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US Aggression towards Venezuela
by Eva Golinger
Washington’s efforts to discredit the Venezuelan Government have increased. Tactics and strategies applied in prior years—an illegal oil industry strike that crippled the Venezuelan economy and a constitutional recall referendum infused with illegal campaign contributions by the US government to the Venezuelan opposition—all failed miserably. After a brief period of reevaluation, the Bush Administration has launched a new strategy intended to isolate, and eventually topple, the Venezuelan Government. The new aggression towards Venezuela is direct, open, public, and hostile. The Bush Administration, through Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Porter Goss, has made clear that Venezuela is a target for Washington in 2005.
This time around, the strategy is clear: turn President Chávez into an international pariah in the world media and justify an intervention to save democracy. Even more transparent are the mechanisms utilized to implement the strategy. Since early January 2005, major US publications and television stations have published or broadcast well over 60 articles and programs regurgitating State Department accusations that President Chávez presents a “negative force in the region,” is a “threat to democracy,” a “semi-dictator,” or that the Venezuela Government provides refuge and collaborates with “terrorist” groups, such as the Colombian FARC and ELN.
The new strategy applied towards Venezuela represents a major policy shift for the Bush Administration. While prior actions were more subtle, the revised plan is confrontational. Washington is now trying to openly intervene in Venezuela to remove Chávez from power, attempting to excuse such actions by branding Chávez as a dictator and a major threat to US national security. Several recent articles in US media have demonstrated such objectives.
The April 11, 2005 edition of The National Review, an ultraconservative magazine, presents a cover image of President Chávez, in military fatigues, a red beret, and a face 10 years younger, alongside President Fidel Castro of Cuba, with the byline, “The Axis of Evil—Western Hemisphere Version.” The feature article is by rabidly anti-Castro Cuban-American Otto Reich, former Special Advisor to George W. Bush on Latin American Affairs and former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. The article attempts to terrorize readers into believing Venezuela has become the primary threat to US national security in the region. Reich also claims that the US’s most “pressing specific challenge is neutralizing or defeating the Cuba-Venezuela axis.”
The terms “neutralizing” and “defeating” are not friendly. They imply hostility, violence and dominance. These are not terms used within the sphere of diplomacy. They are expressions used in the context of armed conflict. Such statements by Reich, who now works in the private sector as a US government consultant, may seem laughable to many but, in the context of an administration that shares Reich’s extremist views on Latin America, and in light of the recent augmentation in public aggression towards the Venezuelan Government by high-level Bush officials, these remarks may not be far off. Reich’s recent article falls perfectly in line with the onslaught of Chávez-bashing commentaries and “news stories” published in US papers since January.
… the Bush Administration has launched a new strategy intended to isolate, and eventually topple, the Venezuelan Government.
The Spanish-language version of the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, has run a three-part series on the growing threat of organizations and individuals that support the Venezuelan Government from within the United States. One of the articles even includes a map of where such pro-Chávez groups are located in the US. The groups and institutions mentioned by the Herald that form part of the “sinister” pro-Chávez network in the US include Harvard University, New York University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Global Exchange, Global Women’s Strike, San Romero de las Americas Church in New York and its Pastor, Luis Barrios, the catholic missionary Maryknoll group, the author of this article, and several Bolivarian Circles, small community-based organizations that support Chávez modeled from the Venezuelan grassroots organizations that carry the same name.
Otto Reich’s misinformation campaign
Otto Reich was the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, the position Roger Noriega holds today, during the April 2002 coup d’état against President Chávez. This author has disclosed numerous documents from the Department of State and the CIA that evidence US involvement in that coup. Among these documents is a heavily censored cable marked “confidential,” drafted by Otto Reich, laying out the State Department’s position on the coup.
The US Government was well aware of the detailed coup plans, as revealed in a CIA Senior Executive Intelligence Brief dated April 6, 2002. Reich, the master of misinformation, told all diplomatic representatives of the US that they were to promote this false version of events:
On April 11, 2002, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans gathered to seek redress of their grievances. Chávez supporters fired on anti-government protestors, resulting in more than 100 wounded or killed. The government prevented five independent television stations from reporting on events. After meeting with senior military officers, Chávez allegedly resigned the presidency. A provisional civilian government, led by Pedro Carmona, assumed power and promised early elections.
The intent of the US Government was to misinform the world of the events, giving rise to the illegal coup d’état that briefly overthrew President Chávez, therefore justifying its own participation in such actions and reinforcing its strategy to “legitimately” remove Chávez from power. The fact that the US Government had clear knowledge of the coup in the weeks before the coup provides undisputed evidence of this fact. The CIA intelligence brief of April 6, 2002 unmistakably informed top level US Government officials that, “Dissident military factions . . . are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chávez . . . [T]he level of detail in the reported plans . . . targets Chávez and 10 other senior officials for arrest . . . [T]o provoke military action, the plotters may try to exploit unrest stemming from opposition demonstrations…”
The CIA briefs from the weeks before also claimed knowledge of the coup’s organizers: “the private sector, the media, the Catholic Church and opposition political parties. . . . [along with] disgruntled military officers . . . still planning a coup, possibly early this month.”
“Latin America is no longer the backyard of the United States.”
Reich’s efforts at the time of the coup against President Chávez in Venezuela were merely to continue what he was best at, disseminating false information intended to promote US foreign policy, just as he had done fifteen years earlier in Nicaragua.
Today’s campaign against Venezuela starkly parallels those tactics used back in the eighties by the Office of Public Diplomacy. Though Reich no longer maintains an official position within the Bush Administration, his capacity as a private sector US Government Consultant on International Affairs clearly shows that his ties and influence remain.
Today’s campaign against Venezuela employs the same themes used, successfully, against the Sandinistas in the ’80s. In addition to the similar use of the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID to funnel millions into Venezuelan opposition parties and NGOs, the US Government attempts to portray Chávez in the same exact light as the Sandinistas. Repeated declarations from the State and Defense Departments, recycled in major US media, claim the Chávez Government is engaging in a “military build-up” or “arms race” with its recent purchase of new weaponry from Russia. They assert that Chávez is a “communist” in the style of Fidel Castro, that his government “violates human rights,” and that his administration is responsible for the “poverty” and “economic devastation” that have affected the country in recent years.
Today’s campaign against Venezuela employs the same themes used, successfully, against the Sandinistas in the ’80s.
All of these claims against President Chávez and the Venezuelan Government are false. There is more freedom of the press and freedom of speech in Venezuela than under any prior government. The Chávez administration has never suspended any constitutional rights and in fact has expanded human rights under the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution that was promoted by President Chávez himself and ratified by an unprecedented national referendum.
Attacks against Venezuela continue
The attacks against the Venezuelan Government have only increased since January 2005, and there is no expectation that they will cease at this point. The State Department recently released a report entitled “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The US Record 2004–2005,” lauding its own efforts to promote democracy around the world, including efforts to invoke regime changes in some cases. This report condemns Venezuela as a human rights abuser, detrimental to democracy in the region. Its presenter, Michael Kozak, gave an ultimatum to the Venezuelan Government in his press conference, stating, “If you wish to have a decent relationship with us, you will have to reorient aspects of your governance towards the right direction.”
It sounds like a threat—one that surely will not be heeded by the Venezuelan Government. The Bush Administration has finally decided to look south. Venezuela, one of the top exporters of oil to the United States, may become the next target of a unilateral, preemptive strike. Hopefully, the country will be able to fend off US aggression, as it has successfully done in the past. Venezuela has regional support from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Cuba, and even neighboring Colombia, despite the heavy US influence and military presence in that nation. Any type of conflict provoked by the Bush Administration against Venezuela would not be looked at favorably in the region, and surely would force a multilateral defense.
South America is more united today than ever before in history, and that is the true threat to the United States. As the Venezuelan Vice President, José Vicente Rangel, confirmed recently, “Latin America is no longer the backyard of the United States.”
Eva Golinger, a Venezuelan-American attorney, is the author of The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela, soon to be available through Amazon.com or directly through the author.
1. Declarations made by incoming Secretary of State Rice before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 18, 2005; See also Dow Jones Newswire, January 18, 2005, "Rice: Venezuela’s Chávez ‘Negative Force’ in the Region."
2. National Review, April 11, 2005 edition.
3. See my website, http://www.venezuelafoia.info, for declassified US Government documents revealing intervention in Venezuela.
4. Top Secret CIA SIEB brief available on www.venezuelafoia.info, revealing US Government knowledge of and involvement in the coup against President Chávez.
5. Confidential document from the Secretary of State’s office in Washington to Western Hemisphere Affairs Diplomatic Posts, the National Security Council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, Southern Command Unit, and the US Embassies in the Vatican, Madrid, London, Geneva and its Mission before the United Nations, dated April 14, 2002 and classified through April 14, 2012. Obtained by the author under the Freedom of Information Act.
6. CIA Top Secret Senior Intelligence Brief, April 1, 2002, available on www.venezuelafoia.info.
7. Note that the US Government is the only government to express such concerns. None of Venezuela’s neighbors have even raised an eyebrow. Brazil has publicly stated they have no concerns whatsoever with Venezuela’s recent arms purchase.
[12 aug 05]