Going After Chavez


On November 25, 2002, the Washington Times (which seems to have the inside word on the Bush White House) ran a story that attempted to tie the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez to the FARC and ELN revolutionary forces in Colombia. In the story, a couple “dissident” military officers claimed that the Venezuelan military has turned a blind eye to FARC encampments inside Venezuelan territory and has even given arms to some FARC units. The so-called “dissidents” are military men who are loyal to groups within Venezuela that engineered a failed coup last April and who appear to be trying to organize another one (with the assistance of the United States). They have a vested interest in destroying the Chavez government. Since they can’t do it via democratic means, they hope to do it through military ones. The Washington Times story was important for two reasons-it seemed to be a straightforward piece of propaganda released by some Pentagon or CIA propaganda office, and it is an attempt to tie Venezuela’s popularly elected government to groups designated “terrorist” by the US government. By making this association, the way is further cleared for some kind of US military intervention that would facilitate a “regime change” in Venezuela.

Add to this the so-called “general strike” taking place in Venezuela as I write this piece and you have a textbook counterinsurgency operation. The purpose of this operation is to replace the left-leaning government of Chavez with a government handpicked by Washington and its allies in the Venezuelan ruling elites that were thrown out when Chavez won his first election. According to eyewitness reports and articles in non-US papers, the “strike” is less than successful. Over fifty percent of businesses remain open in the urban core of most Venezuelan cities and the percentage increases the further one gets from that core. Most factories are running at 100%. Even the oil industry is functioning. This is in spite of the administrators of Ecopetrol, the consortium that runs the industry, who “represent an elite, as the company has become since the early 1980s a ‘state within the state,'”according to Steve Ellner, co-editor of the book Venezuelan Politics in the Chavez Era: Class, Polarization and Conflict, scheduled to be released in January 2003. This administrative group has been consistently anti-Chavez, mostly because he is determined to end the corruption that was rampant amongst the consortium’s administration and because he wants to use oil revenues to provide for the working class and poor of Venezuela.

Colin Powell just returned from a visit the first week of December 2002 to Bogota, Colombia, where he promised the recently elected president of some of that country’s people even more military aid. “We are firmly committed to President Uribe and his new national security strategy,” Powell said. “We are going to work with our Congress to provide additional funding for Colombia.” As noted in several media sources, close to $100 million of the money already requested for the Colombian military in the next fiscal year will go directly to protecting an oil pipeline in Colombia that is used by Occidental Petroleum of Los Angeles. In addition to this money, 60 members of the US Special Forces and intelligence operatives will be sent to help train Colombian forces guard the pipeline. NarcoNews, an independent news source that has covered the so-called drug war and its effects in Latin America, reported on October 25, 2002 that, “Two battalions of US Marine Jungle Expeditionary Forces have recently received deployment orders for insertion into Colombia this coming February, 2003.” According to the report, the job of these soldiers will be to kill all the high officers of the FARC. It is hoped that such an operation would then throw the guerrilla into disarray. During his visit, Powell hardly mentioned the right-wing paramilitaries, despite the fact that they are responsible for close to 70% of all the deaths in Colombia’s civil war. Perhaps this omission is due to a plan currently being put into place by Uribe that essentially legalizes most of the paramilitaries, turning them into “civil defense” forces who would work closely with informants amongst the civilian population to identify and arrest or kill leftist guerrillas and their sympathizers. As history has proven, this means that labor unionists, social workers, progressive clergymen and women, and other social activists will bear the brunt of this “civil defense.”

Meanwhile, much of the rest of Latin America is turning away from its northern neighbor. Left populist candidates have recently won election in Brazil and Ecuador. Argentina continues to reorganize itself in the wake of the economic collapse and rebellion of last winter. Some of the reorganization is your standard governmental attempts to reassert its authority. Much of the reorganization is taking place on a truly grassroots level, with neighborhood and workers organizations taking over daily operations of food distribution, education, and transportation. What will happen in the future in Argentina and elsewhere is anybody’s guess. One can be certain that the current administration in Washington is working overtime trying to figure out ways to subvert the democratic motion to our south. After all, democracy flies straight in the face of their plans for a complete corporate takeover of the region via the FTAA and Plan de Puebla Panama.

RON JACOBS lives in Burlington, VT. He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu


Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com