FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Coup d’Etat Attempt in Venezuela

by

Caracas, Venezuela.

If there were not a coup d’etat underway, someone would have to invent one to rally the masses. That may be the case for the Venezuelan government today, which is beset with so many problems, and it is one of the reasons that some people are incredulous about the latest claim of President Nicolás Maduro to be victim of a planned coup attempt. Nevertheless, there was real evidence presented two weeks ago of a conspiracy in the ranks of the Venezuelan Air Force. In fact, there are three important elements: real evidence, real informers and, fortunately, real arrests.

One of the arrests is that of Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Metropolitan Caracas. It must be admitted that this shady right-wing politician’s ties to the Air Force conspiracy are not very clear. Moreover, the Air Force’s scheme to bomb various sites in Caracas including the Presidential palace could only be distantly linked with plans by Ledezma and other visible opposition leaders to take power through undemocratic means, since this military conspiracy is presumed to consider itself “Bolivarian” (i.e. “Chavist”) – at least that is what Maduro hinted in a nationwide television transmission on February 12.

Instead, Ledezma’s arrest is based principally on the contents of a document called the “National Transition Agreement” that he developed with two other anti-government leaders: Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado. This declaration, which was to be published on February 12, refers to the Venezuelan government as in its “terminal phase” and expresses the need to “name new authorities.” It also mentions restructuring the economy and giving amnesty to “political prisoners.” According to progovernment jurists, the “Transition Agreement” does not make sufficiently clear that it conceives political change within a constitutional, democratic framework.

Most likely the interpretation of this ambiguous text could (and will) be argued both ways. Nevertheless, regardless of how the question is resolved, the Venezuelan masses are highly satisfied with Ledezma’s arrest, as any reasonable person should be, since the mayor is responsible for huge human rights crimes in the past: most recently as a participant in the 2002 coup attempt that led to considerable bloodshed and earlier as the Federal District Governor who directed state troops which assassinated as many as 4000 civilians during the Caracazo uprising of 1989.

What about the U.S. government’s possible hand in this recently discovered plot? It should be remembered that many coups against popular, left-leaning regimes are not conceived in CIA laboratories but are rather supported opportunistically by the U.S. government and its agencies. For example, the military plot to remove Patrice Lumumba from power, conceived by Colonel Joseph Mobutu, fell into the hands of a highly relieved CIA agent Larry Devlin, who enthusiastically supported it. Devlin was the CIA station chief in Kinshasa and had been charged by Washington to poison Lumumba with doctored toothpaste, a prospect he found unattractive.

In present-day Venezuela, it is unlikely that the U.S. government could directly orchestrate a plot that calls itself “Bolivarian” and comes from the Venezuelan Air Force. Nevertheless, the White House might well be working to delicately promote such a thing and later take advantage of it. One possible scenario would involve an initial military coup by dissident Bolivarian officers, followed by a call for elections in which the legal and recognized opposition – involving such figures as Henrique Capriles, Antonio Ledezma, María Corina Machado and Julio Borges – would emerge to take charge.

The possibility of a military coup followed by hurried elections – a two-stage overthrow – could be what is behind the U.S. driven media campaign against Venezuela that has unfolded in recent weeks and involves extravagant claims about government figures running an international drug trafficking ring. Such a plan was also pointed to in words that recently escaped from Julio Borges of the opposition party Primero Justicia. When asked on Unión Radio how he would respond to a coup, Borges responded that, instead of working to restore the constitutional order, his party would “immediately call for elections.” This brings to mind the Honduras transition of 2009 in which a coup d’etat that installed a brief and unpopular military government was followed by the fraudulent election of Porfirio Lobo.

By moving against Ledezma after many months of disappointing concessions to business sectors, President Maduro has obviously scored a point with the Venezuelan masses, as he likewise scored points with the “Dakazo” interventions in electrical appliance stores (including one called Daka) that took place more than a year ago. However, this earlier move, though highly popular, proved to be of little substance since the government quickly retreated from further economic intervention following its electoral victory that November.

The present conjuncture is quite similar: if Maduro follows Ledezma’s arrest with other decisive actions that show real commitment to popular desires – increased state control of the economy, fighting corruption and smuggling on all fronts, and widening democracy in the PSUV party and Gran Polo Patriótico – the events of last week could mark an important and favorable turning point in the post-Chavez era. The alternative, which is to simply score a point and continue the government’s almost two-year-long retreat from the socialist project, would prove highly unpopular and risk producing unfavorable results in the parliamentary elections coming later this year.

Chris Gilbert is professor of political science in the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela.

Chris Gilbert is professor of political science in the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela.

More articles by:
July 27, 2016
Richard Moser
The Party’s Over
M. G. Piety
Smoke and Mirrors in Philadelphia
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Humiliation Games: Notes on the Democratic Convention
Arun Gupta
Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution Splinters Apart
John Eskow
The Loneliness of the American Leftist
Guillermo R. Gil
A Metaphoric Short Circuit: On Michelle Obama’s Speech at the DNC
Norman Pollack
Sanders, Our Tony Blair: A Defamation of Socialism
Claire Rater, Carol Spiegel and Jim Goodman
Consumers Can Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms
Guy D. Nave
Make America Great Again?
Sam Husseini
Why Sarah Silverman is a Comedienne
Dave Lindorff
No Crooked Sociopaths in the White House
Dan Bacher
The Hired Gun: Jerry Brown Snags Bruce Babbitt as New Point Man For Delta Tunnels
Peter Lee
Trumputin! And the DNC Leak(s)
David Macaray
Interns Are Exploited and Discriminated Against
Ann Garrison
Rwanda, the Clinton Dynasty, and the Case of Dr. Léopold Munyakazi
Brett Warnke
Storm Clouds Over Philly
Chris Zinda
Snakes of Deseret
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail