Behind the US war on Venezuela

April 19, 2008

Bush vs Chavez — Washington's war on Venezuela

By Eva Golinger

Monthly Review Press, 2008

$26.00 (pb), available at <>

Eva Golinger's latest installment in the battle between the US and the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, Bush vs Chavez — Washington's war on Venezuela is a fascinating account that looks behind the scenes of US policy towards the government of President Hugo Chavez.

The book is a brilliant sequel to her previous book The Chavez Code.

Combing through thousands of documents attained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the US, Golinger is able to bring to light the facts behind US policy towards Venezuela throughout Chavez's presidency.

Golinger focuses on the role of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), as well as their subsidiary organisations scattered throughout Latin America.

In the first section of the book, Golinger provides a history of US government intervention in Latin America and how its policy has developed in Venezuela, learning from past interventions such as in Chile, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti. From the information that Golinger has been able to access, a clear pattern emerges showing how the political moves against Chavez since 1998 have had their roots directly in US government bodies.

Golinger is able to provide evidence that the major political attacks that have been made against the Bolivarian revolution have been orchestrated in the US. These include the December 2001 one-day strike organised by the bosses, the April 2002 coup attempt, the December 2002 to February 2003 lock out of PDVSA (Venezuelan oil industry) workers and the shut down of the industry, the guarimba (a plan allegedly formed by opposition guru Robert Alonso, for right-wing forces to engage in widespread civil disobedience and violence in the streets of Caracas and other metropolitan areas) of February 2004, the recall referendum of August 2004, the continued build up of US troops in the Caribbean and Colombia, as well as numerous other events.

Golinger notes that "For the Fiscal year 2003 USAID's OTI office requested [US]$5,074,000 for its Venezuela operations ... In Fall 2003, the OTI requested an additional $6,345,000 for use in Venezuela during 2004. USAID also gave the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) more than $2 million for 'strengthening political parties' and 'promoting electoral processes' in Venezuela during 2003-04. The NDI's grant specifically mentioned collaboration with ["civil society" organisation Sumate".

The guarimba of Feburary and March 2004 called for widespread civil disobedience in an attempt to provoke the Venezuelan authorities to crack down. Similar activities had been organised in Chile during the Allende government and in Nicaragua during the Sandinista government of the 1980s.

Golinger writes, "The information about the actions — many of them illegal — of the US government in Venezuela, through the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department, and other entities operating within Venezuela and strategically from inside Washington, is voluminous and overwhelming.

"Since the publication of The Chavez Code in early 2005, we have witnessed a serious and scary shift in US policy toward Venezuela. Three major fronts of attack have been launched and are rapidly taking form: the financial, the diplomatic and the military. These have become the battlefields for which a new form of war — asymmetric warfare — is being waged on the Venezuelan people and their government. This is a war with no clear lines, a war without frontiers, and a war, it seems, with no end.

"The financial front commenced in 2001, when the National Endowment for Democracy quadrupled its annual funding to anti-Chavez groups that later used those same funds to plan and execute the coup against Chavez ... President Bush requested Congress to double NED's budget for its work in Venezuela during 2005-6, and again for the fiscal year 2007-08."

At the same time funding has grown for USAID and the OTI that operates out of the US embassy in Caracas.

In 2006, Bush asked US Congress to increase its funding for "democratic initiatives" in Latin America. "Since 2005, NED and USAID funding in Venezuela has remained substantial. The total sum invested in the years 2000-4 in opposition groups in Venezuela was approximately $27 million in US taxpayer dollars. For the year 2005-7, NED was granted more than $3 million for its Venezuela activities and USAID issued approximately $7.2 million for its Caracas based Office of Transition Initiatives and other Venezuela programs."

The US funds were shared among a variety of organisations, including the International Republican Institute, to "promote more responsive political parties ... to educate citizens on the election law and to encourage and provide them with the tools to claim their right to free, open and transparent elections" and the Press and Society Institute-Venezuela "to promote freedom of expression and journalist professionalisation and safety".

Not surprisingly many of the representatives of these organisations openly supported and, in some cases, put their signature to the Carmona Decree, which was the document that ousted Chavez in April 2002.

NED continues to classify Venezuela as a country that has moved away from democracy and engages in human rights abuses against its own citizens. Washington has consistently argued that Venezuela has not moved to stop drug trafficking, that it has not done anything against the trafficking of people and that it has not condemned terrorism.

The US administration has repeatedly claimed that Venezuela is a haven for Middle East "terrorist groups" and that the Venezuelan government provides "operational and financial support" to these groups. Successive US ambassadors to Venezuela have repeated these unsubstantiated remarks.

The US administration has also campaigned hard in the international community to create a front against what it calls, "the growing threat of Hugo Chavez". US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice continued to classify Venezuela as a "threat to democracy" and a "destabilising negative force" in the hemisphere.

Rice said during her confirmation hearing in January 2005 that, "I think that we have to view at this point the government of Venezuela as a negative force in the region."

Golinger also explores the new CIA agency the National Clandestine Service, which directly aims to gather intelligence on Cuba and Venezuela. She makes special mention of the report titled "What to do about Venezuela" authored by the Centre for Security Policy's (CSP) Vice President for Information Operations, J. Michael Waller.

This report, which was published in May 2005 has become the premise for US policy towards Venezuela.

In its opening paragraph Waller's report states, "Nowhere is the lack of a US Strategic approach to the Western Hemisphere more evident than in the unchecked rise of a self-absorbed, unstable strongman in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, who has made common cause with terrorism and the regimes that support him, and has developed a revolutionary ideology that has begun to plunge the Americas again into violence and chaos.

"It is necessary for the democratic nations of the hemisphere to come together and stop this rising threat to peace before it is too late".

The CSP also lays out a six-point plan for regime change in Venezuela, including promoting the continuation and establishment of anti-Chavez organisations within Venezuela.
Golinger argues that 2006 was a transitional year for US policy towards Venezuela changing from a "negative force" to a "threat to national security" and firmly placing it on the same radar as Iran, North Korea and Cuba, against all of which the US continues to consider the option of military intervention.

In conclusion Golinger writes, "Washington's war against Venezuela will continue to increase as it loses its grip on power in the region. The people of the United States have the choice of supporting Washington's unjust and dangerous war against a peaceful nation or actively taking the initiative to halt any further efforts to violate Venezuela's sovereign right to self-determination.

"People around the world are already rising up against such aggressions and defending their right against US domination and bullying tactics."

[Roberto Jorquera is on the management committee of the Centre for Latin America Solidarity and Studies based in Melbourne and co-national convener of the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network. Visist]

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