds Chavez's narcissist-Leninist games? You

Among these objectives:

"Strengthening alternative movements in Central America and Mexico in search of (their) estrangement from the (U.S.) empire's domination."

"Neutralizing the (U.S.) empire's action by strengthening the solidarity and public opinion of the organized social movements" in Latin America.

Consolidating the axis of leadership Cuba-Venezuela- Bolivia, to push for the (Chávez-backed) Bolivarian Alternative of the Peoples as an alternative to the

(U.S.- backed) Free Trade Area of the Americas and the (U.S.) Free Trade Agreements.

"Creating a new international communications order" and "encourage a network of alternative news networks."

"Encouraging organization of solidarity groups with the Bolivarian Revolution" in the United States.

Venezuelan opposition leaders say there is nothing new about this -- only that what Chávez has repeatedly said in his five-hour speeches has now been put on paper as a six-year government plan.

According to Julio Borges, president of Venezuela's opposition Primero Justicia party, its publication in the Web site was no blunder.

Rather, it's an effort to soften up Venezuela's public opinion: Chávez's use of his country's petro-dollars to become a regional leader is the least popular of his policies at home and Chávez wants Venezuelans to accept it as a state policy and a fact of life, Borges said.

"Chávez has already ceased to be the president of Venezuela and is increasingly becoming the president of the continental revolution," Borges told me in a telephone interview from Caracas. "Trouble is, he's using the Venezuelan people's money to make his personal dream come true."

According to a study by Primero Justicia, Chávez has already spent $37 billion in foreign aid to 40 countries, mostly in Latin America.

That does not take into account most of the under-the-table aid to pro-Chávez politicians and groups in Latin America, including the $800,000 recently seized at the Buenos Aires airport in the suitcase of a Venezuelan businessman. He was traveling on a private plane as a member of the Venezuelan state-run PDVSA oil monopoly.

"What they are doing is making it official within the country that Venezuela is no longer a country of the Venezuelan people but the epicenter of a continental movement, and that those of us who don't like that must either pack and leave or resign ourselves," Borges said.

My opinion: Chávez is following Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's script -- create conflicts with domestic and foreign "enemies" and claim you are defending a larger-than-life revolution in order to stay in power forever. Only difference is, with oil prices at a record

$87 a barrel, Chávez is doing it with tons of money.

What bothers me the most about this is not Chávez's narcissist-Leninist project -- there have always been megalomaniac military strongmen and always will be -- but that the United States is funding it. Americans -- by driving our needlessly huge gas-guzzlers -- are paying Chávez $34 billion a year for oil imports.

As long as we continue buying that much Venezuelan oil, Chávez will keep enjoying a blank check to fund "alternative movements" in Latin America, as he openly vows to do on his own government's Web site.

Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. E-mail him at aoppenheimer@miamiherald.com.