I have sometimes noted that in the current “four legs good, two legs bad” discourse about Venezuela, journalists can write almost anything about the country and no one will question it – so long as it is something negative. On Saturday, March 13, the Wall Street Journal published this chart on its front page in the print edition, below, and claimed health care spending as a percent of economic output was “lower in Venezuela than in all other major economies in Latin America.” The chart shows Venezuela’s health care spending at 1.6 percent of GDP.
The chart and text don’t say it, but they are referring to public (i.e., government) spending on health care, which one can find by looking at the original data from the World Health Organization. When I read this, I thought, this can’t be true: The Venezuelan government spends about the same percentage of GDP on health care as Haiti? The lowest of 19 countries in the hemisphere? Less than some of the poorer countries in Sub-Saharan Africa? And these numbers are for 2012, when the economy was booming (5.7 percent real GDP growth), Venezuelan oil was at 103 dollars per barrel, and the government built more than 200,000 homes. They had no money for health care?
This should have set off some alarm bells at the WSJ, if any editors were paying attention. This number is not plausible because it is wrong. When the government of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela decided to make health care a priority after getting control over the national oil industry in 2003, it was unable to accomplish very much by going through the health ministry and the public hospitals – running into various bureaucratic and political obstacles. So it created Misión Barrio Adentro, a system of health clinics that served people in both urban and rural areas where many did not previously have access to health care.
The short story is that the numbers used by the WSJ apparently didn’t include most of Venezuela’s health care spending, since it has gone through the misiones. In 2012, the national oil company contributed $5.5 billion for Misión Barrio Adentro. Also, the government of Venezuela has an actual agreement with Cuba, which provides specifically for the supply medical care through Misión Barrio Adentro in exchange for 98,000 barrels of oil per day, which Venezuela has provided. The value of that oil in 2012 was $3.44 billion. The medical services include not only 40,000 doctors but also medical equipment, medicines, and other health care services.
If we add in these expenses, and use the IMF’s 2012 exchange rate to convert to domestic currency, this adds another 3 percent of GDP to the government’s health care spending.
This would bring Venezuela’s health care spending to 4.6 percent of GDP. In the above chart, that would move Venezuela from 19th to 7th place among the 19 countries shown. And this figure does not include all of Venezuela’s government health care spending.
(Note: the WSJ article also claims that “the share of state spending on health, at 6%” was also “lower in Venezuela than in all other major economies in Latin America.” This is also false, for the same reasons discussed above.)
The “Free Press” in Action
In Latin America last year, there were two events that each produced 43 casualties. Which elicited greater outrage?
For the U.S. media, it was the “violent crackdown” leaving “43 people dead” (NPR) in “an autocratic, despotic state” (New York Times ) run by “extremists” (Washington Post ). Surely these charges were leveled at Mexico, where 43 student activists were murdered in Iguala last September. In their forthcoming A Narco History, Carmen Boullosa and Mike Wallace describe how the victims, “packed into two pick-up trucks,” were driven to a desolate ravine. Over a dozen “died en route, apparently from asphyxiation,” and the rest “were shot, one after another,” around 2:00 a.m. The killers tossed the corpses into a gorge, torched them, and maintained the fire “through the night and into the following afternoon,” leaving only “ashes and bits of bone, which were then pulverized.”
Initial blame went to local forces—Iguala’s mayor and his wife, area police and drug gangs. But reporters Anabel Hernández and Steve Fisher, after reviewing thousands of pages of official documents, reached a different conclusion. Hernández explained “that the federal police and the federal government [were] also involved,” both “in the attack” and in “monitoring the students” the night of the slaughter. Fisher added that the Mexican government based its account of the massacre on testimonies of “witnesses who had been directly tortured.”
The Hernández-Fisher findings reflect broader problems plaguing the country. “Torture and ill-treatment in Mexico is out of control with a 600 per cent rise in the number of reported cases in the past decade,” Amnesty International warned last September, pointing to “a prevailing culture of tolerance and impunity.” The UN concurred this month, and “sharply rebuked Mexico for its widespread problem with torture, which it said implicates all levels of the security apparatus,” Jo Tuckman wrote in the Guardian.
Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has done his part to escalate state violence. He gave the orders, while governor of México State, for what Francisco Goldman calls “one of the most squalid instances of government brutality in recent years”—the May 2006 assault on the Atenco municipality. Some 3,500 state police rampaged against 300 flower vendors, peasants and their sympathizers, beating them until they blacked out and isolating women for special treatment. Amnesty International reported “23 cases of sexual violence during the operation,” including one woman a trio of policemen surrounded. “All three of them raped her with their fingers,” a witness recalled.
Peña Nieto responded by asserting “that the manuals of radical groups say that in the case of women [if they are arrested], they should say they’ve been raped.” Amnesty stumbled into a trap laid by attention-desperate women, in his opinion. Regarding Atenco, he stressed: “It was a decision that I made personally to reestablish order and peace, and I made it with the legitimate use of force that corresponds to the state.” Surely this is the “autocratic, despotic state” the New York Times criticized.
The paper’s archives lay bare its views—that Peña Nieto can “do a lot of good,” given his “big promises of change” and “commendable” economic agenda. The Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth interviewed Mexico’s president just before the Iguala bloodbath, dubbing him “a hero in the financial world.” A Post editorial praised his ability to summon the “courage” necessary to transform Mexico into “a model of how democracy can serve a developing country.” The Post clarified, with a straight face, that Peña Nieto displayed his bravery by ignoring “lackluster opinion polls” as he pushed through unpopular reforms—a truly “functional democracy,” without question. There was no serious censure of the Mexican president in these papers, in other words. The charges of despotism and extremism, quoted above, were in fact leveled at Venezuela—the site of the other episode last year resulting in 43 Latin American casualties.
But these demonstrations, from February until July, were dramatically different from the Mexican student incineration. What, in the NPR version, was “a violent crackdown last year against antigovernment protesters,” in fact—on planet Earth—was a mix of “pro- and anti-government protests” (Amnesty International) that “left 43 people dead in opposing camps” (Financial Times ). “There are deaths on both sides of the political spectrum,” Jake Johnston, a researcher with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, affirmed, noting that “members of Venezuelan security forces have been implicated and subsequently arrested for their involvement.” He added that several people were apparently “killed by crashing into barricades, from wires strung across streets by protesters and in some cases from having been shot trying to remove barricades.” Half a dozen National Guardsmen died.
In the wake of these demonstrations, the Post railed against “economically illiterate former bus driver” Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president, for his “hard-fisted response to the unrest” and “violent repression.” The New York Times lamented his “government’s abuses”—which “are dangerous for the region and certainly warrant strong criticism from Latin American leaders”—while Obama, a year after the protests, declared Venezuela a national security threat. His March 9 executive order, William Neuman wrote in the Times, targets “any American assets belonging to seven Venezuelan law enforcement and military officials who it said were linked to human rights violations.”
Compare Obama’s condemnation of Maduro to his reaction to the Iguala murders. When asked, in mid-December, whether U.S. aid to Mexico should be conditioned on human rights, he emphasized that “the best thing we can do is to be a good partner”—since bloodshed there “does affect us,” after all. The Times followed up after Obama hosted the Mexican president at the White House on January 6, noting that “Mr. Peña Nieto’s visit to Washington came at a time of increased cooperation between the United States and Mexico.”
This cooperation has won some major victories over the decades. NAFTA shattered poor farming communities in Mexico, for example, while promoting deforestation, environmentally ruinous mining—and corporate profits. In 2007, U.S. official Thomas Shannon stated that “armoring NAFTA” is the goal of Washington’s security assistance, which “totaled $2.5 billion between FY2008 and FY2015,” the Congressional Research Service reported. The result is a death zone, with perhaps some 120,000 intentional killings during the Felipe Calderón presidency (2006-2012). Tijuana’s Zeta Magazine published a study claiming the slayings have actually increased under Peña Nieto, and the nightmare has deepened to the point where the murder rate “exceeds that of Iraq,” according to Molly Molloy.
None of these developments infuriated Washington like those in Venezuela, to be sure. After Chávez’s first decade in power, “the poverty rate ha[d] been cut by more than half” and “social spending per person more than tripled,” while unemployment and infant mortality declined, the Center for Economic and Policy Research determined. And the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean found, in May 2010, that Venezuela had the region’s most equal income distribution. In Mexico a year later, the Los Angeles Times noted, “poverty [was] steadily on the rise.” Throughout this period, Washington’s aims included “dividing Chavismo,” “protecting vital US business,” and “isolating Chavez internationally,” as former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield outlined the strategy in 2006.
Reviewing this foreign policy record in light of recent Mexico and Venezuela coverage makes one thing obvious. There is, most definitely, a free press in the U.S.—it’s free to print whatever systematic distortions it likes, so long as these conform to Washington’s aims.
Nick Alexandrov lives in Washington, DC. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The following is the Declaration of the Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of States and Government of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – People’s Commerce Treaty (ALBA – TCP)
We, the heads of state and government, representatives of the member countries of ALBA, gathered on March 17, 2015 in Caracas, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, declare:
1. Our rejection of the Executive Order issued on March 9, 2015 by the Government of the United States of America, on the basis that this Executive Order is unjustified and unjust, which constitutes a threat of interference that runs counter to the principle of sovereignty and the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of states.
2. Our commitment to the application of international law, a peaceful resolution to conflicts, and the principles of non-intervention that call on all governments to act within the framework of the universal principles and the Charter of the United Nations, in particular the necessity and willingness for governments to abstain from employing unilateral coercive measures that violate international law.
3. Our sovereign and sincere request that the government of the United States accept and engage in dialogue with the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as an alternative to conflict and confrontation, based on ongoing respect for the sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples of independent nation-states.
4. Our proposal to create a Facilitator’s Group comprised of institutions from our hemisphere (CELAC, UNASUR, ALBA-TCP, and CARICOM) in order to facilitate an earnest diplomacy between the governments of the United States of America and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in order to reduce tensions and guarantee a friendly solution.
As such, we decided to:
1. Ratify our commitment and unconditional support with the sister nation of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in search of the mechanisms for dialogue with the government of the United States, so that the aggressions by that government against Venezuela cease.
2. Reaffirm that Latin America and the Caribbean is a Region of Peace, where nations are driving processes of integration and friendly relations, with the aim of continuing to guarantee that greatest amount of happiness for our peoples.
3. Emphasize that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela does not represent a threat to any country, being a country that practices solidarity, that has shown its spirit of cooperation with the people and governments of the whole region, becoming a guarantee of social peace and stability for our continent.
4. Demand that the government of the United States immediately cease the harassment and aggression against the government and people of Venezuela, as that policy encourages destabilization and the use of violence by a section of the Venezuelan opposition.
5. Highlight that the Executive Order approved by the president of the United States, Barack Obama, flagrantly ignores the “Declaration of Solidarity and Support for Democratic Institutions, Dialogue, and Peace in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” approved by the Permanent Council of the OAS on March 7, 2014.
6. Denounce the vicious international media campaign against the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and its government, designed to discredit the Bolivarian Revolution, attempting to create the conditions for a larger scale intervention and counter to a peaceful solution of differences.
7. Reiterate the strongest support for the democratically-elected and legitimate government of the president of the sister Federative Republic of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, while contributing to the strengthening and consolidation of democratic values and principles of freedom and solidarity in Our America.
8. Express our deepest words of solidarity and support for the president of the Argentine Republic, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and the rest of her government officials, who are being subjected to a campaign of personal and institutional discrediting by a section of the political and media right-wing in her country, at the same time as they are being attacked by vulture funds and international financial capital.
9. Applaud the constructive dialogue held during the 20th Meeting of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), held in Antigua, Guatemala on March 10, 2015, which dealt with the disproportional Executive Order signed by the president of the United States, Barack Obama, against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
10. Instruct the Ambassadors of the member countries of ALBA-TCP throughout the world to conduct an informational and publicity campaign covering the truth about what is happening in Venezuela, and the threats that loom over it and the region.
11. Urge social, worker, student, rural worker, indigenous, and women’s movements to mobilize in a permanent fashion and remain vigilante in order to inform the whole world and the people of Our America that Venezuela and the legitimate government of Nicolas Maduro are not alone and that the peoples of the world categorically reject this new imperialist intervention in the Greater Homeland, whose consequences could be dire for peace and stability in the region.
12. Reaffirm that ALBA-TCP will continue promoting unity, integration, solidarity, and peaceful coexistence as an expression of the ideal and commitment of Latin America and the Caribbean for the building of a peaceful region and a world, as the foundation for the consolidation of relations between peoples.
In addition, we declare and reiterate, in the context of an effective commitment to avoiding confrontation, our support for the “Letter to the People of the United States: Venezuela is not a threat” issued by the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in particular where it refers to the following aspects:
a) The commitment of Venezuela to freedom, independence, and multilateralism
b) Venezuela’s fundamental belief in peace, national sovereignty, and international law
c) The reality of Venezuela as an open and democratic society according to its Constitution and the aspirations of its people
d) The long-standing friendship of Venezuela with the people of the United States
e) The false, unjust, unilateral, and disproportional action encompassed in the Executive Order of the government of the United States of America where Venezuela is declared to be a threat to the national security of the United States of America
f) The declaration by Venezuela that its sovereignty is sacred.
As a consequence, we the leaders of ALBA-TCP are in solidarity with Venezuela. We understand our fundamental freedoms and assert our rights. We unequivocally support Venezuela in the defense of its sovereignty and independence and the fact it does this standing tall and not on its knees.
To that effect, we ask the government of the United States of America, and specifically President Barack Obama, to repeal the Executive Order approved on March 9, 2015, which constitutes a threat to sovereignty and an intervention in the internal affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Approved in the city of Caracas, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, March 17, 2015
Why did Obama declare a ‘national emergency’, claim that Venezuela represents a threat to US national security and foreign policy, assume executive prerogatives and decree sanctions against top Venezuelan officials in charge of national security, at this time?
Venezuela’s Support of Latin America Integration is Obama’s Great Fear
To answer this question it is essential to begin by addressing Obama’s specious and unsubstantiated charges of a Venezuelan ‘threat to national security and foreign policy’.
First, the White House presents no evidence … because there is nothing to present! There are no Venezuelan missiles, fighter planes, warships, Special Forces, secret agents or military bases poised to attack US domestic facilities or its overseas installations.
In contrast, the US has warships in the Caribbean, seven military bases just across the border in Colombia manned by over two thousand US Special Forces, and Air Force bases in Central America. Washington has financed proxy political and military operations intervening in Venezuela with intent of overthrowing the legally constituted and elected government.
Obama’s claims resemble a ploy that totalitarian and imperialist rulers frequently use: Accusing their imminent victims of the crimes they are preparing to perpetrate against them. No country or leader, friend or foe, has supported Obama’s accusations against Venezuela.
Obama’s charge that Venezuela represents a ‘threat’ to US foreign policy requires clarification: First, which elements of US foreign policy are threatened? Venezuela has successfully proposed and supported several regional integration organizations, which are voluntarily supported by their fellow Latin American and Caribbean members. These regional organizations, in large part, replace US-dominated structures, which served Washington’s imperial interests. In other words, Venezuela supports alternative diplomatic and economic organizations, which its members believe will better serve their economic and political interests, than those promoted by the Obama regime. Petrocaribe, a Central American and Caribbean association of countries supported by Venezuela, addresses the development needs of their members better than US-dominated organizations like the Organization of American States or the so-called ‘Caribbean Initiative’. The same is true of Venezuela’s support of CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations). These are Latin American organizations which exclude the dominating presence of the US and Canada and are designed to promote greater regional independence.
Obama’s charge that Venezuela represents a threat to US foreign policy is an accusation directed at all governments who have freely chosen to abandon US-centered organizations and who reject US hegemony.
In other words, what arouses Obama’s ire and motivates his aggressive threats toward Venezuela is Caracas’s political leadership in challenging US imperialist foreign policy.
Venezuela does not have military bases in the rest of Latin America nor has it invaded, occupied, or sponsored military coups in other Latin American countries – as Obama and his predecessors have done.
Venezuela condemned the US invasion of Haiti, the US-supported military coups in Honduras (2009), Venezuela (2002, 2014, 2015), Bolivia (2008), and Ecuador (2010).
Clearly, Obama’s ‘emergency’ decree and sanctions against Venezuela are directed at maintaining unchallenged US imperial supremacy in Latin America and degrading Venezuela’s independent, democratic foreign policy.
To properly understand Obama’s policy toward Venezuela, we have to analyze why he has chosen overt, unilateral bellicose threats at this time?
Obama’s War Threat Results from Political Failure
The principal reasons why Obama has directly intervened in Venezuelan politics is that his other policy options designed to oust the Maduro government have failed.
In 2013, Obama’s relied on US financing of an opposition presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, to oust the incumbent Chavista government. President Maduro defeated Obama’s choice and derailed Washington’s ‘via electoral’ to regime change.
Subsequently, Obama attempted to boycott and discredit the Venezuelan voting process via an international smear campaign. The White House boycott lasted 6 months and received no support in Latin America, or from the European Union, since scores of international election observers, ranging from former President James Carter to representatives of the Organization of American States certified the outcome.
In 2014, the Obama regime backed violent large-scale riots, which left 43 persons dead and scores wounded, (most victims were pro-government civilians and law enforcement officers) and millions of dollars in damages to public and private property, including power plants and clinics. Scores of vandals and rightwing terrorists were arrested, including Harvard-educated terrorist Leopoldo Lopez. However, the Maduro government released most of the saboteurs in a gesture of reconciliation.
Obama, on his part, escalated the terror campaign of internal violence. He recycled his operatives and, in February 2015, backed a new coup. Several US embassy personnel (the US had at least 100 stationed in their embassy), turned out to be intelligence operatives using diplomatic cover to infiltrate and recruit a dozen Venezuelan military officials to plot the overthrow of the elected government and assassinate President Maduro by bombing the presidential palace.
President Maduro and his national security team discovered the coup plot and arrested both the military and political leaders, including the Mayor of Caracas.
Obama, now furious for having lost major internal assets and proxies, turned to his last resort: the threat of a direct US military intervention.
The Multiple Purposes of Obama’s ‘National Emergency’
Obama’s declaration of a national security emergency has psychological, political and military objectives. His bellicose posture was designed to bolster the spirit of his jailed and demoralized operatives and let them know that they still have US support. To that end, Obama demanded that President Maduro free the terrorist leaders. Washington’s sanctions were primarily directed against the Venezuelan security officials who upheld the constitution and arrested Obama’s hired thugs. The terrorists in their prison cells can console themselves with the thought that, while they serve ‘hard time’ for being US shock troops and puppets, their prosecutors will be denied visas by President Obama and can no longer visit Disneyland or shop in Miami. Such are the consequences of the current US ‘sanctions’ in the eyes of a highly critical Latin America.
The second goal of Obama’s threat is to test the response of the Venezuelan and Latin American governments. The Pentagon and CIA seek to gauge how Venezuela’s military, intelligence, and civilian leaders will deal with this new challenge in order to identify the weak links in the chain of command, i.e. those officials who will run for cover, cower or seek to conciliate, by giving in to Obama’s demands.
It should be remembered that during the US-backed April 2002 coup, many self-styled ‘Chavista revolutionaries’ went into hiding, some holing up in embassies. In addition, several military officials defected and a dozen politicians curried favor with the coup leaders, until the tide turned and over a million ordinary Venezuelans, including slum dwellers, marched to surround the Presidential Palace and, with the backing of loyalist paratroopers, ousted the golpistas (coup-makers) and freed their President Chavez. Only then did the fair-weather Chavistas come out from under their beds to celebrate the restoration of Hugo Chavez and the return of democracy.
In other words, Obama’s bellicose posture is part of a ‘war of nerves’, to test the resistance, determination and loyalty of the government officials, when their positions are threatened, US bank accounts are frozen, their visas denied and access to ‘Disneyland’ cut.
Obama is putting the Venezuelan government on notice: a warning this time, an invasion next time.
The White House’s openly thuggish rhetoric is also intended to test the degree of opposition in Latin America – and the kind of support Washington can expect in Latin America and elsewhere.
And Cuba responded forcefully with unconditional support for Venezuela. Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Argentina repudiated Obama’s imperial threats. The European Union did not adopt the US sanctions although the European Parliament did echo Obama’s demand to free the jailed terrorists. Initially Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Mexico neither backed the US nor the Venezuelan government. The Uruguayan Vice President Raul Sendic was the only official in Latin America to deny US intervention. However, on March 16 at an emergency meeting of UNASUR in Quito Ecuador, the foreign ministers of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay, and Venezuela unanimously denounced US sanctions and military intervention
President Maduro Stands Firm: They Shall Not Pass
Most important, President Maduro stood firm. He declared a national emergency and asked for special powers. He called for two weeks of nationwide military exercises involving 100,000 soldiers beginning March 14. He made it clear to the Pentagon and the White House that a US invasion would meet resistance. That confronting millions of Venezuelan freedom fighters would not be a ‘cake walk’ – that there would be US casualties, body bags and new US widows and orphans to mourn Obama’s imperial schemes.
Obama is neither preparing an immediate invasion nor giving up on ‘regime change’ because his coup operatives failed in two consecutive years. His militarist posture is designed to polarize Latin America: to divide and weaken the regional organizations; to separate the so-called ‘moderates’ in Mercosur (Brazil/Uruguay/Paraguay) from Venezuela and Argentina. Despite his failures thus far, Obama will press ahead to activate opposition to Venezuelan security policies among the Chilean, Peruvian, Mexican, and Colombian neo-liberal regimes.
Washington is building pressure externally and preparing for a new round of violent unrest internally to provoke a robust government response.
In other words – Obama’s military invasion will follow the well-rehearsed scenario of ‘humanitarian intervention’ orchestrated in Yugoslavia, Libya and Syria – with such disastrous consequences on the people of those countries. Obama, at this time, lacks international political support from Europe and Latin America that would provide the fig leaf of a multilateral coalition and has lost his key internal operatives. He cannot risk a bloody unilateral US invasion and prolonged war in the immediate future.
However, he is inexorably moving in that direction. Obama has seized executive prerogatives to attack Venezuela. He has alerted and mobilized US combat forces in the region. He understands that his current teams of operatives in Venezuela have demonstrated that they are incapable of winning elections or seizing power without major US military backing. Obama is now engaged in a psychological as well as physical war of nerves: to run down the Venezuelan economy, to intimidate the faint-hearted, and exhaust and weaken the militants through constant threats and widening sanctions over time.
The Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro has accepted the challenge. He is mobilizing the people and the armed forces: his democratically elected regime will not surrender. The national resistance will be fighting in their own country for their own future. They will be fighting an invading imperial power. They represent millions, and they have a ‘world to lose’ if the ‘squalidos’ (the domestic fifth column) should ever take power: if not their lives, their livelihoods, their dignity and their legacy as a free and independent people.
President Maduro has sought and secured Russian military support and solidarity in the form of arms, advisors, and an agreement to engage in joint military maneuvers to meet the challenges of Obama’s war of attrition. President Putin has addressed a public letter of support to the Venezuelan government in response to Obama’s threats.
Obama is engaged in a two-pronged economic and military strategy, which will converge with a US military invasion.
The overt military threats issued in early March 2015 are designed to force the Maduro government to divert large-scale financial resources away from meeting the economic crisis to building emergency military defense. Through escalating military and economic threats, the White House hopes to diminish government subsidies for the import of basic foodstuffs and other essential commodities during an internal campaign of hoarding and artificial shortages committed by economic saboteurs. Obama is counting on his Venezuelan proxies and the local and international mass media to blame the government for the economic deterioration and to mobilize the big protests of irate consumers. White House strategists hope a massive crowd will serve as a cover for terrorists and snipers to engage in violent acts against public authorities, provoking the police and armed forces to respond in a re-play of the ‘coup’ in Kiev. At that point, Washington will seek to secure some form of support from Europe or Latin America (via the OAS) to intervene with troops in what the State Department will dub as ‘peace mediators in a humanitarian crisis’.
The success of sending the US Marines into Venezuela on a peace mission will depend on how effective Special Forces and Pentagon operatives in the US Embassy have been in securing reliable collaborators among the Venezuelan military and political forces ready to betray their country. Once the collaborators seize a piece of territory, Obama can mount the charade that US Marines are there by invitation… of the democratic forces.
Under conditions of explicit military threat, Maduro must change ‘the rules of the game’. Under emergency conditions, hoarding is no longer just a misdemeanor: it becomes a capital crime. Politicians meeting and consulting with representatives of the invading country should lose their immunity and be summarily jailed. Above all, the government must take total control over the distribution of basic goods; establishing rationing to ensure popular access; nursing scarce financial resources by limiting or imposing a moratorium on debt payments; diminishing or selling assets in the US (CITGO) to avoid confiscation or their being made illiquid (“frozen”) by some new Obama decree. On the external front, Venezuela must deepen military and economic ties with its neighbors and independent nations to withstand the US military and economic offensive. If Obama escalates the military measures against Venezuela, the parliamentary elections scheduled for September should be temporarily suspended until normality is re-established.
In a significant change in reporting at The New York Times, the newspaper yesterday became the first major news outlet in the English language media to report on what the rest of the governments in the Western Hemisphere think of U.S. policy toward Venezuela.
This is potentially important because this part of the story, which has heretofore been ignored, could begin to change many people’s perceptions of what is behind the problems in U.S.-Venezuelan relations, if other journalists begin to report on it. The Obama administration is more isolated in Latin America than even George W. Bush was, but hardly anyone who depends on the major hemispheric media would know that, because the point of view of governments other than the U.S. is not reported.
The Times article contains this very succinct and eloquent comment on the new U.S. sanctions against Venezuela from Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa:
“It ought to be a joke in bad taste that reminds us of the darkest hours of our America, when we received invasions and dictatorships imposed by the imperialists,” Mr. Correa wrote. “Can’t they understand that Latin America has changed?”
The last line really sums up the situation: They really don’t understand that Latin America has changed. One can follow all the foreign policy debates in Washington about Latin America, in the media or in journals such as Foreign Affairs, and there really is almost no acknowledgment of the new reality. In this sense the discussion of hemispheric relations is different from most other areas of U.S. foreign policy, e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, even Israel and Palestine – where there is at least some debate that reaches the intelligentsia and the public. (The new Cold War with Russia is perhaps exceptional in the pervasiveness of a sheep-like mentality and uniformity of thinking – as Russia expert Stephen Cohen of Princeton has pointed out reminiscent of the 1950s; but it remains to be seen how long this can last, and even in this robust display of groupthink there is a small smattering of exceptions that break through.)
Latin America really has changed, drastically, and Correa’s view represents the vast majority of governments in the region, even if some are more diplomatic in their expression of it. This can be seen in the strong statements criticizing U.S. actions from regional organizations such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which includes every country in the hemisphere except the U.S. and Canada; and UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations). (The Times article mentioned that these two organizations “issued statements expressing concern,” although that was a bit of an understatement.)
More generally, the vast majority of Latin American governments now have a foreign policy independent of Washington, which has never been true before the 21st century; and they are also much more independent of Washington in their economic policies. As recently as 2002, for example, the U.S. was able to exert a major influence on the economic policy of even the region’s largest economy, Brazil, through the International Monetary Fund.
The White House’s latest move is seen throughout the region as so outrageous and threatening that it will likely be reversed, eventually, under pressure from Latin American governments. That is what happened in April 2013, when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry refused to recognize the results of Venezuela’s presidential election, even though there was no doubt about the outcome. At first, Washington was able to get OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, and the right-wing government in Spain, to join in refusing to recognize the result; but then these two allies gave in under pressure, and Kerry was left completely alone, whereupon Washington recognized the results.
Venezuelans are worried because US President Barack Obama declared a “national emergency” that called Venezuela “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
But there’s no need for them to get upset, the Washington Post’s Nick Miroff and Karen DeYoung (3/11/15) reassure. The Obama administration explained that it just wanted to impose sanctions on some of Venezuela’s top officials because “it wanted to send a strong message in defense of human rights and democracy”:
The “emergency” declaration and labeling of Venezuela as a “security threat” are legal formalities used in many other instances when sanctions are applied, administration officials said. The language does not represent a more severe assessment of the Maduro government, they said.
Ah–the administration is just pretending there’s an “unusual and extraordinary threat” because it wants to invoke powers that it’s only legally allowed to use in an actual emergency. No biggie. Thanks for clearing that up, Washington Post !
Unfortunately, Venezuelans don’t have Washington-savvy publications like the Post to set them straight. Or, as Miroff and DeYoung put it:
Such nuances stood little chance in the meat grinder of Venezuela’s rough political culture, where state-financed and pro-government broadcasters dominate the airwaves.
Hmm–so we should be wary of “state-financed and pro-government” media outlets, huh?
The Washington Post, as it happens, is owned by Jeff Bezos, the 15th richest person in the world, who derives his fortune from his position as the main owner of Amazon.com, with an 18 percent share of the company.
You probably know Amazon as an online bookseller; less famously, they’re also in the online data storage business, and one of their top clients is the US intelligence community, which paid Amazon Web Services $600 million for a “cloud” to store and process information for the CIA, NSA and other US spy agencies. As the Atlantic (7/17/14) noted at the time, this is far from Amazon’s only government contract; other agencies they store data for include NASA, the FDA, the CDC and HealthCare.gov.
Amazon “is rapidly becoming the leading supplier of cloud services to the federal government,” the trade publication EnterpriseTech (8/22/14) reported. When the Defense Department looked to spend $10 billion on cloud services, Amazon didn’t bid directly for the contract–but it will partner with five of the 10 companies who won pieces of the contract, allowing it to get more than the $1 billion each direct contractor is limited to (FCW, 8/28/13).
Is this serious money for Bezos? Well, he paid $250 million for the entire Washington Post in 2013, so it’s more than walking-around money. Suffice it to say that it’s very unlikely any Venezuelan broadcaster gets as much state funding as the Bezos empire.
As for “pro-government”–the Post may be more or less friendly to any particular administration, but it’s never going to lose its allegiance to the DC’s permanent government. As Keane Bhatt (Extra!, 3/14) pointed out, it’s the Post’s proximity to Washington’s imperial power that makes it more than just another mid-size daily like the Denver Post.
And part of the job of being Washington’s official court paper, apparently, is explaining to the inhabitants of lesser nations that they shouldn’t take it personally when the US labels them “an unusual and extraordinary threat.”
President Obama, who is currently engaged in multiple wars on both the African and Asian continents and is hell-bent on provoking a war in Europe with Russia, is now stepping to the very brink of war in South America, against Venezuela. On Monday, Obama declared a state of national emergency to justify freezing the assets of 7 Venezuelan officials that the U.S. claims are involved in human rights violations. In order to comply with U.S. law, Obama asserted that Venezuela represents a threat the national security of the United States. The White House pretended that the scary language was just a legal technicality, and does not mean that the president actually believes Venezuela is about to do harm to the United States. However, Obama is invoking the same language and law against Venezuela that was used against Syria and Iran, leading to Syria’s near destruction by the U.S. and its allies and proxies, and to vicious sanctions and a state of near-war with Iran. Venezuela has every reason to fear that Obama’s executive order might be a prelude to military attack.
Washington has been trying to topple the socialist government in Venezuela since at least 2002, when George Bush backed an unsuccessful coup against the late President Hugo Chavez. Since then, Venezuela has conducted more elections than any other nation in the hemisphere, all of them vouched for as free and fair by international observers. Unable to prevail at the polls, the rightwing, racist opposition hopes to come to power through another coup or direct military intervention by the United States. In that context, Obama’s assertion that Venezuela is a danger to U.S. national security ranks just short of a declaration of war.
Venezuelan President Maduro has thrown a few of the most brazen coup plotters in jail, which Obama ridiculously describes as a massive violation of human rights. However, the worst human rights violators in the hemisphere are Washington’s allies. Almost six million people, most of them Black and indigenous, have been displaced from their homes by political violence in Colombia, a U.S. client state. Mexico’s is a narco-state, as violent as Colombia. And Honduras, where the U.S. backed a military coup against the democratically elected government in 2009, is a place of lawlessness and state terror.
Luckily, the United States only has a few remaining allies left in Latin America. What unifies the southern part of the hemisphere is the common experience of the U.S. boot on one’s neck. CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which includes all of the nations of the western hemisphere except Canada and the U.S., has warned Washington to stop interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs.
So, if Obama thinks that he can get away with waging a phony “humanitarian” interventionist war against Venezuelan President Maduro, as he did against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, he will find himself opposed by an entire continent.
Caracas – U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order this Monday slapping Venezuela with new sanctions and declaring the Bolivarian nation an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security”.
The sanctions target seven individuals accused by the White House of alleged human rights violations and “public corruption”, freezing their assets and barring entry into the U.S.
The figures include Justo Jose Noguera Pietri, President of the state entity, the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana (CVG) and Katherine Nayarith Haringhton Padron, a national level prosecutor currently taking the lead in the trials of several Venezuelan political opposition leaders, including Leopoldo Lopez.
The executive order is the latest in a series of U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuela over the past few months. On February 3, the Obama administration expanded the list of Venezuelan officials barred from entering the U.S., which now includes the Chief Prosecutor Luis Ortega Diaz.
“Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of U.S. financial systems,” announced White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
The U.S. has failed thus far to disclose evidence that might bolster its claims of human rights violations, leading Venezuelan and other regional leaders to condemn what they regard as the arbitrary and political character of U.S. sanctions.
While regional bodies such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) have called for dialogue, Washington has so far refused to support negotiations or to recognise the organisation’s stance.
“We will continue to work closely with others in the region to support greater political expression in Venezuela, and to encourage the Venezuelan government to live up to its shared commitment, as articulated in the OAS Charter, the Inter American Democratic Charter, and other relevant instruments related to democracy and human rights,” reads the latest White House statement.
The order goes on to call for the release of all “political prisoners” allegedly held by the Venezuelan government, including “dozens of students”.
The Venezuelan government, for its part, maintains that all of those arrested are in the process of facing trial for criminal offences linked to violent destabilization efforts spearheaded by the opposition.
Former Caracas Metropolitan Mayor Antonio Ledezma was arrested last month on charges of conspiracy and sedition related to the February 12 thwarted “Blue Coup” attempt. A Venezuelan judge found sufficient evidence linking the opposition figure to air force officials involved in the coup as well as to rightwing terrorist leaders such as Lorent Saleh, who was extradited by Colombian authorities to face charges last year.
The other high profile Venezuelan opposition leader currently facing trial is Leopoldo López, who was indicted for his role in leading several months of violent opposition protests last year with the aim of effecting the “exit”, or ouster, of the constitutional government. Known as the “guarimbas”, these violent protests and street barricades caused the death of 43 people, the majority of whom were security personnel or Chavistas.
Ledezma and López, together with far right leader Maria Corina Machado, were active in the 2002 coup against then president Hugo Chávez, which succeeded in temporarily ousting the Venezuelan leader until he was restored by a popular uprising.
All three opposition leaders also signed a “National Transition Agreement” released on the day prior to February’s “Blue Coup” attempt, describing the government of Nicolas Maduro as in its “terminal phase” and declaring the need to “name new authorities” without mentioning elections or other constitutional mechanisms. Many political commentators interpreted the document as an open call for a coup against the president.
The Venezuelan government has charged the U.S. government with hypocrisy on the issue of human rights, and in particular the mass repression and incarceration of Afrodescendent communities in the U.S.
On February 28, President Maduro announced new measures imposing a reciprocal travel visa requirements on U.S. citizens seeking to enter Venezuela as well as mandating a reduction in U.S. embassy staff to levels that match the number of Venezuelan personnel in Washington.
Maduro also announced the creation of an “anti-terrorist list” of individuals barred from entering Venezuela, which will include former U.S. officials such as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who have reportedly “committed human rights violations.”
Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez, has confirmed that the Bolivarian government will soon issue an official response to the order.
The U.S. has a substantial history of aggression toward Venezuela
Recently, several different spokespersons for the Obama administration have firmly claimed the United States government is not intervening in Venezuelan affairs. Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki went so far as to declare, “The allegations made by the Venezuelan government that the United States is involved in coup plotting and destabilization are baseless and false.” Psaki then reiterated a bizarrely erroneous statement she had made during a daily press briefing just a day before: “The United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means.”
Anyone with minimal knowlege of Latin America and world history knows Psaki’s claim is false, and calls into question the veracity of any of her prior statements. The U.S. government has backed, encouraged and supported coup d’etats in Latin America and around the world for over a century. Some of the more notorious ones that have been openly acknowledged by former U.S. presidents and high level officials include coup d’etats against Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, Patrice Lumumba in the Congo in 1960, Joao Goulart of Brazil in 1964 and Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973. More recently, in the twenty-first century, the U.S. government openly supported the coups against President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 2002, Jean Bertrand Aristide of Haiti in 2004 and Jose Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in 2009. Ample evidence of CIA and other U.S. agency involvement in all of these unconstitutional overthrows of democratically-elected governments abounds. What all of the overthrown leaders had in common was their unwillingness to bow to U.S. interests.
Despite bogus U.S. government claims, after Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela by an overwhelming majority in 1998, and subsequently refused to take orders from Washington, he became a fast target of U.S. aggression. Though a U.S.-supported coup d’etat briefly overthrew Chavez in 2002, his subsequent rescue by millions of Venezuelans and loyal armed forces, and his return to power, only increased U.S. hostility towards the oil-rich nation. After Chavez’s death in 2013 from cancer, his democratically-elected successor, Nicolas Maduro, became the brunt of these attacks.
What follows is a brief summary of U.S. aggression towards Venezuela that clearly shows a one-sided war. Venezuela has never threatened or taken any kind of action to harm the United States or its interests. Nonetheless, Venezuela, under both Chavez and Maduro – two presidents who have exerted Venezuela’s sovereignty and right to self-determination – has been the ongoing victim of continuous, hostile and increasingly aggressive actions from Washington.
A coup d’etat against Chávez was carried out on April 11, 2002. Documents obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) evidence a clear role of the U.S. government in the coup, as well as financial and political support for those Venezuelans involved.
A “lockout” and economic sabotage of Venezuela’s oil industry was imposed from December 2002 to February 2003. After the defeat of the coup against Chavez, the U.S. State Department issued a special fund via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to help the opposition continue efforts to overthrow Chavez. USAID set up an Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI) in Caracas, subcontracting U.S. defense contractor Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI) to oversee Venezuela operations and distribute millions of dollars to anti-government groups. The result was the “national strike” launched in December 2002 that brought the oil industry to the ground and devastated the economy. It lasted 64 days and caused more than $20 billion in damages. Nonetheless, the efforts failed to destabilize the Chavez government.
The “guarimbas” of 2004: On February 27, 2004, extremist anti-government groups initiated violent protests in Caracas aimed at overthrowing Chavez. They lasted 4 days and caused multiple deaths. The leaders of these protests had received training from the U.S. Albert Einstein Institute (AEI), which specializes in regime change tactics and strategies.
The Recall Referendum of 2004: Both NED and USAID channeled millions of dollars into a campaign to recall President Chavez through a national recall referendum. With the funds, the group Sumate, led by multi-millionaire Maria Corina Machado, was formed to oversee the efforts. Chavez won the referendum in a landslide 60-40 victory.
After the victory of President Chavez in the recall referendum of 2004, the US toughened its position towards Venezuela and increased its public hostility and aggression against the Venezuelan government. Here are a selection of statements made about Venezuela by U.S. officials:
January 2005: “Hugo Chavez is a negative force in the region.” – Condoleezza Rice.
March 2005: “Venezuela is one of the most unstable and dangerous ‘hot spots’ in Latin America.” – Porter Goss, ex-Director of the CIA.
“Venezuela is starting a dangerous arms race that threatens regional security.” – Donald Rumsfeld, ex-Secretary of Defense.
“I am concerned about Venezuela’s influence in the area of responsibility… SOUTHCOM supports the position of the Joint Chiefs to maintain ‘military to military’ contact with the Venezuelan military…we need an inter-agency focus to deal with Venezuela.” – General Bantz Craddock, ex-Commander of SOUTHCOM.
July 2005: “Cuba and Venezuela are promoting instability in Latin America… There is no doubt that President Chavez is funding radical forces in Bolivia.” -Rogelio Pardo-Maurer, Assistant Sub-Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere.
“Venezuela and Cuba are promoting radicalism in the region…Venezuela is trying to undermine the democratic governments in the region to impede CAFTA.” – Donald Rumsfeld, ex-Secretary of Defense.
August 2005: “Venezuelan territory is a safe haven for Colombian terrorists.” – Tom Casey, State Department spokesman.
September 2005: “The problem of working with President Chavez is serious and continuous, as it is in other parts of the relationship.” – John Walters, Director of the National Policy Office for Drug Control.
November 2005: “The assault on democratic institutions in Venezuela continues and the system is in serious danger.” – Thomas Shannon, Sub-secretary of State.
February 2006: “President Chavez continues to use his control to repress the opposition, reduce freedom of the press and restrict democracy…. it’s a threat.” – John Negroponte, ex-Director of National Intelligence.
“We have Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of money from oil. He is a person who was elected legally, just like Adolf Hitler…” – Donald Rumsfeld, ex-Secretary of Defense.
March 2006: “In Venezuela, a demagogue full of oil money is undermining democracy and trying to destabilize the region.” – George W. Bush.
U.S. officials try to link Venezuela to Terrorism:
June 2006: “Venezuela’s cooperation in the international campaign against terrorism continues to be insignificant… It’s not clear to what point the Venezuelan government offered material support to Colombian terrorists.” – Annual Report on Terrorism, Department of State.
June 2006: The U.S. government through the Commerce Department and U.S. Treasury imposes sanctions against Venezuela for its alleged role in terrorism and prohibits the sale of military equipment to the country.
July 2006: “Venezuela, under President Hugo Chavez, has tolerated terrorists in its territory…” – Subcommittee on International Terrorism, House of Representatives.
U.S. increases its Military Presence in Latin America:
March-July 2006: The US military engages in four major exercises off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea, with support from NATO, and based at the US air force base in Curaçao. A permanent military presence is established in the Dominican Republic and the bases in Curaçao and Aruba are reinforced.
The U.S. Embassy in Caracas establishes the “American Corners” in 5 Venezuelan States (Lara, Monagas, Bolívar, Anzoátegui, Nueva Esparta), to act as centers of propaganda, subversion, espionage and infiltration.
U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield intensifies his public hostility towards the Venezuelan government, making frequent sarcastic and unfriendly comments in opposition-controlled media.
NED and USAID increase funding to anti-government groups in Venezuela.
At the beginning of 2007, Venezuela is severely attacked in the international media & by U.S. government spokespersons for its decision to nationalize Cantv (the only national telephone company), the Electricity of Caracas and the Faja Orinoco oil fields.
In May 2007 the attack intensifies when the government decides not to renew the public broadcasting concession to popular opposition television station, RCTV.
A powerful international media campaign is initiated against Venezuela and President Chavez, referring to him as a dictator.
Private distributors and companies begin hoarding food and other essential consumer products in order to create shortages and panic amongst the population.
USAID, NED and the State Department via the Embassy in Caracas foment, fund and encourage the emergence of a right-wing youth movement and help to project its favorable image to the international community in order to distort the perception of President Chavez’s popularity amongst youth.
Groups such as Human Rights Watch, Inter-American Press Association and Reporters without Borders accuse Venezuela of violating human rights and freedom of expression.
September 2007: President George W. Bush classifies Venezuela as a nation “not cooperating” with the war against drug trafficking, for the third year in a row, imposing additional economic sanctions.
September 2007: Condoleezza Rice declares the U.S. is “concerned about the destructive populism” of Chavez.
January 2008: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces meets with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, then Minister of Defense Juan Manuel Santos, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield and the Commander General of the Colombian Armed Forces Freddy Padilla de Leon and declares during a press conference that he is “concerned about the arms purchases made by Chavez” and expresses that this could “destabilize the region.”
John Walters, the U.S. Anti-Drug Czar meets with Uribe in Colombia, together with 5 U.S. congresspersons and Ambassador Brownfield, and declares Venezuela a nation “complicit with drug trafficking” that presents “a threat to the US and the region”. He also expresses his wish that the Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia be ratified by Congress soon.
Condoleezza Rice visits Colombia, together with Sub-Secretary of State Thomas Shannon and 10 congress members from the democratic party to push the FTA and back Colombia in its conflict with Venezuela.
President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address emphasizes the importance of the FTA with Colombia alerts to the threat of “populist” and “undemocratic” governments in the region.
February 2008: SOUTHCOM sends the Navy’s “4th fleet” to the Caribbean Sea (a group of war ships, submarines and aircraft carriers that haven’t been in those waters since the Cold War).
The Director of National Intelligence, General Mike McConnell, publishes the Annual Threat Report, which classifies Venezuela as the “principal threat against the US in the hemisphere.”
Exxon-Mobil tries to “freeze” $12 billion of Venezuelan assets in London, Holland and the Dutch Antilles.
A Report on Present Threats to National Security of the Defense Intelligence Agency classifies Venezuela as a “national security threat” to the U.S.
A Department of State report accuses Venezuela of being a country that permits “the transit of illegal drugs”, “money laundering” and being “complicit with drug trafficking.”
The U.S. Department of Treasury classifies three high level Venezuelan officials as “drug kingpins”, presenting no formal evidence. The head of Venezuela’s military intelligence, General Hugo Carvajal, the head of Venezuela’s civil intelligence force, General Henry Rangel Silva, and former Minister of Interior and Justice, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin are sanctioned by the U.S. government and placed on a terrorist list.
Rear Admiral Joseph Nimmich, Director of the US Joint Interagency Task Force, meets in Bogota with the Commander General of the Colombian Armed Forces.
March 2008: The Colombian army invades Ecuadorian territory and assassinates Raul Reyes and a dozen others, including 4 Mexicans, at a FARC camp in the jungle near the border.
General Jorge Naranjo, Commander of Colombia’s National Police, declares that laptop computers rescued from the scene of the bombing that killed Reyes and others evidence that President Chavez gave more than $300 million to the FARC along with a quantity of uranium and weapons. No other evidence is produced or shown to the public. Ecuador is also accused of supporting the FARC.
Venezuela mobilizes troops to the border with Colombia.
The US Navy sends the Aircraft Carrier “Harry Truman” to the Caribbean Sea to engage in military exercises to prevent potential terrorist attacks and eventual conflicts in the region.
President Bush states the U.S. will defend Colombia against the “provocations” from Venezuela.
Uribe announces he will bring a claim before the International Criminal Court against President Chavez for “sponsoring genocide and terrorism”.
March: President Bush requests his team of lawyers and advisors review the possibility of placing Venezuela on the list of “STATE SPONSORS OF TERRORISM” together with Cuba, Iran, Syria and North Korea.
May: A document from the U.S. Air Force shows the construction of a U.S. military base in Palanquero, Colombia, to combat the “anti-American” governments in the region. The Palanquero base is part of the 7 military bases that the U.S. planned to build in Colombia under an agreement with the Colombian government for a ten-year period.
February: The U.S. Director of National Intelligence declares Venezuela the “anti-American leader” in the region in its annual report on worldwide threats.
February: The State Department authorizes more than $15 million via NED and USAID to anti-government groups in Venezuela.
June: A report from the FRIDE Institute in Spain, funded by NED, evidences that international agencies channel between $40-50 million a year to anti-government groups in Venezuela.
September: Washington ratifies sanctions against Venezuela for allegedly not cooperating with counter-narcotics efforts or the war on terror.
President Obama authorizes a special fund of $5 million in his annual budget to support anti-government groups in Venezuela. In 2015, Obama increases this amount to $5.5 million.
NED continues to fund anti-government groups in Venezuela with about $2 million annually.
Each year, the US government includes Venezuela on a list of countries that do not cooperate with counter-narcotics efforts or the war on terror. Also in its annual human rights report, the State Department classifies Venezuela as a “violator” of human rights.
Subsequent to President Chavez’s death from cancer on March 5, 2013, new elections are held and Nicolas Maduro wins the presidency. Opposition leaders hold violent demonstrations that result in the deaths of more than a dozen people.
In February 2014, the violent protests resume, led by Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado, who openly call for the overthrow of President Maduro, and over 40 people are killed. Lopez turns himself in to authorities and faces charges for his role in the violence. The U.S. government calls for his immediate release.
In December 2014, President Obama imposed sanctions on more than 50 Venezuelan officials and their relatives, accusing them of violating human rights and engaging in corruption. No evidence has been presented to date to support these serious allegations. The Commerce Department also expanded sanctions against Venezuela, prohibiting the sale of “any products” that could be destined for “military use” due to alleged human rights violations committed by the Venezuelan Armed Forces.
January 2015: Vice President Joe Biden warns Caribbean countries that the government of President Nicolas Maduro will soon be “defeated” and therefore they should abandon their discounted oil program with Venezuela, PetroCaribe.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemns the alleged “criminalization of political dissent” in Venezuela.
February 2015: President Obama unveils his new National Security Strategy and names Venezuela as a threat and stresses support for Venezuelan “citizens” living in a country where “democracy is at risk.”
Anti-government leaders circulate a document for a “transitional government agreement” which warns President Maduro’s government is in its “final stage” and pledges to overhaul the entire government and socialist system in place, replacing it with a neoliberal, pro-business model. The document is signed by Maria Corina Machado, jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, mayor of Metropolitan Caracas.
Days later, a coup plot against President Nicolas Maduro is thwarted and 10 active Venezuelan military officers are detained. Antonio Ledezma is arrested and charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government and the U.S. State Department issues a harsh condemnation of his detention, calling on regional governments to take action against the Maduro administration.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest denies any U.S. government role in the coup attempt against Maduro, calling such allegations “ludicrous”, but further reveals, “The Treasury Department and the State Department are considering tools that may be available that could better steer the Venezuelan government in the direction that we believe they should be headed.”
A coup plot against President Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution was thwarted this week as a retired Venezuelan Air Force general and 10 military and civilian opposition figures were arrested.
The bombing of the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly, Telesur TV network, the Defense Ministry and other Caracas sites was to take place February 12, the one-year anniversary of violent anti-government attacks known as “guarimbas,” which caused 43 deaths. A Tucano EMB 312 bomber would have been flown by renegade Air Force First Lieutenant José Antich Zapata to destroy the targeted sites.
U.S. spokesperson Jen Psaki and the Venezuelan far-right are dismissing the plot claim, but video evidence, a map of the bombing targets, and other key evidence have been unveiled on national television, with more details promised. Washington’s role in previous plots has been proven before.
According to President Maduro, detained coup leaders have confessed their role. He spoke on national television Sunday morning, to reveal more facts and accuse the United States government of conspiring with coup plotters.
Antich Zapata received U.S. visas for himself and other conspirators from the U.S. embassy in Caracas, for escape from Venezuela in case the plot failed.
Maduro also said that the script of an eight-minute video by the coup group – to air once the government was overthrown – was written with the help of a U.S. embassy advisor.
Rightwing opposition involved
In obvious preparation for the failed coup, three of the most belligerent opposition figures – Maria Corina Machado, Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma – issued a “Call for a National Transition Agreement,” on February 11, the day before the overthrow was to take place. Lopez is currently awaiting trial for his role in the violent attacks last February.
The “transition agreement” is a plan for overthrow of the Bolivarian Revolution socialist project, including a demand for felony trials of current government leaders after the “transition,” the privatization of nationalized industries, and the takeover of PDVSA, the state-owned oil industry that has been the source of great social developments in Venezuela since 1999.
As if aware of a pending coup, German embassy representative Jorg Polster issued a letter of warning on February 5 to German citizens residing in Venezuela, to take unusual precautions such as in the event of “political unrest like that which began in the spring of 2014.” The letter suggests the German nationals obtain a two-week supply of food, water and emergency provisions of battery, radio and important documents. The letter also indicates a loss of electricity and Internet access could be a possibility.
National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello and Jorge Rodriguez, mayor of the Libertador municipality of Caracas – both leaders of Maduro’s political high command – also appeared on television, denouncing Julio Borges, leader of the right-wing group, Primero Justicia (“Justice First” in English), as drafting the list of the 20-plus targets to be bombed.
An unfolding plot since January
A series of actions was planned by the counterrevolutionaries to lead up to February 12.
First step was economic destabilization through major corporate hoarding of goods to create empty stores and mass discontent. That has been taking place for weeks, with the right-wing then accusing the socialist government of economic failure.
The government countered with “Operation Dignity,” confiscating the hoarded goods for redistribution at fair prices to the population, and arresting the corporate conspirators.
The second step was internationally-generated false accusations of a “humanitarian crisis” in Venezuela by the U.S. and international allies of Washington.
It is thus no coincidence that on January 24, three right-wing former presidents of Latin American countries, Andres Pastrana of Colombia, Felipe Calderon of Mexico and Sebastian Pinera of Chile came to Venezuela and tried to visit jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. Afterwards, they demanded his freedom and held a press conference accusing Venezuela of human rights violations.
On February 3, President Maduro warned Washington to stop its interventionist meddling, and accused U.S. officials of trying to bribe current and former government leaders to betray the government.
Via Telesur, he denounced U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden’s recent meetings with various Latin American leaders, in which he told them Maduro’s government would soon fall, and that the Petrocaribe program would be ended. Biden advised them to “keep Venezuela isolated.” Petrocaribe is the Venezuelan program that provides oil to Caribbean nations at a low price.
Telesur as target
Why was Telesur one of the targets to be bombed?
In 2002, when a fascist coup by a sector of the military and corporate opposition overthrew President Hugo Chavez from April 11 to 13, Venezuela’s revolution was new and a people’s media had not yet developed.
In the critical hours of the massive and spontaneous popular mobilization to demand Chavez’s release and return as president, the monopoly corporate media completely blocked out the news. It was clear that the Bolivarian process needed a revolutionary media to transmit vital information to the population.
Since then, dozens of community and television stations have been established; corporate violators of the new Communications Law have had their licenses revoked.
The Telesur network – promoting the integration of Latin America – was proposed 10 years ago by Chavez. It has become a vital conveyor of national and international information with a solid anti-imperialist prospective.
It provided uncensored live coverage and exposed the terror bombing by NATO/U.S. bombing of Libya.
Like the brutal bombing of Serbia’s national TV station, killing scores of journalists who courageously covered the criminal NATO/U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the planned bombing of Telesur was part of the plan to destroy the Revolution and install a fascist coup.
The smashing of this latest plot against Venezuela is a major blow to U.S. imperialism’s attempts to reverse the gains of the Bolivarian revolutionary process in Venezuela, the Cuban Revolution and all progress in Latin America.
Revolutionary mass organizations and the military high command are declaring their unity and defense of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution.
Vladimir Padrino Lopez, the Minister of Defense and Strategic Operational Commander of the FANB, stood with a large group of high-ranking military officers to denounce the military plot. “The Bolivarian Armed Forces reiterates its support and loyalty to President Nicolás Maduro Moros and reaffirms its commitment to the will of the people, with the Plan of the Homeland, in the building of Socialism.”
More than ever, it is vital that international solidarity be mobilized to demand an end to U.S. machinations in Venezuela and all Latin America. Progressive groups and leaders in Latin America are expressing their support for Maduro’s government. From March 5-7, organizations in several cities in the United States plan actions in solidarity with the Venezuelan Bolivarian government and its people in struggle.
The danger is not over. The lessons of Latin America in the 1960s, 1970s and the U.S. war against revolutionary movements everywhere shows that the struggle must continue to defend Venezuela’s gains and oppose U.S. imperialism’s counter-revolutionary schemes.
The Non-Aligned Movement issued a statement Saturday rejecting the latest set of sanctions imposed by the United States against Venezuelan officials.
The 120-nation body described the sanctions as “intended to undermine Venezuela’s sovereignty, its political independence and its right to self-determination.”
The U.S. government announced a new set of sanctions last week which target former and current Venezuelan officials. The U.S. has justified various rounds of sanctions by claiming corruption and that human rights abuses occurred in the oil-rich county during a wave of opposition violence last year that left 43 dead.
However, the Venezuelan government has pointed out the sanctions are politically motivated and that they form part of U.S. plans to oust the country’s elected government, given that the overwhelming majority of the 43 fatalities were caused by right-wing extremists.
The Non-Aligned Movement considers the unilateral sanctions a “violation of international law, including the United Nations Charter and the basic principles of international law of relations between states.”
Furthermore, the group of nations considered the measure “coercive” and manifested its solidarity with the Venezuelan people and their government.
The UNASUR group of South American nations also rejected the sanctions and will launch a probe to evaluate Venezuela’s evidence of U.S. meddling in the country’s internal affairs.
All these headlines are wrong:
Ex-Los Alamos Scientist Gets 5 Years in Venezuelan Nuclear Bomb Plot
– NBC News (1/28/15)
US Nuclear Scientist Who Offered to Help Venezuela Build Nuclear Bombs Gets 60 Months
– Washington Post (1/29/15)
Ex-Los Alamos Scientist Heard Offering to Design Bomb Directed at NYC for Venezuela
– CBS New York (1/28/15)
Ex-Los Alamos Scientist Accused of Offering to Make Venezuela a Nuclear Weapon to Be Sentenced
– Minneapolis Star Tribune (1/28/15)
Scientist Sentenced After Offering to Build Nuclear Weapons for Venezuela, Bomb Targeting New York
– Syracuse Post-Standard (1/28/15)
What’s wrong is that there was no “Venezuelan nuclear bomb plot,” and the scientist in question, Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, didn’t offer Venezuela anything. What Mascheroni was convicted of was telling undercover FBI agents, who were pretending to work for Venezuela, that he could give them nuclear weapons secrets. In real life, Venezuela had nothing to do with it.
The distinction is critical because accurate headlines would not leave casual readers with the impression that Venezuela was interested in getting a nuclear bomb, or in trying to nuke New York. From the point of view of the US government, no doubt, that misimpression is a feature and not a bug.