By Krell Williams. Republished from Roundtree 7.
“When is it considered legitimate to try to overthrow a democratically elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the US government says it is.”
For Venezuela, its troubles today must seem like a cruel deja vu. Leading efforts to overthrow Chavez back in 2002 were the very same three who today call for their supporters to take to the streets to force current 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 ten 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 with the overall objective of regime change..
When Chavez was reelected in 2006 with an even larger margin of victory, nearly 64% of the vote, the US shifted its support from the traditional opposition political parties and NGOs in order to create new ones with youthful, fresh faces. Over one-third of US funding, nearly $15 million annually by 2007, was directed towards youth and student groups, including training in the use of social networks to mobilize political activism. Student leaders were sent to the US for workshops and conferences on Internet activism and media networking. They were formed in tactics to promote regime change via street riots and strategic use of media to portray the government as repressive.
Meanwhile, other forces are at work in the United States. Recently the Brookings Institution issued a memo to President Obama stating ..
“…we should also begin quiet conversations with others in the hemisphere on what steps to take should Venezuela experience a violent breakdown of political order. Such an event could potentially fracture the regional consensus on democracy on a scale much greater than that of the Honduran coup in 2009. Maduro’s allies in the region would most likely push for his immediate restoration, but in the absence of functioning democratic institutions, this would only compound Venezuela’s internal crisis. The United States would need to work with key states in the region—Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia—on a regional consensus in favor of rebuilding democracy in Venezuela.” Venezuela Breaks Down in Violence
An interesting phrasing of language, essentially stating that should a coup occur, Trinkunas wants the U.S. to “work with” the Latin American countries including Brazil to help it succeed. An indirect message of support for those who overthrow? But it is no secret that the Bush administration and now the Obama administration has been trying to interfere and when that doesn’t go to plan, overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela.
A leaked document from November of 2013 shows that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) collaborated with the Colombian government and Venezuelan opposition leaders to destabilize Venezuela and stoke massive protests. The document, obtained by journalist and attorney Eva Golinger, was the product of a June 2013 meeting between US-based FTI Consulting, the Colombian Fundación Centro de Pensamiento Primero Colombia (Centre for Thought Foundation of Colombia First), and Fundación Internacionalismo Democratico (Democratic Internationalism Foundation). The third tactic outlined in the 15-point strategy document openly called for sabotage.
Sabotage for a democratically elected government? Why would the US support such interference when poverty has been cut in half and extreme poverty by 70 percent? College enrollment has more than doubled, millions of people have access to health care for the first time and the number of people eligible for public pensions has quadrupled.
Poverty headcount ratio at national poverty line (% of population) World Bank Poverty Index
The first thing that dies is truth
In its reporting, the Guardian newspaper cited tweets by opposition activists claiming pro-government gangs had been let loose on protestors. No evidence to substantiate this extremely serious allegation was provided. It also reported on the arrest of 30 students on 12th February, following serious disorder, including barricade building, tire burning and Molotov cocktail attacks, as if it were an egregious assault on human rights. The report was subsequently tweeted by Machado. By way of context, 153 students were arrested in the UK during the 2010 protests against tuition fees.
The images disseminated, for example, to a Green Movement activist in Iran and then circulated to her thousands of followers with the tag line ‘pray for Venezuela’s students’, and to other democracy movements around the world show Egyptian and not Venezuelan police beating demonstrators. This same image was carried by the Spanish newspaper ABC. Photographs and video clips of Chilean, Argentinian and Bulgarian police suppressing demonstrators and carrying out arrests (in their home countries) have been circulated and published as of they were assaults in Venezuela, and one widely reproduced image shows Venezuela’s Policia Metropolitana corralling student protestors. The Policia Metropolitana was disbanded in 2011.
Twitter has additionally been used to harangue commentators, including this author, who checked the accounts of her abusive critics to find most had only been tweeting for a day and in that space of time had accumulated around 40,000 followers.
A photo claimed to represent Venezuela but was actually taken in Singapore …
Another photo claimed to represent the massacre of protesting Venezuelan students but was actually a photo of a Syrian massacre…
So one may ask … Has there been a Coup d’etat attempt in Venezuela over the past few days?
Although the “smoking document” proof may be hard to come by, it’s certain that the US has been preparing for an installed Venezuela government for a decade. It’s also certain that the US has spent tens if not hundreds of millions towards that goal. We have consistently interfered with Latin America with the training of death squads at the SOA (School of Americas), planned assassinations, and consistently propped up political puppets in what we consider “Our Backyard”. So you will have to excuse my disbelief when the US State Department and others from the Obama Administration deny the latest from Venezuela.