In July 2005, the United States falsely accused Venezuela of supplying arms to South American guerrillas. Despite strong denials from Caracas, Washington ratcheted up the pressure. Influential televangelist Pat Robertson jumped into the ring and accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of funding al-Qaeda’s nuclear weapons programme, and called for his assassination by US forces. Besides the supreme irony of a self-proclaimed man of God publicly advocating a democratically elected leader’s murder, the accusation sent the American media into a frenzy. As the rumour gained legs, Washington threatened Venezuela with sanctions.
Now one thing the Venezuelan leader is not is predictable. The charismatic Chavez, in a startling act of defiance, liquidated $20 billion in US Treasury securities.