Setting the Stage for Turmoil
Washington's New Imperial Strategy
by Chris Carlson, Venezuelanalysis.com
www.zmag.org, May 15, 2007
First used in Serbia in 2000, Washington
has now perfected a new imperial strategy to maintain their supremacy
around the globe. Whereas military invasions and installing dictatorships
have traditionally been the way to control foreign populations
and keep them out of the way of business, the U.S. government
has now developed a new strategy that is not so messy or brutal,
and much more sleek; so sleek, in fact, that it's almost invisible.
It was so invisible in Serbia that no
one seemed to notice in 2000 when a regime was toppled, the country
was opened to massive privatization, and huge public-sector industries,
businesses, and natural resources fell into the hands of U.S.
and multinational corporations. Likewise, few have noticed as
countries in the former Soviet-bloc have recently been victims
of the same strategy, with the exact same results.
Nations that do not give in to the demands of the empire and the
expansion of global capitalism are targeted by an undercover,
well-designed plan to change the political situation in the country,
and open it up to corporate investors. U.S.-supported groups inside
the country overthrow the president, making it seem like there
is no outside intervention. And now, Washington has turned toward
its new biggest threat: Latin America, and more specifically,
The Rise of the New World Order
During the second half of the twentieth century, capitalists in
the first world began to saturate domestic opportunities for investment
and growth. Big business reached a point where possibilities for
expansion within national borders were mostly exhausted, and the
only option for growth was to look for new opportunities abroad.
Growing corporate conglomerates looked to expand their operations
throughout the world, investing, privatizing, and buying up everything
they could get their hands on. National capital was looking to
go international, and by the end of the century, capitalism had
become truly global.
"Get big, or get eaten," was their new philosophy, and
they decided to get big by eating whole nations. With the help
of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, economies
everywhere were opened up to privatization. The phone systems,
electrical grids, water systems, and natural resources were bought
up by wealthy capitalists in countries around the world. Free-market
capitalism now ruled the day; a paradise for international capital
as the world's wealth became more and more concentrated in their
Some nations, however, were determined to not be eaten. Privatization
was an unpopular idea among populations who had developed the
crazy idea that their natural resources belonged to them, and
not foreign corporations. Resistance developed in several areas
of the world, and some nations would not consent to the logic
of global capitalism. Washington, however, was determined to open
the world up to corporate expansion. They would oblige those countries
that didn't comply, either by force or by cunning.
The Case of Yugoslavia: A Model for Regime Change
It was in Yugoslavia, and more specifically, in Serbia, where
Washington's new strategy would really take shape for the first
time. From here they would carry it on to other countries in an
attempt to repeat the tremendous success of the Serbian experience.
And it's not hard to see why. After the toppling of the Milosevic
regime allowed for mass privatization, all that remained of the
formerly socialist country, including some of Europe's largest
reserves of natural resources, soon fell into the hands of U.S.
and international investors.
The strategy is a sophisticated one. With the intention of ousting
an undesirable regime, the U.S. government dedicates itself to
strengthening and uniting opposition to the government. This includes
funding opposition political parties, and creating non-governmental
organizations dedicated to toppling the regime in power. On top
of this, the U.S. might contract political consultants and polling
agencies to help their favored candidate win at the ballot box.
But in the event they cannot win the election, fake polls cast
doubt on the official electoral results, and the opposition claims
fraud. Massive protests and media attention put pressure on the
regime to step down, or to give in to opposition demands.
As implausible as it might sound, it was exactly this strategy
that toppled Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia in 2000. After the war
in Kosovo and NATO bombing had failed to produce regime change,
the United States worked to strengthen Milosevic's internal opponents
by uniting them behind one candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, and
pumping about $40 million into his election campaign.
U.S.-funded NGO's and electoral consultants
helped create a propaganda campaign surrounding the elections,
and worked behind the scenes to help organize mass resistance
to the Milosevic regime. U.S.-trained "election helpers"
were deployed around the country on election day to monitor results.
The U.S. even provided young activists with thousands of cans
of spray paint and campaign stickers to cover the country with
According to official results of the first round elections neither
candidate had won a majority of the vote, and so it would require
a second round run-off. But U.S. consultants published their own
"exit polls" giving Kostunica a huge victory and Milosevic
refused to recognize them. The opposition claimed fraud and U.S.-backed
groups staged acts of non-violent resistance to put pressure on
the government. Armed groups stormed the Federal Assembly and
the state television headquarters. Massive protests and rebellion
forced Milosevic to step down. There would be no second round
election, and Washington's candidate Vojislav Kostunica took power.
The strategy had worked.
But why had the U.S. targeted Serbia, and, even more specifically,
the small province of Kosovo? The answer goes back to the Reagan
administration and a 1984 secret document on "US Policy towards
Yugoslavia." A censored version was revealed in 1990 advocating
"expanded efforts to promote a 'quiet revolution' to overthrow
Communist government and parties."
The US government had worked on dismantling and dividing the socialist
Yugoslavia for years, supporting any and all independence movements
within the individual provinces, including the 1999 military intervention
to help the province of Kosovo break away. What was once a relative
economic success under the famous Josip Tito, the socialist economy,
based on socially-owned, worker-controlled companies, did not
allow for foreign investment or US capital. This was a mortal
sin in modern global capitalism. As Michael Parenti put it:
"Yugoslavia was the only country in Eastern Europe that would
not dismantle its welfare state and public sector economy. It
was the only one that did not beg for entry into NATO. It was
- and what's left of it, still is - charting an independent course
not in keeping with the New World Order."
Breaking up the country into smaller, dependent states and destroying
their public-sector economy was the ultimate goal, and Milosevic,
an admirer of socialist Tito, was the only thing standing in their
The rewards for their work were substantial. Once Milosevic was
gone, one of the first actions taken by the new government was
the to repeal the 1997 privatization law and allow 70% of a company
to be sold to foreign investors. In 2004 the UN Mission in Kosovo
announced the privatization of 500 enterprises, and U.S. corporations
came out the big winners. Phillip Morris bought up a $580 million
tobacco factory, U.S. Steel got a $250 million deal on a steel
producer, Coca-Cola grabbed a bottled water producer for $21 million,
and the list goes on.
In addition, western investors now had access to what the New
York Times called the "war's glittering prize," the
second largest coal reserves in Europe and large reserves of lead,
zinc, gold, silver, and, even petroleum. And the real gem was
located in the province of Kosovo; the huge Trepca mine complex,
valued at over $5 billion, now open to the highest bidder.
The success of the strategy in Serbia was an important lesson
for the Washington policy makers. They would repeat it several
more times throughout Eastern Europe in places like Georgia (2003),
the Ukraine (2004) Kyrgyzstan (2005), and Belarus (unsuccessfully
in 2001). In what became known as the "Color Revolutions,"
each U.S.-aided movement would remove a regime in exchange for
one more favorable to the "free-market" policies promoted
The preferred strategy for regime change
became this new sort of non-violent resistance, and now the empire
turned its gaze on South America, where a new threat to global
capitalism had suddenly emerged.
The Problem of Venezuela
If the Trepca mine in Kosovo was the jackpot of the Serbian intervention,
in Venezuela it is the state-owned oil company, PDVSA. Venezuela
has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, possibly passing
Saudi Arabia in total reserves if all heavy crude deposits are
included. And it is PDVSA that dominates in Venezuela with a total
monopoly over the nation's oil resources. With a production capacity
of 4 billion barrels per day, and a $65 billion yearly revenue,
the company also possesses a network of more than 15 thousand
gas stations in the United States including several refineries
in both the U.S. and Europe making it the second largest company
in all of Latin America.
You can be sure that corporate investors would love to get their
hands on the PDVSA company, along with other public sector companies
in Venezuela. In fact, they were doing just that throughout the
1990's. By 1998, multinational corporations had already bought
up the national phone company, the largest electricity company,
and PDVSA was going through what they called an "opening"
to international capital; a prettier way of saying privatization.
But that same year, Hugo Chavez was elected president on an anti-imperialist
platform, and the auctioning-off of Venezuela came to an abrupt
halt. In fact, Hugo Chavez has become a real problem for the corporate
imperialists and their servants in Washington. Not only has he
stopped privatization, but he is reversing it by re-nationalizing
all that was once privatized. The privatization of the state oil
company is now prohibited by law, and his government has taken
complete control of it, using it to finance the country's development.
But what is even more worrying for Washington and their corporate
sponsors is how this trend is spreading through Latin America.
The Chavez government has built close ties to many of his neighbors,
and many are following in his footsteps. Countries like Bolivia
and Ecuador are taking greater control of their huge gas and oil
reserves, leaving less room for the huge corporations that hoped
to one day own them.
And so, just as they did in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and others,
Washington has deployed its forces in Venezuela with the intention
of getting rid of the Chavez menace. After trying many things
over the years including a short-lived coup, electoral manipulation,
and mass protests, Washington has not been able to topple the
popular leader. But they haven't given up. To the contrary, they've
actually just continued to increase their level of involvement.
Repeating the East European experience in Venezuela
The new imperial strategy includes something called "American
Corners." These "corners" are small offices set
up by Washington throughout the target country that basically
serve as mini-embassies. It is not completely clear what exactly
these "corners" do, but inside you will find an array
of information about the United States, including study abroad
opportunities, English classes, and pro-U.S. propaganda. On top
of this, the mini-embassies also organize events, trainings, and
lectures for young students.
Interestingly, they seem to be very abundant in countries that
Washington seeks to destabilize. The former Yugoslavian countries
have a total of 22 American Corners, including 7 in Serbia. The
Ukraine has 24, Belarus 11, Russia 30, even Iraq, with 11. By
far the highest concentration of the "corners" is in
Eastern Europe, where Washington has focused its destabilization
efforts in recent years.
There are at least 4 "American Corners" in Venezuela,
the most for any Latin American country, and the U.S. also finances
literally hundreds of organizations throughout the country to
the tune of more than $5 million a year. Together, these U.S.-funded
organizations are working to implant the Eastern European experience
in Venezuela. As reported by Reuters, the Venezuelan opposition
is already learning the Serbian tactics to overthrow a regime
from a retired U.S. army colonel named Robert Helvey.
"Helvey, who has taught young activists in Myanmar and Serbian
students who helped topple the former Yugoslav leader Slobodan
Milosevic in 2000, is giving courses on non-violent opposition
tactics this week at an east Caracas university," said the
article. "Neither Helvey nor the organizers of the Caracas
seminar would give details of exactly what opposition tactics
were being taught. But in his work in Serbia before Milosevic's
fall, Helvey briefed students on ways to organize a strike and
on how to undermine the authority of a dictatorial regime,"
And more recently, in the university city of Mérida, history
professor from Texas, Neil Foley, hosted an event sponsored by
the U.S. embassy and the Venezuelan-American Center (Cevam), not
an official "American Corner" but serving the same purpose.
Foley, who has also spoken in various "American Corners"
in Serbia, gave speeches in both Bolivia and Venezuela on "American
I attended one of Foley's speeches and, as expected, it was a
complete pro-U.S. propaganda campaign imposed upon the university
students. The professor gave exactly the message that the U.S.
Embassy had paid him to give, speaking wonders about American
society and "American democracy." According to Foley,
the United States solves all of its problems by tolerance for
others and an all-inclusive "dialogue," between opposing
parties. And sending a clear hint to the Venezuelan students,
Foley implied that any government that does not live up to these
standards "must be overthrown."
All of these efforts come together into a nationwide campaign
to unite, strengthen, and mobilize opposition to the democratically
elected Chavez government. The ultimate goal, of course, is to
destabilize the government by organizing and directing opposition
groups to commit acts of peaceful resistance and mass protests.
Just like they did in 2002, when the Venezuelan opposition groups
staged massive protests that turned violent, and eventually led
to the temporary overthrow of the Chavez government, the U.S.-financed
campaign seeks to destabilize the government in any way they can,
perhaps provoking violence for which they will later blame the
Now nearly every element of the strategy used in Serbia and other
Eastern European countries has been implemented in Venezuela as
Washington directs and controls the campaign of the Venezuelan
opposition. The same "electoral consultants" that were
used in Serbia, the Washington-based Penn, Schoen and Berland,
have also been used in Venezuela to publish fake exit polls in
an effort to cast doubt on Venezuelan elections. This strategy
of electoral manipulation was used during the 2004 recall referendum
when the U.S.-funded NGO Sumate and the Penn, Schoen and Berland
firm released false exit polls claiming that Chavez had lost the
referendum. They did the same thing before the 2006 elections,
claiming that Chavez' opponent "clearly has the momentum."
Both in 2004 and 2006 the fake polls would give credence to the
opposition's claims of fraud with the hope of producing massive
protests against the government. The strategy mostly failed, but
it did cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Chavez government and
weakened its image internationally.
The destabilization attempts are taking form in a concrete way
in the coming weeks in the form of huge anti-government protests
in Caracas to reject the government's actions against the private
TV channel RCTV. Opposition groups have organized around the government
decision, claiming that it steps on their "freedom of expression,"
and have organized a series of large protests in the capital leading
up to a massive march on May 27th, the day RCTV's broadcast license
All the private media have played a role in advertising and calling
on viewers to attend the march to protest against the government.
All expectations are that there will be a huge turnout by both
pro-government and anti-government groups, and the government
has already warned of the possibility that violence could be used
during the march in an attempt to blame the government and destabilize
the regime. In the last few days, government intelligence found
5 sniper rifles in the hands of opposition groups as well as 144
Molotov cocktails in what appears to be evidence that there are
plans for some sort of violence.
It was exactly this kind of protest in 2002 that led to dozens
of deaths, hundreds wounded, and the temporary overthrow of the
Chavez government. Private media channels like RCTV manipulated
video footage to blame deaths on Chavez supporters, and condemned
the government for human rights abuses. So this time government
officials have called on pro-government activists to monitor the
opposition protests with photos and video on May 27th and May
28th in order to avoid a situation similar to the 2002 coup.
If it had not been for huge pro-government protests after Chavez
had been overthrown in 2002, Washington's strategy might have
already gotten rid of the popular president. But the strategy
failed, and so the empire keeps trying. Just as they did in the
Ukraine, Serbia, Georgia and others, the strategy requires getting
a large number of people into the streets to protest against the
government. Regardless of whether the government is popularly-supported
or not, or democratically-elected or not, the opposition groups
attempt to impose their will on the government by putting on the
What most protesters probably do not know is that they are simply
pawns in a larger strategy to open up the world to "free-market"
global capitalism and corporate-dominated privatizations. While
huge multinational corporations carve up the world among themselves,
small nations like Serbia and Venezuela are simply unfortunate
obstacles to their objectives. In the worldwide scramble to see
who will get bigger, and who will get eaten, the fact that some
countries would prefer not to be eaten simply doesn't matter to
the bureaucrats in Washington.