Ever since the National Security Act of 1947 established the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA has engaged in activities far beyond information collection and analysis. It has been involved many times in covert efforts to achieve U.S. foreign policy goals, inlcuding regime change in nations whose leaders were not subservient to U.S. interests.
Beginning in 1953, CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and cousin of Franklin, successfully engineered a coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq of Iran after he nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company following a dispute about revenue sharing. The CIA then helped execute another coup, ousting President Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 because of his modest land reform program and labor reforms the well-connected United Fruit Company, which operated out of the country, opposed. Since then, this agency has had a long and tainted record of helping to destabilize and topple those governments the U.S. wishes to replace. Much of that has occurred in Latin America, most often by coup or assassination often disguised as an "accident" (like an "unfortunate" plane crash).
Investigative journalist and author Eva Golinger has uncovered CIA documents, obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, that exposes U.S. involvement in the two-day April 2002 coup which temporarily ousted President Chavez. It involved CIA complicity and an intricate financing scheme beginning in 2001 involving the quasi-governmental agency National Endowment for Democracy (NED), funded entirely by the Congress, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). These agencies, in turn, provided funding to Chavez opposition groups (USAID through its Office of Transition Initiatives -OTI) which, in turn, were involved in staging the mass and violent street protests leading up to and on the day of the coup. NED and USAID also funded other destabilizing activities such as the crippling oil strike in late 2002 and 2003 and the August 2004 recall referendum that failed to unseat the President. The documents Golinger obtained clearly showed the U.S. State Department, National Security Agency and White House had full knowledge of these activities and must have approved of them.
As it did in Haiti in February 2004 after another U.S. sanctioned coup ousted President Aristide, the U.S. falsely claimed that Chavez had resigned when, in fact, traitorous, high-level officers in the Venezuelan military had arrested him. After his arrest and removal from the Palacio De Miraflores (the Presidential Palace), Pedro Carmona, head of Venezuela’s confederation of business and industry (Fedecamaras), declared himself President. He then immediately dismissed the National Assembly and other democratic institutions and began to annul the Chavez Bolivarian reforms. All of this enraged Chavez supporters who rallied en masse, got the support of others in the Venezuelan military and forced the reinstatement of President Chavez two days later.
Since his return to office, President Chavez has clearly been on the U.S. target list as evidenced by U.S. involvement in the oil strikes and the failed recall referendum. Although these operations in Venezuela have been unsuccessful, U.S. intervention in the past has shown itself to be innovative and able to adopt new tactics after failed destabilization attempts. Because controlling Venezuela with its vast hydrocarbon reserves is so important to the U.S., it seems only a matter of time before the next attempt is made to depose Chavez. A fourth intervention most likely would occur either when Chavez runs for reelection in 2006 or possibly before he completes his current term.
Chavez himself believes there’s a U.S. plot to assassinate him. He may be right. There’s some credible evidence of a 2004 coup attempt by neighboring Columbian forces whom were arrested in May of that year at a ranch in Buruta just outside of Caracas. Those arrested said they were sent there to prepare an attack against a Venezuelan National Guard base to steal weapons and fully arm a 3000 strong militia.
Latin America expert James Petras, professor emeritus at Binghamton University, New York, has written that the U.S. has a strategy to overthrow Hugo Chavez by military force and at the same time destroy the Cuban revolution in a "two step" approach – "first overthrow the Chavez government in Venezuela, cut off the energy supply and trade links (to Cuba) and then proceed toward economic strangulation and military attack." He also believes the U.S. will employ a "triangular strategy" to overthrow Chavez – "a military invasion from Columbia, U.S intervention (by air and sea attacks plus special forces to assassinate key officials) and an internal uprising by infiltrated terrorists and military traitors, supported by key media, financial and petrol elites." In advance of this, the U.S. has provided $3 billion to Columbia in military aid (supposedly for the "drug war") so it could triple the size of its military to over 275,000, add new helicopters and bombers and receive "advanced military technology."
Prior to the 2002 coup attempt, failed recall referendum and during the oil strike, the U.S. intensified its rhetoric to condition the U.S. public into accepting Chavez as a "dictator" and a "destabilizing threat" to the region so that his removal (should it happen) would be perceived as a positive change. This same rhetoric can be expected to intensify again, most likely in the lead up to Venezuela’s next election.
In early 2005, CIA chief Porter Goss testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on "Global Intelligence Challenges in 2005: Meeting Long-Term Challenges with a Long-Term Strategy." In his testimony he referred to Venezuela as a "potential area for instability" and a "flashpoint." He also claimed Hugo Chavez was "consolidating his power by using technically legal tactics to target his opponents and was meddling in the region." Other administration officials claimed Chavez is "a negative force to the region" and a "new breed of authoritarianism." And without a touch of irony, they have also called the Venezuelan government an "authoritarian democracy", a "threat to democracy" and an "elected dictatorship."
And there’s more from Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick stating about Chavez: "You win the election, but you do away with the rule of law, you pack the courts and (Chavez) is carrying out anti-democratic activities" like a dictator. The docile U.S. corporate media, always willing and shameless co-conspirators, has echoed these anti-Chavez sentiments, largely portraying Chavez as a regional menace and threat to U.S. interests and security. If this type rhetoric escalates, it may be a clear sign that something is brewing.
The U.S. also has established military bases in Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, and has 500 troops with planes, weapons and equipment in Paraguay in advance of a new base planned for that country that would be capable of handling large aircraft and accommodating 16,000 troops. It also has forces and radar stations in other Latin American countries including 800 troops in Columbia, with plans to raise the number to 1400. And then there’s the controversial base at Guantanamo, Cuba, used, in part, as a convenient offshore prison for "enemy combatants."
This enhanced military strength in South America may indeed be in advance of a planned assault to remove Hugo Chavez. But it may also be used to deal with the Bolivia’s newly elected President Evo Morales (an Aymara Indian and first ever indigenous president in Bolivia) and his Movement Toward Socialism party (MAS). Morales has expressed his intent to nationalize (but not confiscate) his country’s large gas reserves and other resources (especially water) to keep more of the country’s revenues at home to develop the economy and provide more services for its people. In past interviews, he said his first move as President will be to overturn Supreme Decree 21060, the 1985 measure making Bolivia the first Latin American country to adopt "free market" and privatization policies by decree. Morales said he’ll work with the new Chamber to pass a law governing economic policy. He also plans to impose new taxes on the rich. Morales won impressively with 54 percent of the vote (nearly double the 28.5 percent of his leading right wing opponent) and with a voter turnout of 84.5 percent. And his popularity affected the legislative outcome as well as MAS won a majority 64 seats in the 130 seat Chamber of Deputies. Morales will be inaugurated on January 22 and begin serving a five-year term.
An early ominous sign against him is reflected in a Wall Street Journal editorial claiming Morales’ election "is more bad news for liberty in Latin America." It went on to say the cocaleros (Quechua indigenous campesino coca farmers) he headed was a "radicalized political force…against all things American" and "the Morales economic platform doesn’t promise a future to Bolivians, only revenge." In his first post-election diplomatic trip abroad, Morales chose to visit Fidel Castro to discuss relations between Bolivia and Cuba. Morales also plans to meet with Hugo Chavez and leaders of seven other (including China and France) countries that invited him to visit at their expense, as he begins a world tour in early January. The Bush administration will surely use at least the Castro and Chavez meetings in any future hostile Morales rhetoric to help justify any action against him they may have in mind. A lot of what could potentially happen in Bolivia depends on how Morales governs and whether he is successful in carrying out his aforementioned policies.
Whether the U.S. will proceed with the plans Professor Petras says it has made is unclear. Under the best of circumstances, however, achieving them won’t be easy despite the overwhelming U.S. military advantage. The mass public support Hugo Chavez enjoys would create chaos and probably rebellion in the country, should a new U.S. approved leader take office and try to reverse his policies. Furthermore, the Bush administration may be restrained from acting against Chavez for the following reasons:
The U.S. is already bogged down in Iraq in endless conflict.
Talk of potential intervention against Iran and Syria possibly in advance of an assault against either or both countries.
The great cost of the Iraq war, along with large growing and unsustainable budget and current account deficits, may preclude congressional and public support for added adventures.
Bush’s approval ratings have plummeted, and he’s losing support from his base and own party, while the military high command wants "out" of Iraq.
The newly revealed illegal domestic spying program, as well as the illegal break-ins and surveillance of mosques and Muslim businesses and homes, supposedly while searching for nuclear materials.
The ongoing Special Counsel investigation may lead to further indictments beyond Lewis Libby, possibly up to the highest levels of the administration before its completed.
The Jack Abramoff financial and political scandal involving Tom Delay and potentially many others in government may be one of biggest ever in Washington.
The systemic use of torture authorized at the highest level and "rendition" flights to torture centers in countries permitting it have outraged the world. In addition, the weak McCain amendment will do little to stop it, and the newly enacted Graham Amendment that annuls detainees’ sacred constitutionally guaranteed habeas rights will prevent torture victims from seeking redress in U.S. courts. These new laws only add to the outrage.
And, some in Congress are beginning to mention impeachment. Already, lawyer John Bonifaz has authored a new book making the case for impeachment entitled – "Warrior-King: The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush." And University of Illinois law professor Francis Boyle, a scholar and recognized expert in international law and human rights, agrees. In January 2003 Boyle prepared a "Draft Impeachment Resolution Against President George W. Bush" in proper form to be presented in the House of Representatives.
In addition, surprisingly even Barron’s Magazine, published by Dow Jones & Co. (which also publishes the Wall Street Journal) raised the possibility in December of impeachment on its editorial page. It expressed its concern with a president acting on his own in violation of the Constitution and said…"putting the president above the Congress is an invitation to tyranny. The president has no powers except those specified in the Constitution and those enacted by law." It’s also worth noting that John Dean, a Republican and former Nixon White House counsel, expressed deep concern that George Bush was the "first U.S. president (ever) to admit to an impeachable offense."
In light of all this and the clear sound of an administration unraveling, even George Bush and those closest to him may think long and hard before undertaking new ventures, the outcomes of which are most uncertain. Stay tuned.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org