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Connecting the dots in Venezuela (Read 6774 times)
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Connecting the dots in Venezuela
Jun 3rd, 2002 at 12:42pm
 
By Christopher Reilly, YellowTimes.org

We are being reminded daily in the popular press that evidence of terrorist activity usually emerges slowly, after the fact, in tiny bits and pieces. The pundits and politicos tell us that intelligent people must somehow "connect the dots" to create the pattern which reveals hidden truths.

Few of these pundits have spotted the latest pattern, bits and pieces of which, when connected like a dot puzzle, directly link the Bush administration, and U.S. intelligence agencies, to the attack on democracy that violently ejected Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez from his elected office on April 12, 2001.

Wayne Madsen, a former intelligence officer with the U.S. navy, told London's Guardian newspaper on April 28 that the United States had been considering a coup to overthrow the Venezuelan president for almost a year.

Madsen further explained that the American military attaches in Venezuela had met with members of the Venezuelan military to discuss possible ways to overthrow a democratically elected head of state, one that received 60 percent of the national vote in 1998.

While the April 12 coup was taking place, Madsen reports, the U.S. Navy was conveniently cruising through the area, engaged in non-coup related operations. Furthermore, according to Madsen, the U.S. Navy ships aided the coup leaders by jamming communications in and out of Venezuela by Chavez supporters. This tactic has previously been used by the U.S. military, which has a history of involvement in South American political affairs.

In the same April 28th Guardian article, titled "American navy 'helped Venezuelan coup'," a Venezuelan congressman accused Charles Shapiro, U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, along with two U.S. embassy military attaches, of direct involvement in the coup. Venezuelan congressman Roger Rondon reported that he saw Shapiro happily greet the coup leader, Carmona Estanga, directly after the coup in the Miraflores palace. Shapiro admits to attending the meeting, however he claims that he urged Carmona to restore the national assembly (Venezuela's congress), which Carmona had completely dissolved.

The American press may prefer to connect these new dots in a pattern that flatters ambassador Shapiro and protects his White House bosses, but more dots are continually appearing, and they suggest an alternate picture, the one presented by Venezuelan democrats who were the intended victims of the coup.

For instance, two of the troublesome dots are Venezuelan military men who supported the coup, General Efrain Vasquez and General Eddie Ramirez Poveda. These two undemocratic thugs were graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas in Georgia, which, according to a Washington Post article published in 1968, "is known throughout Latin America as the 'escuela de golpes' or coup school.' "

But even more damning were the dots presented by Greg Palast, published May 13 in the Guardian. Palast wrote that OPEC's (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) secretary general, Ali Rodriguez, notified Hugo Chavez of the impending coup several days before it took place. Calling from the Vienna headquarters of OPEC, Rodriguez told Chavez that after Libya and Iraq called for a new oil embargo against the United States, for American support of Israel, the Bush administration, and other groups inside the U.S. government, such as the CIA, would probably engage in a coup under the cover of the upcoming general strike called by Venezuelan labor leaders.

According to Palast's column, a Chavez insider told the BBC that, during the general strike, "several hundred pro-Chavez troops were hidden in secret corridors under Miraflores, the presidential palace." They were stationed there as a precaution, just in case the coup prediction came true. Juan Barreto, leader of Chavez's party in the national assembly, told the BBC that a paratroop division loyal to Chavez waited in the palace while the coup took place. They then telephoned coup leader Carmona to tell him that he must return Chavez alive and unharmed to the presidential palace in 24 hours. Carmona, knowing that a whole troop division was directly underneath him, complied.

If the CIA did have involvement, it may explain exactly what happened during the shootings that were blamed on Chavez supporters. Right after the coup, the Bush administration, through its spokesman Ari Fleischer, claimed that "Chavez supporters, on orders, fired on unarmed, peaceful demonstrators." The State Department made a similar statement, expressing regret that Chavez did not "act with restraint and [did not] show full respect for the peaceful expression of political opinion."

However, there are problems with the picture created by connecting the dots in support of this U.S. State Department story. Several dots still refuse to fit into any credible pattern of Chavez guilt for the murders. As reported in YellowTimes.org on April 15, 2002, one South American newspaper wrote that some of the dead found after the demonstrations were Chavez supporters. The newspaper wrote that sympathizers of the president were killed, along with the personal driver of the vice president, who was shot in the face.

Moreover, new video footage of the demonstrator still has not been able to prove that Chavez supporters fired directly into a crowd of demonstrators. London's Independent newspaper described "half a dozen men - one wearing a Chavez party t-shirt - firing automatic pistols into a crowd from an overpass, while police launched tear gas canisters into the crowd." Critics have pointed out that it seems a little too convenient for premeditated murderers, the men firing into the crowd, to have taken the trouble to clearly identify themselves by wearing "Chavez party t-shirt[s]."

When you connect all the new dots, the coup picture begins, more and more, to take on the shape of an oil drum. The Bush administration was nervous because of a possible oil shortage due to Iraq and Libya's oil embargo. Chavez, already aware of impending coup plans orchestrated by the Bush administration, made a public announcement that Venezuela would not join the new embargo, in the vain hope that he could placate the Bush administration and convince them to call off the coup. However, this concession was not enough and the coup was unleashed anyway.

Fortunately for Chavez and Venezuelan democracy, the elected President, a former paratrooper, took precautions by hiding loyal military divisions under the palace.

Judging from the level of friendship U.S. diplomatic leaders in Venezuela, such as Ambassador Shapiro, extended to the coup leaders, this whole process must have been planned for months. According to the Guardian, the United States had "channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to U.S. and Venezuelan groups opposed to Mr. Chavez, including the labor group whose protests sparked off the coup." The funds were funneled through the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit agency created and financed by the U.S. Congress.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), is the same agency that, in 1984, aided a Panamanian presidential candidate backed by Manuel Antonio Noriega, the previous commander of the Panama Defense Forces in Panama, who was considered a ruthless drug dealer by former president George H.W. Bush.

After that incident, as published in William Blum's Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, "Congress enacted a law prohibiting the use of NED funds 'to finance the campaigns of candidates for public office.' " However, as Blum writes, it was very easy to circumvent this law, as we have just seen in Venezuela.

What is strange is how the Bush administration can pretend to support democracy while providing large sums of cash to opposition groups inside Venezuela. These same military and business groups demonstrated their disdain for democracy by removing President Chavez at gunpoint, and then proceeding within hours to obliterate the entire elected Venezuelan national assembly. With a hint of irony, William Blum later wrote that the Bush administration would probably consider this "grassroots democracy."

One Bush administration member, who probably had a huge role in this coup, was Otto Reich, the top Bush administration official for Latin American affairs, and former Venezuelan ambassador in 1986. As London's the Observer wrote,

Reich is a right-wing Cuban-American who, under Reagan…reported in theory to the State Department, but Reich was shown by congressional investigations to report directly to Reagan's National Security Aid, Colonel Oliver North, in the White House. North was convicted and shamed for his role in Iran-Contra, whereby arms bought by busting U.S. sanctions on Iran were sold to the Contra guerrillas and death squads, in revolt against the Marxist government of Nicaragua. Immediately after the coup, Reich stated that the removal of Chavez was not undemocratic, once again repeating the big lie that Chavez had resigned. Reich further asserted the U.S. position that Chavez was "responsible for his fate." He then assured the world that the United States would support the Carmona coup government.

After the coup failed, and Chavez regained power, Reich was confronted with the truth regarding Chavez's "resignation." When a reporter asked Reich if he would apologize for supporting the coup against democracy, Reich answered sharply: "Apologize for what? If it's shown we made a mistake, I'll apologize."

So far, the world is still struggling to connect the dots.

Christopher Reilly encourages your comments: creilly@YellowTimes.org

Reprinted from YellowTimes.org:
http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?
sid=306&mode=thread&order=0
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