What’s Afoot in Venezuela, and Where Will It Lead? An Open Thread

On January 27, Harold Trikunas of the Brookings Institution called on Barack Obama to support a hypothetical coup against Maduro in Venezuela in this video.

Earlier that week, he had also sent him a memo urging him to make some preparations:  ‘Big Bets and Black Swans – Memorandum to the President: Venezuela Breaks Down in Violence’.  He cites mismanagement, high inflation, product scarcity, no peaceful solutions, armed forces to ensure his radical price-slashing, looting, violence, yada, yada, then gets to the nub of his message: oil.

‘Although the volume of crude oil that Venezuela supplies to the United States has declined in recent years, it is in the U.S. interest that Venezuela remain a reliable source of oil. Popular unrest in a country with multiple armed actors, including the military, the militia, organized crime and pro-government gangs, is a recipe for unwelcome chaos and risks an interruption of oil production. A violence-induced regime change in Venezuela would create a volatile situation regionally.

Our leverage is limited, given our poor relations with the Maduro administration. I therefore recommend that your administration begin a conversation now with others in the Americas on the situation in Venezuela, particularly with Brazil, whose interests are also at risk. While dysfunctional economic policies are the immediate threat, at its core Venezuela’s problem is one of a failure of democratic institutions. We should engage others to see if they can help steer a possibly chaotic situation toward one in which Venezuelans have the institutional mechanisms by which to influence their government to change course.’

Pretty words, his caring for the regions’ ‘reordering of security and stability at the link (with Brazil in charge), but hmmmm; doesn’t it cause one to try to recall the many Wikileaks from Stratfor concerning Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution nations?  And by the way, did you now that our friend the Ben Bernank just joined Brookings to great accolades because he’s such a ‘distinguished Fellow?’  Gotta love it!

Why yes; take your pick of WikiCables coverage on the forum, but I like this one of William Blum’s (in part):

‘Would you believe that the United States tried to do something that was not nice against Hugo Chávez?’
Wikileaks has done it again. I guess the US will really have to get tough now with Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.  In a secret US cable to the State Department, dated November 9, 2006, and recently published online by WikiLeaks, former US ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, outlines a comprehensive plan to destabilize the government of the late President Hugo Chávez. The cable begins with a Summary:

“During his 8 years in power, President Chavez has systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and governance. The USAID/OTI program objectives in Venezuela focus on strengthening democratic institutions and spaces through non-partisan cooperation with many sectors of Venezuelan society.
USAID/OTI = United States Agency for International Development/Office of Transition Initiatives. The latter is one of the many euphemisms that American diplomats use with each other and the world – They say it means a transition to “democracy”. What it actually means is a transition from the target country adamantly refusing to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs to a country gladly willing (or acceding under pressure) to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs. [snip]

The cable summarizes the focus of the embassy’s strategy’s as: “1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.”  The stated mission for the Office of Transition Initiatives is: “To support U.S. foreign policy objectives by helping local partners advance peace and democracy in priority countries in crisis.”
Notice the key word – “crisis”. For whom was Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela a “crisis”? For the people of Venezuela or the people who own and operate United States, Inc.?’

It might remind us of Africom’s stated mission to ‘help African nations that are in chaos, or under threat of instability, eh?

So I poked around further, and found a piece at Russia Today from September, 2013: ‘Leak reveals plot to destabilize Venezuelan govt’, which of course by now is entirely believable.  Some snippets:

‘Documents obtained by a contributor to RT’s Spanish channel, Eva Golinger, detail a structured plan to erode the stability of Venezuela with a view to “returning real democracy and independence that have been hijacked for more than 14 years.”

The plans are allegedly the product of a conference between American company FTI Consulting and two right-wing Colombian groups affiliated with former President Alvaro Uribe in the Colombian city of Cucuta in June of this year.

Former President Uribe was an outspoken critic of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, referring to him openly on Twitter as a “dictator” and an “assassin.” The suggested aims in the plan are especially geared towards the municipal elections on December 8,” writes the document. In the elections the Venezuelan population will choose 335 mayors, 2,435 municipal councilors, 69 local indigenous representatives, 2 mayors and 20 district councils.

The strategies to be employed include: “creating crisis on the streets, facilitating the intervention of North America and NATO forces with the Colombian army,” power cuts, food shortages, support and financing of the political opposition.

The document writes that violence should also be encouraged and “whenever possible lead to deaths and injuries.” It also gives special mention to Venezuelan opposition figure Henrique Capriles who lost in the presidential elections at the beginning of the year, advising support of his political campaign.’

The Western Powers, especially Barack Obama were slow or remiss in acknowledging the validity of Maduro’s election, and had staked their reputations on those municipal elections showing that the opposition to his ‘regime’ was more popular.  Oops; it didn’t happen; their ‘expectations’ were confounded.  Claims of a stolen election were refuted, including by long-time Venezuela reporter for the Guardian, Greg Palast.  It’s an hilarious read, enjoy it if and when you have time.

Now the Brookings memo was just a couple days in advance of the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that was about to meet in Havana.  The agenda was the reduction of hunger, poverty, and financial inequality.

From IPS News:

‘The goals, which even the presidents regard as “ambitious”, came at the end of two days of deliberations in the Cuban capital, and include action for food security, access to education and better job opportunities, as instruments to reduce inequalities in the most unequal region of the world.

“We have to integrate for the sake of our own development, but this is not just about more wealth and consumption, it is the struggle for human happiness.” — Uruguayan President José Mujica

By proclaiming a continent-wide zone of peace – with the exception of Canada and the United States – the region committed itself to act “as a space of unity within diversity”, and confirmed the two-year-old CELAC as the regional political forum for dialogue and collective action at the highest level, regardless of ideology.

The summit, held in Havana Jan. 28-29, was attended by the heads of all Latin American and Caribbean countries except Panama, Belize and El Salvador (in the last two cases because of illness). The meeting of 30 presidents also put an end to Cuban isolation.’

Well crikey; those are some pretty scary goals as far as the capitalist western nations are concerned, aren’t they?

And right on cue, from RT on Feb. 13: ‘Venezuela Coup?  Caracas chaos video: Gunfire, clashes as 3 dead in violent Venezuela protests’:

The accompanying RT piece dsicusses the back and forth accusations and more:

‘The government and the opposition have already traded blows over the violence in the capital. Leader of the opposition movement ‘Popular Will’ Leopoldo Lopez – who participated in the 2002 coup d’état against former President Hugo Chavez – claimed the government had orchestrated the bloodshed to discredit the Venezuelan opposition.

Nicolas Maduro responded to the violence in a public statement, denouncing the unrest as an attempt to carry out a coup d’état. He laid the blame at the feet of extremist fascist groups and said that those responsible for the violence would be prosecuted by the full weight of the law.

Maduro called for peace on the streets of the capital and said that the bloodshed had to end. His political rival during last year’s elections, Henrique Capriles also appealed for calm on the streets.

“Violence will never be the way! We are confident that a large majority refuses and condemns it,” Capriles tweeted.’

It’s interesting to note that Capriles is urging calm, given that I’ve read that he was par of the failed 2002 coup against Chavez.  But Lopez is now cast as ‘the worse guy’.   You can follow him on Twitter; he does seem quite inflamed about Maduro.

Zo: the scant four days of coverage including the LA Times, Bloomberg et.al., focus on the troubles that Maduro has caused the people, and his draconian and authoritarian response, including the arrest of students who have closed highways with burning tires, etc., as well as castigating his government’s ‘30% Profit Law’, claims that the military won’t support his rule, and attempts (if clumsy) to control currency, including having lots of it…leave the country.  The initial shortages that were reported with great glee by the Western Media was…wait for it: toilet paper.  Lines of shoppers were waiting to buy some, and indeed, that is a necessity, not a luxury.  More recently, the list of scarce products has expanded to sugar,  margarine, and corn meal and more.  Maduro blames the business community as well as Colombian criminals for stealing a lot of it, or holding commodities back in the case of the ‘pragmatic business community’.  Yes, there must have been a number of missteps by Maduro, but it seems also clear that the center-right and extreme right wing helped things get far messier than they would have been otherwise.  Aided by which outside forces, we might ask?

So by today, the Guardian is reporting: Venezuela‘s hardliner reappears as Nicolas Maduro expels US officials; President announces expulsion of three US consular officials and clampdown on protest called by Leopoldo Lopez’; some snippets:

‘After the circulation of Lopez’s message, President Nicolas Maduro took to the airwaves to denounce US interference in Venezuelan sovereignty while vowing to apply the full weight of law to Lopez and his upcoming protest. He also said he had ordered the explusion of three US consular officials who, he said, had been conspiring against his government.

In a pre-recorded message, Lopez said he would demand that the interior minister acknowledge the state’s responsibility for Wednesday’s deaths. The former mayor of the Chacao municipality of Caracas also said he would present himself to authorities that have issued an order for his arrest.

President Nicolas Maduro has blamed Lopez for leading a coup against his government with the aid of the US. The charges against him range from acts of vandalism to terrorism.’

The CIA jokes in the comment stream flame war were many, or would have been if they weren’t so grounded in historical truth, and were they not so serious.  Also of keen interest was a commenter’s link to Dr. Dawg’s ‘Constructing “Venezuela Protests: a photo gallery’.  Oh, me oh my; what calumny.

You may be interested in reading this piece at Pando Daily, ‘The truth about Venezuela’s “entrepreneurial” fat cats’; the author doesn’t give Chavez any free passes, and is quite pissed at those ‘on the Left’ who do, but certainly takes aim at the business community on a variety of issues such as how they undermined his reforms, and undercut his currency controls.  More discussion can also be found at Venezuelanaysis.com.

Many of you likely know far about Chavismo, Chavez, the failed 2002 coup, his death, and the roles the CIA and various NGOs have played in Venezuela over the last decade or two than I do.  We’d all benefit from your knowledge.

Bugger; I almost forgot what our brilliant Secretary of State said about the ‘situation’; from AJ America:

‘In reaction to the situation in the country, the United States urged all parties to refrain from violence but issued a stern call for the Venezuelan government to ease up its crackdown on the opposition and ensure democratic standards and a respect for human rights.

“We are particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protesters,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.  

“These actions have a chilling effect on citizens’ rights to express their grievances peacefully,” he said.’

Yes, we know about your way of enforcing democracy both here and abroad, Mister Secretary, so I will issue you the highest number of Har Hars! on my laugh-track scale of one to ten on this one:  TEN!  (You’re welcome.)

!cid_469EB5D5-3909-445D-9EA6-CC599D2C44B7

(cross-posted at My.firedoglake.com)

10 responses to “What’s Afoot in Venezuela, and Where Will It Lead? An Open Thread

  1. commenter tgs1952 linked to a piece at counterpunch by maria paez victor published today:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/17/venezuela-under-attack-again/

  2. saw that, good article. amazing how effective the brainwashing is. I even started to believe some of it.

    How long will the Western empire continue? I really wonder. I have no idea.

    if julianna is around here is an online community radio station in N.Mexico, I think is good.

    http://gmcr.org

  3. Uribe and his brother have an interesting history.

  4. a couple new ones are up at counterpunch. i gotta say, i’ve been surprised that folks have been so bloody slow to notice..except for the capitalist press, of course. Lefties? (if that’s even close to the correct term), not so much.

  5. But how can a government with more than $90bn in oil revenue end up with a balance-of-payments crisis? Well, the answer is: it can’t, and won’t. In 2012 Venezuela had $93.6bn in oil revenues, and total imports in the economy were $59.3bn. The current account was in surplus to the tune of $11bn, or 2.9% of GDP. Interest payments on the public foreign debt, the most important measure of public indebtedness, were just $3.7bn. This government is not going to run out of dollars. The Bank of America’s analysis of Venezuela last month recognised this, and decided as a result that Venezuelan government bonds were a good buy.

    The central bank currently holds $21.7bn in reserves, and opposition economists estimate that there is another $15bn held by other government agencies, for a total of $36.7bn. Normally, reserves that can cover three months of imports are considered sufficient; Venezuela has enough to cover at least eight months, and possibly more. And it has the capacity to borrow more internationally.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/07/venezuela-not-greece-latin-america-oil-poverty

    etc

  6. ha; i’d seen that weisbrot piece under ‘related links’ or whatever. the smile he’s sporting went exactly with it, didn’t it? but yes: the disinformation is extreme. at VA.com is ’30 lies told about VZ by human rights watch’. we know there will be some soft-soaping here and there, but some of this stuff is just hit pieces.

    ay yi yi: the uribe piece is a bit much to tackle for now; thanks for the link. i did spy that O had given him the medal of freedom, didn’t i?

    i thoughts some about how long empire, but i tend to see t differently on different days, do you?

    man, do ii need a song….

  7. oh shit: i forgot:
    ‘Sentencing schedule shifts to afternoon
    Posted by tnplowshares ⋅ February 14, 2014

    Judge Amul Thapar issued an order this morning shifting the time of the sentencing hearings for Michael Walli, Greg Boertje-Obed and Megan Rice. The sentencing hearings will still take place on Tuesday, February 18. Michael Walli will be sentenced at 12:00noon; Greg Boertje-Obed at 2:00pm; Megan Rice at 4:00pm.’

    http://transformnowplowshares.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/sentencing-schedule-shifts-to-afternoon/

  8. Flush the tiny turlizter on this FooKerry (like the Company has NOT Already “run Venezuela”)! Keep Citgo solvent, instead!

  9. well, they’ve only been trying since 2002…oh: and well before that. oil strikes? added: back then it was Royal Dutch/Shell, iirc.

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