The Bush administration also hopes its anti-poverty message can counter a leftward shift, symbolized most notably by the anti-American populism of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whom Rice calls a destabilizing force.
Venezuela's economic recovery is bolstering Chavez's popularity. In the first quarter of this year, gross domestic product increased by nearly 30 percent. Economic growth should top 10 percent for all of 2004. The restructuring of PdVSA and the company's rapidly expanding domestic investment are contributing strongly to economic growth.
According to preliminary reports released by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Venezuela registered the largest level of economic growth in Latin America, from a negative balance of 9.7% in 2003 to a positive balance of 18% in 2004.
The Wall Street Journal also frequently features negative news and opinions of Venezuela, while ignoring the country's unprecedented economic growth that reached 17% in 2004, the highest in the world.