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Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer

On February 11, Bloomberg News published an astonishing piece about the unfolding Venezuelan turmoil. It was apparently the result of a major investigative effort involving three reporters and five others providing “assistance”. You’ll notice I haven’t called it a piece of news (although that’s what it looks like), but I’m not sure what to call it. It’s a piece of something, but what?

With eight people working on it, the piece is a long one, with plenty of sources. By my count, there were 19 sources. Here are 16 of them:

1-4) “four people with knowledge of the discussions”
5) “another person”
6) “a person familiar with the thinking”
7) “a person with knowledge of the conversations”
8) “another person” (different from the previously cited “another person”)
9) “a foreign military official”
10) “a French official”
11) “another person with knowledge of the deliberations”
12) “a person with knowledge of the internal discussions”
13) “a person familiar with [Juan] Guaido’s thinking”
14) “a person familiar with the discussions”
15) “a senior Turkish official”
16) “another person” (different from the previously cited “another person” and “another person”)

A seventeenth source was Elliott Abrams, the Trump administration’s special representative for Venezuela. It’s not clear, however, that any of Bloomberg News’ three reporters or the five others providing “assistance” actually interviewed Abrams or were simply quoting from a previous press conference: “Speaking in Washington last week, Abrams said…”

So what was the focus of this piece? The intrepid reporters were picking up on a January 31st tweet by U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, who encouraged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to retire to “a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela” while he still had time.

The Bloomberg News piece is entitled: “As Nicolas Maduro digs in, his aides hunt for an emergency escape route out of Venezuela.” It got wide exposure, including in Canada’s National Post. [1] The eight reporters and aforementioned 16 sources imply that Maduro is frantically seeking a bolthole somewhere, anywhere – Cuba? Russia? Turkey? Mexico? France? – while appearing to hang on to power.

Their quote from Abrams is this: “’I think it is better for the transition to democracy in Venezuela that he be outside the country,’ Elliott Abrams, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s special representative for Venezuela, said of Maduro. ‘And there are a number of countries that I think would be willing to accept him,’ he told reporters, citing ‘friends in places like Cuba and Russia’.”

There were two more sources cited in this piece: Andrey Kortunov, head of a Moscow research organization entitled the Russian International Affairs Council, and Russian lawmaker Andrey Klimov, deputy head of the upper house of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee. Both affirmed Maduro’s resilience in the midst of the turmoil, with Klimov telling Bloomberg News that Maduro “is not planning to go anywhere.”

Indeed, Klimov “dismissed talk of Maduro’s evacuation as ‘psychological warfare’ aimed at ‘sowing panic and hysteria’” in Venezuela.

In the old days, according to persons knowledgeable on the matter, psychological warfare was conducted through the CIA’s “Mighty Wurlitzer” – massive propaganda efforts utilizing mainstream media and other outlets. These days U.S. taxpayer-funded organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have taken over much of that function. As The Intercept (Jan. 30) informs us, Elliott Abrams is on the board of the NED. [2]

The Mighty Wurlitzer blares on, but under different management and branding. Has Bloomberg News become part of this effort? At this point, persons familiar with the company’s thinking about the question have yet to come forward.

Footnotes:
[1] Esteban Duarte, Eric Martin, Ilya Arkhipov (Bloomberg News), “As Nicolas Maduro digs in, his aides hunt for an emergency escape route out of Venezuela,” National Post, February 11, 2019.
https://nationalpost.com/news/world/as-nicolas-maduro-digs-in-his-aides-hunt-for-an-emergecy-escape-route-out-of-venezuela
[2] Jon Schwartz, “Elliott Abrams, Trump’s Pick for Fixing ‘Democracy’ in Venezuela, Has Spent His Life Crushing Democracy,” The Intercept ,January 30, 2019.

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Joyce Nelson’s sixth book, Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism, can be ordered at: http://watershedsentinel.ca/banksters. She can be reached through www.joycenelson.ca.

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