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US Coup Planned for Venezuela?



The New York Times had a news article about Venezuela in Thursday’s edition, but it was about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saying he would cut diplomatic ties with neighboring Colombia. There wasn’t a word about a memo from a CIA operative in Caracas to CIA Director General Michael Hayden, uncovered yesterday, outlining a plan for interfering with a Venezuelan referendum set for Dec. 2, and laying out the steps for instigating and backing a coup.

The plot, called “Operation Pliers,” and laid out in the letter to Hayden by an undercover operative named Michael Steele, who reportedly works in the US Embassy as a “regional affairs officer,” was intercepted by Venezuelan intelligence and released publicly on state TV yesterday.

In the Nov. 20-dated letter, Steele refers to an $8 million US-funded in-country propaganda campaign against Chavez and the referendum, already being implemented, which is designed to institutionalize many of Chavez’s socialist reforms and to permit him to continue to run for president beyond his current two-term limit. He proposes trying to stall the referendum, which pro-Chavez forces are expected to win handily, and failing that, to then promote a campaign to refuse to accept the results. Steele further confirms that the agency is working with international news agencies in an effort to distort reports about the referendum and the reforms. (CNN had to apologize for a “mistake” which led to the words “Who killed him?” superimposed over a photo of Chavez broadcast on CNN’s Spanish-language international broadcast in Venezuela. Was this a deliberate CIA-inspired black-op?)

Among the tactics Steele recommends in his letter are:

* Promoting street demonstrations and violent protests

* Creating a climate of ungovernability

* Provoking a general uprising

* Working through the US military attaché at the embassy to coordinate with ex-military officers and former coup plotters against Chavez.

Even more darkly, the letter calls for initiating “military actions” to support opposition mobilizations and strategic building occupations, involving US military bases in neighboring Curacao and Colombia to provide support, and even taking control of parts of Venezuela in the days after the referendum, while encouraging a “military rebellion” inside the Venezuelan National Guard.

The CIA communication has been reported in articles filed by the Associated Press, but the Times and other major US news organizations have not mentioned it.

Instead, the Times today ran a column by Roger Cohen, which compares Chavez to the fascists of 1930s Europe, and which calls for defeat of the referendum. (Are Cohen and the Times part of the CIA’s propaganda campaign?)

The Cohen column is so rabid that it would be almost comical, were it not for the fact that there is a real threat of a bloody CIA-inspired coup in the democratic nation of Venezuela.

In fact, I thought it would be fun and instructive to alter Cohen’s hit piece a bit, substituting the US for Venezuela, and Bush and Cheney for Chavez, to show its hypocrisy. Here then, a sample of the only lightly tweaked column:

Shutting Up America’s Bush and Cheney

By Roger Cohen (courtesy of editing by DAVE LINDORFF)

It was a fascist general in 1930s Spain who coined the phrase “Viva la muerte!” or “Long live death!” Essentially meaningless, the words captured the cult of soil, blood and savagery that coursed through European Fascism, in its Francoist and other forms.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney hate Islamo-fascists; they are central to their repertoire of insults. But they have not hesitated to deploy the imagery of death to bolster their rightist brand of petro-authoritarianism, now operating under the ludicrous banner of “Homeland, Free Markets and Democracy!”

The slogan looks almost quaint in its anachronism. Bush and Cheney would no doubt claim American Revolutionary, rather than Spanish fascist, roots for it (Patrick Henry also invoked liberty and finality). The bottom line is this. America’s oil-gilded caudillos are getting serious about instituting executive rule, much like Franco and Mussolini.

I might add Vladimir Putin to that list. Like the Russian leader, Bush and Cheney have already used fears of terrorism, a pliant judiciary, subservient institutions like the Congress, and the galvanizing appeal of vitriolic anti-Arabism to concoct a 21st-century authoritarianism, complete with gulags and arrest and indefinite detention without charge. But even Putin has not contemplated going as far as Bush and Cheney with their doctrine of pre-emptive war and “regime change” abroad.

Americans will vote next November most likely between two candidates for president who endorse many of the new powers already claimed by Bush and Cheney, and the Congress, even under Democratic control, continues to grant them additional powers, including the power to conduct sweeping spying on electronic communications without any court order or demonstration of probable cause, the power to declare martial law anywhere in the country on the slightest of pretexts, and the power to expropriate private property of those deemed to be “threatening” the American occupation in Iraq.

“The measures amount to a constitutional coup,” said Teodoro Petkoffetc.

Bush’s and Cheney’s grab for emperor status is grotesque and dangerous-as Fascism was-a terrible example for a world that is moving towards democracy. Venezuela’s Chavez got it right when he told the assembled delegates at the United Nations General Assembly, shortly after President Bush had left the podium after addressing the same group, that he could still “smell the sulfur” left in the room by the American president.

Of course, we in America only read such things about foreign governments, not about our own.

Which may explain why despite the constitutional coup that has been occurring in the US over the last seven years, we have yet to see any hearing in the Judiciary Committee on the impeachable crimes of Bush and Cheney.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His n book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s newest book is “The Case for Impeachment“, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at:



Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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