Washington's 'three fronts of
attack' on Venezuela
by Eva Golinger
Green Left Weekly, www.zmag.org/,
[Eva Golinger is a Venezuelan-American lawyer and author of The
Chavez Code, which exposed US government involvement in the April
2002 military coup that briefly ousted left-wing Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez, before he was reinstated by a popular uprising. Golinger
is a determined campaigner against Washington's attacks on revolutionary
Venezuela. She has just published a new book, Bush vs Chavez:
Washington's War on Venezuela, detailing the current US threats
to Venezuela. She spoke to Green Left Weekly in late October.]
Golinger told GLW that she analysed US
intervention in Venezuela as having "three different fronts
of attack". "One of them is the financial front, which
the US has been pursuing over the last five years or so, by financing
the opposition. This has increased over the past year, doubled
in some instances. In fact, funding by USAID [the US Agency for
International Development], through its Office of Transition Initiatives
(set up here after the coup), is now up to US$7.5 million a year.
But, more interestingly, the recipients of the funding have increased
"Two years ago, there were about
63 organisations receiving funding and, today, according to the
latest documents I've gotten under the US Freedom of Information
Act, there are 132 groups. When we talk about financial power,
it's not just the money; it's about the penetration of Venezuelan
society by using money to get into the various sectors. They find
groups that are allegedly human rights groups, groups that work
in the education system and so on, but are really working for
"Basically, the US is funding these
organisations in civil society ... to obtain control in all different
parts of the country. There are large concentrations of programs
in Merida, for example, also in Tachira, Zulia, and then in the
interior of the country - places like Barquisimeto, and the states
of Lara, Monagas, and Anzoategui.
"The US government has censored the
names of organisations, but they've left the descriptions of what
the funding is for, and even the titles of the projects. So we
know what they are proposing to do with the money; we just don't
know if they're actually doing it. In some cases, they've made
an error and left names in. I've actually taken them to court
over all this. The case is in the final stages in the District
Court in Washington DC. It has already gone through the entire
legal process with appeals, their motion to dismiss, and our response,
and now it's in the hands of the judge. It could be decided any
time. I think we have a really strong chance of winning the case.
"The issue is over the fact that
they used an exemption in the FOI legislation to censor the names
of organisations. This exemption protects personal privacy rights.
But we're using the legal argument that we're not trying to get
individuals' names, but rather the names of organisations - which
have no privacy rights. On top of that, we're talking about USAID
- not the CIA, or the NSA [National Security Agency] - so what's
so private? This is public money. We should win, but we're up
against the government, so you never know.
"So, USAID money has increased, and
the same with [money from] the National Endowment for Democracy.
And it's not just the money. They're bringing down their best
experts. For example, in the case of the [presidential] election
campaign right now, they're bringing in political strategists,
communications experts, to help them craft the entire [opposition]
campaign. It's not just money, because in the case of Venezuela,
which is different from Haiti, or Nicaragua, or even Bolivia,
the opposition doesn't need the money. The dollars don't really
compare, if you contrast it to the new Plan for Transition in
Cuba, for example. The total there is about $80 million. In Venezuela,
the total is about $9 million a year.
"It's the political contacts as well.
For instance, on October 28, a right-wing think-tank, closely
tied to the Republican Party, is hosting an event in Washington,
DC, called 'Can Venezuela be saved?' And the only speaker is Julio
Borges, who is the opposition vice-presidential candidate with
[presidential candidate] Manuel Rosales. All sorts of things are
involved with what I call the 'financial front'."
Golinger explained that the second major
area of US intervention is the "diplomatic front", "basically
the exercise of diplomatic terrorism by the US government toward
Venezuela". "This includes sanctions against Venezuela
for made-up things. There are three areas of sanctions right now.
The US is claiming Venezuela is not collaborating on [curbing]
drug trafficking, which is not true ... The US government just
released a new report saying that they're sanctioning Venezuela
again for not cooperating on the war on drugs.
"In some ways, it's just symbolic;
just a statement from the White House saying that all the countries
not collaborating on drugs will be sanctioned - with the exception
of Venezuela. Venezuela is not cooperating with the war on drug
trafficking, but funding will not be cut for activities 'promoting
democracy' and the strengthening of 'democratic political parties'.
They say, 'We'll cut the funding to help Venezuela counter drug
trafficking, but we won't cut funding to keep the opposition alive'
"There's a chapter in my new book
describing how the US Drug Enforcement Administration was discovered
last year to be engaging in espionage tactics. I was given documents
by the National Guard's counter-drugs division, which showed specific
cases where DEA agents were either aiding drug trafficking, or
were smuggling drugs and getting them into the US themselves.
So, the idea is that, they are trying to make Venezuela look bad
[on drugs], or they are engaged in drug trafficking themselves,
which has been known for years.
"The second sanction is for trafficking
in persons. But there is not a shred of evidence that Venezuela
is not doing everything in its power to prevent trafficking in
"The other area, which is the most
important of all, is this new classification the US created in
May of this year - and Venezuela is the only country on the list
- which is for not cooperating with the 'war on terrorism'. So,
there's the arms sanction. Venezuela is prohibited from buying
arms that have been manufactured in the US or use US parts. That's
the major sanction, because when asked what does that classification
mean, and what other countries are on that list, the official
response was, 'Venezuela is the only country on that list'. So
the reporters asked, 'Well, what are the other countries that
are prohibited from buying arms?' The spokesperson said, 'All
the countries on the list are state sponsors of terrorism'.
"So, Venezuela is receiving the same
sanctions as all the countries the US considers terrorist nations,
yet the US hasn't classified Venezuela as a terrorist nation.
It's been put on its own list - it's basically almost a 'terrorist
nation'. They did that because they wouldn't be able to get away
with classifying Venezuela as a terrorist nation within the world
community - just yet. The US is working on that very hard though.
"This is all within what I call the
diplomatic front. It includes the constant hostile declarations
made by US officials toward Venezuela, which began in a very public
and aggressive way in January 2005 with [US Secretary of State]
Condoleezza Rice, when she stated that 'Chavez is a negative force
in the region'. This was regurgitated and recycled by the US media
and other officials in the US government
"By the time we get to January 2006,
[US Director of National Intelligence John] Negroponte and [then-defence
secretary Donald] Rumsfeld are saying Chavez is another Hitler,
and he's one of the most dangerous and destabilising forces in
the region. And then we get to the arms sanctions and the special
"Most recently, the US Congress has
issued a report on border issues - it's the first time Venezuela
has ever been mentioned in a report on border issues. It talks
about Mexico, and then there's an entire page devoted to Venezuela,
where it says - absurd as it sounds - that President Chavez is
engaged in smuggling Islamic radicals from out of the Middle East
to Margarita Island, where they are training them in Spanish and
giving them ID documents and sending them to Mexico, where they
are crossing the border to the US. So now Venezuela is a border
"They've brought Venezuela into all
different areas. It's also an immigration issue. The Bush administration
has demanded a list of all people of Arab descent living on Margarita
Island. I've requested documents from all US government entities
on the issue of Margarita Island. And every agency has refused
to give us the documents. In fact, the latest one is the DIA [Defence
Intelligence Agency]. They have 45 documents, which is a lot -
each one could be 100 pages long. They've classified them as 'Top
Secret'. There's a Lebanese community on Margarita Island that
has been there for decades."
Golinger said the results of a US State
Department survey sent to US ambassadors, asking about terrorism
in their host nations, listed groups like Coordinadora Simon Bolivar,
a community-organising group in Barrio Enero 23 in Caracas, as
Golinger said the survey results alleged
a number of foreign groups considered terrorist by Washington
were active in Venezuela, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN),
Palestinian group Hamas and "something related to al Qaeda,
allegedly connected to Margarita Island".
Golinger explained, "There's a whole
financial link alleged. It's not true. I've researched it. What's
particularly amazing is that in the report ... and the Congress
hearings over the summer on the terrorist issue, the question
[was] raised: 'Is Venezuela a terrorist nation?' ... All of these
terrorist rings are referred to. But, they're all citing a news
article that was written in October 2003 in the US News and World
_"A giant map of Venezuela [in the
magazine] listed all the training camps throughout the country.
All the people cited as sources were anonymous US officials. So,
after the report came out, we all reacted. Everyone was writing
letters to the editor, the Venezuelan embassy complained. And
the head of the Southern Command of the Pentagon, which is in
charge of this region, was interviewed by the Miami Herald. He
completely refuted the whole article, saying there was nothing
to show any terrorist links with Venezuela.
"Yet, that article has never been
corrected. Now, three years later, even though it was refuted
by the Pentagon, and none of the allegations have ever been justified,
it is being used as the principal source of evidence on terrorism
in Venezuela. It's incredible. They're all citing it, but that
article is a complete fabrication."
She explained that Washington's third
front of attack is the "military front". "This
includes an increased military presence in the region. I've done
a lot of investigating this year on the island of Curacao [in
the Caribbean], close to Venezuela, where the US has a military
base. I have a chapter devoted to it in my new book, because it
is really alarming."
"[The US build-up] is with the support
of the Dutch government, less so with the Antilles government",
Golinger explained. She said there is a government-owned refinery
in Curacao that has been rented to Venezuela since 1984. The contract
is set to expire in 2019. Golinger said the refinery "produces
most of the oil for Central America and the Caribbean. It's incredibly
important and strategic."
Washington is trying to convince the Curacao
government to break the contract and sell the refinery to a US
company. "All the major infrastructure companies, water,
gas, electricity, telephone, [in Curacao] are US-owned. And now
they want the refinery. You can see Venezuela from Curacao ...
You could launch a missile attack from Curacao, easily."
"So, there's Curacao, and then there's
Colombia", Golinger told GLW. "There's a major build-up
of military bases there. While we are not certain of the exact
number of US troops in Colombia, we do know from official documents
that the sum total of US forces in the Latin American region is
40,000 troops ... That's a huge number. It's enough to invade
any Latin American country.
"The US conducts military exercises
regularly. I went to Curacao to check out some of the warships
involved. It's pretty freaky ... that's all intended to intimidate.
They haven't done that since the end of the Cold War.
"Another part of the military front
are the psychological operations. It's a media war, but it goes
beyond use of the regular media and gets into all kinds of propaganda
... There's a doctrine of psychological warfare prepared by the
"The use of Colombian paramilitaries
by the US is also included in the military front. And the intervention
of US Special Forces is part of that as well."
Golinger explained: "I actually interviewed
a paramilitary here in Caracas. What he told me is that all the
paramilitaries work jointly with the US and the Special Forces
in Colombia. They're trained by them, in command-and-control operations.
The paramilitaries are the "actors".
"For example, they're the ones sent over to try to assassinate
Chavez. But the command-and-control is directed and controlled
by the US Special Forces. The US forces come in, and are on the
ground in Colombia, but they send the paramilitaries to do the
dirty work, together with the Colombian army.
"The US has been building up a secret
base near the border with Venezuela, next to Apure state. It's
a small base, but the US is building airplane hangars for spy
planes. It's basically a launching point for espionage operations
and monitoring of Venezuela. They also have large amounts of high-ranking
US Special Forces there. At every one of these bases ... there
are always the high-ranking US Special Forces, the high-ranking
Colombian forces, then the low-ranking Colombian forces, and finally
the paramilitaries. It's like a chain of command, but at the head
of that command are the US Special Forces."
Golinger said that there were attempts
to push the FARC into Venezuela to provide an excuse for Colombian
troops to enter the country. "They want to increasingly make
that border area a combat zone - to declare it an uncontrollable
international zone, so they need to bring in international forces
to control it. This would include all of that area, from Apure
In her new book there is a chapter on
Plan Balboa, a 2001 military exercise underwritten by the US that
is "basically the invasion plan for Venezuela". "What
they do is come in from Colombia, Panama and from bases in Curacao.
What they do on their map is take over Zulia and the border area
and declare it an international zone ...
"In the case of Venezuela, Plan Balboa
is the virtual, trial stage of invading the country, and then
over the past five years they have been trying it out. The April
2002 coup was the first stage. The US had military forces here,
and brought in submarines and other equipment, and their Black
Hawk helicopters. How did it play out? It didn't work, and since
then they have been preparing for the next stage. For example,
the movement for Zulia to secede, or to become an autonomous state,
is related to all that."
Right now, most of Venezuela's developed
oil industry is located in Zulia and Falcon. "So, the idea
is to expand Plan Colombia into that region, and the border area
that requires international forces, and, at the same time, move
for secession of Zulia. Eventually, they would just divide the
country and take the oil wealth. And from there they would deal
with the rest of the country."
GLW asked Golinger about Washington's
ability to stage a military intervention while it was bogged down
in Iraq. She explained that, on top of the 40,000 US troops stationed
in Latin America, "the recent military exercises in the Caribbean
showed their strength ... right in the area near Venezuela, they
had about eight major warships, one of which was the aircraft
carrier USS George Washington, with 85 combat planes and 6500
troops on board. In all, they had about 10,000 troops. That's
a total of 50,000 [soldiers] in the region. Every single ship
had Tomahawk missiles and so on, and they hung out off [Venezuela's
coast] for two-and-a-half months ... _
"The US could come in and take out
the country. Venezuela has built up its armed forces recently,
but it doesn't have the capacity to stop the attack. They could
take us out with a bombing campaign, just like they did in Iraq.
"Increasingly, we're getting prepared
But the [military] reserves are not sufficiently trained yet.
And even with the troops, their weaponry is not nearly as sophisticated
as the US's ... However, it's like what Cuba has shown with their
resistance and their preparation of the people. They're so ready,
that if the US were to go in there and invade, they would have
to massacre millions and millions of people [to conquer the country].
So, Venezuela is trying to do the same kind of thing; similar,
but in a Venezuelan way. 'You won't be able to just take us out,
you'll have to kill everybody' ...
"More than having an invasion, they're
going to try and assassinate President Chavez. And that's where
the paramilitaries come in, because that's what their mission
is. The paramilitary leader I spoke to told me that. They're already
here. There are more than 3000 in the region of Caracas alone."