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03-24-08 Cp-The Coming War on Venezuela by George Ciccariell

03-24-08 Cp-The Coming War on Venezuela by George Ciccariell

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Published by Mark Welkie

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Published by: Mark Welkie on Mar 13, 2011
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March 24, 2008
Eva Golinger's Bush v. Chavez
The Coming War on Venezuela
By GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHERMore than a year ago, I attended the official book release for the Venezuelan editionof Eva Golinger's
Bush Versus Chávez 
, published by Monte Avila, and the book hadpreviously been printed in Cuba by Editorial José Martí. I recount this to make thefollowing point: long before the publication of 
Bush Versus Chávez 
in the currentEnglish-language edition, the book was already a crucial contribution to internationaldebates regarding United States' efforts to destroy Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution.In choosing to publish the English edition of the book, Monthly Review Press hasopened that debate to an entirely new audience, and for this we should be grateful.Furthermore, in an effort to streamline production, Monthly Review has further madethe appendices to
Bush Versus Chávez 
, largely composed of declassified or leakeddocuments, available publicly on its website, at the address:http://monthlyreview.org/bushvchavez.htm.
A New Toolbox
Golinger, a U.S.-born lawyer who has recently taken up full-time residence inVenezuela (and Venezuelan citizenship), first shot to prominence with her 2005 book
The Chávez Code: Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela
. There, Golinger drew on amultitude of documents requested via the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) tothoroughly and convincingly document the role of the U.S. government in fundingand sponsoring those Venezuelan opposition groups that participated in theundemocratic and illegal overthrow of Chávez in April 2002, most of which alsosigned the interim government's Carmona Decree which dissolved allconstitutionally-sanctioned branches of Venezuelan power. All this againstCondoleezza Rice's recent claim, patently preposterous, that "we've always had agood relationship with Venezuela."In
Bush Versus Chávez 
, Golinger continues this diabolical narrative, this time relyingless on FOIA requests than on a series of other key documents and bits of testimonygleaned from anonymous sources. After the failed 2002 coup, Golinger documentshow the United States changed its tack slightly, drawing upon the variety of experiences gained in the military overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile and theelectoral overthrow of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. While it would be easy to say thatthis represented a "Nicaraguanization" of U.S. policy in the aftermath of the botchedcoup, in reality this new policy draws equally heavily on the many other elementsthat constituted the multifaceted war against Allende, and hence the thesis of the"Chileanization" of Venezuela remains all-too-relevant.
 
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The key institutional devices deployed by the U.S. in its covert support for the coupremained the same in its aftermath: the neoconservative National Endowment forDemocracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), bothconvenient mechanisms for bypassing Congressional oversight. What was new onthis front, as Golinger demonstrates, was the establishment by USAID in the monthsfollowing the coup of a sinister-sounding Office of Transition Affairs (OTI). Both theNED and USAID (via the OTI) immediately began to shift strategies, providing covertsupport for the opposition-led bosses lockout of the oil industry which crippled theVenezuelan economy for two months in late 2002 and early 2003, and when thisfailed, by providing direct support for efforts to unseat Chávez electorally (a làNicaragua) in a 2004 recall referendum spearheaded by opposition "civil society"organization Súmate. Needless to say, doing so entailed continuing to support thosevery same organizations who had proven their anti-democratic credentials in 2002,but such things are hardly scandalous these days.Through the popular and military support enjoyed by the Chávez government, allthese efforts failed, which is unprecedented in and of itself. In response to theemptying of its traditional toolbox, the U.S. government has been forced to diversifyits tactics even more drastically than ever before, and this is where
Bush VersusChávez 
comes in.
Domestic Continuity
In her analysis of contemporary U.S. strategies to unseat Chávez, Golinger speaks of three broad fronts: the financial, the diplomatic, and the military (43-48). But weshould be extremely wary of distinguishing too cleanly between such tightly-interwoven categories: the "financial front" remains largely in the hands of the NEDand USAID, agencies directly controlled by the U.S. government and the embassy inCaracas, funding the domestic side of the equation through support for destabilizingopposition organizations and even psychological operations (psyops) targeting theVenezuelan press and military.Since 2004, the NED and USAID have seen massive budgets earmarked for activitiesin Venezuela: currently, some $3 million for the former and $7.2 million for thelatter's OTI operation (77). Of the NED funds, most went to the very same groups thatparticipated in the 2002 coup, the 2003-4 oil lockout, and the 2004 recallreferendum. Súmate, which headed up the recall effort, and whose spokesperson andBush confidant Maria Corina Machado had signed the Carmona Decree, was grantedmore than $107,000 in 2005 alone. Súmate, to which Golinger devotes a chapter,had also received $84,000 in 2003 from USAID and $53,000 in 2003 and $107,000 in2004 from the NED, as well as an inexplicable $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (90). All of which demonstrates, for Golinger, that"Súmate is and continues to be Washington's main player in Venezuela" (91).While USAID's funding structure has become more secretive, a turn that Golingerdeems illegal, one project in particular has been publicly discussed: theestablishment of "American Corners" throughout Venezuela, institutions which eventhe U.S. Embassy deem "satellite consulates" (145). Aside from the patent illegalityof such underground U.S. institutions, Golinger points out that their primary functionis the distribution of pro-U.S. propaganda to the Venezuelan population.Perhaps most frightening on the domestic front is the strategic transformation thatsuch U.S. funding has undergone. Specifically, such funding has increasingly begunto target what had previously been considered core Chavista constituencies, such asthe nation's Afro and Indigenous populations (77-78). What Golinger doesn'temphasize is the fact that this has occurred alongside a concerted effort byopposition political parties, notably the NED-funded Primero Justicia, to penetrate thepoorest and most dangerous Venezuelan
barrios
, like Petare in eastern Caracas.
 
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While this domestic element has remained shockingly continuous, with the U.S.continuing to directly fund the groups involved in Chávez's 2002 overthrow, themilitary and diplomatic fronts are where Golinger reveals some veritably frighteningnew developments.
Asymmetrical Aggression
Perhaps the most intriguing and frightening revelation in
Bush Versus Chávez 
surrounds a 2001 NATO exercise carried out in Spain under the title "Plan Balboa."Here we should bear in mind the open support provided by then Popular Party PrimeMinister José Maria Aznar for the brief coup against Chávez. And while we might bestruck by the irony of naming a NATO operation after the Spanish conquistador whoinvaded Panama, the name is far more accurate than we might initially believe.Plan Balboa was, in fact, a mock invasion plan for taking over the oil-rich Zulia Statein western Venezuela. In thinly veiled code-names (whose coded nature isundermined by the satellite imagery showing the nations involved), it entailed a"Blue" country (the U.S.) launching an invasion of the "Black" zone (Zulia) of a"Brown" country (Venezuela), from a large base in a "Cyan" country (Howard AirForce Base, in Panama) with the support of an allied "White" country (Colombia) (95-98). The fact that a trial-run invasion was carried out
less than 11 months before the2002 coup against Chávez 
should further convince us that this was mere contingencyplanning.But Plan Balboa would be only the beginning, and Golinger deftly documents a seriesof increasingly overt military maneuvers carried out in recent years by the U.S.government in an effort to intimidate the Chávez government while preparing for anynecessary action. Here, Golinger rightly trains her sights on the small Dutch Antilleanisland of Curaçao, which she deems the U.S.'s "third frontier." Curaçao hosts what isnominally a small U.S. Forward Operating Location (FOL) as well as, notcoincidentally, a refinery owned by Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA.Furthermore, it sits fewer than 40 miles off Venezuela's coast, and more specifically,off the coast of the oil-rich "Black Zone" of Plan Balboa that is Zulia State.Until February 2005, Curaçao probably seemed to be of little concern to Venezuelansecurity, given that its FOL housed only 200 U.S. troops. But this all changed whenthe U.S.S.
Saipan
made its unannounced arrival. The United States' premier landingcraft for invasion forces, the
Saipan
arrived in Curaçao with more than 1,400 marinesand 35 helicopters on board (104). When the Venezuelan government responded tothe hostile gesture, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield claimed there had been a"lack of communication," while simultaneously declaring that "it is our desire to havemore visits by ships to Curaçao and Aruba [only 15 miles off the Venezuelan coast] inthe coming weeks, months, and years" (105).This veiled threat would come to fruition with Operation Partnership of the Americasin April 2006. In that instance, which dwarfed the
Saipan
's visit, the aircraft carrierU.S.S.
George Washington
arrived in Curaçao with three warships. The total strengthof the force was of 85 fighter planes and more than 6,500 marines (106). Were thisnot worrying enough, then-intelligence chief and Latin American Cold Warrior
par excellence
John Negroponte admitted around the same time that the U.S. haddeployed a nuclear sub to intercept communications off the Venezuelan coast (100).When we factor in the Curaçao-based Operation Joint Caribbean Lion, carried out inJune 2006 with the goal of capturing the mock-terrorist rebel leader "Hugo Le Grand,"there can remain little doubt that at the very least, the United States is keen toprepare for the possibility of a direct invasion of Venezuelan territory.
Of Terror and Dictators

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