The U.S. threat to democracy in Venezuela

Bush Versus Chávez:

Washington’s War on Venezuela

In Bush Versus Chávez: Washington’s War on Venezuela, Eva Golinger shows in great detail how the U.S. has plotted to oust Venezuela’s democratically-elected government and manipulated information to disguise their actions and paint Hugo Chávez as a dangerous and provocative. The book is based largely on information about U.S. agencies and their surrogates in Venezuela gained through use of the Freedom of Information Act by Golinger and her colleagues.

Bush versus Chávez continues the work that Golinger began with her first book, The Chavez Code: Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela in tracking how U.S. taxpayer dollars are funneled to opposition groups in Venezuela. She also shows how techniques such as “psychological operations” are employed by U.S. military intelligence to shape opinions and influence behavior in relation to Venezuela, and how, as Golinger puts it “lies become truths that are used to justify wars."

The rich and powerful Venezuelans (known as the oligarchy) who traditionally dominated politics are closely aligned with U.S. interests. They had been disoriented and weakened by Chávez’s sweeping electoral success in 1998 but still held all their wealth, including strategic industries and mass media outlets.

The U.S. intelligence apparatus moved into gear and began employing its tried and tested methods of subversion against the new government. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are the organizations responsible for funding most of the U.S. interventions in Venezuela, and both have a long history of acting as fronts for CIA activity. The NED had been minimally active in Venezuela for years, but from 2000 to 2001, its Venezuelan budget quadrupled. These funds were used to support the legal and illegal activities of right-wing political parties and other anti-Chávez forces. The opposition used various tactics to destabilize the government and hurt the economy. Protests, strikes, acts of civil disobediance, and defections of senior military officers were coordinated by opposition leaders while the corporate media produced an endless barrage of propaganda to de-legitimize Chávez and paint the opposition as champions of democracy.

This campaign culminated in a coup organized by sections of the military and opposition political parties that briefly ousted Chávez in April 2002. The main actors in the coup were directly tied to the NED, USAID, and other agencies funded by the U.S. government. Business leader Pedro Carmona was declared the new president, and the Constitution, National Assembly, and Supreme Court were all dissolved.

Yet much to the dismay of its U.S. and Venezuelan planners, the coup government was pushed out of power within 48 hours by a popular uprising of loyalist soldiers and the poor. The State Department claims that “The United States provides funding to groups that promote democracy and strengthen civil society in Venezuela.” But after the groups funded by the U.S. had attempted to overthrow an elected government and establish a dictatorship, the U.S. responded by increasing its funding of these same groups. Shortly after the coup’s defeat the State Department issued a special grant to the NED for its work in Venezuela in the amount of $1 million.

Bush versus Chávez recounts in great detail how U.S. intervention has continued to develop. Funding for NED and USAID programs in Venezuela continues to multiply, now exceeding $10 million per year. The U.S. has also stepped up saber-rattling and military intimidation, concentrating large numbers of soldiers, gunships, and fighter planes in close proximity to Venezuela. The strength of Bush versus Chávez is the hard facts that dispel any doubts about U.S. imperial behavior. But for those readers who don’t need great convincing, the laundry list of technical minutia that tracks agencies and funding may become tiresome. Many of the facts are repeated throughout the book, when this space could have been used to shed more light on the grass-roots forces at play in Venezuela. The book’s purpose is, of course, to uncover U.S. intervention, not to give a people’s history of Venezuela, but the lack of context is sometimes times detrimental.

One glaring omission is the role of organized labor in Venezuela. Golinger correctly points to union involvement with the opposition, but she leaves out information that’s crucial to an accurate understanding. Golinger writes that before the 2002 coup “An opposition to Chávez had been loosely formed…that included Venezuela’s largest labor union, the Confederacion de Trabajadores Venezolanos (CTV).” It’s true that the CTV was the largest union federation in 2002, but by 2003 most unionized workers were members of newly formed Union Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT)—having left the CTV because of its role in economic sabotage and the coup.

This information is notably absent from the book, yet Golinger goes on to describe support for the right-wing opposition presidential candidate in 2006 as “a coalition of political parties, labor unions, business associations.” By then, however, the opposition-aligned CTV unions were empty shells with few members, while the UNT overwhelmingly supported Chávez. Golinger does not mention this or even acknowledge the UNT’s existence. There are more than half a dozen references to the reactionary role of “labor unions” in Venezuela and not a single mention of the progressive role played by rank and file union leaders who led the mass exodus from the CTV in protest.

Leftist union militants were at the forefront of struggles against the coup and economic sabotage of 2002–2003, but again, not a word about it from Golinger. The reason for these omissions is not clear, but may be due to suspicion of the labor movement by some dogmatic Chavistas who disapprove of the constructive criticism of Chávez offered by left-wing union currents. These and other omitted topics could have easily been touched on in a few paragraphs and perhaps have replaced, for example, the entire page devoted to viewer comments posted to Fox news, intended to show how anti-Chávez propaganda is working.

Whatever its faults, however, Bush ­Versus Chávez is certainly a useful tool in taking on the big lies perpetuated by the U.S. ruling class. People should also visit for updates and well-informed commentary about Venezuela and U.S. intervention.

Issue #103

Winter 2016-17

"A sense of hope and the possibility for solidarity"

Interview with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
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