The Bush-Venezuelan Coup: One Year Later

by Mike DeRosa

The Bush administration has said that the dictatorial structure of Saddam Hussein's government is one of the main reasons for "regime change" in Iraq. But only one year ago the Bush administration showed the disingenuous nature of its commitment to democracy by its actions in Venezuela.

While the corporate owned press in the United States has given short shrift to the events which took place in April 2002 in Venezuela, many observers in both the United States and Latin America are still investigating who was involved in this coup and the kidnapping of Hugo Chavez, the popular and democratically elected president of Venezuela.

A steady stream of articles and evidence have appeared in the foreign press and on the internet over the last year associating the coup plotters in this attempted Venezuelan coup with high officials in the Bush administration. Many investigative reporters point to the activities of Elliot Abrams and Otto Reich and those who attempted to overthrow President Hugo Chavez. Reich and Abrams are graduates of the Iran-Contra affair and the dirty wars of the 1980s in Central America and are still powerful members of George W. Bush's administration.

Otto Reich met with the Venezuelans plotting the coup numerous times in the months leading up to the coup in the White House. Reich is an extremely right wing Cuban-American who used his position as Assistant Secretary For Western Hemisphere Affairs to facilitate American covert and overt assistance to those who wanted to overthrow the Venezuelan government. Reich is still working in the White House in a new job for George W. Bush. Of keen interest were his meetings with Pedro Carmona, who became president of Venezuela for two days, after it was falsely reported that Chavez had "resigned" but had actually been kidnapped by the Venezuelan military on April 12, 2002. Carmona was the head of the country's most influential business organization (Fedecamaras) and was the front man for a cabal of rich and powerful Venezuelans who wanted Chavez out.

While recent events in Venezuela have been presented in the mass media as "strikes" they are really more like "lockouts" according to sources in Venezuela. The number of people supporting these "strikes" is less than 2% of the workers in Venezuela and these "strikes" are concentrated in the state oil company. There is also a racial divide between the 80% of people of color who see Chavez as a political hero and those in the white community that see Chavez as their enemy. While Chavez has survived the April 2002 coup and the recent protests, many journalists are now writing the first draft of history by discovering evidence of Bush administration involvement in this extra-constitutional regime change.

Wayne Madsen a former National Security Agency(NSA) official has written that the U.S. Navy provided signals intelligence and communications-jamming support to certain elements within the Venezuelan military that led the coup. Madsen also says that the C.I.A., the Pentagon, the N.S.A., the State Department, and other U.S. agencies played a role in this coup. Some sources say that President Bush must have signed off on these activities. The U.S. Congress has not investigated these events except for a letter sent by Sen. Chris Dodd asking a series of questions about the coup. Many sources say that the official executive branch investigation of American involvement in the coup was a sham and a cover-up and that investigators did not even speak with any Venezuelan citizens.

Many critics of the Bush administration's foreign policy believe that Chavez's commitment to social and economic justice in Venezuela has made him an enemy of the right wing administration in Washington. Chavez doubled the amount of money that Venezuela gets from its oil revenues from Exxon-Mobil and other U.S. companies in order to pay for housing, education, and progressive programs for the poor of Venezuela. The giant oil corporations used to get 85% of the revenue from Venezuela but under Chavez they now get 70%. Even though 70% of the oil revenue of a country is a large cut, the Bush administration is more interested in taking care of dependent corporations rather than fighting for the interests of working people around the world. Not only is Chavez "not business friendly", he has had friendly relations with countries like Cuba and other governments unfriendly to U.S. interests. Venezuela is also one of the major O.P.E.C. exporters of oil to the U.S. No wonder the Bush administration was so eager to see Chavez go.

A Venezuelan Congressman has said that American ambassador Charles Shapiro was "all smiles and embraces, with the dictator Pedro Carmona…(his) satisfaction was obvious" during his meeting with Carmona during the coup. It has also been reported that Shapiro addressed Carmona as "Mr. President", even though most countries in the world refused to grant recognition to the new government and saw this for what it was: A coup d'etat orchestrated by certain elements of the Venezuelan military and the Bush administration.

Most challenging to the Bush administration is the "problem of the good example". Left wing governments who have been democratically elected in Latin America are a greater threat to "conservative values" than dictatorships. This is because they carry with them political legitimacy and power. The U.S. has especially targeted these progressive democratic alternatives because they are seen as examples of success that might be used by others to challenge the status quo using electoral politics rather than the gun to settle political differences. American foreign policy likes to "destabilize" nations and regions using the most brutal elements in a nation or region to bring down governments it does not like. If this does not work they try to "destabilize" nations and regions by attacking their economic and social structure. This policy was seen not only in Venezuela, but also in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Chile in the 1970's, and by the Contra military attacks on Nicaragua in the 1980's. A similar pattern is seen in Columbia today and in other nations.

When the vast majority of the people of Venezuela took to the streets in protests and uprisings in April of 2002 and fought against the kidnapping of their president by elements within the military, the coup managers were forced by the people of Venezuela and by elements of the military that supported Chavez, to return him to the presidency. Before and during the coup the corporate media throughout the world called Chavez "dictatorial", "unpopular", and "crazy". Numerous independent sources have pointed out that all of this was taking reality and turning it on its head. Others think it was part of a disinformation campaign lead by the same corporate news interests that protect the interests of corporations, giant oil companies, and the Bush administration.

Soon after the attacks on the U.S. on 9/11/01, many Americans asked, "why do they hate us so much?" The official answer was that "they hate us because we have consumer goods, because we have a democratic government, and because they are envious of us." But Canada has consumer goods, a democratic government, and is envied around the world. Why didn't they attack Canada? Could this have something to do with U.S. foreign policy?

The events of April 2002 in Venezuela are only the tip of the iceberg as far as our illegal, unconstitutional, and brutal behavior toward other nations. This history has been hidden from the American people for too long. This is a history that must be understood if we are to survive as nation and as a democracy.

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