"The Coup Lacked Professionalism"

Sung to the Tune of the Marine Corps Anthem

From the unpaved streets of Teheran To the Guatemalan hills We have punished those who disobey We invade and then we kill

We will fight the corporate battles well We will hold the poor at bay We proudly bear our subversive tag We’re the U.S. CIA (Lyrics by G. Bush, written for Skull and Bones, just for fun)

On Monday, April 15, CNN Spanish asked a Venezuelan “expert” why the coup had failed.

“Lack of professionalism,” he pompously replied. I thought he would mention Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich’s lack of experience in organizing such affairs. Reich has had ample experience as a professional in lying and twisting information, in conspiring with terrorists, but not much in the way of coup making.

Perhaps, I thought, the expert meant that the CIA and Pentagon had employed a team of novices. But CNN since identified the man as a professor, I speculated that the expert implied that the conspirators should have gotten their PhDs in coup making at the Fort Benning School of the Americas before attempting their dirty deeds in Caracas. Latin American military officials could qualify for such advanced and graduate studies if they made a straight A average in their “how to torture” courses.

Other CNN “analysts” offered profound words like “this should teach Chavez that he can’t exclude minorities,” or “people’s patience wore thin over his high handed methods.”

Euphemisms, like “minority” of course means the ultra rich; people losing “patience” signifies that the Venezuelan millionaires and Washington national security gang had had enough of Chavez’ heresy about helping the poor who are, unfortunately, always with us.

The mass media reached new depths in misreporting the Caracas coup. Yet, during the few days before the “prestige” press had to admit that its reporting, comments and editorials did not coincide with the facts in Venezuela, I, like millions of others through the world, suffered serious feelings of desperation, depression and anger. Except for La Jornada in Mexico and the Cuban press, which said this was a military coup d’etat, the rest of the media accepted the line that elected President Hugo Chavez had resigned after a powerful military-civilian alliance had exerted its rightful authority.

Sure, some cynics had predicted the coup on the day Venezuelans voters overwhelmingly chose Hugo Chavez as their president in 1998. By invoking the term “Bolivarian Revolution,” conjuring up the image of the Latin American liberator, Chavez signaled the onset of class war against the small gang that has claimed the lion’s share of Venezuela’s wealth and controls the political parties. This gang has ruled (looted) the country for more than four decades.

Before Chavez pushed through a new Constitution in 2000, he and his popular forces held and won a series of elections. The wealthy and the corrupt, having lost at the ballot box, began to claim that Chavez was anti democratic. They claimed the name “civil society,” included some elite union leaders, businessmen’s groups, sectors of the church, and of course the owners of the media TV to try to present Chavez not as an elected President, but as a dictator, probably a communist and certainly a friend of terrorists. True, Chavez’ popularity had declined from more than 75% to less than 50% according to the usual pollsters. But analysts did not ascertain whether the drop in his popularity was due to his not delivering rapidly on some reform pledges related to the betterment of the poor, or to the media hype that painted him daily with antipathetic colors.

Skeptics repeated the dogma that the United States would simply not permit the presence of another case of serious disobedience in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba’s Fidel Castro, in the Guinness Book of Records for his 43 plus years of naughtiness, had taught the national security gang in Washington its lesson: no more mischievous behavior in our sphere from the right, left or center.

Recall that arch reactionaries like the Dominican Republic’s Leonidas Trujillo, moderate reformers like Brazil’s Joao Goulart and of course radicals ranging from Chile’s Salvador Allende to the Nicaraguan Sandinistas all fell victim to the CIA’s punishing department. The covert tactics have included assassinations, coups, economic destabilization and psychological warfare; well, let’s just call it state terrorism. In the case of Manuel Noriega. CIA and DEA agent who turned disobedient, President Bush I ordered the most expensive arresting force in the world. Naturally, the patterns of CIA efforts to overthrow popular governments also included attempts to influence the mass media. In 1970, while making a film in Chile, I witnessed parts of the “destabilization” operation that began even before Salvador Allende won his plurality in September of that year. After the election, as the CIA hatched plots to prevent Allende’s inauguration, I occasionally dropped into Santiago’s Hotel Carrera bar. Invariably, well-dressed Chileans would whisper that Allende had advanced syphilis. Another would confide that he was a homosexual, a sex tool of Castro, a love slave of Brezhnev, intent on turning over control of Chile to Moscow.

I almost gagged at the grossness of the anti-Allende cartoons in the right wing press (they controlled the majority of the Chilean media). I observed a campaign of planned violence, beginning with the October 1970 murder of Army Chief General Rene Schneider, by Patria y Libertad, a gang of fascists hired by the CIA. The “destabilization” continued through Allende’s three years, by paying some labor leaders to call strikes in strategic sectors and by imposing economic hardships on Chile. Above all came the constant, daily flood of lies and distortion about the nature of the Allende government and its agenda, which was to better the lot of the poor working people urban and rural through legislation enacted under the existing Constitution.

When the various and combined tactics failed, the Chilean military aided by Washington resorted to a bloody coup. The US Navy played a crucial role, monitoring the traffic emanating from military bases so as to ensure that the coup makers could quickly dispatch any Allende loyalists.

September 11, 1973 stands for many Chileans as a day comparable to 9/11/01 for Americans. Chilean air force jets fired rockets into the president’s office building and tanks blasted away at the revered structure as troops surrounded the symbol of democratic government and then proceeded with a campaign of terror: assassination, kidnapping, torture and exile for their political opponents backed by Washington. After seventeen years of Pinochet-led fascism, more than 3000 Chileans died at the hands of the terrorists that Washington had helped into the seat of government.

In 1976 and again in 1980 making films in Jamaica, I had a d?j? vu experience in the bar of the Hotel Pegasus in Kingston. Prime Minister Michael Manley, a Jamaican businessman told me, was homosexual, a Castro servant and dying of venereal disease. Articles I had read a few years earlier in Spanish in El Mercurio and other Chilean rags began to appear in English in Kingston’s Daily Gleaner. The violence and labor unrest, the rumors, the flight of capital all the features of the Chilean operation now appeared in Jamaica. In his first term, Manley had befriended the poor, struck a friendship with Castro, his neighbor, stood up for third world rights and rejected the conditions the multi lateral lending agencies tried to impose on Jamaica. He also refused Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s request to condemn Cuba for sending troops to Angola in 1975. Indeed, Manley supported the Cuban move. He paid for his independent behavior.

I recalling sitting next to Manley in July 1980 when police agents told him that they had just thwarted an assassination attempt. Manley lost the 1980s election in an atmosphere of fear and violence generated by a CIA-backed campaign to “destabilize” his government. He had tried to pursue an independent course, remove Jamaica from the dictates of the free market missionaries of the lending agencies and the US Treasury. He, like Allende, had designed legislation to aid the poor and promote healthy not dependent development. Jamaicans feared that if he won, the violence and destabilization would increase. Some Manley supporters confessed to me that they had voted against him because they feared that his victory would have meant more violence and some thought that the CIA would surely assassinate Joshua, as Manley’s followers called him. In 1981, I visited a friend working in the US Embassy in Jamaica and she told me that on the night of the election after Manley had conceded to the CIA favored candidate Edward Seaga, the CIA station chief had invited the Embassy staff to a champagne party. He proudly opened his monster-sized safe on whose walls he had pasted the hundreds of articles, editorials and cartoons written or suggested by CIA personnel that had appeared in the Jamaica press. The Sandinistas in Nicaragua suffered a decade of undeclared war from Washington, one that cost them the 1990 election and cost Nicaraguans some 50,000 dead in a terrorist war in which criminals in the highest offices of the United States circumvented Congressional regulations to supply a mercenary army.

So, when I read on April 12 that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had “resigned,” I experienced the shock of recognition, not surprise. For two years, Washington had been sponsoring anti Chavez groups. Indeed, organizations appeared in the United States to protect or defend Venezuelan democracy. This alone would arouse suspicion. When the US and its allied media runs consistently negative articles about Chavez and ignore his accomplishments, one’s suspicions grow stronger.

How many Americans knew that Chavez had offered a democratic constitution that he had designed in order to take institutional power from the traditional and corrupt political parties, which had shared power for decades?

How many were aware of his land reforms favoring the small and landless peasants. Almost no articles appeared to applaud his energetic environmental programs. Similarly, Chavez received scant press attention for his campaign against corruption, the hideous institution that had seen Venezuelan’s political and business class steal fortunes from the poor. Unlike his shady predecessors, Chavez invested in education for the poor and tried to increase their share of wealth. Indeed, Chavez, unlike his larcenous forerunners, struggled to get more oil revenues for Venezuela and by taking a tough OPEC position he did succeed in raising revenues. Chavez also committed heresy by opposing the free market order. He used the government a sin to promote employment and offer credits to the poor and to women. He stepped on the toes of the rich when he insisted that they pay taxes.

The picture that the respected media painted of Chavez however characterized him as something between a populist fascist and communist dictator who ruled because he adored power and practiced extreme media censorship. Western feminists took little notice of Chavez’ appointment of many women to high posts. The clich? in the US and the sheepish media was that Chavez was yet another power mad utopian who was destroying his country’s economy. Then came the coup, portrayed as a democratic move to reestablish democracy and sanity and avoid inevitable and bloody class war. Democrats like the state oil company executives and their high paid union pals, business federation heads, rigid clergymen and, of course, the media, declared themselves as constituting civil society and, as such, allied themselves with the “good” military officers to save democracy.

On April 11, the richest classes and backed by Washington mobilized as many as 200,000 people who, in the name of democracy, defended the integrity of Venezuela’s oil company, PDVSA, whose management Chavez had dismissed for failure to use its resource equitably for the poorest Venezuelans. Previously, the media had broadcast constant advertisements for the impending march and telephone trees and peer pressure had produced a massive outpouring of Chavez’ enemies. And this minority, representing the old and corrupt order, the current class structure, marched for hours through busy streets in Caracas.

Then leaders of the march took a detour from their stated route in order to confront a few thousand rallying Chavez backers who had gathered in front of the President’s office. Predictably, the clash became physical. Shots rang out from police, demonstrators and Chavez supporters. Snipers on buildings fired into the crowds. People died. The plan, concocted between conspirators with the full knowledge at the very least of the highest authorities in Washington, went into effect. Military officials seized Chavez. They apparently named or else God did Pedro Carmona, the business official, as provisional president and the media dutifully reported the events as if democracy were being restored instead of destroyed. As the CNN anchor interviewed Carmona she resisted asking him the obvious. The Venezuela people elected Chavez. By what authority are you President? When Chavez supporters took to the streets in the hundreds of thousands and, unlike in Chile, military units swore loyalty to the elected president, the coup fell apart. Lack of professionalism indeed! The people who voted for their president decided not to allow the filthy rich and the Washington interventionists to alter their destiny as they had done to so many Latin American peoples.

One restored to the presidency, Chavez commented on the media and diplomatic subterfuge. He could have been referring to Otto Reich. “This is nothing new if you understand that they are imitating Goebbels, who in Adolph Hitler’s time had the task of repeating a lie until it seemed true,” he said.

I think it appropriate that hence forth when Reich or his ilk mention the word “democracy” at a press conference reporters worth their salt should audibly pass gas or at least emit a Bronx cheer.

We will spread our lies around the world In the press and TV screens So our president won’t have to use The United States Marines (G. Bush in an attempt to win a contest for best official, but classified lyrics for CIA rallying anthem)

SAUL LANDAU is the Director of Digital Media and International Outreach Programs for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He can be reached at: landau@counterpunch.org.


SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.