Monday, April 22, 2002

The failed removal of Hugo Chavez (background on how Chavez got to be President of Venezuela and on the conflict) has been coming for a long time, and it is interesting to consider the mechanics of how it was attempted. Nothing like this would have been tried by the Venezuelan generals without U. S. sanction and assistance. However, the strategic importance of Venezuelan oil to the United States meant that it was unlikely that the Americans would support any disruption that would lead to a possible interruption in the oil supply, particularly now, with the Middle East supply in question. The brilliant solution was for the generals and the industrialists to pick a fight over the running of the oil industry, thus shutting down the refineries and threatening U. S. oil security. The issue was the Chavez attempt to replace the directors of the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), in order to promote an OPEC-supporting policy (lower-production, higher-price), rather than the U. S. client-state policy (high production to satisfy U. S. markets) that had been in place. What also stuck in the American craw was the new hydrocarbon law that raised royalty rates to almost 30% from 16.7% and required that PDVSA hold a majority interest in all joint ventures with foreign companies. Once oil production was shut down, the Americans had nothing to lose in supporting a coup, and it was allowed to proceed. The problem was that neither the generals nor the industrialists had the support of the vast majority of the population (it is funny that one of the main propaganda weapons used against Chavez before the coup were 'polls' purporting to show that, despite being elected twice, his popularity had fallen to very low levels, polls which we can now see were pure lying propaganda and have all the earmarks of CIA 'psy-ops'), and, most crucially, not even the support of most of the members of the armed forces (the role of the Venezuelan armed forces in supporting democracy reminds me of the role of the Portugese armed forces in bringing democracy to that country, and they should be proud of themselves). The objections of other Latin American governments also helped to reinstate Chavez (and stand in huge contrast to the reaction of the U. S. State Department, which stated: 'Democracy has now been restored in Venezuela' - a ridiculous statement on its face in the light of the fact that the first thing the stooge selected to replace Chavez did was to annul such things as the constitution, the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General and Comptroller offices, and 48 laws passed in 2001 - and proof, if any were needed, that the U. S. government has no interest in democracy in Latin America). Pro-Chavez forces actually managed to organize a rally of 100,000 people using cellphones! When every thing started to fall apart, the plotters attacked and killed some civilians and attempted to blame Chavez supporters for the attacks (does that ever have a CIA stench about it - the State Department made sure the lie was played up, using their new favorite term 'change of government'), but everyone saw through the lies (despite the fact that all local media misled the Venezuelan people, no doubt another CIA touch), and Chavez, and democracy, are back. Again, we see an almost unbelievable failure of CIA human intelligence. They had no idea of what support a coup would have (all they did was prepare for a coup by meeting to discuss the issue of Venezuela in November 2001, and then met with, and presumably encouraged, the plotters, possibly in part by arranging to give two of them $100,000 each), as they obviously got all their intelligence from the top generals and richest industrialists, who had no clue what was actually going on. Regardless of what they now say, the whole coup has U. S. fingerprints all over it (this must be what they mean by 'democracy-building activities in Venezuela'), and in fact may have had both CIA and State Department elements to it, working at cross purposes. It may also be interesting to see what the American oil company CITGO, owned by PDVSA, played in all this. There is even reason to believe that the U. S. military attache in Caracas was with the plotters in the hours before the coup (and/or possibly US Army Lieutenant Colonel James Rodgers, an aide to the US military attache, was with the plotters in the military command before Chavez was brought there). It also appears that the US Navy provided signals intelligence and communications jamming support to the Venezuelan military to assist them in the coup (and what about that mysterious American plane that Chavez saw while under arrest?). At least two of the plotters even studied at the infamous U. S. Army School of the Americas - I imagine this failure will make their new textbook on how not to run a successful coup. The wildest thing is the probability that the scary Otto Reich, possibly the most evil of the men in the U. S. junta and certainly the most coup-acquainted, was stage-managing the coup by phoning directions into the stooge chosen to lead it. The attempted coup left us with two funny incidents to ponder:

  1. The U. S. newspapers obviously had advance information from the CIA or the State Department on the coup, and wrote up (or, rather, retyped) little hymns of praise for its results in advance, so that the U. S. spin could hit the American press as soon as the coup started. In fact, U. S. press acknowledgement of the success of the coup was part of the plan. The coup's 'success', celebrated in the press, was supposed to make it a fait accompli. As the coup turned out to be a ridiculous failure, the U. S. press is embarrassed as the stupid lapdogs of the CIA, and the United States is, well, just totally embarrassed (are Americans not starting to feel just a little uncomfortable about the consistent incompetence of their current government?). As well as enjoying the spectacle, those with suspicious minds can take some instruction as to how the CIA works with the American press, particularly the 'elite' press, to attempt to effect a 'psy-op' in another country. We can also see the role of the Venezuelan media in assisting the plotters, and the long-ongoing background of lies about Chavez in the American press which were created to form the basis for the coup.

  2. Condoleezza Rice, a woman appropriately named after an oil tanker (or was it the other way around?), couldn't help but offer her gratuitous advice to Chavez after he was reinstated. She hoped: "that Hugo Chávez takes the message that his people sent him, that his own policies are not working for the Venezuelan people, that he's dealing with them in a highhanded fashion." Excuse me?! Chavez is a guy who was elected in two successive elections, almost was killed in a CIA-sponsored coup which was only defeated by the valour of the Venezuelan people (who, unlike another people I don't need to mention, care enough about democracy to complain when sombody tries to take it away from them), and the first thing he does is offer a gracious and non-vengeful speech. The mouthpiece of the completely unelected U. S. junta then has the audacity to offer him advice to take the message his own people sent him?! It was his own people who just saved him from a U. S.-run coup attempt! I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

In the good old days, Chavez would have been simply assassinated (think of Allende). However, the United States no longer wants to be seen as staging a coup, but wants to see a 'change of government'. This required forcing Chavez to sign a resignation (which he never did, but which was duly reported by the State Department and in the American press - yet more evidence of the complicity of the U. S. press in the coup) and go through the niceties of Venezuelan constitutional law to uphold the illusion that the whole thing was perfectly legal and responsible. I wonder how the upcoming 'change in government' in Iraq has been planned.