In recent years President Hugo Chávez has become Washington’s ultimate Latin American nemesis, with the Venezuelan leader striving to bedevil the U.S. at every possible opportunity. While his rhetoric and flamboyant attitude might otherwise go unnoticed, Venezuela is an oil rich country and Chávez has used his ‘petro-dollars’ to upgrade his nation’s military, mostly through the purchase of Russian-weaponry, and has implemented a foreign policy that is breathtaking in its sweep and novelty.
The latest confrontation between the two adversaries took place on September 11, 2008, when President Chávez expelled the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, in solidarity with Bolivia’s leader, Evo Morales, who had taken the same action shortly before. Nerves were further stressed among Washington officials when, as part of upcoming military exercises in the Caribbean, two supersonic Russian bombers landed in Venezuela to take part in scheduled maneuvers.