Is Washington planning a bloodbath in Caracas?

by Stuart Munckton, Green Left Weekly

ZNet, April 05, 2005


The Venezuelan government headed by President Hugo Chavez repeatedly accused the US government of planning a "new aggression" against Venezuela, including a plot to assassinate Chavez, despite pro-Chavez forces winning nine national elections in six years. Caracas claims to have information of an assassination plot to be carried out "within 100 days" against Chavez, although the government has refused to reveal its sources.*

While Washington has dismissed the accusations as "ridiculous", further evidence was provided by a mid-March interview on Miami's Channel 22 TV station with former CIA agent Felix Rodriguez.

A March 17 /Washington Post/ article, entitled "Anti-Bush fears assassination", reported that the previous week "former CIA operative and prominent Bush supporter" Rodriguez, when asked by his interviewer about the assassination plot accusations, stated ''that he had information about the administration's plans to 'bring about a change' in Venezuela, possibly through 'military measures'".

Rodriguez went as far as to set out possible scenarios. He said that an air-strike aiming to kill Chavez was one possibility, pointing to the bombing raid then US President Ronald Reagan ordered in 1986 to kill Libyan President Muammer Qadhafi (Qadhafi survived the raid, but his daughter was killed). The Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported on March 15 that in the interview Rodriguez had stated that he personally expected to participate in a CIA operation to kill Chavez.

The /Washington Post/ pointed out that "Rodriguez's remarks cannot be dismissed as bombast. He is well known in Latin America for his role advising a Bolivian military unit that captured and executed Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara in 1967. He is well-connected with the Bush family. The memory of various White House-approved, CIA-sponsored conspiracies to assassinate Fidel Castro in the 1960s may have faded in Washington but they have not in Havana or Caracas."

The United States openly supported a military coup against the Chavez government in April 2002, which was reversed two days later by a popular uprising. Since then, however, the US Congress-funded National Endowment For Democracy has poured millions of dollars into the groups that supported the coup.

Washington's aim is to crush the popular revolution being carried out by Venezuela's working people - who are organising on a mass scale to take control of the country out of the hands of the privileged oligarchs who have traditionally governed.

The US is targeting Chavez because of his role in encouraging the mass mobilisation of Venezuela's poor. However, killing Chavez would only be prelude to further intervention aimed at physically crushing the revolutionary masses. The death of Chavez, the leader of the revolution, could trigger the kind of confusion and chaos that Washington could use to justify military intervention - directly, through US allies in Colombia or through counter-revolutionary Venezuelans. This would almost certainly be accompanied by a violent campaign to exterminate the popular organisations and the revolutionary militants in the cities and countryside, just as was done in Chile in 1973 when the CIA-backed Pinochet dictatorship overthrew the democratically elected President Salvador Allende.

In one infamous incident in Chile, a football stadium in Santiago was turned into a killing field when thousands of trade unionists were herded into it and many executed.

The cover of the April 11 right-wing /National Review/ magazine featured a photo of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro and the slogan, "Axis of Evil - Western Hemisphere Version".

The author was Otto Reich, currently a private consultant to the US government, who has served under the current administration as a special advisor to Bush on Latin American affairs and as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

Reich wrote: "With the combination of Castro's evil genius, experience in political warfare, and economic desperation, and Chavez' unlimited money and recklessness, the peace of this region is in peril". According to Reich, the US's "pressing specific challenge is neutralizing or defeating the Cuba-Venezuela axis."

As Eva Golinger pointed out in a March 30 Venezuela Analysis article: "The terms 'neutralizing' and 'defeating' are not friendly ... These are not terms used within the sphere of diplomacy, they are expressions used in the context of armed conflict."

In late March, the Spanish-language edition of the /Miami Herald/, /El Nuevo Herald/, began a campaign to whip up hysteria against the supposed threat posed by organisations set up in solidarity with Venezuela.

According to Golinger, the series of articles "pretend to expose a network of Chavez supporters in universities and progressive groups that should be considered 'foreign agents' or almost 'terrorist' by the US government and public." This supposed alliance of Chavista agents infiltrating the US includes university professors, writers, community groups concerned about the US policies towards Venezuela and the Catholic missionary group Maryknoll.

In an open letter sent the /Miami Herald/, Cort Greene from the US Hands Off Venezuela solidarity organisation, wrote: "Your so-called investigation is nothing more than a witch-hunt intended to scare and intimidate supporters of the Venezuelan revolutionary process ... Attacks such as these are reminiscent of the days of McCarthyism, when people and organisations were accused without evidence in order to suppress opposition to US government policies."

While the US is planning an attack on Venezuela, it is unclear whether it will be able to carry it out, and, if it does, whether it will be successful or not.

Despite repeated public pressuring of other Latin American nations, Colombia is the only Latin American country to join the US in its campaign against Venezuela. In recent months, Venezuela has concluded far-reaching trade and political agreements with Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay - including, in the case of Brazil, an agreement to sell Venezuela military hardware.

One of the key complaints of the Bush administration is that Venezuela is engaging in an "arms race" by purchasing 100,000 AK-47s from Russia. At a press conference on March 30, Brazilian President "Lula" da Silva, attacked this claim, declaring, "we do not accept defamations and insinuations against companeros. Venezuela has the right to be a sovereign country."

Venezuela Analysis reported on March 30 that Bush has personally taken on the job of trying to convince other Latin American countries to isolate Venezuela, speaking to the presidents of Mexico and Argentina, as well as Canada. However, the article quotes an unnamed Bush official as declaring that Argentinian President Nestor Kirchner responded by saying Argentina intended to continuing "dialoguing with the democratic government of Venezuela".

This is not just because of the economic agreements Venezuela has in the region, but also because the immense popularity the Venezuelan revolution has among the Latin American masses. This makes it difficult for other Latin American leaders to take a public position against Venezuela.

The most important deterrent to US military intervention, however, is the moves inside Venezuela to organise the poor masses into armed, popular militias. The decision to organise and arm the masses into units of self defence was crucial to the defeat of the US-sponsored "Bay of Pigs" invasion of Cuba in 1961, at the Venezuelan government has clearly assimilated the lesson - and probably so has the US.

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