Venezuelan diplomat accuses Mexican candidate of ‘desperate lies’
MEXICO CITY – Venezuelan and Mexican politics became further entangled Friday, when Venezuela’s top diplomat here was quoted as accusing the ruling party presidential candidate of telling “desperate lies” about his country.Charge d’affaires Nestor Gonzalez – in charge of the Venezuelan embassy since both countries withdrew their ambassadors Nov. 15 – also denied allegations that his government has any ties to the campaign of the front-running leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.Felipe Calderon, the candidate for President Vicente Fox’s National Action Party, has portrayed Lopez Obrador as a political menace linked to Venezuela’s leftist President Hugo Chavez, infuriating both Chavez and Lopez Obrador.”These are all desperate lies,” Gonzalez said in an interview with newspaper Milenio, referring to allegations by Calderon that Venezuela has expropriated many private companies. While Venezuela has declared some land-reform expropriations, most industries and services remain in private hands.Gonzalez insisted, “There is not one single phrase that suggest we have any links to Lopez Obrador. There is no tape, photo or conversation that would suggest such a thing.”The question is sensitive because of Mexico’s rigid ban on foreign meddling in its politics and because of earlier accusations that Chavez had tried to affect elections in Peru, Bolivia and Nicaragua – claims he has repeatedly denied.While some radical groups in Mexico have adopted Chavez’s “Bolivarian” theme – referring to South American independence hero Simon Bolivar – they don’t appear to have any other than ideological ties to Venezuela.Calderon’s campaign recently ran television ads which alternated footage of Chavez and Lopez Obrador, suggesting both were authoritarian or intolerant.And earlier this week, National Action party leader Manuel Espino asked Mexican authorities to investigate the possibility of Venezuelan financing for Lopez Obrador, the former Mexico City mayor who leads most polls on the July 2 presidential race.Espino made the request after a Mexico City government employee was caught Monday at the Mexico City airport after arriving on a flight from Venezuela, carrying a hidden shipment of heroin.”There is a worrisome situation, where a big shipment of drugs arrives in Mexico City from Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez is in power, and a city employee is involved,” Espino told local media.”So we are within our right to ask authorities to investigate thoroughly the origin of Andres Manuel’s campaign funds, and any possibly link there could be with Hugo Chavez.”Espino appeared to be suggesting that the proceeds from the sale of such drugs might make its way into Lopez Obrador’s campaign.Calderon has also accused Chavez of supporting the Mexican left by offering free operations to poor Indians in the town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, which is governed by Lopez Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party.Under a Venezuelan program called “Mission Miracle,” a group of 90 residents from the town were due to go to Caracas for treatment.In response, the Mexican federal government offered the Indians free treatment in the nearby city of Chetumel. On Friday, eye surgeons operated on the first 21 patients from this group, according to a news release from the Health Department.Lopez Obrador has denied any similarity or financial link between Chavez and himself, and accused the PAN of a launching a smear campaign to offset his lead in the polls.The dispute seemed to indicate a dismal future for relations between Mexico and Venezuela, the region’s top two oil powers, if Calderon wins. Chavez and Fox already have feuded publicly and repeatedly.