Coup That Went South
by Michael I. Niman - ArtVoice May 9th, 2002
There’s certainly been a lot of distractions lately.
The media’s loaded with images of Israeli tanks, fuzzy al Qaida home
videos, Saddam’s birthday bash, US troops firing on “suspected members al
Qaida,” which these days means anyone they’re shooting at, and a confused
deer-in-the-headlights George Bush, either contradicting his previous statements
on Israel, or calling for strip mining of nature preserves or some such
nonsense. It’s hard to keep track
of the “evil-doers” these days. So
really, who’s got time to pay attention to Venezuela?
They had a coup. Big deal.
Well, actually it is a big deal.
Yes they had a coup, but it turned out to be not their homegrown coup,
but one of our good old-fashioned made-in-the-USA vintage retro red-scare
Latin American coups. But our
spooks just ain’t what they used to be and our coup went south.
Here’s the story.
On April 11th, the Venezuelan army removed
President Hugo Chavez in a military coup, resulting in about 100 deaths.
The new dictator installed by the military, businessman Pedro Carmona,
dissolved the National Assembly, while explaining to the media, that President
Chavez “quit.” On April 13th,
The New York Times ran an editorial celebrating Chavez’s
“resignation,” writing that Venezuela, now under the control of a military
dictatorship, “is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator,” meaning
Chavez. This stuff is classic
New York Times. They went on
to explain that, “Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic
mandate.” This of course would be
the new dictator installed by the military, and not President Chavez, who was
elected in 1998 by 80% of Venezuela’s voters.
The Chicago Tribune, like hundreds of other American
newspapers, quickly followed The Times’ lead, writing on April 14th,
that Chavez was just an “elected strongman,” arguing that sometimes
countries “benefit from the military’s intervention to force out an elected
president.” Long Island’s Newsday,
goose-stepping right along the merry path to fascism, oxymoronically wrote that
the coup was “an affirmation of the democratic process.”
The timing of these articles proved embarrassing for the
newspapers who ran them, since, as the papers were hitting the streets, Chavez
was being restored to the presidency. The
coup, condemned by Latin American and Caribbean governments, had succumbed to a
popular uprising in Venezuela, where pro-democracy forces, including political
opponents of the Chavez administration, took to the streets demanding
restoration of their elected government.
The Forth Reich
Not surprisingly, the US was not among those nations who
came to the aid of Venezuelan democracy. To
the contrary – the Bush administration quickly rushed to embrace and support
Venezuela’s new dictator. On the
day he seized control of the country, Otto Reich, the Bush regime’s Assistant
Secretary for Western Hemispheric Affairs, summoned the ambassadors from
Caribbean and Latin American nations to his Washington office, and told them
that the US would be supporting Venezuela’s new “government.”
Democracy, he explained, was still in tact since Chavez “resigned.”
Reich, of course, is no bystander here.
Representatives of the Bush administration conceded that Reich was in
telephone contact with the coup plotters on the morning of the coup.
Reich is also no stranger to this sort of anti-democratic intervention.
He’s a far-right veteran of the Reagan White House, who ran Reagan’s
Office of Public Diplomacy, the agency responsible for creating false news
stories and other forms of propaganda in an attempt to undermine support for the
democratically elected, but left-leaning, Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
This took place during the Contra War, which consisted primarily of a
series of terrorist attacks against Nicaragua carried out by bands of US funded
mercenaries, dubbed “freedom fighters,” by the Reagan administration. According to congressional investigations conducted at the
time, Reich reported directly to the notorious Colonel Oliver North, later
convicted in the Iran-Contra scandal, where weapons were covertly sold to Iran
by US government operatives, with the proceeds used to fund the Contra
terrorists in defiance of US law. Venezuela’s
short-lived dictator, Pedro Carmona, it turns out, visited Reich during his last
trip to the US, which was in November.
Felons in da’
All indications point to the Bush regime in Washington as
being the instigators and planners for the Venezuelan coup.
According to The Observer, one of Britain’s leading papers, the
coup was engineered by Eliot Abrams, who currently serves in the Bush regime,
with the Orwellian title of, Senior Director of the National Security Council
for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations.
Abrams is another veteran of the Reagan White House, where he served as
an assistant to Oliver North. Abrams was later convicted of a felony --
illegally channeling funds to the Contra terrorists.
President Papa Bush later pardoned Abrams, who seems to have returned
both to government employment, and to his criminal ways.
There’s more evidence pointing to the Bush clan.
Reuter’s reports that a private US registered plane was parked
at the facility where Chavez was held captive during the coup.
Newsweek reports that coup plotters were in contact with officials
at the US embassy in Venezuela in February.
The State Department acknowledges the meeting but denies that they
encouraged the coup – but they didn't, however, warn the elected government of
the impending coup. Two of the
Venezuelan leaders of the coup, General Ramirez Poveda and Commander Efrian
Vasquez, were trained by the US military in Georgia’s notorious School of the
Americas, which human rights activists have dubbed, “The School of the
Assassins,” since many graduates have been implicated in politically motivated
murder, torture and rape throughout the hemisphere.
Former US intelligence officer, Wayne Madsen, in an
interview with Britain’s Guardian, explained that American military
attaches in Venezuela were in contact with the coup plotters.
Madsen names names in The Guardian’s report, and also alleges
that US counter-narcotics agents were also involved in the coup.
US Navy vessels on a “training exercise” off the coast of Venezuela,
according to The Guardian, had advance warning of the coup and were on
standby in case the coup got chaotic and they were needed to evacuate Americans.
Roger Rondon, a Venezuelan National Assembly Deputy,
reported seeing the US Ambassador to Venezuela, Charles Shapiro on the night
after the coup, “leaving the Miraflores [Presidential] Palace, all smiles and
embraces, with the dictator Pedro Carmona.”
He also names two US military officers attached to the US embassy, who
were at Venezuelan military headquarters on the day of the coup.
The coup supposedly was the Bush regime’s response to Chavez’s cozy relationship with Cuba’s Fidel Castro and his refusal to cut ties with Libya and Iraq. After the September 11th attacks against the US, Chavez, while sharply criticizing the attacks, questioned the logic of bombing Afghanistan, describing the impending US assault as “fighting terrorism with terrorism.” The Chicago Tribune also reported that Chavez was “praising bin Laden.” They later retracted their assertion after the independent media watchdog group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, called The Tribune and asked when and where Chavez praised bin Laden. Oops. Turns out he didn’t. In any event, both the Bush regime and the US media have clearly pained Chavez as one of the reviled evildoers.
More importantly, Chavez was also threatening the profits
of ExxonMobil and Phillips Petroleum. Venezuela
is now the third largest foreign supplier of oil to the US, supplying roughly as
many barrels per day as Saudi Arabia. Chavez
was trying to change a sixty-year old agreement with these oil companies, which
gives them huge tax breaks while charging as
little as one percent in royalties.
Venezuela currently exports $30billion worth of oil each year, yet 80% of
Venezuelans are poor, and 40% are malnourished.
Given the Bush regime’s rhetorical attacks against
Chavez, coupled with the spooky makeup of the current State Department, it
became clear that the US would try to unseat him.
Rogelio Pardo-Maurer, former Pentagon point man for the Contra terrorists
in the 1980s, is now a key official in charge of the Pentagon’s Latin American
activities. Seven of the State
Department’s top 12 officials in charge of Latin America, including Otto
Reich, are anti-Castro Cuban-American political activists – a group Larry
Birns, Director of the Council of Hemispheric Affairs and former member of the
UN Economic Commission for Latin America, refers to as an “extremist
off-the-wall team.” Forty-three
years have gone by since the Cuban, yet the Miami crowd from which this crew
hails is no closer to deposing Castro than they were in 1960. In lieu of deposing Castro, knocking off the
‘Fidel-loving’ Chavez must have seemed to be a tempting way to celebrate the
anniversary of the failed American-supported Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
Chavez prevailed, as Castro did 41 years earlier. The big difference, however, is that this coup was intended to unseat a democratically elected government, essentially transforming Venezuela from a democracy to a dictatorship. The Bush regime’s official stand was best summarized by an unnamed State Department official quoted on April 15th by Reuters, who, referring to Chavez, conceded that he “was democratically elected,” but went on to argue that, “Legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of votes, however.” I’d have to add that it’s also something that’s not just conferred by the US Supreme Court. These certainly are spooky times in which we live.
Copyright 2002 - Michael I. Niman - All
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