Dave Lindorff / CounterPunch – 2007-12-01 00:25:04
News Not Fit to Print: US Coup Planned for Venezuela?
Dave Lindorff / CounterPunch
(November 29, 2007) — The New York Times had a news article about Venezuela in Thursday’s edition, but it was about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saying he would cut diplomatic ties with neighboring Colombia. There wasn’t a word about a memo from a CIA operative in Caracas to CIA Director General Michael Hayden, uncovered yesterday, outlining a plan for interfering with a Venezuelan referendum set for Dec. 2, and laying out the steps for instigating and backing a coup.
The plot, called “Operation Pliers,” and laid out in the letter to Hayden by an undercover operative named Michael Steele, who reportedly works in the US Embassy as a “regional affairs officer,” was intercepted by Venezuelan intelligence and released publicly on state TV yesterday.
In the Nov. 20-dated letter, Steele refers to an $8 million US-funded in-country propaganda campaign against Chavez and the referendum, already being implemented, which is designed to institutionalize many of Chavez’s socialist reforms and to permit him to continue to run for president beyond his current two-term limit. He proposes trying to stall the referendum, which pro-Chavez forces are expected to win handily, and failing that, to then promote a campaign to refuse to accept the results.
Steele further confirms that the agency is working with international news agencies in an effort to distort reports about the referendum and the reforms.
(CNN had to apologize for a “mistake” which led to the words “Who killed him?” superimposed over a photo of Chavez broadcast on CNN’s Spanish-language international broadcast in Venezuela. Was this a deliberate CIA-inspired black-op?)
Among the tactics Steele recommends in his letter are:
• Promoting street demonstrations and violent protests
• Creating a climate of ungovernability
• Provoking a general uprising
• Working through the US military attaché at the embassy to coordinate with ex-military officers and former coup plotters against Chavez.
Even more darkly, the letter calls for initiating “military actions” to support opposition mobilizations and strategic building occupations, involving US military bases in neighboring Curacao and Colombia to provide support, and even taking control of parts of Venezuela in the days after the referendum, while encouraging a “military rebellion” inside the Venezuelan National Guard.
The CIA communication has been reported in articles filed by the Associated Press, but the Times and other major US news organizations have not mentioned it.
Instead, the Times today ran a column by Roger Cohen, which compares Chavez to the fascists of 1930s Europe, and which calls for defeat of the referendum. (Are Cohen and the Times part of the CIA’s propaganda campaign?)
The Cohen column is so rabid that it would be almost comical, were it not for the fact that there is a real threat of a bloody CIA-inspired coup in the democratic nation of Venezuela.
In fact, I thought it would be fun and instructive to alter Cohen’s hit piece a bit, substituting the US for Venezuela, and Bush and Cheney for Chavez, to show its hypocrisy. Here then, a sample of the only lightly tweaked column:
Shutting Up America’s Bush and Cheney
Roger Cohen (courtesy of editing by Dave Lindorff)
It was a fascist general in 1930s Spain who coined the phrase “Viva la muerte!” or “Long live death!” Essentially meaningless, the words captured the cult of soil, blood and savagery that coursed through European Fascism, in its Francoist and other forms.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney hate Islamo-fascists; they are central to their repertoire of insults. But they have not hesitated to deploy the imagery of death to bolster their rightist brand of petro-authoritarianism, now operating under the ludicrous banner of “Homeland, Free Markets and Democracy!”
The slogan looks almost quaint in its anachronism. Bush and Cheney would no doubt claim American Revolutionary, rather than Spanish fascist, roots for it (Patrick Henry also invoked liberty and finality). The bottom line is this. America’s oil-gilded caudillos are getting serious about instituting executive rule, much like Franco and Mussolini.
I might add Vladimir Putin to that list. Like the Russian leader, Bush and Cheney have already used fears of terrorism, a pliant judiciary, subservient institutions like the Congress, and the galvanizing appeal of vitriolic anti-Arabism to concoct a 21st-century authoritarianism, complete with gulags and arrest and indefinite detention without charge. But even Putin has not contemplated going as far as Bush and Cheney with their doctrine of pre-emptive war and “regime change” abroad.
Americans will vote next November most likely between two candidates for president who endorse many of the new powers already claimed by Bush and Cheney, and the Congress, even under Democratic control, continues to grant them additional powers, including the power to conduct sweeping spying on electronic communications without any court order or demonstration of probable cause, the power to declare martial law anywhere in the country on the slightest of pretexts, and the power to expropriate private property of those deemed to be “threatening” the American occupation in Iraq.
“The measures amount to a constitutional coup,” said Teodoro Petkoffetc.
Bush’s and Cheney’s grab for emperor status is grotesque and dangerous-as Fascism was-a terrible example for a world that is moving towards democracy. Venezuela’s Chavez got it right when he told the assembled delegates at the United Nations General Assembly, shortly after President Bush had left the podium after addressing the same group, that he could still “smell the sulfur” left in the room by the American president.
Of course, we in America only read such things about foreign governments, not about our own.
Which may explain why despite the constitutional coup that has been occurring in the US over the last seven years, we have yet to see any hearing in the Judiciary Committee on the impeachable crimes of Bush and Cheney.
Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His n book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s newest book is “The Case for Impeachment”, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.
He can be reached at: email@example.com
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Castro Says He Warned Chavez About US
Will Weissert / Associated Press Writer
HAVANA (November 30, 2007) — Fidel Castro said Friday he has warned Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to watch out for US-backed assassination attempts, telling his close friend and socialist ally to avoid open-top vehicles that could be targeted by snipers.
The 81-year-old Castro said Venezuela is facing “a world tyranny” as voters decide Sunday on constitutional changes that would give Chavez unchecked power to further transform the South American country into a socialist state.
“The empire has created conditions conducive to violence and internecine conflicts” in Venezuela, Castro wrote in an essay published in Cuba’s two leading official newspapers, referring to the US.
Castro has not been seen in public since emergency intestinal surgery forced him to cede power to his younger brother Raul in July 2006. Since then, no foreign head of state has visited the ailing revolutionary more than Chavez, who was last in Cuba less than two weeks ago.
“On Chavez’s recent visit last Nov. 21, I seriously discussed with him the risks of assassination as he is constantly out in the open in convertible vehicles,” wrote Castro, who himself survived dozens of CIA-backed attempts on his life since leading the Cuban revolution in Castro noted his own experience as a combatant trained in the use of automatic weapons with telescopic sights.
The Cuban leader said the US should consider that if Chavez were killed or a civil war broke out in Venezuela, the world economy would “blow up” because of the importance of that country’s huge oil reserves.
His comments came a day after more than 100,000 people flooded Venezuela’s streets to oppose 69 proposed constitutional changes to the nation’s 1999 constitution that would, among other things, create forms of communal property, eliminate presidential term limits, and increase presidential authority.
Critics claim the reforms would give Chavez dictatorial power. The Venezuelan president, who has for weeks denounced vague, US-backed plans to destabilize his government, counters that the revisions are necessary to give the public a greater voice in government.
Castro said threats against Chavez will not end with Sunday’s vote.
“A victory of the ‘yes’ vote on Dec. 2 would not be enough. The weeks and months following that date may very well prove to be extremely tough for many countries, Cuba for one,” he wrote.
Venezuela has been instrumental in Cuba’s recovery after the collapse of the Soviet bloc brought the island to the brink of economic collapse in the early 1990s.
Chavez’s government sends nearly 100,000 daily barrels of oil per day to Cuba in exchange for social service assistance. Castro said Friday that trade between both countries has now reached $7 billion annually.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.