Venezuela formally asked U.S. authorities to extradite an escaped prisoner who was responsible for the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976, in which 73 persons were killed. The former prisoner, Luis Posada Carriles, is a Cuban exile who had escaped a Venezuelan prison in 1985. For a while he lived in Panama, where he was also captured for planning an assassination of Cuba’s President Fidel Castro in 2000. He was then pardoned in Panama, though, and entered the U.S. about a month ago.

Venezuela’s Vice-President, José Vicente Rangel, said, “We going to step up our demands for extradition.” “I hope Mr. Bush will take note of his own anti-terrorism policies and hand over Posada Carriles,” added Rangel.

Posada Carriles’ attorney says that the U.S. should deny the extradition request because he was acquitted in Venezuela of the bombing of the Cuban airliner. Also, if deported to Cuba, he would face possible execution.

Rangel pointed out that it is no wonder that Posada Carriles is requesting asylum in the U.S., “because during all of the acts that he participated in he did so while he was an employee of the CIA.”

On Monday, Cuba’s Castro said that if the U.S. denies the extradition request, then it would effectively be backing international terrorism. He also noted that Bush once said that whoever harbors a terrorist is as guilty of terrorism as the terrorist himself.

According to Associated Press, an unidentified U.S. official said that Posada is “excludable” from the U.S. because of his involvement in the plane bombing.

Carriles Posada, who is 77 years old and dual Venezuelan-Cuban citizenship, is a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and has also been connected to a string of bombings in Cuban tourist locations in 1997. He escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985, disguised as a priest, while prosecutors appealed his acquittal.

The extradition request is one of several that Venezuela has pending in the U.S. Two other requests involve Venezuelan citizens who are wanted for the bombing of the Colombian and Spanish consulates in Venezuela in February 2003.

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Lawyer Venezuelan-American Eva Golinger spoke in an interview from New York about her controversial book "The Chavez Code: Deciphering the Intervention of the United States in Venezuela," before its publication in the United States and a few days before its official presentation in Venezuela.

Q. How conclusive are the documents you published in your book on Washington's harassment of President Hugo Chavez?

A. The important thing is that the information that I have been able to declassify and access, like internal documents unavailable to the public of the National Endowment for Democracy, or NED, and of the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID support for anti-Chavez groups that today in 2005 continue to be financed by the U.S. government, which has as its final mission the overthrow of the Venezuelan government. These documents are very important to let the world know what is happening and in order to possibly help prevent the U.S. government intervention against Venezuela's sovereignty from succeeding.

Q. Did the documentary proof of North American harassment helped Chavez win the recall referendum?

A. He already had substantial support, but after I concretely proved with documentary evidence covert U.S. financing of opposition groups like Sumate and Plan Consensus Country -- which represented the opposition in June 2004 with a political platform for a government after Chavez shortly before the referendum -- the president's popularity rose and the opposition's went down. There are a lot of people in Venezuela who are not on Chavez's side, but who do not like the idea of an opposition that receives financing and orders from a foreign government either. The top-secret CIA documents that I managed to get declassified demonstrate that the U.S. government had previous knowledge and even detailed plans of how the coup d'etat was going to be organized, from provoking violence during an opposition march in early April, two months before the referendum. I do not know the exact date because they are crossed out in the documents, but the plans included taking President Chavez prisoner.

Q. What prompted you to undertake this investigation?

A. I am American and Venezuelan. I have been a person who has spent many years from my youth in the fight for social justice, which is why I became a lawyer. Since 1998, I have been writing about Venezuela for the alternative media because I am not a well-known journalist. What interested me most about the government was Venezuela's new constitution -- which focused particularly in human rights, my area of specialization -- and when the coup happened, it touched me personally because I have family there. Being from the United States, I felt I had the duty to find out if the American government had participated in a coup d'etat to overthrow a democratic and legitimate government. Many can debate on whether Chavez is democratic or not, but it cannot be denied that he was elected in democratic and transparent elections. And it seemed to me unusual that the United States was again intervening as it had done during the 1970s and 1980s in Central and Latin America.

The American government had a major role in an illegal action, and as a lawyer it was my duty to unmask the injustice if a foreign government intervenes in the internal affairs of another country, much less when it tries to overthrow a democratic government. That is why I did it, but I did not think that it was going to have the repercussions that it has.

Q. It is true that you have received death threats?

A. Yes, it is true.

Q. From whom?

A. All the threats have been via e-mail. I don't know if the names I have are true because anyone can open an account in Yahoo and write whatever he wants. I believe they are Venezuelans or Cubans related to Venezuelans, but I do not know if they are in Venezuela or other parts of the world.

Q. You are being accused of being a Venezuelan spy in the United States and there are allegations that Chavez's government has paid you a large sum of dollars. What do you say to that?

A. I had not seen that (she laughs). The question of me being a spy is absurd speculation and it has no legal foundations. The information I am uncovering and making public is information that the U.S. government itself is giving me and it knows who I am because we have been corresponding. In order to be a spy, you have to obtain data and documents secretly and then present them to a foreign government. I do not have any secret links with the American government and the documents that I publish in my Web page (venezuelafoia.info) are available to anybody who visits the Web site, not only to Chavez. As far as the money goes, I have just paid my taxes and the U.S. government has that information, of how much I have made last year and what my sources of income are, who my clients are. I am a lawyer, I have my own office. I am not going to break laws to receive money illegally or hide my finances either. Chavez's government did not finance my investigation and paid me nothing for the book. I had great difficulty finding a publisher as happens to any author with his first book.

Q. Then you financed it from your own pocket?

A. Yes. Chavez did not know of the book until somebody gave it to him; he then talked about it in his program 'Hello President.'"

Q. Chavez has referred to the book on numerous opportunities. Has anybody from the U.S. government, the CIA or the State Department contacted you?

A. No. Never.

Q. The fact that the first time the book was presented to the public was in Cuba has created much suspicion, taking into account the relations between Chavez and Fidel Castro. What about that?

A. Cuba has a vast and hungry readership. They are fanatical about books; the country has great publishing houses and the ability to satisfy public demand. In addition, they have some of the best translation teams in the world. I succeeded in getting them to help me translate the book into Spanish. Then they requested my permission to publish an edition for the book fair that took place in Santiago de Cuba last month on March 5.

Q. Cuba's Granma newspaper reported that this book is only your first step and says that you have more than 4,000 documents that show the participation of the United States not only in the coup d'etat, but also in the oil strike and the recall referendum.

A. That is true. Much of that information is in the book.

Q. What is going to be your next step?

A. After finishing the book, I received 50 percent of the document requests that I filed under the Freedom of Information Act, and I still need a lot of information. I have not yet reviewed at least 1,000 of the 4,000 documents I've received so far. They include State Department and Defense Department documents, and now with everything that is going on between Venezuela and the United States, and with the situation being so tense, these issues will continue to develop still further.

Q. But will we be getting continuing installments of your investigation?

A. Certainly, because the investigation continues.

Q. What is your true relationship with the Venezuelan government? Many have labeled you as being pro-Chavez.

A. I don't like political labeling of any type, but I share the desire for social reform, the social changes which are being implemented to achieve a fairer system, which would really take into account the majority of citizens. If to be pro-Chavez is to support a political system and a government that is looking for a way to meet the needs of its people, then yes, I share that political view.

Q. Do you admire Chavez as a leader?

A. Chavez is a person with an extraordinary manner of speaking and articulating his thoughts. It is very rare to see a person who spends so many hours speaking without losing the thread of the issue he is talking about. He is very charismatic; I have talked to him, and it seems to me, although many would say that it is not true, that he is a very sincere person, with the best intentions for the country, for Venezuela.

Q. Many people mentioned that after you published the declassified documents Chavez's verbal attacks on the United States increased.

A. They say that it was my fault?

Q. No, but that you indirectly helped to increase the number of Chavez's attacks.

A. If to know the truth somehow can help somebody to express himself better, in that sense they are right. But that argument is absurd because based on that logic then it would be better to leave everything hidden because otherwise people would know what is happening, and they are going to complain and to protest. To give somebody proof and the truth about a situation does not mean that one is increasing tensions. Sometimes, the truth hurts and the end result is not necessarily what everybody wants.

Q. Aside from these documents, do you think that there really is a plot to assassinate Chavez?

A. I do not rule it out. Very simply, it is necessary to look at history to see that that strategy has been implemented in other countries. Are Bush and his close officials are discussing Chavez's murder on a daily basis? I don't think so, and I hope that that is not the case. There are people who, of course, have publicly spoken publicly in favor of Chavez's assassination. For example, there are the declarations of Felix Rodriguez, a former CIA agent who was involved in killing Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Bolivia; he appeared on television in Miami speaking on the subject of assassinating Chavez. This is only circumstantial evidence; as lawyer I do not have solid proof.

(Pedro F. Frisneda is a writer with Tiempos del Mundo)

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The decree of expropriation of Venepal in January this year was a major turning point in the Venezuelan revolution. When Chavez announced the decree, in the Ayacucho room of the presidential palace, the same place where the coup organisers swore in their “president” Pedro Carmona on April 12th, 2002, he made an appeal to "workers' leaders to follow this path". He added, “any factories closed or abandoned, we are going to take them over. All of them.”

CNV workers in struggle, August 2003
Photo : Frédéric Lévêque

The decision to nationalise Venepal and put it under the administration of the workers, and the very high profile way in which the decision was taken, was bound to have an impact amongst other groups of workers in the same situation. As part of the relentless campaign of the Venezuelan capitalists against the Chavez government they became engaged in a campaign of economic sabotage. This campaign reached its peak during the bosses’ lockout in December 2002 and January 2003. Some factories were closed for up to two months. After the failure of the lockout, soundly defeated by the action of the workers and the massive Bolivarian demonstration on January 23, the bosses tried to make the workers pay the price for the lockout, by not paying their wages, delaying their payment, etc. Some factories were declared bankrupt. In some cases the bankruptcy was genuine (the companies having been ruined by the reckless two month long lockout), in some other cases it was a tool of the economic sabotage against the government.

This created a situation in the spring and summer of 2003 of heightened class struggle. In many factories workers organised democratic unions and fought for recognition. The bosses replied with repression, making union organisers redundant, etc. In a number of cases the bosses just declared bankruptcy and abandoned the premises, forcing the workers to occupy them and take them over in order to demand payment of their wages and to defend their jobs and livelihoods. Venepal was the highest profile case, where the workers were better organised. They occupied the factory in July 2003 and ran Venepal under workers’ control for 77 days. After an uneasy truce, the bosses abandoned production again in September 2004. The workers occupied again and after more than 4 months of struggle Chavez decreed the expropriation of Venepal under joint management of the workers' and the state (in which the workers' have a majority of representatives in the company's board).

But at the time of the occupation of Venepal in the summer of 2003 there were a number of other factories that were also occupied: Industrial de Perfumes, a perfume making company in Caracas; the textile plant Fenix in Guarico; and the Constructora Nacional de Valvulas in Los Teques, Miranda, a factory that used to produce valves for the state owned oil company PDVSA. There were other similar conflicts at the time, but the workers in these three, together with the Venepal workers, achieved a degree of unity. There were joint meetings and declarations, and two joint demonstrations in Caracas in October 1. Unfortunately, by the time a certain amount of coordination between these different struggles was reached, the conflict in Venepal, which had the largest number of workers, had already been settled. The movement, in some cases after 4 months of occupation, progressively fizzled out. Tiredness, the need to look for other sources of income, the lack of a clear perspective of a way out of the struggle – with all these factors combined, the number of workers effectively occupying these factories declined, and the struggle basically died out. The leadership of the newly created UNT trade union confederation never put forward a clear plan of struggle. Though solidarity was forthcoming from other unions to the strike fund, there was never a well-organised national campaign in support of the occupied factories.

The nationalisation of Venepal in January this year had the effect of reviving some of these struggles. The first group of workers to re-occupy their factories again was at the CNV in the working class city of Los Teques, in the state of Miranda, right next to Caracas. On February 17, a group of 63 CNV workers decided to take over the installation, and unlike in 2003, when they just set up a picket line outside the installation, this time they occupied the premises (against the advice of a representative of the Ministry of Labour present).

The Constructora Nacional de Valvulas has been producing high-pressure valves for the state owned oil company PDVSA for more than 30 years. The CNV had a monopoly in the sector and was selling overpriced valves to PDVSA, sometimes in unnecessary amounts. This was possible because of the close relationship between the owner of the CNV, Andres Sosa Pietri and the managers and directors in PDVSA. In fact the relationship was so close (and corrupt) that Sosa Pietri himself in the 1990s became a director of PDVSA. From his position he was awarding his company PDVSA exclusive contracts for the making and maintenance of the industry's high pressure valves.

Photo : Frédéric Lévêque

Sosa Pietri belongs to one of the traditional families of the Venezuelan oligarchy, popularly known as "Los Amos del Valle" ("The Owners of the Valley"). His policy advice for the oil industry was clear. He advocated PDVSA to become a private company, to adopt a "market friendly strategy, withdraw from OPEC, and ally ourselves with our main commercial partners [i.e. the oil multinationals]". It is therefore no surprise that he actively campaigned against the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998, because one of his main promises was to maintain the state owned character of the oil industry and to pursue a policy of strengthening of OPEC in order to achieve higher oil prices. At the head of his own right wing Liberal Party he joined the Democratic Coordinator, the umbrella group of the Venezuelan opposition which went on to organise the coup against Chavez in April 2002, which he wholeheartedly supported.

After the defeat of the coup, he formed yet another political party, called Alliance for Freedom. On December 9th, 2002, as part of the bosses’ lockout to overthrow Chavez, he closed down the installations of the CNV, leaving more than 100 working class families without any income. After the failure of the bosses’ lockout he refused to pay wages to the workers. After months of struggle and negotiations, in May 2003 a group of workers decided to occupy the entrance to the factory in order to prevent any finished products or machinery from being taken out of the premises. Sosa Pietri went to the tribunals which ruled in his favour. In August 2003 there was an attempt to remove the workers, but thanks to the solidarity of the labour movement and community organisations from the town this was prevented.

The workers have now set up a solidarity committee, and a meeting took place in Los Teques in order to organise solidarity with the struggle. The CNV workers are pointing out that CNV has a strategic importance from the point of view of the oil industry and that therefore it should be expropriated and put under workers' control and management, so that it can produce valves for PDVSA. The case is clear, the owner of the factory is a participant in the coup in 2002, he closed down the factory during the bosses lockout and has consistently refused to pay the workers the wages they are owed. As with many other workers' struggles taking place in Venezuela today, this is not only a matter of a fight between the workers and the bosses, but it has also a clear political character, of a struggle between the Bolivarian Revolution and the oligarchy, the owners of industry, the land and the banks, that use all possible means at their disposal to sabotage it.

Following the example of Venepal, the CNV should be expropriated under workers' control and management. This is the way forward towards the socialism of the 21st century of which Chavez has been talking about.

We appeal to the trade union movement of the world and all those who support the Bolivarian revolution to show their solidarity with the workers of the CNV (in struggle for nearly 2 years now), and to ask the Venezuelan authorities to act decisively to fulfil the just demands of the workers.

Send messages of solidarity to:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

and messages to the Venezuelan President This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and the Ministry of Labour This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (you can use the model resolution proposed by the workers themselves: http://www.handsoffvenezuela.org/support_cnv_workers.htm )

If you can make a financial donation to the strike fund, please send it to the following account 0039-01-0100309746 Banco Industrial de Venezuela under the name of Jorge Paredes y Rosalio Castro for the Resistance Fund, or contact the Hands Off Venezuela campaign for more details.


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In historical retrospective, very often it is sane and healing for us revolutionaries to recollect, to re-assess, to deepen that what we have done, what we have said, and to see whether our actions and thoughts were within the main stream of human emancipation.

In many commentaries, over the past six years, we have followed the revolutionary sparks and trails of the Bolivarian Revolution toward a still possible Socialism, towards real Human Emancipation.

In fact, since 25 years already, here in Venezuela, as university professor of political science and philosophy, having taught numerous active Bolivarians today in key positions, I am doing precisely this in revolutionary deed and emancipatory word. Already in 1986, at the University of The Andes, Mérida, Venezuela, in my text-book, Teoría-Práxis de la Revolución-Emancipación, I taught my students about the socialist basics of the coming Bolivarian Revolution.  (See: http://www.geocities.com/juschmi/teopind.html )

To demonstrate how near we are to the audacious drums of the Bolivarian Revolution, allow me just to quote some encouraging thoughts that already haunted many a counter-revolutionary in Venezuela, on Internet and elsewhere. On August 15, 2003, I explained:

"Exactly because of the desperation of the national 'golpistas', of the urgency for the USA to have "regime change" here, and officially trying to connect Chávez to 'terrorists', to the guerrilla forces in Colombia, and even to 'Arab terrorists', and probably having supplied the golpistas with all the necessary funds, arms and technological equipment, this time, the correlation of forces spells a fierce, violent confrontation, that will verge on civil war, exactly what the USA and the 'opposition' need for foreign military intervention."

Already then sensing the historic current of the Bolivarian Revolution, I continued:

"Until now, the government intelligently has evaded this scenario, this trap, however, when full spectrum dominance is hell bent on annihilating a most dangerous opponent, a paradigm for the oppressed world, then, the enemy himself chooses the weapons of "peace", the forms of violence, and the only thing left for Venezuela is full spectrum self-defense, with its democratic constitution in the hands of millions of people. Thus, friends, beware, we are entering a decisive era of Venezuelan and Latin American history. Jacta alea est, the fascist dice are cast. " ( http://www.aporrea.org/dameletra.php?docid=4277)

Already a few months before, on Labor Day, May 1, 2003, in "A specter is haunting the Fourth Reich -- the specter of Chávez!", I urged that we should "learn to act and think the revolution", in other words that we should develop our own revolutionary praxis and theory:

"Creatively, the Bolivarian Revolution has to be acted, be thought, be formulated transhistorically, it needs a Práxis-Theory, that considers political economy, social class differences, the labor struggle, its internal, intensive "class struggle", a philosophy that surpasses all forms of global lies, ideology and mind control". http://www.trinicenter.com/selfnews/arc4-2003.html

That the USA has planned long ago to intervene in Venezuela and Latin America, with military power, should it be necessary for its own economic, imperialist survival and struggle to retain world hegemony, is scientifically sure, there should not be any doubts about this issue. Within the very Bolivarian movement, it is counter-revolutionary to use this threat as an instrument to brake the deepening of the revolutionary process.

As Simon Bolivar had warned already, this Yankee plague is simply there, it is our daily bread; as long as the Bolivarian Revolution exists, and is advancing towards global emancipation, so long the Damocles Sword of North American Fascism will hover over our revolutionary heads.

On August 8, 2004, in a VHeadline commentary, I explained this reality, that is, "The Emancipatory Quintessence of the Bolivarian Revolution", as follows:

"In the short term, before the total world economic collapse, the brutal conquest of the remaining reserves of oil, water, oxygen and biodiversity is a top priority for the well-being of the Super Power, for the USA; also this is relevant with reference to its possible competitors for world hegemony, Europe, China, India, etc."

We explained that all these, reflected in Bush's current global economic and military "new wars", directly accelerate the Bolivarian Revolution toward higher dimensions of armed self-defense and popular resistance:

"All these affect the Bolivarian Revolution, are globalizing its revolutionary efforts, make it an emancipatory paradigm for the world. Its praxis becomes the totality of global workers' resistance, its theory is permanent revolution.

This can be verified in its educational, political, economical and social projects, can be seen in the ferocious attacks of the global mass media, in the conspiracies, in the danger of violent US intervention."

Logically, I concluded:

"However, global fascism will have to annihilate the whole iceberg, in order to stop its "NO" on August 15, 2004 .... and all that what will follow thereafter: the still possible Emancipation of Humanity." (http://www.vheadline.com/readnews.asp?id=22333)

In his new book, "The Venezuelan Revolution: A Marxist Perspective". Alan Woods, introduced by Rob Sewell, confirms the above analyses, indicating that currently the Bolivarian Revolution finds itself at the crossroads.

He writes: “Right from the beginning we have pointed out that the Venezuelan revolution has begun, but it is not finished, and it cannot be finished until the power of the Venezuelan oligarchy is broken”, states Alan Woods. “This means the expropriation of the land, banks and big industry under workers’ control and management. It means the arming of the people. It means the setting up of action committees linked up on a local, regional and national basis. It means that the working class must organize independently and strive to place itself at the head of the nation. And it means that the Marxist tendency must strive to win over the majority of the revolutionary movement.” (See: http://www.marxist.com/Latinam/venezuela_revolution_book.htm )

Rob Sewell describes that what we have called the Bolivarian tip of the global ice-berg of permanent revolution, as follows:

"However, without doubt Latin America is currently in the vanguard of world revolution, and within the Latin American continent, Venezuela stands out sharply as the country most affected by this process. It would be no exaggeration to say that Venezuela is now the key to the international situation and the developing world revolution."

Yes, indeed, in agreement with Woods and Sewell, we are crossing the bourgeois, national, democratic revolutionary Rubicon, as vanguard of the exodus out of capitalism and imperialism, via our own socialism, toward global, human emancipation.

However, this path does not exist as yet, as we near our emancipatory goal, the path is being created, gradually our socialism comes into being and existence.

This President Hugo Chavez Frias formulated as follows: “I am convinced, and I think that this conviction will be for the rest of my life, that the path to a new, better and possible world, is not capitalism, the path is socialism, that is the path: socialism, socialism.” (Also see:
http://www.handsoffvenezuela.org/german_easter_marches_venezuela.htm )

However, there is no easy walk to freedom, the serpentine path toward Socialism, how to make and think the revolution, how to get rid of private property of the means of production and of communication, how to realize world socialism, Marx and Engels already have explained to us in 1850:

“... it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent, until all more or less possessing classes have been forced out of their position of dominance, until the proletariat has conquered state power, and the association of proletarians, not only in one country but in all the dominant countries of the world, has advanced so far that competition among the proletarians of these countries has ceased and that at least the decisive productive forces are concentrated in the hands of the proletarians. For us the issue cannot be the alteration of private property but only its annihilation, not the smoothing over of class antagonisms but the abolition of classes, not the improvement of existing society but the foundation of a new one.”
(Address to the Central Committee to the Communist League, March 1850).

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Washington’s efforts to discredit the Venezuelan Government have increased over the past few weeks. Tactics and strategies applied in prior years attempting to overthrow the Chávez administration through a coup d’etat, an illegal oil industry strike that crippled the Venezuelan economy and a constitutional recall referendum on Chávez’s mandate infused with illegal campaign contributions by the U.S. government to the Venezuelan opposition, all failed miserably. After a brief period of reevaluation, the Bush Administration has recently launched a new strategy intended to isolate and eventually topple the Venezuelan Government. The new aggression towards Venezuela is direct, open, public and hostile. The Bush Administration, through its Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and her spokesmen, its Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his spokesmen, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Porter Goss, has made clear that Venezuela is a target for Washington this year.

This time around, the strategy is clear: turn President Chávez into an international pariah in the world media and justify an intervention to save democracy. Even more transparent are the mechanisms utilized to implement the strategy. Since early January 2005, major U.S. publications and television stations, including the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Fox News Network and CSNBC, to name a few, have published or broadcast well over 60 articles and programs regurgitating State Department accusations that President Chávez presents a “negative force in the region,”[1] is a “threat to democracy,” a “semi-dictator,” or that the Venezuela Government provides refuge and collaborates with “terrorist” groups, such as the Colombian FARC and ELN. Such accusations are dangerous in today’s world, where the Bush Administration is omnipotent to act preemptively to “spread liberty” and implement “regime change” where and when it sees fit.

The new strategy applied towards Venezuela represents a major policy shift for the Bush Administration. While prior actions were more subtle, clandestine and low profile, the revised plan is confrontational. Washington is now trying to openly intervene in Venezuela to remove Chávez from power, but attempts to excuse such actions by branding Chávez as a dictator and a major threat to U.S. national security. Several recent articles in U.S. media have demonstrated such objectives.

The April 11, 2005 edition of The National Review, an ultraconservative magazine representing right-wing views similar to those of Washington’s ultraconservative right-wing government, presents a cover image of President Chávez, in military fatigues, a red beret and a face ten years younger, alongside President Fidel Castro of Cuba, with the byline, “The Axis of Evil…Western Hemisphere Version”. The feature article, by rabidly anti-Castro Cuban-American Otto Reich, former Special Advisor to George W. Bush on Latin American Affairs and former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, along with a list of other top positions in the Reagan, Bush I and II administrations, presents an attempt to terrorize readers into believing Venezuela has become the primary threat to U.S. national security in the region. Reich also claims that the U.S.’s most “pressing specific challenge is neutralizing or defeating the Cuba-Venezuela axis.”[2]

The terms “neutralizing” and “defeating” are not friendly. They imply hostility, violence and dominance. These are not terms used within the sphere of diplomacy, they are expressions used in the context of armed conflict. Such statements by Reich, who now works in the private sector as a U.S. Government Consultant, may seem laughable to many, but in the context of an administration that shares Reich’s extremist views on Latin America and in light of the recent augment in public aggression towards the Venezuelan Government by high-level Bush officials, these remarks may not be far off. In fact, Reich’s recent article falls perfectly in line with the onslaught of Chávez-bashing commentaries and “news stories” published in U.S. papers since January.

Over the past two weeks, the Spanish-language version of the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, has run a three-part series on the growing threat of organizations and individuals that support the Venezuelan Government from within the United States.[3]  The articles, written by right-wing Cuban-American journalist Casto Ocando, who has written dozens of fervently anti-Chávez articles for that same paper, pretend to expose a network of Chávez supporters in universities and progressive groups that, at the appeal of the journalist, should be considered “foreign agents” or almost “terrorist” by the U.S. Government and public. One of the articles even includes a map of where such pro-Chávez groups are located in the U.S., with a large image of President Chávez in military fatigues imposed on top, as though the author were exposing some clandestine terrorist network secretly operating within the United States.

The groups and institutions mentioned by the Herald that form part of the “sinister” pro-Chávez network in the U.S. include Harvard University, New York University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Global Exchange, Global Women’s Strike, San Romero de las Americas Church in New York and its Pastor, Luis Barrios, the catholic missionary Maryknoll group, the author of this article (yes, me), and several Bolivarian Circles, small community-based organizations that support Chávez modeled from the Venezuelan grassroots organizations that carry the same name. Sounds like a scary group!

I am sure that thoughts of Maryknoll missioners, prestigious university professors, Harlem-based Pastors and the environmentally-friendly Global Exchange all lauding a foreign government that is investing its oil wealth in improving health care, education, housing and raising salaries, has driven fear into the hearts and minds of ordinary Americans.[4]

Media-CIA Relationship Exposed

But maybe the author’s intent and not the content of the article should cause alarm. During the publishing of the three-part series on the growing threat of pro-Chávez supporters in the U.S., journalist Casto Ocando appeared on a local Miami television show on Channel 22, discussing such “threats” in detail alongside fellow Cuban-American Félix Rodríguez, ex-CIA Officer responsible for the assassination of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and who was also an Iran-Contra operative.[5] Just days earlier, this expert in CIA assassination techniques used against foreign leaders, Félix Rodríguez, was interviewed on that same program, “Maria Elvira Confronta” (Maria Elvira Confronts), providing details about an assassination plot in motion against President Hugo Chávez.[6] Ocando and Rodríguez’s association merely points to a collaborative effort between CIA and news media, a relationship established decades ago by the United States Government.

On that same Miami program in October 2004, the anti-Chávez Venezuelan actor, and coup participant, Orlando Urdaneta, appeared ordering the assassination of President Chávez and other “top figures” in the Venezuelan Government.[7] Just weeks later, on November 18, 2004, lead government Prosecutor Danilo Anderson was assassinated by a powerful car bomb. At that time, Anderson was in charge of several high profile cases, including the prosecution of coup leaders and participants. His death marked the first political assassination in recent Venezuelan history.

The Venezuelan Government has repeatedly requested the State Department investigate these threats of violence against President Chávez coming from within the United States, yet no formal response has been issued and no actions have been taken.

Despite initial denials from State Department spokesmen regarding accusations from the Venezuelan Government that Washington was engaging in a coordinated effort with the media to discredit President Chávez, facilitate expressions of violence against the Venezuelan head of state and spread unsubstantiated rumors about terrorist connections and human rights violations, in early March 2005, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega, confirmed to the press that the United States had launched a “campaign” to raise consciousness in the region about “the growing threat of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.”[8] And what better way to publicize a campaign than through the mass media?

The Office of Public Diplomacy Revived

In 1983, the United States Government, by direct order of President Ronald Reagan’s White House, established the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean (LPD) under the authority of the Department of State. The LPD was staffed by personnel from the United States military, the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), the government’s primary propaganda office, and the Agency for International Development (USAID). Its primary advisor was the National Security Council, the most elite intelligence advisory committee in the U.S., reporting directly to the President. The notorious Otto Reich was chosen to direct the Office of Public Diplomacy, in order to spearhead the campaign to oust the Sandinista Government of Nicaragua.

Declassified documents from the U.S. Government, obtained by the National Security Archives, evidence the covert and illegal use of news media to promote U.S. foreign policy.[9] Reich employed the personnel from U.S. military “Psyops” (Psychological Operations Group) to produce different kinds of propaganda and information for the LPD Office. “Psyop” job duties included preparing “daily summaries of exploitable information”, “analyzing media trends and highlighting areas of concern” and “suggesting themes and media for use” by the Office of Public Diplomacy.[10]  The media used by the Office of Public Diplomacy to promulgate U.S. foreign policy on Nicaragua included The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, CBS News, NBC News and Newsweek Magazine, amongst others.

The types of messages disseminated through Reich’s office, as developed by the National Security Council and the Psyops, were intended to encourage the perception that U.S. aid to the contras, labeled “freedom fighters” by the U.S., was a vital national interest of the United States. To achieve that goal, Reich’s office was to convince the U.S. public that the contras were fighters for freedom in the American tradition of democracy and the Sandinistas were “evil”. The themes invoked in the psychological propaganda attempted to convince the public that the Sandinistas were engaging in a “military build-up”, had a “communist connection” and were “human rights violators” repressing “freedom of the press”, “right of assembly”, “freedom of speech”, responsible for the “destruction of the economy” and were “linked to worldwide terrorism.”

In 1987, the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) determined that the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean had engaged in illegal and unethical practices and had violated government regulations.[11] GAO and the Congress subsequently shut down the Office permanently. But Otto Reich, instead of receiving punishment for his illegal actions throughout the years he headed the LPD was promoted to the position of U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela and stationed in Caracas. During that period, he helped liberate Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch, responsible for blowing up a Cubana de Aviación airplane flying from Barbados, killing all of the more than 65 people aboard the flight. Reich later helped facilitate the entry of Bosch into the United States, where he roams free today.[12]

Otto Reich’s Misinformation Campaign

Otto Reich was the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, the position Roger Noriega holds today, during the April 2002 coup d’état against President Chávez. This author has disclosed numerous documents from the Department of State and the CIA that evidence U.S. involvement in that coup.[13] Amongst these documents is a heavily censured cable marked “confidential”, drafted by Otto Reich, laying out the State Department’s position on the coup. Despite the fact that the U.S. Government was well aware of the detailed coup plans, as revealed in a CIA Senior Executive Intelligence Brief dated April 6, 2002[14], Reich, the master of mis-information, told all diplomatic representatives of the U.S. that they were to promote this false version of events:

“On April 11, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans gathered to seek redress of their grievances. Chávez supporters fired on anti-government protestors resulting in more than 100 wounded or killed….The government prevented five independent television stations from reporting on events. After meeting with senior military officers, Chávez allegedly resigned the presidency. A provisional civilian government, led by Pedro Carmona, assumed power and promised early elections.”[15]

The intent of the U.S. Government was to misinform the world of the events giving rise to the illegal coup d’état that briefly overthrew President Chávez, therefore justifying its own participation in such actions and reinforcing its strategy to “legitimately” remove Chávez from power. The fact that the U.S. Government had clear knowledge of the coup plans and actors in the weeks before the coup provides undisputed evidence of this fact. The CIA intelligence brief of April 6, 2002 unmistakably informed top level U.S. Government officials that, “Dissident military factions…are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chávez…the level of detail in the reported plans…targets Chávez and 10 other senior officials for arrest…To provoke military action, the plotters may try to exploit unrest stemming from opposition demonstrations…”

The CIA briefs from the weeks before also claimed knowledge of the coup’s organizers: “…the private sector, the media, the Catholic Church and opposition political parties…. [along with] disgruntled military officers…still planning a coup, possibly early this month…”[16]

Reich’s efforts at the time of the coup against President Chávez in Venezuela were merely to continue what he was best at, disseminating false information – propaganda – intended to promote U.S. foreign policy, just as he had done fifteen years early in Nicaragua.

Today’s campaign against Venezuela starkly parallels those tactics used back in the eighties by the Office of Public Diplomacy. Though Reich no longer maintains an official position within the Bush Administration, his capacity as a private sector U.S. Government Consultant on International Affairs clearly shows his ties and influence remain. And others in powerful positions within the U.S. Government are his colleagues from the low intensity conflict years in Central America during the Reagan-Bush administrations. John Negroponte, former U.S. Ambassador in Honduras during the eighties is soon-to-be the new Director of National Intelligence, the highest capacity in the intelligence community, Charles Shapiro, ex-Ambassador to Venezuela during the coup who previously was a State Department diplomat in Central America during the eighties is now Under-Secretary of State for the Andean Region (covering Venezuela), Reich’s old buddy Roger Noriega took his place as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and Porter Goss, ex-CIA Official and member of the Operation 40 assassination squad in the 1960s, alongside Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch, is now Director of the CIA.

Such relationships and backgrounds make it no surprise to see that today’s campaign against Venezuela employs the same themes used, successfully, against the Sandinistas in the eighties. In addition to the similar use of the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID to funnel millions into Venezuelan opposition parties and NGOs, the U.S. Government attempts to portray Chávez in the same exact light as the Sandinistas. Repeated declarations from the State and Defense Departments, recycled in major U.S. media, claim the Chávez Government is engaging in a “military build-up” or “arms race” with its recent purchase of new weaponry from Russia (note that the U.S. Government is the ONLY government to express such concerns. None of Venezuela’s neighbors have even raised an eyebrow. And Brazil has publicly stated they have no concerns whatsoever with Venezuela’s recent arms purchase); that Chávez is a “communist” in the likes of Fidel Castro; that his government “violates human rights” including “freedom of the press”, the “right to assembly”, “freedom of speech”, “persecution of opposition groups and actors” and that his administration is responsible for the “poverty” and “economic devastation” that has affected the country in recent years.

If you read a few paragraphs above in this commentary, you will find the same identical themes were used to discredit the Nicaraguan government by Reich’s Office of Public Diplomacy. Note that all of these claims against President Chávez and the Venezuelan Government are false. There is more freedom of the press and freedom of speech in Venezuela than under any prior government. The Chávez administration has never suspended any constitutional rights and in fact has expanded human rights under the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution that was promoted by President Chávez himself and ratified by an unprecedented national referendum.

In The Us, Telling the President He “Sucks” Can Land You in Jail

Recently, The Washington Post, published yet another article attempting to reinforce the false accusations repeated over and over again by State Department officials. The Post has been the media most frequently utilized to reiterate U.S. foreign policy towards Venezuela and its editorial board is unquestionably anti-Chávez. Remember, The Post figured prominently on the list of media utilized by Reich’s Office of Public Diplomacy to disseminate “black propaganda” attempting to smear the Nicaraguan Government’s reputation in the 1980s. It appears as though such efforts have been revived in the case of Venezuela.

An article by Jackson Diehl, “Chávez’s Censorship: Where Disrespect Can Land You in Jail” (Washington Post, Monday, March 28, 2005, p.A17), attempts to convince readers that a reformed Penal Code in Venezuela is somehow a repressive tool of an authoritarian regime. Diehl references Article 147: "Anyone who offends with his words or in writing or in any other way disrespects the President of the Republic or whomever is fulfilling his duties will be punished with prison of 6 to 30 months if the offense is serious and half of that if it is light." Yet this journalist fails to mention U.S. laws on the same subject matter, which are actually much stricter and truly repressive. Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Section 871, “Threats Against the President or his Successors” provides for up to five years of prison for any kind of “threat” against a U.S. President, Vice-President, his spouse or any one in the succession line who could become President, which includes a grand portion of Congress. Section 871 has been used to jail individuals for telling a U.S. President he “sucks[17], informing a President that, "God will hold you to account, Mr. President”[18] or for wearing “anti-war” or “anti-Bush” t-shirts.[19] And lest we forget the more than 1800 protestors jailed during the August 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City for the crime of…protesting the president.

Moreover, by an Executive Order of the President of the United States and under the Patriot Act, a highly repressive law passed after September 11, 2001 by the U.S. Congress, any non-U.S. citizen “ who has been deemed by the president to have been or have harbored a member of the al Qaeda organization, or anyone who has engaged in, aided, abetted, or conspired to commit acts of international terrorism, or acts that “threaten to cause, or have as their aim to cause injury to or adverse effects on the United States,” is subject to trial in a military tribunal in accordance with rules and procedures to be established by the secretary of defense.”[20] This means that the more than 18 million immigrants living in the United States, many of them legally, can be deemed by the President of the United States to have “aided and abetted” or somehow collaborated with “terrorists”, which is under the sole discretion of the President, and detained indefinitely with no rights and subject to a military tribunal. Military tribunals do not respect rights to due process or even minimal civil or human rights.

So, basically, telling a U.S. President he “sucks” could end you in Guantánamo, dressed in orange, with no rights.

But remember, the U.S. holds a double standard when it comes to threatening the President. The laws only apply to the U.S. President, and close allies of course. Discussing in detail plans to assassinate the Venezuelan President on U.S. television carry no consequence. Even maintaining armed militia training camps in Miami led by ex-Venezuelan military officers who claim to be preparing to overthrow Chávez is encouraged by the U.S. Government.[21] Such terrorists operate and live freely within U.S. territory, and some even receive financing from the U.S. Government.[22]

Attacks against Venezuela Continue

The attacks against the Venezuelan Government have only increased since January, and there is no expectation that they will cease at this point. Just days ago, the State Department released a report entitled “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2004 - 2005", lauding its own efforts to promote democracy around the world, including efforts to invoke regime changes in some cases. The report condemns Venezuela as a human rights abuser, detrimental to democracy in the region. Its presenter, Michael Kozak, gave an ultimatum to the Venezuelan Government in his press conference, stating “If you wish to have a decent relationship with us, you will have to reorient aspects of your governance towards the right direction.”[23]

Sounds like a threat, one that surely will not be heeded by the Venezuelan Government. But what is clear is that the bully tactics continue and finally, after the calls of many anti-Chávez groups in the U.S. and Venezuela combined with the powerful lobby of the anti-Castro Cuban-American community in Miami, the Bush Administration has finally decided to look south. Venezuela, one of the top exporters of oil to the United States, may become the next target of a unilateral, preemptive strike. Hopefully, the country will be able to fend off U.S. aggression, as it has successfully done in the past. Venezuela has regional support from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Cuba and even neighboring Colombia, despite the heavy U.S. influence and military presence in that nation. Any type of conflict provoked by the Bush Administration against Venezuela would not be looked at favorably in the region, and surely would force a multilateral defense.

South America is more united today than ever before in history, and that is the true threat to the United States. As the Venezuelan Vice President, José Vicente Rangel, confirmed recently, “Latin America is no longer the backyard of the United States.”

Eva Golinger, a Venezuelan-American attorney, is the author of “The Chávez Code: Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela”, soon to be available through Amazon.com or directly through the author.

[1] See Declarations made by incoming Secretary of State Rice before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 18, 2005; See also Dow Jones Newswire, January 18, 2005, “Rice: Venezuela’s Chávez ‘Negative Force’ in the Region”, "I think that we have to view at this point the government of Venezuela as a negative force in the region," Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday during her confirmation hearing. "We can, I think, work with others to expose that, and say to President Chavez that this kind of behavior is really not acceptable in this Hemisphere that is trying to make its way toward a stable democratic future," Rice said.

[2] National Review, April 11, 2005 Edition

[4] This is a satirical comment.

[5] http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB5/ See CIA Debriefing of Félix Rodríguez,  June 3, 1975.   When Che Guevara was executed in La Higuera, one CIA official was present--a Cuban-American operative named Félix Rodríguez. Rodríguez, who used the codename "Félix Ramos" in Bolivia and posed as a Bolivian military officer, was secretly debriefed on his role by the CIA's office of the Inspector General in June, 1975.  (At the time the CIA was the focus of a major Congressional investigation into its assassination operations against foreign leaders.) In this debriefing--discovered in a declassified file marked 'Félix Rodríguez' by journalist David Corn--Rodríguez recounts the details of his mission to Bolivia where the CIA sent him, and another Cuban-American agent, Gustavo Villoldo, to assist the capture  of Guevara and destruction of his guerrilla band.

[6] See “Former CIA Agent Affirms Possibility of Chávez’s Assassination in Venezuela”, by Gregory Wilpert, http://venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1549; and The Washington Post, “Venezuela’s Anti-Bush Fears Assassination”, by Jefferson Morely, March 16, 2005, found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41572-2005Mar16.html

[7] On the program, Orlando Urdaneta stated, “Of the 150,000 men in uniform in Venezuela, there must be a high percentage of honest people who, in the right moment, will rise up…But this will only happen with the physical disappearance of the “top dog” and a significant part of his pack. There is no room for doubt: there is no other way out. Physical disappearance, definitely.” When prompted by the program host as to how this would happen, Urdaneta replied, “This happens with a few men with long guns that have telescopic views, that won’t fail…It’s an order that I am giving right at this moment, let’s go, hurry up…” See: “Orlando Urdaneta llama al magnicidio desde Miami”, 02 Noviembre 2004, Temas http://www.temas.com.ve/modules.php?name=News&new_topic=9

[8] “Noriega anuncia campaña para alertar sobre Chávez en la región”, El Universal, 2 de marzo, 2005, ver http://www.eluniversal.com/2005/03/02/imp_pol_ava_02A537599.shtml

[9] See “Public Diplomacy and Covert Propaganda: the Declassified Record of Ambassador Otto Juan Reich File”, A National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book, March 2, 2001 at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB40/

[10] Ibid, United States Department of State Memorandum from Otto Reich to Department of Defense Officer Ray Warren, March 5, 1985.

[11] See Ibid, United States General Accounting Office Report Otober 1987, State’s Administration of Certain Public Diplomacy Contracts.

[12] See “El Código Chávez: Descifrando la Intervención de los EEUU en Venezuela”, por Eva Golinger, p.193, Editorial Ciencias Sociales, Cuba 2005.

[13] See my website, www.venezuelafoia.info for declassified US Government documents revealing intervention in Venezuela.

[14] Top Secret CIA SIEB brief available on www.venezuelafoia.info, revealing US government knowledge of and involvement in the coup against President Chávez.

[15] Confidential document from the Secretary of State’s office in Washington to Western Hemisphere Affairs Diplomatic Posts, the National Security Council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Pentagon, the Secretary of Defense, Southern Command Unit, and the U.S. Embassies in the Vatican, Madrid, London, Geneva and its Mission before the United Nations, dated April 14, 2002 and classified through April 14, 2012. Obtained by the author under the Freedom of Information Act.

[16] CIA Top Secret Senior Intelligence Brief, April 1, 2002, available on www.venezuelafoia.info

[17] (Excerpt from an AP wire story dated October 30, 1996) "CHICAGO (AP) --  ... (two people) were arrested July 2 at the Taste of Chicago fair after President Clinton approached them and ... responded with a rude remark. She said the remark was, ' "You suck and those boys died,'' ' in reference to the June 25 attack of a U.S. installation in Saudi Arabia that left 19 American airmen dead. Secret Service agents initially said they heard something else that could have been taken as a threat against the president. Police said the (couple) were arrested for persisting to shout profanities while being questioned.

[18] (From the Washington Times, 12/27/96, page A5.)"God will hold you to account, Mr. President." "--Rev. Rob Shenck, to President Clinton during a Christmas Eve church service at the Washington National Cathedral, referring to the president's veto of a ban on partial-birth abortion. After the service, Rev. Shenck was detained by Secret Service agents who accused him of threatening the President's life.

[19] “…the antiwar-T-shirt-clad mother of a slain soldier was pulled out of a Laura Bush speech in New Jersey and threatened with arrest. A West Virginia couple was detained by the Secret Service for wearing anti-Bush T-shirts at a July 4 rally…” “Thou Dost Protest Too Much: An old law turns protesters into threats against the president.” By Jonathan M. Katz. http://slate.msn.com/id/2107012

[20] “Military Tribunals for Suspected Terrorists Raise Question of Justice Versus Rights” by Anna Gawel, http://www.washdiplomat.com/02-01/a4_01_02.html

[21] See The Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2003, “Miami’s Little Havana Finds New Foe in Venezuelan Leader”, by José de Córdoba.

[22] The Cuban American National Foundation, known for its history of terrorist attacks and assassination attempts against the Cuban Government is heavily financed by the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID.

[23] http://www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/breaking_news/11250934.htm

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