What the Hell is Happening in Venezuela?
As Venezuela continues to burn, Western media outlets are also aflame with reports of the brutal crackdown on protesters, the oppression by the Venezuelan government, and the dire straits of the Venezuelan economy. According to these outlets, the reason Venezuela is in the condition it finds itself in today is simple – a refusal to embrace “Western” democracy and free trade neoliberalism as well as the inherent corruption of oppressive rulers like Chavez and now Maduro.
Unfortunately, many alternative media outlets are aflame with much the same rhetoric, glorifying the “democracy” protesters and the Venezuelan “opposition” while similarly blaming the oppressive Venezuelan government and socialism for the country’s ills. While Venezuela has its problems – economic and governmental – the narrative being peddled by both the mainstream and alternative media outlets are the same. Another similarity between the two is that they also neglect to address many of the causes of Venezuela’s economic issues and the real cause of the protests which have been taking place all over the country for the past few years.
Is The Venezuelan Government Good or Bad?
Simple people tend to want simple answers. It sounds insulting but it’s true. Americans in particular want to hear a complex foreign policy question reduced to a children’s cartoon and questions of good guys versus bad guys. We are the perpetual good guys so another country falls into only two categories – those who work with and obey the United States (good guys) and those who don’t (bad guys). But categorizing foreign governments in such infantile ways is simply unrealistic. It doesn’t help anyone understand anything happening in the real world.
When analyzing the government of Venezuela, one thing that must always be kept in mind is that Venezuela is a sovereign country. It does not threaten the United States, has not demonstrated that it wants to do so, and, even if it did, it is incapable of seriously delivering on any real military operation against the U.S. Thus, Venezuelan domestic affairs are just that, Venezuelan.
That being said, there is no question that Venezuela suffers under incredible economic hardships. There is also no question that the country suffers under a totalitarian state. But there is no question that America suffers under the same situation albeit with less pronounced economic and social unrest (for now). The fact is that, no matter how much Americans and the U.S. government may dislike it, Hugo Chavez was very popular in Venezuela and continues to be popular even after his death. It is also true that there is much dissatisfaction with the ruling government of Maduro both in terms of economics and civil rights. But it is also true that Venezuela is facing a foreign-funded uprising while, at the same time, suffering under American sanctions. Certainly it is unfair to break a runner’s leg and then blame him when he can’t win the race.
The Causes of Venezuela’s Economic Troubles
Venezuela’s economic troubles are now known the world over. Lack of jobs, low wages, poor working conditions, food shortages, and the like are now becoming synonymous with the nation itself. But what is the source of such economic hardship? Western corporate media outlets tend to blame government corruption and a lack of adequate free trade neo-liberalism and privatization of services and the Venezuelan national bank. Many alternative media outlets are jumping on the bandwagon, too, claiming that Venezuela’s troubles are a result of socialism and the lack of a free market.
The corporate media argument should be dismissed out of hand. After decades of “free trade” and neoliberal economics of privatization, lack of tariffs, and lowering of wages and working standards, any person who has two brain cells firing together realizes that WTO Free Trade economics not only doesn’t work but that they are a cancer on the world that has done nothing but reap unemployment, low living standards, and social unrest.
The alternative media’s blame-placing on socialism and corruption, while making more valid points, should also be looked at with scrutiny. Certainly corruption is a major issue in Venezuela. What Venezuelans (and many other countries) accept as the normal cost of doing business has traditionally been better concealed in Western countries, thus Americans and Europeans are often convinced that their countries are somewhere free of the corruption so openly seen in “Third World” nations. However, it is a fact of life that Venezuela suffers under a level of corruption greater than many other countries across the world which contributes to difficulty in accomplishing anything, economic and otherwise, positive.
Socialism, likewise, poses its own set of problems. Higher taxation, more and more governmental control over everyday aspects of life, and greater citizen dependency on the government for basic needs tends to choke off economic activity and, once the central government experiences problems, those problems are felt throughout the rest of society, making more problems and compounding the original issue. However, one cannot simply reduce the Venezuelan economic crisis down to a Capitalist vs. Socialist economic battle with Venezuela doing poorly simply because it didn’t adhere to the similarly deeply flawed ideology of capitalism.
The fact is that Venezuela has been suffering for around a decade and a half from intense American sanctions, crippling the ability of the government to function properly and the economy to operate at its own pace and effectively implement its own economic policy in the way that other countries are able to do. In 2006, the United States applied sanctions on Venezuela, four years after attempting a coup on the Venezuelan president, and it has added more sanctions almost every year. How can socialism be blamed for Venezuela’s hardship when the country is under an economic blitzkrieg from one of the largest economies on the face of the planet? If Venezuela does fall, it won’t be because socialism brought it down. It will be because the United States underwent great financial and logistical expense to destabilize, starve, and undermine it.
The Destabilization Of Venezuela
Under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela was a stalwart source of resistance to the plans of the Anglo-Americans for years, particularly since the George W. Bush administration and, like all other imperialist policies, continuing through the Obama administration.
Likewise, for just as long, Chavez’ government was the target of US/NATO-backed destabilization efforts, covert operations, and political pressure.
Although Venezuela and the United States are held together by joint business interests involving petroleum exports and imports, this fact has done nothing to soften the tension between the two governments. Venezuela is, after all, one of the biggest suppliers of petroleum to the United States. In turn, the United States is one of Venezuela’s biggest customers. Nevertheless, both countries have been without ambassadors since 2010 due to Chavez’ rejection of the nomination of Larry Palmer by the Obama administration and Washington’s subsequent dismissal of the Venezuelan ambassador in response. Furthermore, the imperialist US sanctions regarding countries, banks, businesses, and individuals that do business with Iran were applied to the Venezuelan state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), in May 2011 after the US State Department claimed that PDVSA delivered two cargo shipments of refined petroleum products worth approximately $50 million to Iran between the months of December and March 2010-2011. In addition, as Newsmax reports,
The U.S. also imposed penalties on Venezuela’s Military Industries Co. for violating the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act by selling or buying sensitive equipment and technology related to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile systems.
Even more so, Chavez’ government, in 2002, was briefly overthrown as a result of a coup largely supported by the United States. Although Chavez was able to regain control of the presidency and the government within a mere 48 hours, such an affront to Venezuelan sovereignty and personal power is not likely to be forgotten. In turn, the fact that the United States is ready and willing to back opposition leaders capable of storming the capitol and taking power is not likely to be forgotten by individuals seeking to do so. Indeed, similar plots have been uncovered (although mostly openly announced and discussed by both American and Venezuelan parties) in the years after the attempted coup on Chavez.
As Venezuela expert Eva Golinger, wrote for TeleSur TV in her article, “US Aggression Against Venezuela: Fact Not Fiction,”
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.
“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,” writes Golinger. “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.”
Venezuela has remained firm in the face of the American onslaught even after Chavez’ death and just last year passed what is referred to as the Seed Law. A law that banned GMO seeds from being imported or produced in the country. Yet now, in August 2016, the future of the law itself is in question. This is because “opposition representatives” who are now a majority of seats in the Venezuelan Congress are looking to repeal it.
The recent color revolution attempts thus have many in Venezuela concerned, since the Seed Law was widely popular amongst citizens, farmers, activists and nationalists. Eisamar Ochoa, spokesperson for Venezuela Free of Transgenics, told RT, “the new majority in the National Assembly serves the interests of the trans-nationals and the big monopolies of the agribusiness sector, this is why they have expressed their intention to repeal the bill.”
“If the Seed Bill is repealed, [lawmakers] would be handing out the seeds, which represent a strategic good for food sovereignty, to the agribusiness sector like Monsanto.”
Thus, Ochoa is exactly right when she claims that the opposition representatives are in the pockets of Big Ag.
Golinger continues with a timeline of efforts by the United States to overthrow Chavez and, after his death by cancer, Maduro. She writes,
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.
Golinger then lists a number of statements made by U.S. officials complaining that Venezuela was “impeding” the Free Trade monstrosity of CAFTA, engaging in an arms race, funding fighters that are in opposition to American interests, and even funding terrorism. Throughout 2005-2006, U.S. officials repeated these often debunked and hyped statements.
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.
Golinger’s timeline continues:
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.”
It is also important to mention another opposition figure, Henrique Capriles Radonski, a leading activist and opposition candidate. Radonski is seen as being much more “market-friendly” by Western banking circles. In fact, analysts from Credit Suisse, Casey Reckman and Igor Arsenin, stated to Bloomberg Newsin 2012 that, “A Capriles victory would be a good outcome from the market’s perspective, in our view, as he seems to be a more viable presidential candidate than the opposition has presented previously. He espouses a gradualist, inclusive, left-of-center but market friendly approach.”
Translating the above statement to layman’s terms, both Chavez and now Maduro represent a threat to the Anglo-American imperialist strategy because of their refusal to engage in unrestrained privatization. Radonski represents a much better option due to his support for, at the very least, privatization and “free market” tendencies.
Eva Golinger, a well-respected Venezuelan-American researcher and staunch supporter of former President Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, recognized and reported on the foreign-backed nature of the protests currently taking place across Venezuela in 2014. In her article, “Venezuela Beyond the Protests: The Revolution is Here to Stay,” Golinger writes,
Those protesting do not represent Venezuela’s vast working-class majority that struggled to overcome the oppressive exclusion they were subjected to during administrations before Chavez. The youth taking to the streets today in Caracas and other cities throughout the country, hiding their faces behind masks and balaclavas, destroying public buildings, vehicles, burning garbage, violently blocking transit and throwing rocks and molotov cocktails at security forces are being driven by extremist right-wing interests from Venezuela’s wealthiest sector. Led by hardline neo-conservatives, Leopoldo Lopez, Henrique Capriles and Maria Corina Machado — who come from three of the wealthiest families in Venezuela, the 1% of the 1% — the protesters seek not to revindicate their basic fundamental rights, or gain access to free health care or education, all of which are guaranteed by the state, thanks to Chavez, but rather are attempting to spiral the country into a state of ungovernability that would justify an international intervention leading to regime change.
Ironically, international media has been portraying these protesters as peaceful victims of state repression. Even celebrities, such as Cher and Paris Hilton have been drawn into a false hysteria, calling for freedom for Venezuelans from a “brutal dictatorship”. The reality is quite different. While there is no doubt that a significant number of protesters in the larger marches that have taken place have demonstrated peacefully their legitimate concerns, the driving force behind those protests is a violent plan to overthrow a democratic government.
Indeed, as Golinger seems willing to admit, there are certainly legitimate concerns with the Maduro government. No objective researcher would suggest that, if Venezuela were free of Western meddling, that it would be free of economic hardship. No one could legitimately suggest that there would be no protests. However, one can safely say that the economic hardship facing Venezuela would not likely have become as extreme as what we are witnessing today. Likewise, it must be stated clearly that the protests we are witnessing today are not protests of working people wanting a change in government but an organized Western-backed destabilization that is mirroring the early stages (albeit at a much slower pace) as those that took place across the Middle East in 2011.
Golinger also pointed out that the three main leaders of the protests are the same individuals who were instrumental in leading the 2002 coup attempt against Chavez. She states,
Leading efforts to overthrow Chavez were the very same three who today call for their supporters to take to the streets to force President Nicolas Maduro from power. Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles were both mayors of two of Caracas’ wealthiest municipalities during the 2002 coup — Chacao and Baruta, while Maria Corina Machado was a close ally of Pedro Carmona, the wealthy businessman who proclaimed himself dictator during Chavez’s brief ouster. Lopez and Machado signed the infamous “Carmona Decree” dissolving Venezuela’s democratic institutions, trashing the constitution. Both Capriles and Lopez were also responsible for persecuting and violently detaining members of Chavez’s government during the coup, including allowing some of them to be publicly beaten, such as Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, former Minister of Interior in 2002.
All three have been major recipients of US funding and political support for their endeavors to overthrow Chavez, and now Maduro.
The US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its offshoots, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) provided start-up funds for Machado’s NGO Sumate, and Capriles’ and Lopez’s right-wing party Primero Justicia. When Lopez split from Primero Justicia in 2010 to form his own party, Voluntad Popular, it was bankrolled by US dollars.
Over the 10-year period, from 2000-2010, US agencies, including the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI), set up in Caracas in 2002, channeled more than $100 million dollars to opposition groups in Venezuela. The overall objective was regime change.
Indeed, USAID is quite active in Venezuela, much of its activity taking place through front groups like the Solidarity Center, a recipient of a number of USAID grants. The Solidarity Center, of course, is only one of the four main offices of the National Endowment for Democracy, a notorious agent of international destabilization. The Solidarity Center is also connected to the AFL-CIO, the largest American union currently in operation.
The Beginning of the Venezuela Protests
The protests began in earnest around 2014, although intermittent disturbances were present beforehand. The 2014 round, however, was the one that led directly to where we are today. Golinger the lead up to the 2014 uprising when she writes,
In January 2014, as Venezuelans arrived back from their Christmas vacations, economic difficulties continued. Maduro began cracking down on businesses violating newly enacted laws on price controls and speculation. Towards the end of January, new measures were announced regarding access to foreign exchange that many perceived as a devaluing of the national currency, the bolivar.
Sentiment built among opposition groups rejecting the new measures and calls for Maduro’s resignation increased. By February, small pockets of protests popped up around the country, mainly confined to middle and upper-class neighborhoods.
During the celebration of National Youth Day on February 12, while thousands marched peacefully to commemorate the historic achievements of youth in the nation’s independence, another group sought a different agenda. Opposition youth and “students” led an aggressive march calling for Maduro’s resignation that ended in a violent confrontation with authorities after the protesters destroyed building façades, including the Attorney General’s office, threw objects at police and national guard and used molotov cocktails to burn property and block transit. The clashes caused three deaths and multiple injuries.
The leader of the violent protest, Leopoldo Lopez, went into hiding following the confrontation and a warrant was issued for his arrest due to his role in the deadly events and his public calls to oust the president. Days later, after a lengthy show including videos from a “clandestine” location, Lopez convened another march and used the event to publicly turn himself over to authorities. He was taken into custody and held for questioning, all his rights guaranteed by the state.
Lopez became the rallying point for the violent protests, which have continued to date, causing several additional deaths, dozens of injuries and the destruction of public property. Relatively small, violent groups of protesters have blocked transit in wealthier zones of Caracas, causing traffic delays and terrorising residents. Several deaths have resulted because protesters refused to let ambulences through to take patients to the emergency room.
The Current State of the Protests
As is typical of any Western-backed color revolution, protesters are insistent upon the resignation of Nicolás Maduro. Likewise, over the past few months, protests have grown smaller in number but greater in terms of intensity and violence. In the past two months alone, 68 people have been killed. Protesters have attacked business districts and have actively burned the Supreme Court in Caracas. However, Western media insists on referring to these protesters as peaceful democracy-lovers.
It is obvious that the one thing that acts as the hallmark for the protesters is the ability to destroy property, throw Molotov cocktails, and burn down buildings. In some cases, the burning doesn’t even stop with structures as one man has already been set on fire by protesters.
Indeed, journalists are also being threatened with lynching if they are not loyal to the cause of the “opposition.” These activists are clearly targeting any journalist of the Western corporate style who dares report on the whole story in Venezuela. TeleSur reporter Abby Martin witnessed this first hand as she attempted to cover the protests taking place there. As Whitney Webb of MintPress News writes,
However, the Venezuelan opposition has proven themselves to be anything but peaceful, especially in recent weeks. Late last month, a mob of around 40 opposition protesters were caught on video beating 21-year-old Orlando José Figuera, then dousing him with gasoline and lighting him on fire after he was accused of being a “Chavista infiltrator.”
While the young man suffered first- and second-degree burns on more than half of his body and survived more than six knife wounds to the stomach, the U.S. and its allies in Latin America have remained silent.
. . . . .
Now, two independent U.S. journalists have been threatened with a similar fate after traveling to Venezuela to report on the protests: Abby Martin and Mike Prysner of the Telesur-affiliated Empire Files, a documentary and interview video series. Although the Empire Files is hosted on Telesur, the program is independently produced by Prysner and Martin.
The pair has traveled through Venezuela’s capital, talking to eyewitnesses. Martin wears protective gear, including a helmet as a measure against the violence that has rocked the city in recent years.
The trouble began when influential members of the opposition, including José Carrasquero, accused the pair of infiltrating protests to gather intelligence for the Venezuelan government. Soon similar accusations spread throughout the opposition’s leadership, leading opposition sympathizers to call for violence.
. . . . .
Journalists who work for elite-owned media and are sympathetic to the opposition, such as Manuel Malaver, also repeated baseless accusations against Martin and Prysner.
. . . . .
Twitter users who identified themselves as members of the Venezuelan opposition – namely @nyoli05 and @mrsmalkovich – called for the pair to be burned alive. More calls to violence soon followed, with others calling for Martin and Prysner to be lynched.
. . . . .
Martin and Prysner have received support from Telesur, as well as Venezuelan Minister of Information and Communication Ernesto Villegas. Telesur promised to investigate the threats made against the pair.
Venezuelan journalists have been targeted as well, including Elizabeth Ostos of El Pitazo, who was attacked by protesters on the Francisco Fajardo highway in Caracas while reporting.
As in the past, anti-government protests are not the only demonstrations taking place. Pro-government activists have also taken to the streets, clashing with anti-government demonstrators. As the situation devolves, it is more and more coming to resemble that of a civil war. This is, of course, the hallmark of an extended U.S.-style destabilization campaign where the color revolution aspect has stalled; i.e. the gradual descent into chaos, violence, and outright combat.
The State of the Government
Back in the days of Chavez and the early days of Maduro, the Venezuelan state apparatus was much more hegemonic. That is, the Western-backed opposition did not officially serve in the government at a major level. However, after years of unrest and international pressure as well as inflation, economic crisis, and social unrest, Nicolás Maduro’s Socialist Party lost control of Congress in December, 2015. Ever since, the Executive and the legislative branches as well as the pro-government judicial branches have been at odds with one another. Tension and stalemate have ruled the day.
The Venezuelan Supreme Court, responding to what amounts to a Western-backed political coup (albeit by democratic means), has now assumed the legislative powers of the National Assembly. This prevents the “opposition” from imposing the U.S. will on the country through the Congress but it also throws the country into a constitutional crisis. Maduro has repeatedly claimed that he is a victim of “unconventional war” being waged on his country by the United States. His claims, however, have resulted in laughter and derision in Western corporate media which is itself a part of the apparatus attempting to overthrow Maduro.
The Patrick Duddy Paper
As mentioned in previous articles I have written on Venezuela, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Patrick Duddy, published a paper in the official CFR magazine, entitled “Political Unrest In Venezuela,” in which he provided a clear list of possible military, financial, and political contingency measures to be taken after the elections of October 7, 2012.
Duddy cited the repeated warnings made by Radonski during the campaign regarding the possibility of chaos, destabilization, violence and even civil war in the event of his failure to win the election in order to suggest that these conditions may arise out of Chavez’ sabotage of Venezuelan elections. However, the reality is that the violence and chaos that ensued over election results was much more likely to have been a legitimate and organic reaction to the election of Radonski who is seen as much more favorable toward dismantling many of the social programs that Chavez heavily invested in. Even Duddy admits in his paper that a Chavez loss might result in riots by government workers “before Capriles can be inaugurated.”
In his paper, Duddy provided several instances that he believed were “Warning Indicators” of violence and political unrest as a result of the Venezuelan presidential elections. Among these indicators are those such as the following:
- Chavez dies or an announcement is made that his death is imminent.
- Violent crime is allowed to surge in the major cities before the election.
- Weapons are distributed to the militia.
- Basic food items disappear.
- Remaining independent media are closed and/or prominent journalists are detained.
- Sharp divisions within Chavismo surface publicly, suggesting insiders know Chavez is failing.
- A senior political figure close to either Chavez or Capriles is assassinated.
- Local supplies of gasoline are interrupted.
Although many of these conditions have been predicted or are quite possible inside the United States in coming years, Duddy viewed their presence in Venezuela as the signal of apocalyptic social upheaval. More importantly, Duddy represented this upheaval as vital to the interests of the United States – particularly those involving the need of the U.S. “to promote democracy, increase regional cooperation, combat narcotics, and protect its economic interests in the region.”
For clarification purposes, one may translate these interests to mean “to install puppet regimes via destabilization programs, create U.S. regional hegemony, further the drug trade for intelligence purposes (while imprisoning members of the general public), and protecting private banking and corporate interests operating or wishing to operate in the region.”
A Radonski presidency would not have been the first time a prominent Venezuelan politician has cooperated with the Anglo-Americans. During the aforementioned coup against Chavez in 2002, Radonski, who was Mayor of Caracas’ Baruta district, was implicated in the detention of Ramon Rodriquez Chacin, Venezuela’s Interior Minister. Although the charges of fomenting violence on the Cuban embassy during the coup attempt were ultimately dropped, the suspicion surrounding Radonski’s allegiances remain. After all, the U.S. State Department was quick to go to bat for Radonski when his trial was set to take place, claiming that his case was indicative of Venezuelan Human Rights abuses.
If the claims regarding Radonski’s association with pro-Zionist groups are true, along with his questionable actions (at best) during the Venezuelan coup, then there is little surprise as to why former ambassador Duddy and the Anglo-American establishment would support him.
With this in mind, Duddy went on to write that the possibility of violence in the event of a Chavez victory was very real. The question facing the United States, according to Duddy, then becomes “What can we do about it?” Inside the pages of “Political Unrest in Venezuela,” he attempted to answer this question or, more accurately put, how the United States could best take advantage of such a situation.
In the section of the paper entitled, “Mitigating Options,” Duddy lamented the fact that “The likelihood of success for unilateral U.S. efforts is low;” which itself suggests that, if support existed, unilateral U.S. action would be given serious consideration. However, it is important to point out that Duddy did not rule out unilateral action as much as he merely observed that support for it would be low.
Nevertheless, Duddy stated that “multilateral efforts that include other important regional players are far more likely to influence Venezuelan behavior.”
Thus, it is important to note that, among Duddy’s “Mitigating Options,” there falls the subcategories of diplomatic, economic and financial, and military options.
In terms of diplomacy, Duddy suggested that the U.S., “together with like-minded nations . . . . . demand that the OAS declare Venezuela in breach of its obligations as a signatory of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and encourage a secretary-general–led mission to Caracas.” He also proposed that the United States involve the United Nations, the European Union, and “other international partners,” in order to “to explicitly endorse regional efforts to restore democracy.”
Unfortunately, Duddy did not define what a “regional effort to restore democracy” would look like. However, considering the recent history of Anglo-American interference, along with other international “coalitions of the willing,” we can only imagine that the results would bring little benefit to the Venezuelan people.
Interestingly enough, the OAS is now “debating the Venezuelan situation.” Venezuela, to its credit, has already initiated the process of leaving the OAS, likely another sting to the U.S. push for Western corporate/financier hegemony in South America. Still, the OAS is doing just what it was designed to do by acting as an enforcer of the corporate-financier ideology on nations wandering outside of the purview of the Western establishment. Leaving the OAS will be a great stride in the right direction for Venezuelan sovereignty but it will not stop the OAS from acting as the regional guard dog, targeting Venezuela in the form of economic, political, and potentially even military pressure.
In terms of “Economic and Financial Options,” Duddy wrote that, in the event of violence or “interruption of democracy,”
the United States could freeze individual bank accounts of key figures involved or responsible and seize assets in the United States. It could also arrange for the proceeds of Venezuelan government-owned corporate entities like CITGO to be held in escrow accounts until democracy is restored and encourage other important trading partners (i.e. Canada, Spain, France, Brazil) to do the same.
He also suggested that the “United States could block access to CITGO’s refining facilities in the United States and consider prohibiting PDVSA oil sales to the United States while the government’ status is uncertain.”
In other words, Duddy proposed that the United States seize, freeze, and otherwise sanction Venezuelan assets until the election results are established to the satisfaction of the Anglo-American oligarchy. Clearly, a Chavez government did not fit the accepted mold formed by the shadow government currently guiding world society.
With this in mind, the next section of Duddy’s paper, entitled “Military Options,” is much more concerning.
For instance, in this section, Duddy wrote that,
The United States could encourage other Latin American militaries, as well perhaps as the Spanish, to communicate to the Venezuelan military the importance of complying with constitutional mandates, respecting human rights, and preserving democracy. While Chavez loyalists dominate the Venezuelan high command, it is not clear to what extent they control the middle ranks. Nor is it clear to what extent the military’s loyalty to Chavez’s Bolivarian movement would trump other considerations. In the abortive coup of 2002 the military temporarily removed Chavez but also restored him to power.
In this short section, Duddy did more than simply hint that the United States, along with other Latin American client states should “encourage” the Venezuelan military to depose Hugo Chavez and install a different government. Notice that nowhere does Duddy suggest the possibility that Radonski might have been the culprit in contested elections and post-election violence. The reason for this is that Radonski was not the target of the Anglo-American destabilization efforts – Chavez was. It is also ironic because Radonski had himself been involved in the instigation of political violence in the past.
Indeed, Duddy’s interpretation of “encouragement,” taken in the context of recent NATO-related adventures, sounds dangerously close to “direction” and outright “involvement.”
Of course, the entire purpose of Duddy’s paper seems to be a preparation at the academic level for a another coup attempt in Venezuela using “contested” elections as a justification. Much like the destabilizations taking place all over the world, particularly in Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine, the Anglo-Americans appear to be posturing for political, financial, proxy, or even direct involvement in the domestic affairs of yet another sovereign nation using civil unrest as a justification. More interesting still is the fact that the civil and political unrest used to justify this involvement has been fomented by the Anglo-American intelligence networks to begin with. Much of what Duddy had written about in his paper is now coming to fruition in Venezuela today.
It should be abundantly clear by now that the protests in Venezuela are not organic and that they are not the manifestation of citizens’ anger at an incompetent police state. Instead, they are the work of the United States’ color revolution machine that has disrupted governments and countries all across the globe from Syria, Ukraine and Macedonia to Yemen and Eastern Europe. There is really nothing new to the news in Venezuela except that the situation is deteriorating to perhaps its worst level since the beginning of the crisis. If Maduro and the Venezuelan government are serious about preventing their country from being taken from them in broad daylight, they will immediately begin the process of banning foreign money in their own domestic affairs as well as using their National Bank to issue credit stimulus for the rebuilding of infrastructure and food production. The United States will not give up on its attempt to destroy Venezuela but it should be robbed of its ability to do so. Any actors cooperating with the U.S. State Department should likewise be dealt with swiftly if Venezuela is to survive. The Venezuelan government needs to cut out the cancer of American money going to fund the color revolution currently taking place as well as the issues and problems that serve as kindling for protests and discontent. Regardless of what Venezuela does, however, we expect the American corporate media to continue peddling the line that the protesters are democracy-loving freedom fighters, despite the fact that the United States is funding them and despite the fact that we have heard this line time and time again with the same results.
By Brandon Turbeville
Source: Activist Post