Bushistas and Venezuela

The 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.

Our Goose Stepping Media

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’ House

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. 

Bush’s Cuba Obsession

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 Rights Reserved
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