FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Venezuela and the Imperial Script, 2004 Edition

This essay was written during the ill-fated 2004 campaign to recall Hugo Chavez.

You can set your watch by it. The minute some halfway decent government in Latin America begins to reverse the order of things and give the have-nots a break from the grind of poverty and wretchedness, the usual suspects in El Norte rouse themselves from the slumber of indifference and start barking furiously about democratic norms. It happened in 1973 in Chile; we saw it again in Nicaragua in the 1980s; and here’s the same show on summer rerun in Venezuela, pending the August 15 recall referendum of President Hugo Chávez.

Chávez is the best thing that has happened to Venezuela’s poor in a very long time. His government has actually delivered on some of its promises, with improved literacy rates and more students getting school meals. Public spending has quadrupled on education and tripled on healthcare, and infant mortality has declined. The government is promoting one of the most ambitious land-reform programs seen in Latin America in decades.

Most of this has been done under conditions of economic sabotage. Oil strikes, a coup attempt and capital flight have resulted in about a 4 percent decline in GDP for the five years that Chávez has been in office. But the economy is growing at close to 12 percent this year, and with world oil prices near $40 a barrel, the government has extra billions that it’s using for social programs. So naturally the United States wants him out, just as the rich in Venezuela do. Chávez was re-elected in 2000 for a six-year term. A US-backed coup against him was badly botched in 2002.

The imperial script calls for a human rights organization to start braying about irregularities by their intended victim. And yes, here’s José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch. We last met him in CounterPunch helping to ease a $1.7 billion US aid package for Colombia’s military apparatus. This time he’s holding a press conference in Caracas, hollering about the brazen way Chávez is trying to expand membership of Venezuela’s Supreme Court, the same way FDR did, and for the same reason: that the Venezuelan court has been effectively packed the other way for decades, with judicial flunkies of the rich. We don’t recall Vivanco holding too many press conferences to protest that perennial iniquity.

The “international observers” recruited to save the rich traditionally include the Organization of American States and the Carter Center; in the case of the Venezuelan recall they have mustered dead on schedule. On behalf of the opposition, they exerted enormous pressure on the country’s independent National Electoral Council during the signature-gathering and verification process. Eventually the head of the OAS mission had to be replaced by the OAS secretary general because of his unacceptable public statements.

The Carter Center’s team is headed by Jennifer McCoy, whose forthcoming book, The Unraveling of Representative Democracy in Venezuela, leans heavily against the government. One of its contributors is José Antonio Gil of the Datanalysis Polling Firm, most often cited for US media analysis. The Los Angeles Times quoted Gil on what to do: “And he can see only one way out of the political crisis surrounding President Hugo Chávez. ‘He has to be killed,’ he said, using his finger to stab the table in his office far above this capital’s filthy streets. ‘He has to be killed.’”

Media manipulation is an essential part of the script, and here, right on cue, comes Bill Clinton’s erstwhile pollster, Stan Greenberg, still a leading Democratic Party strategist. Greenberg is under contract to RCTV, one of the right-wing media companies leading the Venezuelan opposition and recall effort. It’s a pollster’s dream job. Not only does he have enormous resources against an old-fashioned, politically unsophisticated poor people’s movement, but his firm has something comrades back home can only fantasize about: control over the Venezuelan media. Imagine if the right wing controlled almost the entire media during Clinton’s impeachment.

That’s the situation in Venezuela. Just think what Greenberg’s associate, Mark Feierstein-a veteran of similar NED efforts in ousting the Sandinistas in the 1990 elections-can do with this kind of totalitarian media control. NED? That’s the National Endowment for Democracy, praised not so long ago by John Kerry, who, like Bush, publicly craves the ouster of Chávez.

The NED is coming over the hill arm in arm with the CIA and CIA-backed institutions in the AFL-CIO, where John Sweeney’s team has dismally failed to clean house. The NED has helped fund the opposition to Chávez to the tune of more than $1 million a year. Among the recipients are organizations whose leaders actually supported the April 2002 coup-they signed the decree that overthrew the elected president and vice president and abolished the country’s democratic institutions, including the Constitution, Supreme Court and National Assembly. The coup was thwarted only because millions of Venezuelans rallied for Chávez.

Left out of the coup government, despite his support for it, was Carlos Ortega, head of the CTV (Central Labor Federation). The AFL’s Solidarity Center, successor to the CIA-linked AIFLD, gets more than 80 percent of its funding from the NED and USAID and has funneled NED money to Ortega and his collaborators. The Solidarity Center has been up to its ears in opposition plotting, a reprise of the Allende years, when the AFL helped destroy Chilean democracy. The AFL has denied any role, but Rob Collier, an excellent San Francisco Chronicle reporter, recently gave a detailed refutation of AFL apologetics in an exchange in the current New Labor Forum. “In Venezuela,” he writes, “the AFL-CIO has blindly supported a reactionary union establishment as it tried repeatedly to overthrow President Hugo Chávez-and, in the process, wrecked the country’s economy.

The CTV worked in lockstep with FEDECAMARAS, the nation’s business association, to carry out the three general strikes/lockouts” of 2001, 2002 and 2003. The CTV, Collier says, was directly involved in coup organizing, and its leader was scheduled to be part of the new junta.

The end of this particular drama has yet to be written. The left here in the United States could make a difference if it got off its haunches and threw itself into the fray.

This essay is adapted from a piece that appeared in the June 2004 print issue of CounterPunch.

Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of NatureGrand Theft Pentagon and Born Under a Bad Sky. His latest book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net. Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail