The AFL-CIO Foreign Policy Program
and the 2002 Coup in Venezuela:
Was the AFL-CIO Involved?
by Kim Scipes
Worker to Worker Solidarity Committee
www.zmag.org, September 27, 2006
In April 2002, following a general strike
led by oil company management and collaborating labor union leaders
in Venezuela, parts of the Venezuelan military launched a coup
to remove democratically-elected President Hugo Chavez Frias from
office. After physically removing Chavez from the presidential
palace in Caracas, Miraflores, the head of the national business
confederation, FEDECAMARAS, Pedro Carmona, was sworn into office.1
_ _In response, literally millions of Venezuelans swarmed
to Miraflores, surrounding the palace, protesting the coup. Faced
with the widespread public opposition, frustrated by loyal military
forces who supported President Chavez, and condemned by heads
of state across Latin America, the coup attempt collapsed. Chavez
was returned to Miraflores, unharmed, where he resumed his duties
as head of state2 (Ellner and Rosen, 2002)._ _Because of
the apparent connection between the oil workers' union--the key
union of the labor center Confederation of Venezuelan Workers
(CTV in Spanish) and whose leader, Carlos Ortega, was the president
of the CTV--and the coup attempt, and the long-standing ties between
the CTV and the US labor center, the AFL-CIO, questions have risen
about possible involvement of the AFL-CIO in the coup attempt.
_ _This article addresses the question of possible AFL-CIO
involvement in the coup attempt, trying to confirm or deny any
possible involvement. To do this, the paper proceeds in the following
directions: (A) it discusses the AFL-CIO's foreign policy program
and its history of foreign interventions; (B) it considers evidence
of the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center staff activities in Venezuela
prior to the coup attempt, and the coup attempt itself; (C) reports
AFL-CIO statements as well as others' concerning the coup attempt
that followed, and subsequent analyses of the coup and US involvement;
and (D) it answers the question as to whether the AFL-CIO, through
its Solidarity Center, was involved in the 2002 coup attempt.
To this task, we now turn.
_A. AFL-CIO's Foreign Policy Program_
_Before we can consider possible involvement of the AFL-CIO
in the 2002 Venezuelan coup attempt, we must first consider any
foreign policy it may have established: if the AFL-CIO has no
history of foreign involvement, then obviously it was unlikely
to be involved. However, if it has such a foreign policy program,
then the possibility of such involvement is more likely to be
substantiated._ _Although not generally known by union members
as it has been consciously hidden by its leaders, the AFL-CIO
actually has a long-time foreign policy program that goes back
to the days of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) during the
19-teens under then-president, Samuel Gompers. And, in fact,
much of this foreign policy program--during Gompers' time but
also since 1962--has been carried out in Latin America [among
others, see Morris, 1967; Hirsch, 1974, n.d; Scott, 1978; Spaulding,
1984; Scipes, 1989; Andrews, 1991; Sims, 1992; Scipes, 2000, 2004a,
2005a, b)._ _This foreign policy program has been initiated
and carried out behind the backs of American workers, although
"in our name." The AFL-CIO has long been known to carry
out a reactionary labor program around the world. It has been
unequivocally established that they have worked to overthrow democratically-elected
governments, have collaborated with dictators against progressive
labor movements, and have supported reactionary labor movements
against progressive governments (Scipes, 2000: 12; Shorrock, 2002,
2003; see, among others, Snow, 1964; Morris, 1967; Radosh, 1969;
Scott, 1978; Spaulding, 1984; Barry and Preusch, 1986; Cantor
and Schor, 1987; Weinrub and Bollinger, 1987; Armstrong, et. al.,
1988; Sims, 1992; Scipes, 1996; Carew, 1998; Nack, 1998; and Buhle,
1999)._ _And while the AFL-CIO's regional organization, AIFLD
(American Institute for Free Labor Development), was especially
known for its involvement in events leading to the 1973 coup in
Chile (Hirsch, 1974, n.d.; Scipes, 2000; Shorrock, 2003), what
is less well known is it's long-standing ties with the Venezuelan
CTV. In fact, according to labor journalist Lee Sustar, _
_Venezuela--a key focus of U.S. foreign policy since the oil
boom of the 1920s--became Washington's counterweight to the Cuban
Revolution of 1959. The headquarters of the AFL-CIO-initiated
Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers (ORIT) was moved
to Caracas. In 1962, Venezuela was the linchpin of the AFL-CIO's
newly launched American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD);
the AIFLD board included both the AD leader Betancourt and his
COPEI counterpart, Rafael Caldera. Next, in the mid-1960s, the
AFL-CIO even provided funding for a CTV-owned bank. AIFLD chief
Serafino Romualdi, later alleged to have been a CIA agent, called
his relationship with Betancourt "the most fruitful political
collaboration of my life." Romualdi helped engineer the expulsion
of the Communist Party and other leftists from the CTV; elsewhere,
AIFLD collaborated with the CIA and the State Department to undermine
or overthrow Latin American governments opposed to the U.S. (Sustar,
2005; 3 see also Hirsch, 2005). In other words, not only has the
AFL-CIO had a long-standing foreign policy program, it long has
been active in Latin America, and especially in Venezuela.
_B. Solidarity Center Activities
in Venezuela, and the Attempted Coup_ _With the 1995 election
of John Sweeney to the presidency of the AFL-CIO, the labor center
appeared to have changed its foreign policy "stripes."
One of the things that Sweeny did was disband the semi-autonomous
regional organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Western
Europe, and put them under control of the newly established and
centrally-controlled "Solidarity Center" (officially
known as the American Center for International Labor Solidarity
or ACILS) (Scipes, 2000). It appeared to have changed its international
orientation from "anti-communism" to "international
labor solidarity," although critics such as Judy Ancel (2000),
Peter Rachelff (2000); and Kim Scipes (2000: 6-7), all noted specific
problems that continued under the Sweeney Administration._
_The biggest problem was the AFL-CIO's continuing relationship
with the National Endowment for Democracy or NED. The NED was
established by the Reagan Administration in 1983 to do overtly
what the CIA had previously tried to do covertly. Although the
NED is proclaims itself a "private" organization--a
non-governmental organization (NGO)--in reality, it was US Government
initiated through US Government legislative processes, it was
signed into law by US President Ronald Reagan, its Board members
have included a number of people who have served at the highest
levels of the US Government's foreign policy apparatus under both
Democratic and Republican Administrations (including former Secretaries
of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, former Defense
Secretary Frank Carlucci, and former National Security Council
Chair Zbigniew Brezezinski), and it has been overwhelmingly funded
by annual appropriations by the US Congress (Robinson, 1996; Blum,
2000: 179-183; Golinger, 2005; Scipes, 2005b)._ _The NED
was established with four "core institutes": the International
Republican Institute (the international wing of the US Republican
Party); the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
(the international wing of the US Democratic Party); the Center
for International Public Enterprise (the international wing of
the US Chamber of Commerce); and the Free Trade Union Institute
(superceded by the Solidarity Center) of the AFL-CIO (Lowe, 2004).
So far, no one has publicly stated what exactly is meant by "core
institute" other than they each channel funding from the
NED (which gets it from the US Congress via the US Information
Agency) to non-governmental organizations in various countries
around the world. I have suggested before that these are likely
to be policy-making organizations for the NED itself (Scipes,
2005b). Harry Kelber reports that over 90% of the Solidarity Center's
funding comes via the US State Department (Kelber, 2005a, b)._
_The Solidarity Center has been active in Venezuela since
1997. According to then-AFL-CIO International Affairs Department
Assistant Director Stan Gacek, the Solidarity Center was working
to help democratize the CTV and its member unions (Gacek, 2004,
2005)._ _While that might have been true, it is not all the
Solidarity Center was doing. During early 2002, CTV leaders visited
Washington, DC, to meet with high level AFL-CIO and Bush Administration
officials. Katherine Hoyt, of the Nicaraguan Solidarity Committee,
reported that CTV leaders had visited Otto Reich, the Assistant
Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (Hoyt, 2002;
see also Golinger, 2005: 85-86).4_ _Just before these visits--according
to a January-March 2002 quarterly report from the Solidarity Center
to NED that was discovered through a FOIA (Freedom of Information
Act) request by journalists Jeremy Bigwood and Eva Golinger (Bigwood
and Golinger, n.d.)5--Solidarity Center staff members were involved
in a series of meetings that were designed to bring together leaders
of the CTV and FEDECAMARAS (the national business confederation).
These meetings, six in all, took place around the country and
culminated in a national meeting on March 5, 2002. At that meeting,
the CTV and FEDECAMARAS, supported by the hierarchy of the Catholic
Church, came together to discuss their concerns, perspectives
and priorities regarding national development and to identify
common objectives as well as areas of cooperation. At this meeting,
the CTV and FEDECAMARAS were anointed "flagship organizations"
in the struggle against President Chavez (Bigwood and Golinger,
n.d.). _ _According to the Solidarity Center documents unearthed
by Bigwood and Golinger, this national conference was the culminating
event of some two months of meetings and planning between FEDECAMARAS
and the CTV. The joint action was intended to produce a "National
Accord" to avoid a supposedly "deeper political and
economic crisis."_ _The report continues: "The
Solidarity Center helped support the event in the planning stages,
organizing the initial meetings with the governor of Miranda state
and the business organization, FEDECAMAS, to discuss and establish
an agenda for such cooperation in mid-January. The report continued
to detail more of their efforts, concluding with the comment that,
"The March 5 national conference itself was funded by counterpart
funds" (Bigwood and Golinger, n.d.)6_ _Barely more than
30 days after the March 5 conference, the CTV and FEDECAMARAS
launched a national general strike on April 9th to protest the
firing of oil company management on April 7th,7 and the events
leading to the coup attempt--in which CTV and FEDECAMAS played
central roles--began. On April 11th, a massive march and demonstration
was held to support the union. "About midday on April 11th,
speakers at the opposition rally, including Carmona and Ortega,
began calling for supporters to march on the Presidential Palace,
Miraflores, to demand Chavez's resignation" (Golinger, 2005:
96). In case there was any doubt of CTV leaders' active role
in events, Lee Sustar wrote, "What is indisputable, however,
is that Ortega joined with FEDECAMAS to call the strike and march
that set the stage for the coup" (Sustar, 2005)._ _When
the coup's military leaders decided to act and depose Chavez,
FEDECAMARAS' Carmona was chosen by coup leaders to become the
new president. Carmona was sworn in on April 12, and immediately
dissolved "all of Venezuela's democratic institutions, including
the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, the Public Defender's
Office, the Attorney General, the Constitution and the 49 laws
Chavez had decreed in December" (Golinger, 2005: 105)._
_The coup was denounced generally throughout the hemisphere
(Golinger, 2005: 105, fn. 23), with two notable exceptions. The
President of the International Republican Institute, George A.
Folsom, issued a statement publicly praising the coup leaders
for their coup (Marquis, 2002).8 And then, the Bush Administration
supported the coup (see Golinger, 2005, but specifically pp. 103-105).9_
_In response to this coup attempt, the people mobilized in
the millions, the military split and the coup attempt failed.
Chavez was returned to Miraflores on April 14th, where he resumed
his duties as President.
_C. Developments After the Attempted
Coup_ _Once the coup attempt collapsed and constitutional
order was returned, many efforts were made to "explain"
developments. Both the CTV and the AFL-CIO provided their views,
as did others.
_On April 25, 2002, the New York
Times published a piece by Christopher Marquis that discussed
US involvement in the coup attempt. While Marquis did not provide
any specific details about the work of the Solidarity Center,
he did provide considerable information about NED efforts in Venezuela
in the year prior to the coup, such as providing hundreds of thousands
of dollars to Venezuelan opposition groups "including the
labor group whose protests led to the Venezuelan president's brief
ouster earlier this month." Marquis did point out, however,
_ _Of particular concern is $154,377 given by the [NED]
to the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, the
international wing of the AFL-CIO, to assist the main Venezuelan
labor union in advancing labor rights._ _The Venezuelan union,
the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers [CTV], led the work stoppages
that galvanized the opposition to Mr. Chavez. The union's leader,
Carlos Ortega, worked closely with Pedro Carmona Estanga, the
businessman who briefly took over from Mr. Chavez, in challenging
the government (emphasis added) (Marquis, 2002). _ _Marquis
also noted that the NED had quadruped its annual budget to its
Venezuelan clients to $877,000 in the year before the coup attempt.
In addition to the $154,377 given to the Solidarity Center, the
NED also provided the National Democratic Institute for International
Affairs $210,000 "to promote the accountability of local
government': $399,998 to the International Republican Institute
for "political party building"; and apparently the balance
to Center of International Private Enterprise (Marquis, 2002)._
_On April 27, 2002, the AFL-CIO issued a statement, "The
AFL-CIO and Workers' Rights in Venezuela." In this statement,
the AFL-CIO wrote in response to the coup, " there is no
evidence that the CTV or its leaders went beyond the democratic
expressions of dissent." In this statement, the AFL-CIO
detailed its work in Venezuela: _ _ the CTV conducted an
impressive process of internal democratization with the assistance
of the AFL-CIO and the Solidarity Center. The assistance included:
the printing of election materials, the training of CTV election
committees, and the sponsoring the forums which brought labor,
business, human rights and religious leaders together in defense
of freedom of association. All of the AFL-CIO-Solidarity Center
funding for Venezuela went for this purpose" (quoted in Scipes,
_On May 2, 2002, this author published
a piece on Z Net, whereby he noted the incredible similarities
between the coup in Chile on September 11, 1973, and the April
2002 coup attempt in Venezuela. This author noted that he had
no proof to his accusations, but that the patterns were strikingly
similar, and his suspicions had been raised. After including
the "AFL-CIO and Workers' Rights in Venezuela" statement
in his article that tried to make sense of developments in Venezuela,
this author was willing to consider the possibility that the AFL-CIO
had not been involved in the coup attempt. However, he advanced
three questions--(1) Why is the AFL-CIO doing anything in Venezuela?;
(2) Why does the AFL-CIO have any relationship with the National
Endowment for Democracy [NED]?; and (3) Why has the AFL-CIO never
given a detailed and honest accounting of its past and present
operations to its members?--that he felt had to be answered before
he considered the issue resolved (Scipes, 2002). As far as can
be determined, no answers to these questions have ever been provided
publicly._ _In the Spring 2004 issue of New Labor Forum,
Stan Gacek again discusses the AFL-CIO's work with the CTV.
He writes, " our total solidarity program with the CTV amounted
to less than $20,000 in support of the Confederation's highly
successful internal democratization program" (Gacek, 2004).
However, Gacek also gives the AFL-CIO's
perspective of the 2002 coup attempt, which exonerates the CTV
from participating in the coup attempt. Gacek states "The
CTV publicly condemned the April 2002 coup, never recognized the
short-lived regime of Carmona and, unlike the Catholic Church,
refused to endorse Carmona's degree dissolving the National Assembly"
Journalist Robert Collier, with many years'
experience of reporting in Latin America for the San Francisco
Chronicle, directly contradicted Gacek's statement in the following
issue of New Labor Forum. Collier wrote that the CTV had worked
with FEDECAMARAS not only in the April 2002 attempt, but also
in an earlier lockout in December 2001, and a subsequent 63-day
oil strike in December 2002-February 2003. Collier reports according
to many published reports and interviews that he had conducted
in Venezuela, that " the CTV was directly involved in the
[April 2002] coup's planning and organization." Further,
Collier reported, "For months before, CTV Secretary-General
Carlos Ortega created a tight political alliance with FEDECAMARAS
leader Pedro Carmona, and they repeatedly called for the overthrow
of Chavez" (Collier, 2004; see also Ellner, 2004).
In March 2004, Alberto Ruiz, writing from
inside the labor movement, asked, "What is the AFL-CIO Doing
in Venezuela?" In this article, he addresses the issue as
to whether the AFL-CIO knew about the CTV role in the coup: _
_To deflect criticism about the aid to the CTV, the AFL-CIO
has publicly claimed that the CTV did not have anything to do
with the coup against Chavez. However, as the Boston Globe reported
[August 18, 2002], 'the Venezuelan media broadcast a recorded
telephone conversation between [exiled former president Carlos
Andres] Perez and Carlos Ortega, president of the Confederation
of Venezuelan Workers, in which the pair plotted against Chavez.'
Moreover, the AFL-CIO has privately conceded that the CTV leadership
did have participation in the coup against Chavez" (Ruiz,
2004). _ _In the April 2004 issue of Labor Notes, this
author again returned to the debate, this time with evidence.
He focused on issues concerning CTV involvement in the coup attempt,
Solidarity Center staff members' involvement in efforts beyond
traditional labor movement activities, and outside (of the labor
movement) funding of Solidarity Center's Venezuelan activities.
_ _(1) The CTV was involved in the coup attempt. This author
joined accounts of the Times' Christopher Marquis and the Chronicle's
Collier with that of Professor Hector Lucena, another labor observer
in Venezuela, and then with an account of the coup by Professor
Steve Ellner and long-time Latin Americanist Fred Rosen, each
who presented evidence of CTV's participation in the coup attempt,
and that the CTV leadership played a leading role. Ellner and
Rosen report--based on Hearings of the Special Political Commission
of the National Assembly that were broadcast on Venezuelan TV
on May 10, 2002--that "[CTV leader] Ortega had publicly called
for the immediate dissolution of the [National] Assembly on April
12, prior to the announcement of Carmona's decree" (emphasis
added) (Ellner and Rosen, 2002). Additionally, in a personal
communication with this author on March 6, 2004, Steve Ellner
elaborated on events: _ _ "The CTV promoted a march
which was designed to topple the Chavez regime and everybody knew
at the time that the idea was to create chaos so that the military
would intervene." Going further, he explained that "Opposition
leaders openly called on the military to overthrow Chavez, and
the strike leaders--not only Ortega but the supposed 'moderates'
like Manuel Cova, Alfredo Ramos, Pablo Castro, Rodrigo Penson,
Froilan Barrios--none of them stated at least publicly that they
were opposed to a military coup" (quoted in Scipes, 2004a).
_ _Yet what about Gacek's claim that the CTV condemned the
coup? Yes, he is correct, but the CTV leaders condemned it after
they had been betrayed by Carmona and his people. According to
Ellner and Rosen, despite the CTV and Ortega being key players
in the coup efforts, upon attaining the presidency during the
coup, Carmona ignored the labor wing of the opposition, appointing
a cabinet of business leaders, military men and conservative politicians
(Ellner and Rosen, 2002)._ _It was only after this betrayal
that the CTV condemned the coup, according to Robert Collier (2004).
And David Corn, writing in the August 5, 2002 issue of The Nation,
confirmed this: "The CTV did denounce Carmona--but not until
Carmona, on the afternoon of April 12, announced his decree to
shutter the National Assembly and the Supreme Court" (Corn,
2002)._ _And Eva Golinger, writing in her book on the US
attacks on Chavez, The Chavez Code, adds even more detail to the
CTV role. She presents the CTV's activities before and during
the general strike to support the fired oil managers. She reports
that Ortega, along with Carmona, called for the general strike
to be "indefinite" on April 10th. And she reprints
the March 2002 cable from the US Embassy in Caracas to the Secretary
of State, in which it reports Ortega's drive for a new "government
for democratic unity" (Golinger, 2005). There cannot be
any doubt of the CTV leadership's involvement in the events leading
up to and including the coup, despite the AFL-CIO's efforts to
deny it. _ _(2) Solidarity Center staff members were involved
in something beyond traditional labor movement activities. The
Solidarity Center reports surfaced by Bigwood and Golinger (n.d.)
are important. Solidarity Center staffers were detailing their
efforts in quarterly reports to the National Endowment for Democracy
(NED).11_ _Not only does their existence conclusively prove
that Solidarity Center staff members were involved in bringing
together disparate groups--the CTV and FEDECAMARAS, most particularly--but
they also organized an initial meeting with the governor of Miranda
state. Additionally, as they put it, "The March 5 
national conference itself was financed by counterpart funds."
While they don't detail what they mean, since they talk about
this differently than any other funding, it is clear it does not
come from "ordinary" processes, but from something "outside."12_
_In other words, they are obviously working in a broader
"field" than just the labor movement (Hirsch, 2005).
They are using their position "within" the US labor
movement for purposes other than to advance the well-being of
workers and their organizations, ostensibly the role of any labor
movement. Because NED is part of US Government's foreign policy
apparatus--despite their claims otherwise, and their so-called
"private" status (see Robinson, 1996; Agee, 2005; Golinger,
2005; Jones and Tayler, 2005; Scipes, 2005b)--it is clear that
the Solidarity Center in Venezuela has been helping to carry out
US foreign policy operations in that country. _ _It's telling
that the NED grants often allocate equal amounts to the Solidarity
Center and its counterpart institutions run by the Republican
and Democratic parties and business. This allows US unions to
project political weight abroad that they never had at home, even
in the long-gone days of 'Big Labor'. The reality is that the
Solidarity Center's clout is based not on the strength of US unions,
but on government funds from the world's only superpower (emphasis
added) (Sustar, 2005). _ _Similarly to developments in Chile preceding
the September 11, 1973 coup against the government of Salvador
Allende (see Hirsch, 1974, n.d., Scipes, 2000; Shorrock, 2003),
these "labor" efforts are part of something larger.
As Scipes wrote, _ _This destabilization effort in Venezuela
is not singular, but is one component of a multiple-track endeavor
that includes supporting a peasant organization that opposes land
reform; an educational organization that has suggested no education
reforms; an organization seeking to incite a military rebellion;
a civic association that has worked to mobilize middle class neighborhoods
to 'defend themselves' from the poor; a civil justice group that
opposes grassroots community organizations because they support
the Chavez government; a 'leadership group' that supports the
metropolitan Caracas police, whose behavior has become markedly
more repressive over the past year; and a number of other anti-Chavez
organizations, each which have received funding from NED (Scipes,
2004a). _ _(3) Funding from outside the labor movement.
This author was able to locate NED funding for Venezuela: _
_NED has been long active across Latin America. It has been
active in Venezuela, the fifth largest oil producer in the world,
since 1992. According to accounts gathered from the NED itself,
NED provided $4,039,331 to Venezuelan and American organizations
working in Venezuela between 1992-2001; 60.4 percent of that,
or $2,439,489 was granted between 1997-2001. Of that, $2.4-plus
million since 1997, $587,926 (or almost one-quarter) went to ACILS
for its work with the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV
in Spanish). In 2002, the last year for which details are available,
NED pumped in another $1,099,352, of which ACILS got $116,001
for its work with CTV. Altogether, ACILS received $703,927 between
1997-2002 for its work in Venezuela alone (Scipes, 2004a).
In her book, Eva Golinger (2005) provides
extensive funding accounts from the NED to its various grantee
agencies in the country. Most of these accounts--not all--however,
agree with my figures. In short, combining my own research with
that of others, this author shows that the CTV leadership was
involved in the coup, that Solidarity Center staff members were
involved beyond the field of organized labor, and that all of
these operations were funded from outside of the US labor movement._
_Interestingly, even with publication of extensive material
by a number of authors, the AFL-CIO has stuck to its original
position: the CTV was not involved in the coup: _ _The CTV
executive refused to sign the infamous decree of the short-lived
Carmona regime that dissolved the National Assembly. The CTV
refused any and all offers to serve in the coup-installed government,
and made a point of not being present at the inauguration of Carmona's
cabinet (Gacek, 2005). _ _However, Gacek actually made a
demonstrably false claim; referring to the series of meetings
that led to the March 5 national conference, he wrote, "The
five events financed by the Solidarity Center involved the participation
of organized labor only, not the national business federation."
If that is correct, then why did Solidarity Center staff report
that they themselves were involved in a series of meetings that
were designed to bring together leaders of the CTV and FEDECAMARAS
(the national business confederation)? (Bigwood and Golinger,
n.d.) _ _(4) Synopsis. Despite the protestations and claims
otherwise by the (now former) Assistant Director of the AFL-CIO's
International Affairs Department, Stanley Gacek--and, interestingly,
as far as can be ascertained, not corroborated by a single independent
analyst--the evidence is overwhelming that the AFL-CIO and particularly
its Solidarity Center were knowingly involved in events preceding
the coup attempt against democratically-elected Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez Frias; that they acted as part of a multi-pronged
attack by the US Government and its misnamed National Endowment
for Democracy on democracy in Venezuela and particularly the administration
of President Chavez; that they were funded by the US Congress
through the National Endowment for Democracy; and they lied and
tried to cover up their involvement and the involvement of the
leaders of their long-time associate, the CTV.
_CONCLUSION_ _In this paper, this
author has taken a comprehensive look at the possibility of AFL-CIO
involvement in the April 2002 coup against Venezuela's democratically-elected
president, Hugo Chavez Frias. He noted that the AFL-CIO had a
long-time foreign policy, that was involved previously in Latin
American in general, and specifically in Venezuela. This author
previously expressed concerns around the strikingly similar situation
to that of Chile before the September 11, 1973 coup, that he also
suggested that possibility for Venezuela, although he published
the AFL-CIO's denial out of the possibility that its' statement
might be correct. However, through discovering a number of independently-produced
accounts and analyses--and after seriously considering the AFL-CIO's
version of what happened, conveyed through the writings of Stanley
Gacek--he came to the conclusion that the AFL-CIO, and specifically
its Solidarity Center--played an active and conscious role in
helping to create the conditions that led to the April 2002 coup
attempt, and also played a similar role in trying to deny the
now-established involvement of the CTV leadership in the planning
and participating in at least the initial efforts that led to
_Thus, any understanding of the
AFL-CIO foreign policy program in the post-1995 years must specifically
include its activities in Venezuela, and their similarities to
previous pre-1995 operations, most importantly in Chile.
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* Kim Scipes is an Assistant Professor
of Sociology at Purdue University North Central in Westville,
Indiana, USA. A member of the National Writers Union, AFL-CIO,
he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org@pnc.edu This email
enabled to view it . Scipes has an on-line "Contemporary
Labor Bibliography" that would probably be of interest to
all active and/or interested in labor, which is at http://faculty.pnc.edu/kscipes/LaborBib.htm.
 While it does not appear that the
United States Government under George W. Bush instigated the coup,
it was unhappy with the regime of Hugo Chavez, and sent clear
signals to the opposition in Venezuela that it would not be upset
should a coup against Chavez take place. Nonetheless, Venezuela
was clearly a concern of the Bush Administration, which at least
held one inter-agency meeting between the National Security Council,
the Pentagon and the State Department in November 2001, where
they talked for two days about Venezuela-Katherine Hoyt (2002)
notes that "Similar meetings had been held before previous
US-organized coups in Iran, Guatemala, South Vietnam, Chile and
elsewhere." She also reported that CIA Director George Tenet
told Congress in February 2002 that Venezuela was one of the "main
concerns" for US foreign policy (Hoyt, 2002). The New York
Times reported on CIA documents that showed that the Bush Administration
had detailed information about the coup plans days prior to the
coup (Forero, 2004). See also Eva Golinger (2004).
In her 2005 book, Golinger (2005) provides
extensive, in-depth documentation and analysis establishing this
claim-see particularly the Senior Executive Intelligence Brief
generated by the CIA dated April 6, 2002 printed on pp. 209-210.
Regarding the Bush Administration, who publicly supported the
coup, Mark Weisbrot (2004) wrote, " the Bush Administration
was not just lying about what it knew, but actively joining the
coup leaders in their short-lived attempt to convince the media
and the world that a 'transitional civilian government' had legitimately
seized power in order to defend the public from alleged state
violence. And all the while knowing that this was false, and
that the military coup was part of a plan that they knew about
in advance." For the Bush Administration's pubic position
on the coup, see the "Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer"
of April 12, 2002 (Fleisher, 2002). Among other things later
disproved, Fleischer reported that "President Chavez has
resigned the presidency," which he never did.
For analyses of US efforts in Venezuela
since the coup, see Agee, 2005; Golinger, 2004; and Jones and
Tayler, 2005. For an in-depth report of on-going US activities
against Venezuela, until January 2006, see James, 2006.
 Events around and leading to the
coup attempt, and the coup attempt itself, were captured on film
by an Irish film team that had happened to be in Miraflores at
the time of the coup, filming for a documentary on President Chavez.
The resulting film, "The Revolution Will Not be Televised,"
was released in 2004.
 Sustar cites Buhle, 1999: 143 for
the source on the alleged CIA involvement of Romualdi; and Romauldi,
1967: 417, 434, 486-511, for Romauldi's accounts of his relationship
with Venezuelan president Betancourt. Both Betancourt and Rafael
Caldera were later to serve as President of Venezuela.
 Golinger (2005: 85-87) provides
useful background information on Reich and his career. She also
cites an e-mail message from Lourdes Kistler of ACILS to Mary
Sullivan of the Department of State, "confirming the Ortega
delegation visit and meeting with Otto Reich on February 11, 2002."
This was obtained under FOIA. (Golinger, 2004: 86, fn. 2).
 Documents unearthed by Bigwood and
Golinger have been placed on the Venezuelan Solidarity Committee's
website at www.venezuelafoia.info, and are herein referred to
as Bigwood and Golinger, n.d. To access these reports from ACILS
to NED, go to the box on National Endowment for Democracy (NED)
and click on "ACILS-CTV." There you will find Quarterly
Reports from the Solidarity Center (ACILS) to NED, and these extend
from July-September 2000 to July-September 2003. Quotes in this
paper are from the January-March 2002 Quarterly Report, and are
found at http://venezuelafoia.info/ctva1.html and http://venezuelafoia.info/ctva2.html
 In her book, Golinger discusses this
meeting (Golinger, 2005: 90-92) and its importance. More importantly,
she prints an unclassified cable, which she identifies as being
from March 2002 (the date on the memo is March 2, but from the
contents, more likely should have been dated March 12), from the
US Embassy in Caracas to the Secretary of State, where this meeting
is reported. In this cable, the following is stated: "The
existence of this Accord was announced last week and has since
drawn much speculation about whether it was intended as the basis
for a post-Chavez government or a last-ditch effort to promote
a dialogue with the government. In his combative centerpiece
address, CTV President Carlos Ortega dispelled any remaining doubts:
this accord is 'a pact for us', he emphasized, to guide us through
the transition and to establish a 'government of democratic unity'.
The crowd greeted these remarks with rousing anti-Chavez chants"
(emphasis added) (Golinger, 2005: 203-205; quote on p. 204).
 That the strike was to protest the
firing of management, and not union members, was confirmed in
a personal interview by this author with Dick Juanique, Director
of the Department of Informal Economy of the CTV, in Caracas,
June 19, 2006. Juanique's explanation was that hiring and promotions
had previously all been done within the state oil company, PDVSA,
on the basis of merit, and that the workers had launched a general
strike to maintain such a standard in response to President Chavez'
firing of the oil managers for corruption. Golinger (2005: 94)
says "The workers [in reality, managers-KS] were dismissed
largely due to mismanagement of the industry, embezzlement of
finances and a difference in policy from the Chavez's Government."
 Golinger (2005: 64-65) reprinted
the IRI Press Release issued by George Folsom that praised the
 The role of the privately-owned media
in Venezuela in the coup efforts is detailed throughout Golinger's
2005 book. However, she also briefly comments on the US media's
support for the coup, specifically naming the Chicago Tribune
and The New York Times, of which she discusses the latter's April
14th and April 18, 2002 editorials on the coup (Golinger, 2005:
110, fn. 29).
 Steve Ellner (2004) responded to
Gacek's claims in Gacek, 2004. Ellner, Professor of Labor History
at the Universidad del Oriente in Barcelona, Venezuela and perhaps
the leading authority on labor today in Venezuela, challenged
many of Gacek's claims about the CTV.
In a following article in 2005, responding
to Lee Sustar (2005), Gacek made basically the same claims as
he did in his 2004 article. Sustar, in turn, responded to Gacek
(2005), and argued that Gacek had not, in reality, addressed the
central claim of his article, while Gacek made himself to appear
as though he was doing just that.
 Although Solidarity Center activists
reported regularly to the National Endowment for Democracy, they
have never reported their activities to AFL-CIO affiliated unions'
members, nor to the public. In fact, they have even refused to
"open their books" about their activities-past and present-even
when asked by a unanimously-passed resolution from the 2004 California
State AFL-CIO Convention. See Hirsch, 2004; Scipes, 2004ab, 2005c.
For an on-going effort to force the AFL-CIO to open its books
on all foreign operations, historically and currently, and to
cut all ties with the National Endowment for Democracy, see the
Worker to Worker Solidarity Committee's web site at www.workertoworker.net,
and for a collection of some of the best writings on AFL-CIO foreign
policy, go to the "Links" page on the web site. For
the most complete compilation of all sources on the AFL-CIO foreign
policy program, go to http://faculty.pnc.edu/kscipes/LaborBib.htm#AFL-CIO_foreign_operations.
 Stan Gacek (2005) of the AFL-CIO
stated unequivocally, "We did not finance the March 5 event."