New Coup D'Etat Rumblings in Venezuela
by Stephen Lendman
Since taking office in January 2001, the
Bush administration targeted Hugo Chavez for removal. It tried
and failed three previous times:
-- in April 2002 for two days; aborted
by mass street protests and support from many in Venezuela's military,
especially from its middle-ranking officer corp;
-- the 2002 - 2003 general strike and
oil management lockout causing severe economic disruption; and
-- the August 2004 national recall referendum
in which Chavez resoundingly prevailed with a 59% majority.
Other disruptions have occurred since
and now may again be ongoing. US intervention is innovative and
determined to regain control of Venezuela and its vast hydrocarbon
resources, the largest by far in the hemisphere after Canada.
Perhaps the world with the US Department of Energy's estimate
of 1.36 trillion extra-heavy oil barrels included besides its
proved 80 billion barrels of light sweet reserves, ranking it
seventh overall behind the five largest Middle East producers
Throughout most of his tenure and since
the Bush administration took over, CIA and various misnamed US
quasi-governmental agencies have been active in Venezuela. Ones
like the National Endowment of Democracy (NED). The International
Republican Institute (IRI) with John McCain as its chairman and
its ties to extremist Republican party elements, and the US Agency
for International Development (USAID). All are imperial instruments.
Undemocratic and for rule by the power of money.
They fund opposition groups and coup supporters.
Arrange (staged for media) anti-Chavez marches and street protests.
Spend millions to subvert democracy to return the country to its
past. Oligarchs who once controlled it. Washington and Big Oil
that control them.
They plot assassination attempts, according
to Chavez to remove him. To reverse Bolivarianism and its socially
beneficial gains in health care, education, housing, feeding the
hungry, lifting millions out of poverty, and enfranchising all
Venezuelans in the country's participatory democracy. Strengthening
it at the grassroots.
Recent Disturbing Events
On September 10, Venezolana de Television's
(VTV) La Hojilla program disclosed a recording (from an undisclosed
source) of a planned military coup against Chavez - by active
and retired plotters. Participants named were Vice Admiral and
National Guard Forces Inspector General Carlos Alberto Millan
Millan. National Guard General Wilfredo Barroso Herrera, and retired
Air Force General Eduardo Baez Torrealba (involved in the April
2002 aborted coup). Unknown is who else is behind this and how
deep the suspected plot runs.
Conversations recorded were about "tak(ing)
the Miraflores (presidential) Palace (government headquarters
and) the TV installations....that is all effort towards where
(Chavez) is. If he's in Miraflores, the effort goes toward there."
Talk also was about seizing the "command headquarters (with)
the troops inside" and about Maracay, Aragua state's Air
Base Libertador where Venezuela's F-16s and other planes are based.
Baez Torrealba was heard saying: "We
are divided into four zones....east, west, and two in the centre"
and have an F-16 pilot. He mentions either attacking Chavez's
plane or capturing it. Possibly the presidential palace the way
the CIA engineered it in Chile for Augusto Pinochet against Salvador
Allende on September 11, 1973 - with bombs, rockets and tank fire.
Open warfare on Santiago's streets. Whether planned for Caracas
is anyone's guess but it certainly is possible.
Chavez knows the history as well as past
conspiracies against himself. He said on-air that his government
"infiltrated the most radical and fascist movements (and
have) known for a long time that they are looking for land and
air rockets and sophisticated equipment to blow up the presidential
plane" and that past plans were to bomb the Miraflores. He
also knows that CIA is behind them and said if there's a coup,
"the counter-coup would be overwhelming" - meaning a
mass popular uprising to reverse it with military support, similar
Chavez then confirmed the detentions of
several suspected coop plotters and said others fled the country.
He also expelled US ambassador, Patrick Duddy. Gave him 72 hours
to leave, and recalled his Washington envoy, Bernardo Alvarez,
in sympathy with Bolivia's Evo Morales. On September 10, he declared
US ambassador, Philip Goldberg, persona non grata. Accused him
of supporting eastern Bolivian fascist elements and working with
them to plan a coup against his presidency.
On September 20, another incident occurred,
so far unexplained. In west Caracas, a grenade was thrown from
a residential building, killing two and injuring 19 others. A
23-year old man was identified as the perpetrator, who then, it
was claimed, jumped to his death from the building's eighth floor.
No further information is available at this time but authorities
Then around the same time in London, Samuel
Moncada, Venezuela's UK ambassador, attended a fringe Labour Party
meeting and expressed "fear(s) that the next few weeks will
be very dangerous for us." He believes that the Bush administration
may try to oust Chavez in its remaining months. Others in Venezuela
also think something is going on to destabilize the country. Possibly
a plot to assassinate their president and bring down his government.
Disturbing Latin American stirrings in
the final Bush administration months along with all else on their
plate and planned in the Middle East, Central Asia and elsewhere.
Plus the November presidential and congressional elections and
a hugely calamitous financial crisis commanding daily headlines
and top-level meetings as first order of business because of its
Nonetheless, the Bush administration expelled
Venezuela's Washington ambassador after he'd been recalled following
Chavez saying "When there is a new government in the United
States, we'll send an ambassador." Given the campaign rhetoric
by both US presidential candidates, he may have a change of heart.
Both promise permanent wars. New fronts to wage them on, and an
uncompromising pro-corporate agenda. Not good news for independent
democrats like Chavez, especially ones in oil-rich countries like
Separately on September 12, the Bush administration
went further with US Treasury officials announcing sanctions and
the freezing of assets against Hugo Carvajal Barrios and Henry
Rangel Silva, both Venezuelan intelligence chiefs. Also named
was Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, the country's former Justice and Interior
Minister. Serious and unwarranted accusations against high government
officials for supporting drugs trafficking and supplying arms
to Colombia's FARC-EP resistance.
On September 17, Washington also blacklisted
Venezuela (for the fourth time) and Bolivia (for the first time)
for not cooperating in the "war on drugs" and designated
both countries and Burma as "hav(ing) failed demonstrably
during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under
international counternarcotics agreements," in a statement
released by the White House. The State Department listed 20 countries
as illicit major drugs producers or transit sites.
It omitted what scholar/researcher Peter
Dale Scott calls "Deep Events (or "deep politics"
that governments try to suppress) and the CIA's Global Drug Connection"
in his article by that title. The "complex geography or network
of banks, financial agents of influence and the 'alternative'
or 'shadow' CIA" and its possible involvement in major "deep
events" like the Kennedy assassination and 9/11. A "global
financial complex of hot money uniting prominent business, financial
and government (elements) as well as underworld figures."
An "indirect empire (between) CIA, organized crime, and their
mutual interest in drug-trafficking."
For the enormous profits that CIA uses
for its operations and helps it plot coups against countries like
Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Venezuela (2002) and maybe again
in 2008 along with Bolivia and the current Iranian government.
For state terrorism like Operation Condor (in Latin America in
the 1970s). Iranian and Pakistani incursions currently. All its
other nefarious activities, including "strengthening drug
networks....in Laos, Pakistan, Lebanon, Turkey, Columbia,"
Thailand and Afghanistan - the world's largest by far opium producer
after Washington replaced the Taliban and allowed regional "warlords"
to ramp up replantings.
Also its involvement in a possible plot
against Chavez. At the least, the latest Bush administration efforts
to tarnish and disrupt his democratic government with considerable
media support for its accusations and much more.
The Corporate Media on the Attack
A New York Times September 18 Simon Romero
article is headlined: "Alleging Coup Plot, Chavez Ousts US
Envoy." In it he suggests the accuracy of a Human Rights
Watch's (HRW) biased 2008 Venezuela report discussed below. That
"into its 10th year (Chavez's) government has consolidated
power by eliminating the independence of the judiciary, punish(ed)
critical news organizations, and engag(ed) in wide-ranging acts
of political discrimination against opponents." Leaving mentioned
the Chavez government's views to suggest his own and HRW's.
Do it in spite of its tainted state. An
example is how it "condemn(es) human rights abuses in Colombia."
Not the repressive government. The most fascist in the region,
but the FARC-EP and ELN resistance against it. More on HRW below.
A Miami Herald op-ed piece is headlined:
"Expulsions Underscore Chavez's Intolerance for Dissent"
and states that expelling "two respected human rights monitors
from Venezuela is the latest evidence that President Hugo Chavez
is determined to muzzle dissenting views....Mr. Chavez never misses
an opportunity to rail against the United States, but his real
enemies are those who dare to take issue with his politics. His
anti-democratic agenda has restricted legitimate political activity
by his opponents for years, and his arbitrary behavior is getting
worse." The most far right US elements couldn't say it better
or be more mirror opposite the facts.
A Los Angeles Times August 9 editorial
accused Chavez of a "power grab (and) attack(ing) democracy."
The Washinton Post calls him a Venezuelan caudillo or strongman.
So does the Wall Street Journal repeatedly. Reckless commentaries
accuse him of rigging elections. Excluding his most formidable
opponents. Violating Venezuelan law, and now engaging in drugs
trafficking, terrorism, and delivering a suitcase with $800,000
in slush money to Argentina's Cristina Kirchner for her 2007 presidential
campaign. The Inter-American Dialogue's Peter Hakim has "no
doubt" this latter charge (playing out in a Miami courtroom)
is politically motivated and "is coming from the US government."
So are all the others.
The Journal's Mary O'Grady wages constant
war against Chavez, and her latest September 15 op-ed refers to
his "Russian Dalliance." His holding joint exercises
with Moscow's "flotilla." Russia "evoking memories
of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis by playing war games with another
would-be Latin strongman." Chavez "only too happy to
be used." Suggesting he and Evo Morales are communists and
all the negatives that implies. That Chavez is a "dictator."
That his "economy (is) in shambles" when, in fact, it's
had 19 consecutive impressive quarters of growth and grew at 7.1%
in the second quarter - compared to America's unprecedented economic
crisis and contraction. That Chavez is so worried about a "serious
challenge to (his) chavismo (that he) trotted out the Uncle Sam
boogeyman, called in the Russians, and (sent) Washington's ambassador
Human Rights Watch on the Attack
Too often, Human Rights Watch (HRW) fails
to practice its stated mandate - that it's "dedicated to
protecting the human rights of people around the world....stand(ing)
with victims and activists....upholding political freedom (and)
bring(ing) offenders to justice." Instead it functions the
way James Petras characterizes similar NGOs as the "executing
agents of US imperialism."
Its support for the oppressed is dubious
at best. Tainted at worst, and its latest September 18 Venezuela
report is disturbing, biased, and inaccurate. It's not dissimilar
to how it covers the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. Distorting
it to downplay Israeli violence. Playing up to the Israeli Lobby,
and operating more by a political agenda than as a credible human
rights organization. Clearly with its funding sources in mind
that must be placated and never offended. HRW does it skillfully.
From its 1978 beginnings as the US Helsinki
Watch Committee (or Helsinki Watch), HRW advanced America's interests
as a propaganda instrument against Soviet Russia. Despite occasional
good work, too often it's "serv(ed) as a virtual public relations
arm of the (US) foreign policy establishment," according
to Edward Herman, David Peterson and George Szamuely in their
2007 report titled: "Human Rights Watch in Service to the
Exhibits A and B: against Serbia's Slobodan
Milosevic and Saddam at a time "the United States and Britain
were clearly planning an assault on Iraq with a 'shock and awe'
bombing campaign and ground invasion in violation of the UN Charter."
HRW ignored the impending onslaught. The "supreme international
crime," and focused on Saddam's much lesser ones. A "valuable
public relations gift to US and British leaders" instead
of denouncing them.
When the Pentagon-led NATO countries bombed
Yugoslavia in 1999, HRW attacked the victim and absolved the aggressor.
It supported regime change "either through (Milosevic's)
indictment or a US war (for) the same outcome." It blamed
him for the conflict America began and waged throughout the 1990s
with its NATO allies. It ignored Washington's imperial aim to
dismantle Yugoslavia. Its outrageous war crimes in doing it, and
instead cited Serbia's "vicious wars in Bosnia, Croatia and
Kosovo." It demanded responsible Serbs be held to account
before the kangaroo International Criminal Tribunal for the Former
Yugoslavia (ICTW). Run by made-in-Washington rules to avoid any
prosecution of its own role.
It showed HRW's commitment to human rights
is hollow and hypercritical. Its analysis opposite of the truth.
Its disdain for the rule of law, and its judgment fully supportive
of its funding sources. Organizations like:
-- the Ford Foundation;
-- the Rockefeller Foundation;
-- the Carnegie Corporation of New York;
-- Time Warner.
-- Edgar Bronfman, Jr., corporate CEO
and member of one of Canada's most wealthy and influential Jewish
-- Katherine Graham (now deceased) of
the Washington Post Corporation with her son and current chairman,
Donald Graham, likely continuing her support;
-- and George Soros who was active in
founding HRW jointly with the US State Department.
Some of its Americas Advisory Board members
are also closely linked to the National Endowment of Democracy
(NED) and its anti-democratic agenda. Figures like George Soros
and Robert Pastor, Jimmy Carter's Latin American National Security
Advisor and Senior Fellow at the Carter Center on Latin America
and the Caribbean.
HRW failed to denounce CIA's 2002 coup
attempt against Chavez or the 2004 one against Haiti's Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. The thousands of Lavalas supporters murdered in its
aftermath. The continuing daily human rights abuses committed
by so-called UN Peacekeepers, police and other security forces.
The unconscionable human misery in the coup's aftermath.
It said nothing about Venezuelan dominant
media's advance knowledge about and support for the 2002 coup.
The air time they gave plotters. Their virulent propaganda and
calls for people to take to the streets "for freedom and
democracy" by ousting Chavez. Their suppressing all pro-government
reports and opinions. Their falsely reporting that Chavez resigned
when, in fact, he was forcibly removed and was being held against
his will. They knew because they were briefed in advance and were
part of the scheme.
When hundreds of thousands of Chavez supporters
were on the streets demanding his reinstatement, they ignored
them and aired old movies and cartoons. Even when the coup was
aborted, they maintained strict censorship in a further act of
defiance. Yet, when Chavez refused to renew RCTV's VHF license
(a mere slap on the wrist for an act of sedition), HRW vehemently
complained and denounced the act as censorship. It continues to
criticize Chavez, most noticeably in its 230 page 2008 report
titled, "A Decade Under Chavez: Political Intolerance and
Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela."
The report is unfairly one-sided and biased
by criticizing the "government's willful disregard for the
institutional guarantees and fundamental rights that make democratic
participation possible." In response, the government expelled
two HRW employees - America's Director, Jose Miguel Vivanco, and
his Deputy, Daniel Wilkinson. A Foreign Relations Ministry press
release stated: Vivanco and Wilkerson "have done violence
to the constitution (and) assaulted (Venezuela's) institutions
(by) meddling illegally in (its) internal affairs."
The statement added that HRW is linked
to America's "unacceptable strategy of aggression" and
expelling them was done to defend "the people against aggressions
by international factors." Not accidently was the report
released two months before Venezuela's November 23 regional and
local elections for governors and mayors. HRW did the same thing
previously to sway voters away from Chavez candidates and issues
and toward ones embracing a pro-Washington agenda. In October
2007, ahead of the December constitutional reform referendum,
it criticized the measures and warned about the loss of freedoms
if the vote was positive. Its latest report also comes at a time
of increased tension between Washington and Caracas ahead of elections
in both countries.
The Washington-based Venezuela Information
Office (VIO) released an analysis of HRW's report titled: "The
Truth Suffers in Human Rights Watch on Venezuela." It's summarized
below and can be read in full along with other current Venezuela
information on: rethinkvenezuela.org.
VIO is blunt and accurate in calling HRW
down on its blatantly biased account. Not surprising given its
history as explained above. It exaggerates and lies about human
rights deficiencies, and at the same time, ignores Venezuela's
impressive social and other advances under Chavez. Unparalled
in the country's history. Nothing comparable in America where
human rights and social gains are vanishing under both parties.
Along with democracy that's pure fantasy. Facts that HRW is loath
to point out nor would it dare at the risk of offending its funding
VIO deconstructs the HRW report by stating
"myths," and "facts".
HRW myth: political discrimination defines
the Chavez presidency.
VIO fact: HRW mischaracterizes Chavez's
condemnation of the aborted 2002 coup as "political discrimination"
against the plotters. An absurdity on its face, but not to HRW.
HRW: Chavez disdains the separation of
powers and an independent judiciary.
VIO: Chavez inherited a government for
the rich. Mass poverty, and (according to an earlier HRW report)
a judiciary plagued by "influence-peddling, political interference,
and, above all, corruption....In terms of public credibility,
the system was bankrupt." Since 1999, Chavez made great strides
in cleaning it up. He still has a long way to go, but he's heading
in the right direction.
HRW: Chavez "shifted....the mass
media in the government's favor."
VIO: In print and electronically, Venezuela's
corporate media are dominant. The five leading private TV channels
control 90% of the market and most viewers. They operate freely
with no government censorship. Are unrestrained in their one-sided
anti-goverment reporting, including "calling for the overthrow
of elected leaders" as they did in 2002. All major newspapers
are corporate-owned. TVes (Venezuela's first public broadcaster)
and TeleSur (the regional, multi-nation supported operation) reach
much smaller audiences.
HRW: Chavez "has sought to remake
the country's labor movement in ways that violate basic principles
of freedom of movement."
VIO: In fact, Chavez is actively pro-labor.
Supports unions and collective bargaining on equal terms with
management. In 2003, pro-government workers founded the National
Workers Union (UNT). Chavez is responsive to its rights and equitable
HRW: Chavez has been "aggressively
adversarial....to local rights advocates and civil society organizations."
VIO: Chavez is responsive to local leaders.
Promotes the creation of community councils to address their own
needs and find solutions free from federal government control
and influence. The idea is democracy at the grassroots, and it
VIO concludes that HRW systematically
mischaracterizes the Chavez government. Wrongly accuses it of
political discrimination and targeting opponents. The truth is
mirror opposite even to the extent of pardoning coup plotters
and promoting open dialogue.
In addition, Venezuela has a vibrant and
improving participatory democracy, anchored at the grassroots.
Each government branch provides "strong checks and balances"
against the others. The nation is a free and open society. The
Bolivarian Constitution respects and guarantees human and labor
rights for all Venezuelans equally. Social ones also, including
healthcare, education, food, housing, jobs, security and more.
In its biased and inaccurate account,
HRW reports none of this and all other impressive achievements
under Chavez. Doing so would offend its corporate and other backers.
They want Chavez ousted. Bolivarianism ended, and Venezuela returned
to its past. HRW is an imperial agent. On board to make it happen.
Targeting Latin American Democracy
Subversion in Venezuela and possible civil
war in Bolivia threaten Latin America's democracy. Fascists never
rest and now control five of Bolivia's richest states, according
to long-time regional expert, James Petras. They "forcefully
oust(ed) all national officials, murder(ed), injur(ed) and assaulted
leaders, activists and voters who have backed the (Morales) national
government - with total impunity."
Why so? Because, in nearly three years
in office, Evo Morales tried to bargain with the far right. Be
conciliatory and compromising. Back down from even "the mildest
social reforms." Favor business over progressive social change
in spite of winning a nearly 70% majority in an August 10 recall
election. Allowed the opposition to be "aggressive(ly) violent."
Seize power in Santa Cruz, Pando, Beni, Tarija and Chuquisaca.
Rule by thuggery and intimidation. Head the country toward fascism.
Erase the few social reforms achieved in the past three years.
Hand the country back to oligarchs and their Washington bosses.
Threaten to take the model to Venezuela.
End the region's most impressive participatory democracy. Its
social gains, and a leader who's committed to improving them.
Stand up against the same dark forces targeting Bolivia. Refuses
to surrender the way Morales has done. Share power with the fascist
right. Give in to their demands. Back their neoliberal agenda.
Betray the people who elected him overwhelmingly. And face the
possibility of what Michel Chossudovsky calls the "Kosovo
Break up Bolivia by the Yugoslav model.
Use extreme violence to do it. It made Kosovo an independent state.
Planning the same scheme for Bolivia's resource-rich states. Perhaps
the same fate for Venezuela and extinguishing all Latin American
A very disquieting option. Unthinkable
but possible under the current US administration and which ever
new one succeeds it. More conceivable given a shaky world economy
and how that distracts away from politics. Even the most destructive
kind. Allowing democracy to be lost without even noticing.
Unlikely? Who back in summer 2007 imagined
the kind of financial crisis that emerged. A potential economic
armageddon. An unprecedented situation with no rules around to
address. The possibility that nothing can stop a meltdown. And
if it happens that democracy may go with it.
Preventing a similar Latin America outcome
is crucial. Confronting the region's dark forces to stop them.
Understanding, as Petras states, that "you cannot 'make deals'
with fascists." You don't defeat them "through elections
and concessions to their big property-owning paymasters."
You confront them head on. Forcefully. Expose and denounce them.
Ally with a democratic constituency and beat down their threat
that's real, menacing and must be stopped or its heading everywhere.
Maybe sooner than anyone imagines.
Some hopeful signs, however, are present,
and maybe more will follow. In mid-September, nine South American
presidents held a crisis summit in Santiago, Chile and expressed
"their full and firm support for the constitutional government
of President Evo Morales (and) reject(ed) and will not recognize
any situation that attempts a civil coup (or) rupture of (Bolivia's)
territorial integrity." Let's hope they mean what they say
and will back their words with resoluteness. Except for Chavez
away on foreign tour, they met again on September 24 at the UN
in New York to continue discussions.
In addition, on September 17, the National
Coalition for Change (CONALCAM indigenous, campesino and urban
movements) signed a pact with the Bolivian Workers Central (COB)
to "defend the unity of the homeland that is being threatened
by a civil coup lead by terrorists and fascists" directed
out of Washington.
Events are fast-moving. They affect Venezuela
and the region, and Roger Burbach, Director of the Center for
the Study of the Americas (CENSA), reports that 20,000 miners,
peasants and coca growers marched on Santa Cruz. The "bastion
of the right wing rebellion" against Morales. He calls it
a "popular upheaval" sweeping the country. But it's
too soon to predict an outcome, and much to worry about given
Morales' weak-kneed approach and reluctance to be as resolute
as his supporters. Burbach calls it "restraint." For
Petras, it's capitulation, surrender, and a doomed strategy.
But not if mass protests can help it with
Joel Guarachi, head of the National Confederation of Peasant Workers,
saying 600,000 protesters are located throughout the 16 Santa
Cruz provinces alone. Venezuelans share a common interest and
may react the same way if Bolivarianism and their president are
Let's hope so. With a few months left
in office, the Bush administration may be unleashing its last
hurrah in Latin America. A "hail Mary" effort to reclaim
the region. Remove its weak democracies in countries like Bolivia
and strong ones in Venezuela. And do it in the face of overwhelming
domestic problems at home and lost wars abroad. Will it work?
Not if Bolivians and Venezuelans have anything to say about it,
and they're saying plenty. Stay tuned.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate
of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago
and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.