Coup D'Etat Rumblings in Venezuela
The Bush administration tried and failed three prior times to oust Hugo Chavez since its first aborted two-day coup attempt in April, 2002. Through FOIA requests, lawyer, activist and author Eva Golinger uncovered top secret CIA documents of
Since he took office in February, 1999, and especially after George Bush's election, Chavez has been a
HCI-FPFS sources revealed the plot's code name - "Operation Cleanse
It involves infiltrating subversive elements into the country, inciting opposition within the military, ordering region-based
Sankoh calls Washington-directed threats "real" and to "be treated seriously" to avoid extending Bush's Middle East adventurism to
More information on a possible coup plot also came from a November 13 Party for Socialism and Liberation article headlined "New
The article further reported Tibisay Lucena, The National Electoral Council chairman, said the Venezuelan corporate media was "stoking a mood of violence amongst right-wing students" through a campaign of agitprop, and Hermann Escarra from the "pro-coup" Comando Nacional de la Resistencia openly incited "rebellion" last August and then called for constitutional changes to be stopped "through all means possible."
The Venezuelan news agency, Diaria VEA, also weighed in saying "anonymous students planned on committing acts of destabilization" as the December 2 vote approaches. Venezuelan Radio Trans Mundial provided proof with a recorded video of a youth dumping gasoline into an armored vehicle, ramming metal barricades into police on top of other vehicles, and knocking them from their roofs and hoods onto the ground.
The Threat of Street Protest Violence
For weeks, protests with sporadic violence have been on
"We know the whole scheme," Maduro added, and he should as it happened before in 2002, again during the disruptive 2002-03 oil management lockout, and most often as well when elections are held to disrupt the democratic process. These are standard CIA operating tactics used many times before for 50 years in the Agency's efforts to topple independent leaders and kill them. Chavez understands what's happening, and he's well briefed and alerted by his ally, Fidel Castro, who survived over 600
Chavez has widespread popular support throughout the region and from allies like
Constitutional Reform As A Pretext for Protests
That was true for
On August 15, Chavez did that by submitting 33 suggested amendment reforms to the Constitution's 350 articles and explained it this way: The 1999 Constitution needed updating because it's "ambiguous (and) a product of that moment. The world (today) is very different from (then). (Reforms are) essential for continuing the process of revolutionary transition" to deepen and broaden Venezuelan democracy. That's his central aim - to create a "new geometry of power" for the people along with more government accountability to them.
Proposed reforms will have little impact on the nation's fundamental political structure. They will, however, change laws with regard to politics, the economy, property, the military, the national territory as well as the culture and society and will deepen the country's social democracy.
The National Assembly (AN) completed its work on November 2 adding 25 additional articles to Chavez's proposal plus another 11 changes for a total of 69 articles that amend one-fifth of the nation's Constitution. The most important ones include:
-- extending existing constitutional law that guarantees human rights and recognizes the country's social and cultural diversity;
-- building a "social economy" to replace the failed neoliberal Washington Consensus model;
-- officially prohibiting monopolies and unjust consolidation of economic resources;
-- extending presidential terms from six to seven years;
-- allowing unlimited presidential reelections so that option is "the sovereign decision of the constituent people of
-- strengthening grassroots communal councils, increasing their funding, and promoting more of them;
-- lowering the eligible voting age from 18 to 16;
-- guaranteeing free university education to the highest level;
-- prohibiting foreign funding of elections and political activity;
-- reducing the work week to 36 hours to promote more employment;
-- ending the autonomy of Venezuela's Central Bank to reclaim the country's financial sovereignty the way it should be everywhere; today nearly all central banks are controlled by private for-profit banking cartels; Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul wants to end that status in the US and correctly explains the Federal Reserve Bank is neither federal nor does it have reserves; it's owned and run by Wall Street and the major banks;
-- adding new forms of collective property under five categories: public for the state, social for citizens, collective for people or social groups, mixed for public and private, and private for individuals or private entities;
-- territorial redefinition to distribute resources more equitably to communities instead of being used largely by economic and political elites;
-- prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination and enacting gender parity rights for political candidates;
-- redefining the military as an "anti-imperialist popular entity;"
-- in cases where property is appropriated for the public good, fair and timely compensation to be paid for it;
-- protecting the loss of one's home in cases of bankruptcy; and
-- enacting social security protection for the self-employed.
The National Assembly also approved 15 important transitional dispositions. They relate to how constitutional changes will be implemented if approved until laws are passed to regulate them. One provision is for the legislature to pass 15 so-called "organic laws" that include the following ones:
-- a law on "popular power" to govern grassroots communal councils (that may number 50,000 by year end) that Chavez called "one of the central ideas....to open, at the constitutional level, the roads to accelerate the transfer of power to the people (in an) Explosion of Communal (or popular) Power;" five percent of state revenues will be set aside to fund it;
-- another promoting a socialist economy for the 21st century that Chavez champions even though he remains friendly to business; and
-- one relating to the country's territorial organization; plus others on education, a shorter workweek and more democratic changes.
Under Venezuelan law, and in the true spirit of democracy, these proposed changes will be for citizens to vote up or down on December 2. The process will be in two parts reversing an earlier decision to do it as one package, yea or nay. One part will be Chavez's 33 reforms plus 13 National Assembly additions, and the other for the remaining 23 articles.
Coup D'Etat Rumblings Must Be Taken Seriously
Now battle lines are drawn, opposition forces are mobilized and events are playing out violently on
In their anti-government zeal, CNN and other dominant media ignore the many pro-Chavez events writer Fred Fuentes calls a "red hurricane" sweeping the country. An impressive one was held on November 4 when the President addressed hundreds of thousands of supporters who participated in an 8.5 kilometer
In an effort to defuse it, orchestrated opposition turned violent and officials reported eight people were injured in the November 7 incident. No one was killed, but one was wounded by gunfire when at least "four (masked) gunmen (who looked like provocateur plants, not students) fir(ed) handguns at the anti-Chavez crowd." In an earlier October demonstration, opposition students clashed with police who kept them from reaching the National Assembly building and a direct confrontation with pro-Chave zsupporters that might have turned ugly.
It did on November 7 when violence erupted between pro and anti-government students, but it wasn't as reported. Venezuelan and
One pro-Chavez student explained what happened. She and others were erecting posters supporting a "yes" referendum vote when they were attacked with tear gas and crowds yelling they were going to be lynched. Avila TV had the evidence. Its unedited footage showed an opposition student mob surrounding the
The pattern now unfolding on Caracas streets is similar to what happened ahead of the April, 2002 aborted coup attempt, and Petras calls it "the most serious threat (to the President) since" that time. The corporate media then claimed pro-government supporters instigated street violence and fired on "unarmed" opposition protesters. In fact, that was later proved a lie as anti-Chavez "snipers" did the firing as part of the plot that became the coup. A similar scheme may now be unfolding in
In his public comments, Foreign Minister Maduro accused the major media and CNN of misrepresenting events and poisoning the political atmosphere. It's happening in
US Corporate Media on the Attack
On November 12, The Venezuela Information Office (VIO) reported that growing numbers of "US print newspapers lodged attacks against Venezuela" using "outdated cold-war generalizations" and without explaining any of the proposed democratic changes. Among others, they came from the Houston Chronicle that claimed:
-- constitutional reforms will "eliminate the vestiges of democracy" in
-- Chavez controls the electoral system when, in fact,
VIO also reported on a Los Angeles Times editorial comparing Chavez to Bin Laden. It compounded that whopper by claiming reforms will cause a global recession due to higher oil prices that, of course, have nothing to do with changes in law. In another piece, the LA Times inverted the truth by falsely claiming a public majority opposes reforms. Then there's the Miami Herald predicting an end to freedom of expression if changes pass and the Washington Post commenting on how high oil prices let Chavez buy influence.
The Post then ran an inflamatory November 15 editorial headlined "Mr. Chavez's Coup" if which it lied by saying November 7 student protesters "were fired on by gunmen (whom) university officials later 'identified'....as members of government-sponsored 'paramilitary groups' when, in fact, there are no such groups. The editorial went on to say Chavez wants to "complete his transformation into an autocrat (to be able to) seize property....dispose of Venezuela's foreign exchange reserves....impose central government rule on local jurisdictions and declare indefinite states of emergency" as well as suspend due process and freedom of information. Again, misinformation, deliberate distortion and outright lies from a leading quasi-official
Rupert Murdock's Wall Street Journal weighed in as well with its lead anti-Chavez attack dog and all-round character assassin extraordinaire, Mary Anastasia O'Grady. This writer has tangled with her several times before and earlier commented how one day she'll have a serious back problem because of her rigid position of genuflection to the most extreme hard-right elements she supports. Her latest November 12 column was vintage O'Grady and headlined "More Trouble for Chavez (as) Students and former allies unite against his latest power grab."
Like most of her others, this one drips with vitriol and outrageous distortions like calling Chavez a "dictator" when, in fact, he's a model democrat, but that's the problem for writers like O'Grady. Absent the facts, they use agitprop instead. O'Grady writes: "Mr. Chavez has been working to remove any counterbalances to his power for almost nine years (and) has met strong resistance from property owners, businesses, labor leaders, the Catholic Church and the media." Now add opposition well-off students. Omitted is that the opposition is a minority, it represents elitist interests, and Chavez has overwhelming public support for his social democracy and proposed reform changes including from most students O'Grady calls "pro-Chavez goons."
Once again, she's on a rampage, but that's her job. She claims the absurd and people believe her - like saying the media will be censored, civil liberties can be suspended, and government will be empowered to seize private property. He's a "demagogue," says O'Grady, waging "class warfare," but opposition to reform "has led to increased speculation (his) days are numbered." Wishing won't make it so, and O'Grady uses that line all the time.
The New York Times is also on the attack in its latest anti-Chavez crusade. It's been a leading Chavez critic for years, and Simon Romero is its man in
Romero also quoted Jose Manuel Gonzales, president of Venezuela's Fedecamaras (chamber of commerce), saying "Venezuelan democracy was buried today" and anti-Chavez Roman Catholic church leaders (always allied with elitists) calling the changes "morally unacceptable." Then on November 8, Romero followed with an article titled "Gunmen Attack Opponents of Chavez's Bid to Extend Power" and implied they were pro-Chavez supporters. Again false. Still more came on November 10 headlined "Students Emerge as a Leading Force Against Chavez" in an effort to imply most students oppose him when, in fact, these elements are a minority.
His latest so far is on November 17 titled "Chavez's Vision Shares Wealth and Centers Power" that in fairness shows the President addressing a huge crowd of supporters in
Romero's measured tone outclasses O'Grady's crudeness that's pretty standard fare on the Journal's notorious opinion page. He's much more dangerous, however, with a byline in the influential "newspaper of record" because of the important audience it commands.
One other notable anti-Chavez piece is in the November 26 issue of the magazine calling itself "the capitalist tool" - Forbes. It shows in its one-sided commentary and intolerance of opposing views. The article in question, headlined "Latin Sinkholes," is by right wing economist and long-time flack for empire, Steve Hanke. In it, he aims right at Chave zwith outrageous comments like calling him a "negative reformer (who) turned back the clock (and) hails
Point of fact -
There's lots more criticism like this throughout the dominant media along with commentators calling Chave z"a dictator, another Hitler (and) a threat to democracy." Ignoring the rules of imperial management has a price. This type media assault is part of it as a prelude for what often follows - attempted regime change.
On November 15, VIO issued an alert update to dispel media inaccuracies "about
-- the major media ignore how the government cooperates with students and made various accommodations to them to be fair to the opposition;
-- Venezuelan police have protected student protesters, and article 68 of the Constitution requires they do it; it affirms the right of all Venezuelans to assemble peacefully;
-- in addition, student protest leaders linked to opposition parties were granted high-level meetings with government officials to present their concerns;
-- on November 1, their student representatives met with directors of the National Electoral Council (CNE) and presented a petition to delay the referendum;
-- on November 7, they again met with National Tribunal of Justice officials and presented the same petition;
-- on November 12, Minister of Interior and Justice Minister, Pedro Carreno, met 20 university presidents to assure them the government respects university autonomy and their students' right to assemble peacefully;
-- VIO reported what really happened at another November 1 protest after students met with CNE officials; some of them then tried to chain themselves to the building while others charged through police lines and injured six officers; in addition, one student had 20 liters of gasoline but never got to use it criminally; after the incident, the CNE president, Tibisay Lucena, issued a public statement expressing his disappointment about this kind of response to the government's good faith efforts; and
-- VIO said students and university presidents from across the nation filed a document with the Supreme Court on November 14 supporting constitutional reform. Chief justice Luisa Estela Morales praised their coming and said the court's doors are open to anyone wanting to give an opinion. The dominant media reported nothing on this. It also ignored the government's 9000 public events throughout the country in past weeks to explain and discuss proposed reforms and that a hotline was installed for comments on them, pro or con.
-- finally, when protests of any kind happen in the US, police usually attack them with tear gas, beatings and mass arrests to crush their democratic spirit and prevent it from being expressed as our Constitution's First and most important amendment guarantees. In
Here's a November 15 breaking news example of our way in action. At 8:00AM, 12 FBI and Secret Service agents raided the Liberty Dollar Company's office in
Chavez champions another way and answered his critics at a November 14 Miraflores Presidential Palace press conference where he denounced them for lying about his reform package. He explained his aim is to strengthen
He then continued to stress his most important reform "is the transfer of power to the people" through an explosion of grassroots communal, worker, student and campesino councils, formations of them into regional and national federations, and the formation of "communes (to) constitute the basic nucleus of the socialist state." Earlier Chavez stated that democratizing the economy "is the only way to defeat poverty, to defeat misery and achieve the largest sum of happiness for the people." He's not just saying this. He believes and acts on it, and that's why elitists target him for removal even though he wants equity for everyone, even his critics, and business continues to thrive under his government. But not like in the "good old" days when it was all one-way.
Venezuelan Business is Booming - So Why Complain?
Last June, Business Week (BW) magazine captured the mood in an article called "A Love-Hate Relationship with Chavez - Companies are chafing under the fiery socialist. But in some respects, business has never been better." Writer Geri Smith asked: "Just how hard is it to do business in
Nonetheless, the economy under Chavez is booming, and business loves it even while it complains. It's because oil revenues are high, Chavez spends heavily on social benefits, and the poor have seen their incomes more than double since 2004 when all their benefits are included. The result, as BW explains: "Sales of everything from basics" to luxury items "have taken off....and local and foreign companies alike are raking in more money than ever in
The article continues to show how all kinds of foreign business is benefitting from cola to cars to computer chips. Yet, it restates the dilemma saying "As Chave zcontinues his socialist crusade, there are signs of rising discontent," and it's showing up now on the country's streets with the latest confrontation still to be resolved, one way or another.
Events Are Ugly and Coming to A Head
Through the dominant media, Washington and Venezuelan anti-Chavez elements are using constitutional reform as a pretext for what they may have in mind - "to arouse the military to intervene" and oust Chavez, as Petras notes in his article titled "
Petras is worried and says "class polarization....has reached its most extreme expression" as December 2 approaches: "the remains of the multi-class coalition embracing a minority of the middle class and the great majority of (workers) is disintegrating (and) political defections have increased (including 14) deputies in the National Assembly." Add to them former Chavez Defense Minister, Raul Baduel, who Petras believes may be "an aspirant to head up a US-backed right-wing seizure of power."
The situation is ugly and dangerous, and lots of US money and influence fuels it. Petras puts it this way: "Venezuelan democracy, the Presidency of Hugo Chave zand the great majority of the popular classes face a mortal threat." An alliance between Washington, local oligarchs and elitist supporters of the "right" are committed to ousting Chavez and may feel now is their best chance.
Stephen Lendman lives in
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on TheMicroEffect.com Mondays at noon US Central time.