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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.
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.
made its unannounced arrival. The United States' premier landingcraft for invasion forces, the
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
's visit, the aircraft carrierU.S.S.
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
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