By Carl Gibson
United States foreign policy can be summed up as hard power vs. soft power. An example of hard power is the U.S. backing the unsuccessful 2002 military coup d’état against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, when businessman Pedro Carmona Estanga briefly took power. An example of the U.S.’s soft power is the current situation in Venezuela.
A leaked document from November of 2013 shows that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) collaborated with the Colombian government and Venezuelan opposition leaders to destabilize Venezuela and stoke massive protests. The document, obtained by journalist and attorney Eva Golinger, was the product of a June 2013 meeting between US-based FTI Consulting, the Colombian Fundación Centro de Pensamiento Primero Colombia (Centre for Thought Foundation of Colombia First), and Fundación Internacionalismo Democratico (Democratic Internationalism Foundation). The third tactic outlined in the 15-point strategy document openly called for sabotage:
“Maintain and increase the sabotage that affect the population’s services, particularly the electricity system, that puts blame on the government for assumed inefficiencies and negligence.”
Coincidentally, during one of Nicolas Maduro’s televised speeches outlining his economic plan in early December, the power went out for 60% of Venezuelans for several hours. Maduro blamed the act on sabotage.
The current situation in Venezuela is eerily reminiscent of 1950s Iran. Democratically-elected Iranian leader Mohammed Mossadegh threatened to nationalize the country’s vast oil supply. President Eisenhower sent Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and the CIA’s near-east and Africa division leader, to Iran to oust him.
After sustained protests and civil unrest engineered by Kermit Roosevelt, Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi took power. What followed was 25 years of cruel brutality and fear for the Iranian people, and sustained energy trading with the United States. It was the CIA’s first successful overthrow of a foreign government, and it wouldn’t be the last.
Since Hugo Chavez died in Spring of 2013 and Nicolas Maduro was elected last Fall, Venezuela’s economy has been spiraling downward, as has Maduro’s political legitimacy. Once a top-ten economy, Venezuela’s wealth is based entirely on the oil industry, and the continued success of a finite resource. One large source of the economic malaise has been the mismanagement of oil money – Venezuela energy czar Rafael Ramirez recently admitted that 30 percent of oil revenues were diverted from their original purpose. And while a few corrupt individuals at the top are skimming the nation’s oil money meant for social programs, Venezuelan currency is rapidly declining in value as inflation rates skyrocket.
Mass protests organized largely by students have started erupting all over Venezuela. A brutal government crackdown has resulted in the deaths of dozens of protesters and the injury of hundreds more. While tragic, the deaths harken back to the leaked strategic document:
“Whenever possible, the violence should cause deaths and injuries. Encourage hunger strikes of numerous days, massive mobilisations, problems in the universities and other sectors of society now identified with government institutions.”
Several photos of supposedly Venezuelan protests and police response that went viral on Twitter have recently been found to be taken from other protests, in other countries, years ago.
The charismatic opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, has succeeded in uniting the country’s indignant citizens behind him. Lopez is the former mayor of Caracas’ Chacao municipality in 2008, but was banned from running for future elections until 2014 amid allegations of misusing public funds. The Inter-American Court on Human Rights ruled in favor of Lopez and said he could run, but the Venezuelan government vowed that even if he won election, he wouldn’t be allowed to serve. Now in the wake of mass protests, Lopez has even taken to Twitter, taunting the government to arrest him. However, there is more to Lopez than meets the eye.
Emails released by Wikileaks as part of the Global Intelligence Files reveal that Lopez has ties to and has met with corrupt, neoliberal regime leaders like Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe, Brazil’s Fernando Cardoso, and the sketchy Paraguayan Congress. In 2011, Lopez met with Uribe to court his support in his efforts to unseat Chavez. While Uribe was president, he maintained a friendly relationship with George W. Bush, and was later embroiled in scandal when it was found that he used his family farm to train death squads. He also used the DAS – Colombia’s domestic intelligence entity – to spy on his own citizens, and fed that information to death squad leaders.
In 2012, Leopoldo Lopez met with former Brazilian president Fernando Cardoso while touring South America to forge political alliances. Cardoso is best known for privatizing over 100 state entities and implementing mass austerity measures like budget cuts and public sector layoffs to combat growing inflation. The economic effects of Cardoso’s privatization measures are still debated within Brazil, as inflation rates rose by 25 percent within a month right after Cardoso’s austerity programs took effect.
Lopez also met with Paraguay’s Congress and vice president, in an attempt to enlist their support for his cause. Paraguay’s Congress effectively staged a coup against democratically-elected Fernando Lugo, calling for impeachment proceedings against the president and giving him just 24 hours to come up with a defense. Lugo says his ouster was a “paramilitary coup” done in retaliation for his efforts to help Paraguay’s poor.
The Wikileaks emails also reveal a 2010 document prepared by CANVAS (Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies) that names Leopoldo Lopez as an asset in the organization’s efforts to oust Hugo Chavez. As my colleague Steve Horn and I wrote in November of 2013, CANVAS is an organization specializing in manipulating social unrest in countries where the US government has an interest, shaping the political landscape to favor regime change and the installation of US-friendly, capitalist autocrats.
With the help of $65 million from the US government, CANVAS was behind the Orange Revolution of Ukraine in 2004, which led to the ouster of president Leonid Kuchma. Newly-installed president Viktor Yuschenko, a former central banker, quickly implemented IMF-style austerity measures that angered Ukrainians and cost him the very next election after he unsuccessfully tried to dissolve parliament.
CANVAS’s leader, Srdja Popovic, also has close ties to Michael McFaul, the US ambassador to Russia, attended National Security Council meetings in Washington, and worked as an informant for the private intelligence firm Stratfor, based in Austin, Texas, feeding information from his trusted activist contacts on the ground directly to Stratfor.
When looking at all of Lopez’s connections to US-friendly, capitalist leaders in South America, his economic platform catered toward the private corporations and investors who back him, his possible connections to CANVAS operators, and the fact that the US government allocated $5 million toward funding opposition activities in Venezuela in the 2014 budget, it isn’t hard to connect the dots. While the anger of Venezuelans is genuine, and the Maduro government is openly corrupt, any regime change in oil-rich Venezuela appears to be orchestrated by the oil-hungry United States.
If Lopez succeeds in ousting Maduro, it will be a dream come true for Washington and the wealthy western investor class. And it will be the beginning of the corporate conquest of Venezuela.
Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary “We’re Not Broke,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
(From Reader Supported News)