Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

There’s No Place Like CounterPunch

There's no place like CounterPunch, it's just that simple. And as the radical space within the "alternative media"(whatever that means) landscape continues to shrink, sanctuaries such as CounterPunch become all the more crucial for our political, intellectual, and moral survival. Add to that the fact that CounterPunch won't inundate you with ads and corporate propaganda. So it should be clear why CounterPunch needs your support: so it can keep doing what it's been doing for nearly 25 years. As CP Editor, Jeffrey St. Clair, succinctly explained, "We lure you in, and then punch you in the kidneys." Pleasant and true though that may be, the hard-working CP staff is more than just a few grunts greasing the gears of the status quo.

So come on, be a pal, make a tax deductible donation to CounterPunch today to support our annual fund drive, if you have already donated we thank you! If you haven't, do it because you want to. Do it because you know what CounterPunch is worth. Do it because CounterPunch needs you. Every dollar is tax-deductible. (PayPal accepted)

Thank you,
Eric Draitser

How Florida Reactionaries Undermine Venezuelan Democracy


Remember the Tonkin Gulf Resolution?  In 1964 that joint congressional resolution propelled the United States into war lasting nine years.  Resolution 488, passed by House of Representatives by a 393 – 1 vote on March 4, is a moral and practical equivalent. Its title was “Supporting the people of Venezuela as they protest peacefully for democracy, a reduction in violent crime and calling for an end to recent violence.”

The vote took place under a provision known as “suspension of the rules” which Congress uses for “legislation of non-controversial bills.”  The sole dissenter was a Kentucky Republican.  Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced R 488. In Florida she represents the 27th congressional district, part of Miami-Dade County. All but unanimous backing for the resolution is reprehensible – for three reasons.

One, the resolution did not tell the truth.  It speaks of Venezuelans “protesting peacefully.” Actually as of March 7 protesters had shot five people dead. Three were soldiers. Six deaths are attributed to opposition roadblocks, 30 more because roadblocks prevented access to emergency services. Soldiers had killed three people, one a government supporter. When protests started in Táchira, Mérida, and Caracas in early February, police did not intervene until government offices and police cars were being attacked and burned and until food and medical supply trucks were blocked. The government arrested officers who violated orders to  to act with restraint. 

The resolution suggests Venezuela is undemocratic. Over 15 years, however, governments there have won 17 out of 18 national elections. They are elections that for fairness and efficiency are “the best in the world,” according to the Carter Center in Georgia. Press freedom abounds: Venezuela’ predominately privately-owned newspapers and television outlets disseminate opposition viewpoints. Their television broadcasts reach 90 percent of viewers nationally.

Real democracy means uplift for everybody. In Venezuela poverty dropped from 50 percent in 1998 to 32 percent in 2011. Social spending increased from 11 percent of the GDP to 24 percent.  Pensioners rose from 500,000 to 2.5 million; people finishing college, from 600,000 to 2.3 million. High school enrollment increased 42 percent. Children malnutrition and infants deaths have fallen dramatically. Every year the minimum wage has increased 10 – 20 percent.

Media misrepresentation contributed to the resolution’s passage. Protesters, for example, hardly represent Venezuela’s majority population. Disturbances have taken place in only 18 of 335 municipalities, places where the middle and upper classes live and where right-wing politicians are in charge.  Most students in the streets attend private schools. National polling shows that 85 percent of respondents oppose “protests continuing throughout the country.”

Secondly, passage of Ros-Lehtinen’s resolution is a new chapter in the process of U.S. preparations for undermining  Venezuela’s elected government.  Money tells some of that story. Analyst Mark Weisbrot reports, “[O]ne can find about $90 million in U.S. funding to Venezuela since 2000 “just looking through U.S. government documents available on the web, including $5 million in the current federal budget.” According to “Over one third of US funding, nearly $15 million annually by 2007, was directed towards youth and student groups, including training in the use of social networks to mobilize political activism.”  And, “Embassy cables also reveal US government funding of opposition parties.”  Discussing his leadership of the National Endowment for Democracy, a prime source of U.S. funding, Allen Weinstein told the Washington Post in 1991 that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

Preparations are evident too from a report produced by Venezuelan – U.S. lawyer Eva Golinger. She alludes to a meeting on June 13, 2013, location unspecified, attended by representatives  Colombia’s “Center for Thought Foundation and the Democratic Internationalism Foundation. The two groups have links with ex-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, right wing protagonist of destabilization in Venezuela.   Mark Feierstein, regional head of the US Agency for International Development, attended the meeting.

It generated a document entitled “Venezuelan Strategic Plan,” which detailed 15 “action points.” They included destruction of facilities, “massive mobilizations,” food shortages, and “insurrection inside the army.” The document mentions “crisis in the streets that facilitate the intervention of North America and the forces of NATO, with support of the government of Colombia.” “Violence [causing} deaths and injuries” is anticipated.

The third objection to Ros-Lehtinen’s resolution, and especially to congressional consensus, relates to her associations. She is famous for projecting Cuban-American determination to undo the Cuban Revolution onto the national stage.  She thereby bears major responsibility for continuing a national policy of economic blockade of that island. Nor has she challenged her neighbors’ toleration of, even direct participation in, anti-Cuban terrorist attacks. It’s clear now that her neighbors have extended terror attacks to Venezuela, presumably as their contribution to U.S. plans to overthrow Venezuela’s government.

Surely it’s reasonable to expect that U.S. congresspersons, as part of their job description, might ask questions.

They could have inquired about Raul Diaz Peña, who in 2010 showed up in Ros-Lehtinen’s Miami office after having just arrived in the United States. Weeks earlier he had escaped from prison in Venezuela where he was serving time for having bombed embassies in Caracas in 2003. He told reporters on hand that costs for his escape and U.S. entry amounted to $100,000. The congresswoman indicated she “had been lobbying the US government”on his behalf .

On February 23, two days before Ros-Lehtinen introduced her resolution, Robert Alonzo held a “patriotic lunch” for friends at his farm outside Miami.  He told them he wanted “help and solidarity of unyielding Cuban – exile combatants in their campaign to step up resistance to [President] Maduro’s misrule.”

Present were Reinol Rodríguez, head of the paramilitary group Alpha 66; José Dionisio Suárez, admitted murderer of ex-Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier in Washington; and Armando Valladares, formerly imprisoned in Cuba for bombings and more recently implicated in a plot to kill Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Born in Cuba, Alonso was living in Venezuela until authorities there discovered 153 Colombian paramilitaries lodged at his farm near Caracas. Their plan was to kill then President Hugo Chavez. Alonso helped out with the coup attempt against Chavez in 2002 by leading an assault on the Cuban Embassy.

Another meeting to plan the ouster of President Chavez took place in Miami in 2009.  On hand were Jose Antonio Colina Pulido, on the lam after the embassy bombings in 2003;  Joaquim Chaffardet, intelligence chief in Venezuela linked to the bombing of a fully loaded Cuban Airliner in 1976, along with Miamian Luis Posada; and Johan Peña, self-exiled after participating in the 2004 murder of Venezuelan prosecutor Danilo Anderson.

Other notable neighbors include: Patricia Poleo, who plotted against Danilo Anderson; military officer Gustavo Diaz, who helped propel the anti-Chavez coup attempt in 2002; and Angel De Fana who tried to kill Fidel Castro in 1997. Former Miami-area FBI head Héctor Pesquera attended a meeting in Panama where final arrangements were made to kill Danilo Anderson.

Finally, R-488 is emblematic of a serious problem relating to the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, specifically privatization.  The U.S. government has long farmed out decision-making on and implementation of policies toward Cuba to agents, really proxies, belonging to the Cuban-American émigré community. The same tendency now crops up in regard to Venezuela.

It’s apparent that privateers involved with Cuban affairs, epitomized by Representative Ros-Lehtinen, are promoting a U.S. campaign to undermine Venezuela’s government. Joining this essentially autonomous force are self-exiled, often terrorist-inclined, migrants from other Latin American countries, notably Venezuela. The evidence shows that the milieu where Resolution 488 was spawned nurtures this class of dark characters.  That the resolution gained quick, basically unquestioning approval – after all, it was deemed “non-controversial” – is bad news for the future of democracy in both Venezuela and the United States.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.



W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians