Venezuelan authorities did not carry firearms to the protests in Caracas and several authorities were injured by violent protesters. (AVN)
Caracas – Seven individuals were arrested for allegedly attacking Venezuelan police during a violent opposition march in Caracas on Wednesday that left five officers injured.
The march was part of nationwide mobilizations convoked by the right-wing opposition coalition, the MUD, protesting alleged stalling by the National Electoral Council (CNE). The CNE is in the process of validating the 1.85 million signatures collected by the coalition for a recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro.
The MUD called for supporters to march to the CNE headquarters in the heavily pro-government city center despite being refused a permit by the El Libertador municipality over concerns of violence.
Bolivarian National Police (PNB) personnel were dispatched to prevent demonstrators from marching along the principal Avenida Libertador where they were attacked by a group of men wielding sticks and rocks.
“A group of people came to attack us. One of the citizens became violent and hit me. The shield protected me the first time, but the second time I fell,” recounts 22 year-old PNB officer Dubraska Alvarez, who suffered post-trauma capsulitis in her right elbow and multiple traumatisms.
Unarmed police beaten by demonstrators (teleSUR)
In a video that has circulated widely on social media, another officer can be seen falling to the ground after receiving a blow from a stick-wielding demonstrator and subsequently being beaten while prostrate by five men with sticks.
Another police functionary, Genessis Llovera Mambie, suffered the dislocation of her right shoulder while officer Erick Escalante came away with post-trauma bursitis in his left shoulder and a knee lesion.
Despite international media reports of police repression against protesters, PNB personnel were prohibited from carrying armaments and were only permitted to use tear gas if authorized by superiors.
“Our only order was to prevent people from entering Avenida Libertador, and we didn’t even have any sort of arms… it was inevitable [that people entered] because we only had shields to protect ourselves physically,” added Alvarez, who declined to show her face to the camera for fear of reprisals.
Seven men suspected of perpetrating the attacks were arrested in the heart of the wealthy eastern Caracas municipality of Chacao on Wednesday afternoon and were subsequently transported to the July 26th Penitentiary in Guarico state where they will await charges.
According to authorities, one of the suspects, Jheremy Bastardo Lugo, is a repeat offender who was reportedly arrested during the 2014 anti-government protests that saw opposition supporters erect violent barricades across the country, leading to the death of 43 people, the majority of whom were state security personnel and passerby.
Student residences vandalized
In addition to the violent incident on Avenida Libertador, protesters are reported to have vandalized a government-constructed student residence in Plaza Venezuela, breaking windows and allegedly attempting to set the building on fire.
“With sticks, stones, and gasoline, they were going to burn down the residence and the guards. I was attacked by hooded men armed with stones and bottles,” said student resident Angel Rodriguez.
“For having a different political ideology, they broke the windows, my comrades were attacked,” another student told teleSUR.
El Libertador Mayor Jorge Rodriguez denounced the day’s violent episodes and vowed to press charges against those responsible.
“This is the reason why we didn’t give them a permit to march to the city center,” he stated, pointing to the broken windows of the student residence.
Capriles blames “infiltrators”
Former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles publicly blamed the violence on “infiltrators”, calling the incidents a “set up” by the government.
“We know the plan, but we are not going to stop protesting. We are not afraid, we will [protest] in the face of the infiltrators, because it is our duty to fulfill the Constitution,” he stated.
However, Wednesday’s protest was not the only instance in which the Miranda state governor has condoned violent demonstrations.
Last week, the former presidential candidate was also involved in his own confrontation with police, as he and his supporters attempted to physically break a police line in Miranda state.
Following his narrow defeat in the 2013 elections, Capriles also refused to honor the internationally-recognized result, urging his supporters “vent their rage” in street protests that left seven people dead and saw numerous government health clinics and food markets burned.
In the lead up to Wednesday’s protests, Capriles issued a public statement to members of the Venezuelan armed forces, urging them to reject a state of exception expanded by President Maduro on Friday and oppose alleged attempts by the government to block the recall process.
“Prepare the tanks and war planes… the hour of truth is coming to decide whether you are with the constitution or with Maduro,” he declared on Tuesday.
Earlier this week, a special commission responsible for supervising the referendum process announced that 190,000 signatures collected by the opposition as part of the initial recall request belonged to deceased individuals.
The statement has been sharply denounced by opposition leaders who accuse the CNE of intentionally dragging out the process in order to prevent the recall referendum from being held this year.
Unless the referendum is held in 2016, a successful recall vote will not trigger new presidential elections, with the sitting vice-president instead taking over as president for the remainder of the term.
Caracas – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has hit out at “mounting aggressions” against his government after it was confirmed that a US plane had twice violated Venezuelan airspace.
The US Boeing 707 E-3 Sentry is reported to have illegally entered Venezuela’s national airspace on May 11th at 6.09am, as well as on May 13th at 6.03 am.
Both incursions were detected by Venezuela’s Bolivarian airforce and have sparked rumours that the US might be conducting covert spying operations over Venezuela.
“This plane has all the mechanisms to carry out electronic espionage,” stated Maduro on his television programme Tuesday.
According to US Airforce information, the Boeing 707 E-3 Sentry provides an accurate, real-time picture of the battlespace to the Joint Air Operations Center, and possesses a powerful radar to “detect, identify and track enemy and friendly low-flying aircraft”.
The double incursion comes as rightwing politicians at home and abroad step up their demands for military intervention against Maduro’s government.
Last Thursday, a former Colombian president made headlines after publicly enquiring which “democratic country is willing to put its armed forces at the service of the protection of the Venezuelan opposition?”
Likewise, rightwing “Justice First” politician and former Venezuelan presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, yesterday encouraged Venezuelan troops to form a mutiny against the national government.
“Prepare the tanks and war planes,” said the politician
“The hour of truth is coming to decide whether you are with the constitution or with Maduro,” he added.
A frenzy of international media reports over the last two weeks have painted an apocalyptic vision of the struggling South American country, citing a lack of access to basic food and medicine, skyrocketing inflation and devaluation of the national currency.
“I can say today that we are victims of the worst media, political and diplomatic aggression that our country has lived through in the past ten years,” stated Maduro.
The head of state has confirmed that his government will deliver an official complaint on the airspace incursions to US authorities.
Like Honduras and Paraguay, Brazil’s elites used the legislature against Dilma Rousseff. Is Venezuela next?
For most, the decades of the 1970’s and 1980’s are regarded as a dark period for Latin America.
The majority of South American nations were taken over by brutal military juntas, while in Central America civil wars claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands. The armed forces in the region, often trained and financed by the United States, ruled through force and where civilian governments didn’t heed their agendas, these were ignored or overthrown.
Despite entailing the onslaught of disastrous neoliberal economic policies that exacerbated poverty and inequality, the 1990’s also ushered in an end to the military dictatorships in Latin America. Elected governments returned to Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, while peace accords in Guatemala and El Salvador also meant that the militaries would see a diminished role in the politics of those countries (at least in theory).
Latin America did not solve its numerous problems, but a general consensus was arrived at — no coups or military regimes should be permitted again in the region.
Of course, this consensus began to break with the resurgence of Latin America’s left, beginning with the Bolivarian movement and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Even though he initially harbored very modest proposals for reforms, Venezuela’s ruling class almost immediately sought to topple Chavez’s government. In April 2002 they acted as Latin American elites had done in previous decades and enlisted the upper echelons of the military to stage a coup to remove Chavez. The results were predictable — Venezuelans revolted against the coup and its leaders and the region (except for the U.S. government led by George W. Bush), rejected the move.
The lesson: military coups make for bad PR.
As the decade and Latin America’s left advanced, the regional right adopted a different strategy to counter the trend. While in many countries the left was winning presidencies, in these countries the legislative branches remained largely under the control of traditional (and generally right-wing) parties. Far from providing checks and balances on the authority of the executive branch, opposition-controlled legislatures began to be used as the instrument to overthrow elected presidents.
The first test came in 2009, when Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was removed from office after calling for a non-binding referendum on changing the country’s constitution. The Honduran Congress had voted to remove Zelaya from office, and the country’s Supreme Court — dominated by figures connected to the previous military government — ordered his arrest. The Honduran military dutifully complied with their order, kidnapping Zelaya and forcing him onto a plane to Costa Rica.
Three years later, Paraguay’s parliament impeached President Fernando Lugo, a former bishop who ended 61 years of one-party rule in the country. The charges and process against Lugo were met with skepticism in Paraguay as well as in the region, prompting Paraguay to be suspended from the Mercosur pact.
The impeachment process against the president of Latin America’s largest nation mirrors the intentions of the coups of the 70’s and 80’s and the methods of those in the last decade. Despite the absence of evidence that could justify an impeach against Dilma Rousseff, a majority of Brazilian legislators — many of whom are implicated or being investigated in a massive corruption scandal — have approved removing her from the office she was elected to. The man who will fill the seat is one of those being investigated, but he faces no repercussions from his colleagues.
In neighboring Venezuela, the opposition-led National Assembly has the same objective and has initiated the “recall” clause in the country’s constitution in an attempt to oust Nicolas Maduro from the Miraflores presidential palace.
In all of these cases, the objective is not merely power, but what power facilitates. Since 1998, numerous left-leaning governments have been elected to redistribute wealth and decision-making power. Not only has this led to inequality and poverty being slashed, but the political dynamics in those countries have shifted and the region has become more unified and independent.
The new strategy to stem the Pink Tide builds from the same objectives as those employed by the dictatorships of Pinochet, Videla and others: stop the left from being able to implement its program. But while it uses one elected institution to subvert another, it should be clear that these maneuvers are no less undemocratic than their military predecessors.
Pablo Vivanco is Director of teleSUR English.
Unsatisfied with only ousting Brazil’s President by leaking NSA surveillance to the country’s judiciary, Washington now seeks to break the back of Venezuela by fracturing the powerful Petrocaribe energy alliance.
On Monday, the US began a two-day energy summit in Washington, attended by several Caribbean countries, in an attempt to undermine the Petrocaribe oil alliance between Venezuela and Caribbean nations, in what some see as a bid to break the back of the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro.
The energy summit comes on the heels of a proposed recall referendum against the Venezuelan leader, who was elected following the death of Hugo Chavez. The Maduro government faces flagging public opinion due to economic disruption brought about by dwindling oil prices, now at $35 per barrel.
The Venezuelan economy relies on oil revenues for some 95% of its income. Regional agreements set forth under the Chavez regime allow for Latin American and Caribbean countries to pool resources in markets where they possess a competitive advantage.
With oil prices nearing decade lows, the Venezuelan economy and its populace continue to be ravaged by deep poverty and over 1000% inflation. Dire conditions in the country are a consequence of policies that long pre-date the Maduro government, and have been exacerbated by Western market manipulation and Saudi Arabia’s push to bankrupt competitor countries by artificially deflating oil prices below profitable levels.
In a Wednesday interview with Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker, Francisco Dominguez of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign explained that this is not the first time that the White House has attempted to fracture the Petrocaribe oil alliance. In 2015, Vice President Joe Biden created a fracas by attempting to meet secretly with Caribbean leaders to woo them away from the alliance. The Vice President and the State Department initially denied the meeting before retracting that position.
Dominguez speculated that this week’s energy in summit in Washington revolved around US imperialistic hopes to replace Maduro with an opposition leader more favorable to American oil companies. “I think this whole thing has more to do with the overall policy of the United States seeking to oust the government of Venezuela once and for all,” said Dominguez.
US relations with the Latin American country have long been strained, both under Maduro and under his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Many remember the late-President Chavez stating before the United Nations that he smelt sulfur, a reference to the Christian devil, after walking past then-President George W. Bush. The Chavez regime opposed the Bush administration’s penchant for regime change and US intervention in oil rich countries.
Yet, Dominguez believes that the Venezuelan people have more to fear from Washington Democrats than from a Republican Party led by presumptive nominee Donald Trump. He suggested that this week’s round of meetings was sparked by a positive general election outlook on the side of Democrats, who expect a Clinton presidency that will mirror the policies of Obama.
“It looks good for the Democrats against the Republicans so now they want to take a tougher policy against Venezuela,” said Dominguez.
Dominguez asserts that it remains unlikely that Caribbean states will abandon the Petrocaribe alliance, providing as it does for impoverished countries with stable oil supplies preferential conditions and favorable prices for 25 years. He suggests that at least 13 Caribbean nations have benefited from an arrangement that also contributes to regional unity.
But the Washington-supported opposition in Venezuela includes among their grievances the Petrocaribe energy alliance, which has become increasingly expensive for the country to maintain as oil prices have dropped. The White House is seen to be aiming to fabricate the fear among Caribbean states that Venezuela will not maintain their commitment to Petrocaribe, in a bid to force the smaller nations to accept an arrangement with the United States.
Some see the effort to fracture the Petrocaribe alliance as an attempt by Washington to strike a fatal blow at Chavez’s legacy. The controversial former leader established a number of regional political bodies in an effort to strengthen Latin America against Western corporate interests.
Dominguez recalls that the string of coalitions established by Chavez saw to it that each regional country contributed what they had into a broader pool, expanding the fortunes of all Latin American and Caribbean countries.
“In the case of Venezuela it was oil, in the case of Brazil it was industrial goods, Argentina provided agricultural goods, and Cuba supplied the doctors,” said Dominguez. “Chavez was very successful, if you look at the regional political map.”
That legacy now rests in the hands of the embattled Maduro government, likely facing a recall election following a review of referendum signatures. The opposition will need some 7.5 million votes to oust Maduro, equal to the amount of votes he won when elected. The outcome of the referendum remains unpredictable, and to date the opposition remains divided.
Last week, the Venezuelan Supreme Court blocked the extremely controversial Amnesty Law passed by the country’s opposition-controlled legislature, which would have pardoned scores of right-wing leaders convicted of violent political crimes.
The bill is applicable to all manner of felonies and misdemeanors committed since January 1, 1999, including “damage to the national electrical system”, “violence or resistance to authority” and even “conspiracy and terrorism”, provided that these crimes were perpetrated in the course of “demonstrations, protests, or meetings for political purposes”.
The opposition’s Amnesty Law even goes as far as to list specific incidents that qualify for amnesty, ranging chronologically from the 2002 US-sponsored coup to the 2014 violent opposition protests known as guarimbas.
In short, the law amounts to a hand-written confession of seventeen years of right-wing terror aimed at overthrowing the country’s democratically-elected Chavista government.
According to the high court, the legislation would enact a “scandalous impunity to the detriment of public morals, subverting the ethical and juridical order of the country”.
Despite the entirely reasonable character of this objection, the ruling was nonetheless derided as yet more evidence of Venezuela’s authoritarian collapse by of the self-anointed ideological guard-dogs of liberal democracy.
Western Apologia for Political Violence
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco accused the top tribunal of “upholding abuse” in sanctioning the criminal prosecution of opposition leaders for “legitimate political activities”.
Given HRW’s highly dubious track record on Venezuela, it is unsurprising that they would categorize as “legitimate” universally outlawed offenses such as “individual terrorism”, “use of minors to commit crimes”, and “mutiny, civil rebellion, treason, military rebellion”.
In regurgitating the law’s perverse logic that these felonies merit amnesty since they were committed with “political purposes”, HRW’s alleged human rights advocacy begins to look more and more like a naked apology for anti-government political violence in Venezuela.
Even more predictable was the response of the Washington Post– the mouthpiece of the US neoconservative establishment– which in a recent editorial cited the Supreme Court ruling in its case for “political intervention” in Venezuela as if US imperial interference in the South American country’s internal affairs was not a long established practice over the last 17 years of leftwing Chavista governance.
Of course, the Western interventionist chorus would be incomplete without the US State Department weighing in on the matter.
In the lead-up to the parliamentary vote on the bill, Undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson met with Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed far right politician Leopoldo Lopez, issuing a call for the “immediate release” of those she termed “political prisoners”.
Absent from her statement was any mention of the fact that Lopez was formally convicted of leading 2014’s violent anti-government protests known as “the exit”, which resulted in 43 dead and hundreds injured, the majority of whom passerby and state security personnel.
An Excess of Judicial Independence?
Following the ruling, the US State Department released its 2015 human rights report in which the body sharply castigated Venezuela for its alleged “lack” of judicial independence as well as its “use of the judiciary to intimidate and selectively prosecute government critics”.
For a moment, let’s bracket the obscene hypocrisy of these accusations coming from a country that has produced such shining examples of judicial independence such as Bush v. Gore and Citizens’ United and whose judiciary has gone to incredible lengths to guarantee due process to political prisoners such as Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, and Oscar López Rivera.
Let us be clear: Washington’s problem with the Venezuelan Supreme Court is not its lack of independence, but rather that it is too independent from the country’s neo-colonial oligarchy that it refuses to follow their dictates.
Prior to Chávez, a man of the aristocratic stature such as Leopoldo López– the Harvard-educated son of one of Venezuela’s wealthiest families– would never face conviction for his crimes, which include publicly inciting the violent ouster of the democratically-elected government.
In the eyes of the West, what is thus intolerable about the Supreme Court decision to strike down the Amnesty Law and uphold the conviction of López and dozens of others is not its supposed violation of the rule of law, but its full application against the most powerful elements of Venezuelan society.
In a word, the mortal sin of Venezuela’s judiciary was to defy the hegemonic ideology of liberal democracy for whom equality before the law is treated as a mere formalism that is professed but never practiced.
In this regard, the Venezuelan Constitution states that, “The law will guarantee the juridical and administrative conditions so that equality before the law is real and effective… it will especially protect those persons… who find themselves in circumstances of clear weakness and will punish the abuses and mistreatment committed against them.”
This conception of legal equality as a radical defense of the weak and oppressed openly clashes with the liberalism enshrined in the US Constitution in which the principle of “equal protection of the laws” codified in the 14th Amendment is formal in character, lending itself to appropriation by corporations who secured the right to personhood long before African-Americans.
Within this framework, the Venezuelan Supreme Court found that the Amnesty Law is unconstitutional primarily because it amounts to a sanctioning of “contempt for the life, integrity, and dignity of… those harmed by the amnestied acts, affecting their right to access justice.”
That is, the high court ruled that the rights of the victims of right-wing terror– mostly black, brown, and poor– take precedence over the privileges of the perpetrators, much to the outrage of the Venezuelan oligarchy and its US imperial masters.
What is at stake here is not some local politicized skirmish over separation of powers but a profoundly universal ethical dispute over what kind of world we want to live in: one in which the normative order guarantees the life and human dignity of the oppressed, or alternatively one in which their oppressors are given carte blanche to murder and terrorize.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court has been crucified by the powers that be for unacceptably choosing the former.
Caracas – Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature passed a constitutional amendment in first discussion this Wednesday. If approved by popular referendum, the reform will cut short the terms of mayors, governors, and even the current president, triggering presidential elections later this year.
The proposed amendment seeks to modify articles 160, 174, 230, and 233 of the constitution, reducing gubernatorial, mayoral, and presidential terms from six to four years and prohibiting more than one consecutive reelection.
Supporters are billing the reform as a check on executive powers, but detractors have derided it as a ruse to force the country’s current leftist president from office before his term is up.
Controversially, the bill’s authors propose that the amendment would not only affect future elected terms, but retroactively be applied to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s current 2013-2019 term in office. The approved reform would see Maduro’s presidency come to an end on January 10, 2017.
The proposal is now awaiting final approval by the National Assembly, which would trigger a popular vote on the reforms within 30 days.
In line with the country’s constitution, all amendments to the Magna Carta must first be approved by a nation-wide referendum before coming into effect.
If the Venezuelan electorate approves the reform, the legislation would force presidential elections to choose Maduro’s successor before December 11th this year.
The amendment would also alter the transition procedure in the event that the president is recalled, impeached, or resigns, naming the National Assembly president and not the vice-president as president in the interim period. In such a situation, Venezuela would see veteran right-wing opposition leader Henry Ramos Allup take the reins over the country.
The amendment has however been met with sharp criticism by members of the minority socialist parliamentary bloc, who denounced the measure as unconstitutional.
“[The proposed amendment] violates articles 340, 341, and 342 of the constitution, according to which, an amendment is only a simple modification of one or various articles without altering the spirit of the document,” declared socialist party (PSUV) legislator Edwin Rojas.
“Amendments are not designed to reduce or revoke an elected mandate because the recall referendum already exists for that purpose,” he added, describing the move as a thinly veiled attempt to oust the country’s democratically-elected leftist president.
The pro-Maduro minority bloc also took aim at the Organic Referendum Law that was approved in second discussion on Wednesday.
According to its backers, the legislation seeks to streamline the process for convening recall referenda, shortening the time necessary for the procedure from eight months to five.
The right-wing parliamentary majority has accused the National Electoral Council (CNE) of obstructing its efforts to convene a recall referendum against President Maduro by allegedly stalling in turning over the official sheets for signature collection.
However, members of the leftist parliamentary coalition likewise condemned the proposed law as unconstitutional, as well as an attempt to override the country’s legally recognised electoral monitoring body, the CNE (National Electoral Council).
“The Referendum Law is an initiative of the opposition that is full of vices given that the Venezuelan Constitution clearly establishes that the electoral arena is the exclusive responsibility of the electoral authority [CNE],” argued the young PSUV lawmaker Jorge Perez.
Constitutional scholars have also raised doubts over whether the opposition-controlled chamber can pass the legislation given that the Venezuelan Constitution specifies that organic laws must be approved by a two-thirds super majority.
“We should realize the foolishness of the powerless opposition majority in the National Assembly promoting a law that it won’t be able to approve unless it miraculously convinces three Chavista legislators in order to reach the 112 required votes,” writes constitutional lawyer Jesus Silva on Aporrea.
If the law is approved without three-fourths backing, it will remain merely “symbolic” only to be subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court, he continued.
Although the rightwing Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition initially gained the 112 seats needed for a super-majority, three of their lawmakers and one Chavista were temporarily suspended following reports of vote-rigging.
Parliamentary Bloc Launches Offensive
Together the amendment and the recall referendum form part of a “roadmap” for ousting President Maduro announced by right-wing MUD coalition in March.
The simultaneous set of strategies also includes plans for street mobilizations to demand the resignation of the leftist president as well as a constituent assembly to rewrite the 1999 Constitution.
Critics have nevertheless held up the plan as an indication of the opposition’s sharp internal divisions, evidencing their failure to unite around a single strategy.
Most progressive governments in Latin America find themselves under intense attack in what is evidently a well synchronized and well financed continental plan of destabilization.
Riots, street demonstrations, anti-corruption campaigns, protests about the domestic negative impact of the world economic crisis, general strikes, impeachment efforts, economic sabotage, and the like, have become the battle horses on which oligarchic forces in cahoots with Washington are riding to carry out “regime change.”
So far, conservative forces in Latin America have been successful in overthrowing President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras in 2009 and President Fernando Lugo in 2012 in Paraguay. Both presidents were ousted by oligarchic parliamentary majorities with mass support from middle class “civic associations”, in complicity with the judiciary, with the latter providing a veneer of legality.
The preconditions for “regime change” take, in some cases, years of careful preparation. This normally involves intoxicating media campaigns of demonization aimed to exacerbate political polarization to the maximum, through the instilling of fear, the staging of aggressive and sometimes violent, middle class mobilizations, the activating of many associations of civil society, and the setting up of, sometimes hundreds, of externally funded NGOs.
The aim is to question the legitimacy of the “target government” which usually involves the systematic discrediting of existing political institutions so as to foster chaos as the most conducive context for “regime change”. This strategy has been “theorized” in manuals that are mass-produced and get heavily promoted free of charge by establishment outfits.(1)
Despite the fastidiousness with which Washington and domestic perpetrators seek to enshrine their efforts at “regime change” in any one nation with the veil of legality, constitutionality, democracy promotion, regional autonomy, and virtuous legitimacy, always a powerful media apparatus is activated the world over, unleashing a barrage of negative reporting and demonization of the “target government” with one overriding message: the solution to created crisis is the ousting of the government.
The favorite demonization is to label the “target government” as a totalitarian dictatorship or in the process of becoming so, unless stopped. This is coupled with regular official condemnatory statements of the “target government” from the U.S. State Dept. and a barrage of U.S. official bodies.
In this “regime change” narrative, the ousting of the target government, being the cause of “civil society’s rebellion”, is fully justified. Thus for example the highly illustrative New York Times editorial of April13, 2002, on occasion of the brief ousting of Hugo Chavez: “Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator.”
The NYT explained that Chavez had been ousted “after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader.” The key, therefore, is to portray the “ruler” of the target government as a threat to democratic civilization, thus the NYT editorial justifies the 2002 coup in Venezuela because Chavez “battled the media and alienated virtually every constituency from middle-class professionals, academics and business leaders to union members and the Roman Catholic Church.(2)
So, 21st century “regime change”, different from the more traditional 20th century U.S.-orchestrated coup d’état, involves an intense “battle for hearts and minds”, an essential component of the strategy.(3) Thus, huge financial, political and cultural resources are mobilized to bring about hegemony for “regime change” in society and in all state and civil society institutions, going as far, in some cases, as even co-opting sections of the downtrodden. Most of this is “facilitated” with generous NED and USAID grants awarded over many years.
Faced with its own steady decline and the rise of radical governments in the post-Soviet era, the U.S. seeks to destabilize and oust governments through “color revolutions” as in Georgia, 2003 and the Ukraine, 2004 and 2014. Consequently the U.S. has substantially reorganized its architecture for intervention with the CIA becoming a mere appendix but with USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy and their many associated bodies taking center stage and receiving the lion’s share of the resources. The modality may have changed but U.S. foreign policy remains pretty much what it was: to remove governments it does not like. U.S. State Dept. and USAID budget is bigger than the GPD of many states, in 2016 it was US$50.3 billion.
Among the key U.S. institutions involved in “regime change” is the U.S. State Department, the body with the biggest authority, but there is also the United States Southern Command, the Congress and Senate Foreign Affairs Committees, and the CIA. Then further down the food chain, there are USAID, NED, Office for Transition Initiatives, American Center for International Labor Solidarity and American Institute for Free Labor Development, among the most important ones.
They work closely together and in the pursuance of the same aims, with the International Republican Institute, chaired by John McCain of CHECK; the National Democratic Institute, chaired by Madeline Albright; Transparency International; and Centre for International Private Enterprise. They all channel huge sums to support civil (and when possible) military subversion to create the conditions for “regime change”. They also channel huge sums to fund “civil society” associations, political parties, media outfits, NGOs, professional bodies, trades unions, think tanks, business, student groups and so forth.(4)
These institutions are the field commanders that coordinate the national detachments in every target country around a regional perspective so as to maximize the results of every push for “regime change” in any individual Latin American nation. We are increasingly seeing former right-wing Latin American presidents acting jointly to contribute to the destabilization of Bolivarian Venezuela, for instance.
Additionally there is a raft of “private” or “independent” bodies concerned chiefly with Latin America, the most important of which are Inter-American Press Association; Fundacion para el Analisis y los Estudios Sociales – led by Jose Maria Aznar; the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad; hundreds of Think Tanks; and possibly thousands of NGOs that share the “regime change” aim but that do it from a specialist angle. To all of this architecture of U.S. intervention, the overwhelming majority of the world corporate media play a decisive role, making any U.S. led intervention, a lethal political threat to the survival of any “target government”.
Most progressive governments in Latin America have been or are subjected to systematic levels of traumatic and deliberately created social, economic and political chaos, politics and culture, which in many cases it can go on for years. In Cuba for five decades, in Nicaragua (on and off) nearly four decades and in Venezuela for 17 years thus far, with no end in sight.
Venezuela’s Bolivarian government is currently in the crosshairs of U.S. destabilization plans and “regime change” efforts through an economic war that has the Bolivarian process on the ropes. In Argentina, three years of an intense dirty war against Cristina Fernandez’s government, aspects of which had sinister overtones, paid off when at the November 2015 presidential election, the Right’s candidate, Mauricio Macri, won the election by a small margin of 1 percent. In Ecuador, a police mutiny in September 2010, obviously instigated from abroad and with huge U.S. support, nearly succeeded in ousting the government with with President Rafael Correa miraculously escaping with life.
The destabilization against Ecuador continues with the “revolt” of civil society and very violent street protests. And in Brazil, through a very intense and thoroughly intoxicating media campaign, a “regime change” push seeking to oust the democratically elected and legitimate president Dilma Rousseff is underway, as we write it is not clear whether the effort to oust Dilma will be successful or not.
By substantially reducing export revenues that fund progressive social programs, the persistent world economic crisis significantly helps the “regime change” efforts by the U.S. and its allies. It may be just coincidence but the U.S. ambassador in Paraguay when elected president Fernando Lugo was ousted by a right-wing parliamentary coup, was Liliana Ayalde. The current U.S. ambassador in Brazil, where a right-wing parliamentary coup against elected president Dilma Rousseff is in progress, is Liliana Ayalde.
Bolivar once said that the United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty. Exactly, through the NED, USAID and others, the United States must stop destabilizing elected governments in the name of “democracy,” “good governance” and “national security.”
Francisco Dominguez is a senior lecturer at Middlesex University, where he is head of the Centre for Brazilian and Latin American Studies.
(1) See Gene Sharp, “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” Serpent’s Tail, 2011, first published in 2002.
(2) “Hugo Chavez Departs,” New York Times, April 13th, 2002
(3) The overthrow of Honduras President Manuel Zelaya, in June 2009, has led to the book with the very suggestive title “The Good Coup” (Mario Caceres di Iorio, CCB, Canada, 2010).
(4) See “Evolution of USAID and NED in Dominguez,” Lievesley and Ludlam, Right-Wing Politics in the New Latin America, Zed, 2011.
Caracas – Venezuela’s right-wing opposition coalition, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD), announced Tuesday it will not participate in the new Truth Commission established by the national government to investigate 2014’s violent anti-government protests known as the guarimbas.
The commission is a response on the part of the administration of President Nicolas Maduro to an amnesty law passed by the country’s right wing-controlled parliament, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (TSJ) Monday on the grounds that it would sanction impunity by freeing those convicted of violent crimes provided that they were committed “with a political end”.
Denouncing the TSJ ruling as politicized judicial activism, the MUD broadcast its refusal to participate in the Truth Commission, questioning its impartiality despite the presence of UNASUR Secretary General Ernesto Samper as well as ex-presidents from Panama, Spain, and the Dominican Republic.
“We’re not going to fall for their booby trap of offering to release a few political prisoners who have every right to be free in the context of some truth commission handpicked by the government and announced on television,” said National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup.
In particular, the Democratic Action leader took aim at Samper, who he accused of “partiality” towards the government in refusing to take a stance on the Amnesty Law and the TSJ decision.
Samper, for his part, dismissed the criticisms, citing UNASUR’s commitment to non-interference in the internal affairs of its member states.
The former Colombian president praised the commission as “one of peace, not of war” that will “offer Venezuelans the possibility to find a path of sincere dialogue.”
In addition to the UNASUR chief, the commission will include Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Martin Torrijos, and Leonal Fernandez, the former presidents of Spain, Panama, and Dominican Republic, respectively.
The commission was officially opened on Tuesday. According to Vice-President Aristobolo Isturiz, it will be tasked with “visibilizing and hearing [the testimony of] people affected by the violent acts that occurred in the country [in 2014],” in which 43 people were killed and over 800 injured.
The noted Brazilian political scientist and theologian Frei Betto recently said that “the Yankees will do everything so that our continent will go back to being their backyard.”
Despite the rhetoric about democratic values that emanates from Washington, the U.S. government has always been willing to use any means necessary to impose their will on Latin America. This has often translated into foreign intervention.
But the U.S. public has grown weary of their government’s imperialist adventures, which as of late have ended in utter disaster. Washington elites know they must first fool the public into believing that intervention is a necessity.
To accomplish this they turn to private media outlets and their editorial boards, who help drum up support for U.S. intervention in foreign countries.
Enter the latest example: a recent editorial by the Washington Post entitled: “Venezuela is in desperate need of a political intervention.”
This from the same paper that was once vilified by U.S. conservatives for its supposed leftist tilt.
The use of the word intervention is deliberate, the Post knows that the Bolivarian Revolution – started by Hugo Chavez and continued by his successor Nicolas Maduro – still commands enormous support. The Venezuelan people will not simply hand the state back over to the very same politicians that abused the working class for decades.
An intervention done in the name of the Organization of American States, as the editorial calls for, is still imperialist. And it’s not just Venezuelans who know it but the whole region, which has seen the OAS used time and again to legitimize the imperialist fancies of the U.S. in the region.
The Post also knows that deceiving their audience sometimes requires outright lies.
Like the New York Times editorial on Venezuela that proceeded the Post’s, the editorial team claims that lack of cooperation between the Maduro government and the opposition-controlled National Assembly is entirely the fault of Maduro.
The Post claimed that he “pursued scorched-earth warfare with the National Assembly,” while the Times claimed that it opposition only reluctantly settled on ousting the democratically-elected Maduro from power.
Lies. All of it.
From the moment they were declared the winners of the parliamentary election, the opposition said their goal was ousting Maduro from power.
There was never an opportunity for cooperation between the Venezuelan government and the opposition and the blame for that lies with the opposition. On the day the new parliament was sworn in, Henry Ramos Allup, a leading figure in the opposition, literally ran his finger across his throat to indicate his feelings about the government and its supporters.
Does that sound like a politician interested in dialogue? Hardly unsurprising that the Post would chose to leave that detail out.
But lying through omission isn’t enough for the Post editorial board. They fancy themselves legal experts, able to pass judgment on Venezuela’s division of powers and the decisions of its Supreme Court.
The Post took issue with the court’s decision to rule a highly controversial “amnesty” bill as unconstitutional. This bill doesn’t promote amnesty for so-called political prisoners, it affords impunity for people directly responsible for the deaths of dozens.
The objective of the opposition’s impunity bill was the release of politicians involved in efforts to oust Maduro by force, politicians like Leopoldo Lopez who was found guilty of inciting the violent protests that led to the deaths of 43 people.
Of course the truth doesn’t fit their narrative, so the Post brazenly claims that state security forces were largely responsible for the deaths during the 2014 protests. The truth is the vast majority of those killed were either innocent bystanders, government supporters, or state security officials.
It wasn’t the state that set up violent blockades, it wasn’t the state that strung up barbed wire so that passing motorists would be decapitated, it was Lopez’s supporters.
Venezuela is confronting a major economic crisis, that much is true, but the Post doesn’t bother with an investigation as to why. No, instead it blames everything on Maduro, including the drought that is affecting Venezuela’s ability to produce electricity. The same drought that is causing similar problems in neighboring Colombia. Is that too the fault of Maduro?
Seems as if the Post’s editorial board is also gifted with the power of premonition, predicting that the opposition’s efforts to prematurely end Maduro’s mandate would be declared void.
Media outlets made the same sort of predictions ahead of the 2015 parliamentary elections, claiming that the government would not recognize the results. Of course Maduro immediately recognized the results.
The opposition is free to pursue a recall referendum against Maduro, as they did with Chavez, which they lost. All that Venezuela’s electoral authority asks is that they follow the rules, something they seem unable to do.
As for an effort to pass a law to shorten Maduro’s term, well even the Post’s friends at the Times understands that “it would be hard to justify carrying out that change retroactively when Mr. Maduro was elected for a six-year term.”
Any foreign intervention, even one under the auspices of the OAS, would indeed result the kind of intense scenes the Post describes, but it would come as a result of millions of Venezuelans hitting the streets to reject it.
Venezuelans, and more broadly speaking Latin Americans, have lived through an era where the shackles of imperialism have been shed. They will not allow the region to become the backyard of the United States ever again.
A mayor gunned down in a drive by shooting just meters from his own doorstep. A legislator shot by paramilitaries in plain sight outside a bodega. A solidarity activist butchered in a home invasion. Two police run over by militants in a stolen bus. These are just the latest in a wave of killings in Venezuela. The motives behind most of these killings remain unclear, though it’s hard to not be disturbed by what appears to be a growing wave of political violence gripping the country. In response, Venezuela’s right-wing, the mass media and even most human rights groups are all following a well worn script that seeks to downplay these killings, or at least deflect attention away from the context behind the violence. For example, Human Rights Watch’s latest report on Venezuela is basically just a call for Venezuela’s supreme court to be stacked with supporters of the right-wing political coalition, the MUD. Another of their recent reports focused on claims that imprisoned right-wing political figure Leopoldo Lopez didn’t receive a fair trial. Their third most recent report (at the time of writing) was another complaint about the Maduro administration’s human rights record, including false claims that “security forces violently cracked down on largely peaceful protests” in 2014. As I saw myself at the time, those suppressed “largely peaceful protests” included gangs of armed right-wing militants throwing Molotovs at hospitals, sniping at civilians from rooftops and setting up barricades to hold neighbourhoods hostage. Then and now, Venezuela is increasingly becoming a dangerous place for leftists.
Indeed, all the recent victims were either leftists, or police seeking to contain violent right-wing demonstrations. The latest victim was Marco Tulio Carrillo, the socialist mayor of a municipality in Trujillo state. Other victims include Haitian-Venezuelan solidarity activist Fritz Saint Louis, Tupamaro legislator Cesar Vera, and two police officers in Tachira state.
These killings take on a new dimension when contextualised: the right-wing MUD is preparing to oust Maduro, and wrestle control of all branches of the state from the left.
If they achieve this, the worst case scenario would be a return to the repression of the 20th Century, when leftists were all too often the targets of neoliberal regimes. Today’s right-wing has repeatedly shown it not only has no interest in disavowing violence, but is willing to turn on the Venezuelan people for their own political gain. From the 2002 coup to the violence of 2014, there has always been a sector of the right-wing that has never been afraid to use terror against ordinary Venezuelans. If it takes complete power, perhaps the MUD will learn to speak out against violence such as the recent killings, or perhaps not. After all, much of the MUD is generally slow to condemn violence against leftists, if they do so at all. So if they take complete power, will the right reign in their excesses, or rule with terror?
Last December the Venezuelan journalist José Vicente Rangel went on his television program to talk about how the Pentagon has created the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) that is spreading disinformation about Venezuela. Specialized centers such as CIMA also go after other governments that Washington finds unpalatable.
The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, devoted one of his weekly speeches to the mudslinging being directed against his government via social networks. Social networks are now the principal platform for media warfare.
A mass media law has been in effect in Ecuador since June 2013, which greatly limits any potentially hostile propaganda campaign, including «exposés». Typically, such campaigns are intended to compromise politicians and other figures friendly to the government. The Superintendent’s Office for Information and Communications, which monitors and assesses the work of the media, is responsible for enforcing the law in Ecuador.
Ecuador’s penal code includes a chapter titled «Crimes associated with mass media transgressions», which decrees that editors and publishers are responsible for the publication of defamatory or offensive materials. Ecuador is probably the only country in Latin America that has managed to set some sensible guidelines for the work of the media.
Currently the Western Hemisphere is being inundated with a flood of «exposés» featuring the names of politicians who are under attack by Washington. Apparently the CIA and NSA are pursuing a comprehensive plan aimed at getting many influential figures deposed and prosecuted.
Compromising materials on Nicolás Maduro, Inácio Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff, Cristina Kirchner, and Evo Morales were publicized by US intelligence agencies in one fell swoop without missing a beat, and those are now being used by a pro-American fifth column in order to destabilize Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia. That blow is primarily aimed at leaders who are rejecting the neoliberal doctrine, pursuing social reform policies that will benefit many different strata of the population.
* * *
In Brazil, a scandal is unfolding over the convoluted issue of petrodollar-laundering and corruption, as well as the use of «undeclared revenue» to finance the election campaigns of the ruling Workers’ Party. Former president Lula da Silva (2003-2010) was detained for several hours and questioned by an investigator, accused of taking bribes from the company Petrobras. Specifically, Lula was asked to explain what money he had planned to use for the purchase of an apartment that he had allegedly looked in secret. Sixty Brazilian politicians, governors, and businessmen are named in the case. The investigation cast a shadow on Dilma Rousseff, the country’s current president. Brazil’s opposition media, under the control of the media holding company O Globo, claimed that Rousseff chaired Petrobras at a time when corrupt schemes were flourishing in the company. According to investigators, the contracts signed by senior managers hinged on the kickback percentage that was personally offered to them.
At the center of the crusade against Dilma is Aécio Neves, her recent rival in the presidential election and a senator and regular visitor to the US embassy. His agreement to «collaborate» with the Americans is still in effect, thus much of the NSA material from the dossiers on Lula and Dilma has been placed at the disposal of Neves’ people in Brazil’s courts and government agencies, and publications owned by the O Globo holding company have provided extensive coverage of these materials. As a result, Dilma’s approval ratings have dropped. Her nine-party coalition, With the Strength of the People, has disintegrated. This was in large part due to the fact that some of the Workers’ Party staff were vulnerable to accusations.
A campaign replete with serious problems for Brazil was unleashed. Brazil’s former finance minister, Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira, claims, «Unexpectedly there emerged a collective hatred on the part of the upper strata of society – the rich – against the party and the president. It wasn’t anxiety or fear, but hatred. Hatred, because for the first time we have a center-left government that has remained leftist. Despite all the compromises, it has not changed. Hatred, because the government has demonstrated a strong preference for the workers and the poor».
Sensitive information about close relatives can be co-opted if no justification can be found to attack a politician that US operatives have decided to victimize. That is what the DEA, CIA, and US prosecutors are doing to the nephews of Cilia Flores, the wife of President Maduro. Those young men were arrested by police in Haiti and handed over to the US on charges of conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States. It will take time to prove that they were framed by DEA agents who staged scenes designed to entrap their «targets» in illegal deals, and the propaganda campaign against the family of President Maduro is already in full swing. According to Cilia Flores, the lawyers for the accused will prove that in this incident, the DEA operatives in Venezuela have committed crimes.
(to be continued)
Venezuelan authorities announced Friday they were investigating the killing of a socialist politician in Trujillo state.
Marco Tulio Carrillo was “shot repeatedly” outside his home in Trujillo Thursday night, according to a statement from Venezuela’s public prosecutor’s office. Carrillo was the mayor of the La Ceiba municipality, and a member of President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist party, the PSUV.
The prosecution said Carrillo was hit by eight bullets fired from a passing car. No suspects have yet been named.
The killing has been condemned by other socialist politicians.
“Another worthy revolutionary has been vilely felled,” tweeted PSUV legislator Hugbel Roa.
Carrillo is the third pro-Maduro political figure to be killed in the past week.
Over the weekend, Haitian Venezuelan political figure and solidarity activist Fritz Saint Louis was gunned down in his home. Saint Louis had served as the international coordinator for the United Haitian Socialist Movement, as well as secretary-general of the Haitian-Bolivarian Culture House of Venezuela. It’s unclear whether Saint Louis’ killing was politically motivated, though in 2015 he ran as a candidate in the PSUV’s National Assembly election primaries.
His death followed the suspected assassination of another socialist politician last Thursday. Legislator Cesar Vera was shot in Tachira state, in what local authorities say may have been a paramilitary attack.
Vera was a member of the Great Patriotic Pole, a political coalition of parties aligned with the PSUV. He was also a prominent figure in the leftist militia, the Tupamaro movement.
In another incident of political violence, two police officers were killed by right-wing militants earlier this week. The officers were killed while responding to a protest in Tachira state. Witnesses have said the pair were run over by a bus that had been hijacked by militants.