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Destabilizing Venezuela: Longstanding US Policy

by Stephen Lendman Tuesday, Apr. 09, 2013 at 4:14 AM


Destabilizing Venezuela: Longstanding US Policy

by Stephen Lendman

It doesn't surprise. It's likely happening ahead of Venezuela's April 14 presidential election. It'll continue when it's over.

Washington tolerates no independent governments. It demands pro-Western ones. It wants them serving US interests. Outliers are targeted for regime change.

Throughout his tenure, Chavez was America's main hemispheric bete noire. He's gone. Chavismo lives. Washington's war on Venezuela continues.

It's the oil, stupid. Venezuela has the world's largest reserves. It's also for unchallenged regional dominance. No holds barred tactics persist to achieve it.

On April 5, Russia Today (RT) headlined "New WikiLeaks cable reveals US embassy strategy to destabilize Chavez government."

America's Caracas embassy's a hotbed of anti-Chavismo subversion. RT referred to past events. William Brownfield was US ambassador. He's now Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

From 2004 - 2006, his five-point plan included "strengthening democratic institutions," (doing so by undermining them), "penetrating Chavez's political base, dividing Chavismo, protecting vital US business, and isolating Chavez internationally."

USAID handled implementation. It provided about million dollars. It did so through its Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). It was created in spring 2002. Money went for training and technical assistance. Over 300 anti-Chavismo organizations got it.

A November 9, 2006 US Caracas embassy cable explained. WikiLeaks exposed it. Its full unredacted text states:

"Classified By: Robert Downes, Political Counselor,

for Reason 1.4(d).




"1.  (S)  During his 8 years in power, President Chavez has

systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and

governance. The USAID/OTI program objectives in Venezuela

focus on strengthening democratic institutions and spaces

through non-partisan cooperation with many sectors of

Venezuelan society.

2.  (S)  In August of 2004, Ambassador outlined the country

team's 5 point strategy to guide embassy activities in

Venezuela for the period 2004 ) 2006 (specifically, from the

referendum to the 2006 presidential elections). The

strategy's focus is: 1) Strengthening Democratic

Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez' Political Base, 3)

Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5)

Isolating Chavez internationally.

3.  (S)  A brief description of USAID/OTI activities during

the aforementioned time period in support of the strategy


Strengthen Democratic Institutions


4.  (S)  This strategic objective represents the majority of

USAID/OTI work in Venezuela. Organized civil society is an

increasingly important pillar of democracy, one where

President Chavez has not yet been able to assert full


5.  (S)  OTI has supported over 300 Venezuelan civil society

organizations with technical assistance, capacity building,

connecting them with each other and international movements,

and with financial support upwards of million. Of these,

39 organizations focused on advocacy have been formed since

the arrival of OTI; many of these organizations as a direct

result of OTI programs and funding.

6. (S)  Human Rights: OTI supports the Freedom House (FH)

"Right to Defend Human Rights" program with .1 million.

Simultaneously through Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI),

OTI has also provided 22 grants to human rights

organizations, totaling 6,000. FH provides training and

technical assistance to 15 different smaller and regional

human rights organizations on how to research, document, and

present cases in situations of judicial impunity through a

specialized software and proven techniques. Following are

some specific successes from this project, which has led to a

better understanding internationally of the deteriorating

human rights situation in the country:

Venezuelan Prison Observatory: Since beginning work with

OTI, OVP has taken 1 case successfully through the

inter-American system, achieving a ruling requiring BRV

special protective measures for the prison 'La Pica.' Also,

on November 7th - 12th they will be launching the

Latin-American Prison Observatory, consolidating their work

with a regional network. OVP receives technical support from

FH, as well as monetary support from Pan American Development Foundation (PADF). Due to the success of the OVP in raising awareness of the issue, the BRV has put pressure on them in the form of public statements, announcing investigations, accusing them of alleged crimes as well as death threats.

Central Venezuelan University Human Rights Center: This

center was created out of the FH program and a grant from

CARACAS 00003356  002.2 OF 004

DAI. They have successfully raised awareness regarding the

International Cooperation Law and the human rights situation

in Venezuela, and have served as a voice nationally and


Human Rights Lawyers Network in Bolivar State: This group

was created out of the FH program and a grant from the DAI

small grants program. They are currently supporting the

victims of a massacre of 12 miners in Bolivar State allegedly

by the Venezuelan Army. Chavez himself was forced to admit

that the military used excessive force in this case. They

will present their case to the Inter-American Commission on

Human Rights in February 2007.

7. (S) Citizen Participation in Governance:  Venezuelan

NGOs lack a long history of social activism. In response,

OTI partners are training NGOs to be activists and become

more involved in advocacy. The successes of this focus have

been as follows:

Support for the Rights of the Handicapped: OTI has funded 3

projects in the Caracas area dealing with the rights of the

handicapped. Venezuela had neither the appropriate

legislation nor political will to assure that the cities are

designed and equipped in a handicapped sensitive fashion.

Through these programs, OTI brought the issue of the

handicapped to the forefront, trained advocacy groups to

advocate for their rights and lobby the National Assembly,

and alerted the press regarding this issue. Subsequent to

this, the National Assembly was forced to consider

handicapped needs and propose draft legislation for the issue.

Por la Caracas Possible (PCP): Once-beautiful Caracas has

decayed over the past several years due to corruption and

lack of attention. PCP is a local NGO dedicated to bringing

attention to this problem. They have held campaigns with

communities shining a light on the terrible job elected

leadership are doing resolving the problems in Caracas.

During their work they have been expelled from communities by

the elected leaders, further infuriating communities that

already feel un-assisted.

8. (S) Civic Education: One effective Chavista mechanism

of control applies democratic vocabulary to support

revolutionary Bolivarian ideology. OTI has been working to

counter this through a civic education program called

'Democracy Among Us.' This interactive education program

works through NGOs in low income communities to deliver five

modules: 1) Separation of Powers, 2) Rule of Law, 3) The

Role and Responsibility of Citizens, 4) Political Tolerance,

and 5) The Role of Civil Society. Separate civic education

programs in political tolerance, participation, and human

rights have reached over 600,000 people.


Penetrate Base/Divide Chavismo


9. (S) Another key Chavez strategy is his attempt to divide

and polarize Venezuelan society using rhetoric of hate and

violence. OTI supports local NGOs who work in Chavista

strongholds and with Chavista leaders, using those spaces to

counter this rhetoric and promote alliances through working

together on issues of importance to the entire community.

OTI has directly reached approximately 238,000 adults through

over 3000 forums, workshops and training sessions delivering

alternative values and providing opportunities for opposition

activists to interact with hard-core Chavistas, with the

desired effect of pulling them slowly away from Chavismo. We

have supported this initiative with 50 grants totaling over

.1 million. There are several key examples of this:

10. (S) Visor Participativo: This is a group of 34 OTI

CARACAS 00003356  003.2 OF 004

funded and technically assisted NGOs working together on

municipal strengthening. They work in 48 municipalities

(Venezuela has 337), with 31 MVR, 2 PPT and 15 opposition

mayors. As Chavez attempts to re-centralize the country, OTI

through Visor is supporting decentralization. Much of this

is done through the municipal councils (CLPPs). The National

Assembly recently passed a law that creates groups parallel

to the mayor's offices and municipal councils (and that

report directly to the president's office). These groups are

receiving the lions share of new monies Chavez is pumping

into the regions, leaving the municipalities under-funded.

As Chavez attempts to re-centralize all power to the

Executive in the capital, local Chavista leadership are

becoming the opposition as their individual oxen are gored.

Visor has been providing these leaders with tools and skills

for leadership to counter the threat represented by the new


11. (S) CECAVID: This project supported an NGO working

with women in the informal sectors of Barquisimeto, the 5th

largest city in Venezuela. The training helped them

negotiate with city government to provide better working

conditions. After initially agreeing to the women's

conditions, the city government reneged and the women shut

down the city for 2 days forcing the mayor to return to the

bargaining table. This project is now being replicated in

another area of Venezuela.

12. (S) PROCATIA: OTI has partnered with a group widely

perceived by people in the large Caracas &barrio8 as

opposition leaning. Due to incompetence of the local elected

leadership, the garbage problem in Catia is a messy issue for

all those who live there. This group has organized brigades

to collect and recycle trash, in the process putting pressure

on the government to provide basic services and repositioning

the group as a respected ally of the 'barrio.'

13. (S) Finally, through support of a positive social

impact campaign in cooperation with PAS, OTI funded 54 social

projects all over the country, at over .2 million, allowing

Ambassador to visit poor areas of Venezuela and demonstrate

US concern for the Venezuelan people. This program fosters

confusion within the Bolivarian ranks, and pushes back at the

attempt of Chavez to use the United States as a 'unifying



Isolate Chavez


14. (S) An important component of the OTI program is

providing information internationally regarding the true

revolutionary state of affairs. OTI's support for human

rights organizations has provided ample opportunity to do so.

The FH exchanges allowed Venezuelan human rights

organizations to visit Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Chile,

Argentina, Costa Rica, and Washington DC to educate their

peers regarding the human rights situation. Also, DAI has

brought dozens of international leaders to Venezuela,

university professors, NGO members, and political leaders to

participate in workshops and seminars, who then return to

their countries with a better understanding of the Venezuelan

reality and as stronger advocates for the Venezuelan


15. (S) More recently, OTI has taken advantage of the draft

law of International Cooperation to send NGO representatives

to international NGO conferences where they are able to voice

their concerns in terms that global civil society understands. So far, OTI has sent Venezuelan NGO leaders to Turkey, Scotland, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Chile, Uruguay, Washington and Argentina (twice) to talk about the law. Upcoming visits are planned to Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.

CARACAS 00003356  004.2 OF 004

OTI has also brought 4 recognized experts in NGO law from

abroad to Venezuela to show solidarity for their Venezuelan

counterparts. PADF supported visits by 4 key human rights

defenders to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission

meetings in Washington in October of 2006. These have led to

various successes:

Civicus, a world alliance of NGOs, has put the Venezuela

issue on their Civil Society Watch short list of countries of


Gente de Soluciones, a Venezuelan NGO presented their

"Project Society" to the OAS General Assembly. While there,

they met with many of the Ambassadors and Foreign Ministers

of OAS member states to express concern about the law.

Uruguayan parliamentarians met with NGOs at a special session of the Foreign Affairs commission, and have promised to help where they can.

The Human Rights Commission of the OAS has made several

public statements and sent private letters to the National

Assembly expressing concern with the law.

The most prestigious law faculty in Buenos Aires, Argentina

has committed to hosting an event to deal with the draft law.

The Democratic Observatory of MERCOSUR plans to hold an event early next year to discuss the draft law.

So far the Venezuelan National Assembly has received many

letters and emails of opposition to the law from groups all

over the world.

A private meeting between 4 Venezuelan human rights defenders and Secretary General Jose Miguel Inzulsa during the October 2006 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (please protect).

The press, both local and international, has been made aware

of the proposed law and it has received wide play in the US

as well as in Latin America.

16. (S) OTI has also created a web site which has been sent

to thousands of people all over the world with details of the

law in an interactive format.



17. (S) Through carrying out positive activities, working

in a non-partisan way across the ideological landscape, OTI

has been able to achieve levels of success in carrying out

the country team strategy in Venezuela. These successes have

come with increasing opposition by different sectors of

Venezuelan society and the Venezuelan government. Should

Chavez win the December 3rd presidential elections, OTI

expects the atmosphere for our work in Venezuela to become

more complicated.


OTI funded over 50 projects. They aimed to foster "confusion within the Bolivarian ranks, and pushe(d) back at the attempt of Chavez to use the United States as a unifying enemy."

In 2010, Venezuela closed OTI's office. It did so for good reason. Chavez knew what he faced. So does acting president/United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) presidential candidate Nicolas Maduro. Elections are scheduled for Sunday, April 14.

He's odds on favored to win. Polls show him way ahead. He's concerned about internal subversion and sabotage. On April 4, he ordered Venezuela's military to protect power plants just in case.

He did so following suspicious Cararcas and Aragua state outages. He called them opposition efforts to wage "electricity" and "economic war." He stressed the urgency of protecting "national security."

Venezuela's state-run National Electricity Corporation (Corpoelec) found 11 burned out transformers throughout Aragua state. Company president Argenis Chavez cited sabotage. So did Maduro, saying "(t)here's nothing to indicate (a conventional) failure."

"It's not a secret to anyone that inside the structure of the electrical system, there are (anti-Chavismo) elements. Thank God every day there are less workers who answer the right-wing call to commit sabotage. But there is internal and external sabotage."

Argenis Chavez said suspicious power failures occurred before last October's presidential elections. They're happening again now. Perhaps other destabilizing schemes are planned ahead of April 14.

Washington's long arm's been involved throughout Chavez's tenure. It continues now. Replacing Chavismo is policy. Past efforts failed.

They included an aborted two-day April 2002 coup, a 2002-03 64-day oil industry lockout, an unsuccessful 2004 recall election, Western scoundrel media campaigns, and millions of dollars given anti-Chavismo political parties, journalists, NGOs, and other groups wanting oligarch power restored.

In 2006, Washington established a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) mission manager for Venezuela and Cuba. CIA veteran Timothy Langford heads it. He replaced interim manager Patrick Maher.

In June 2007, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Craig Kelly called Chavez a regional "enemy." He proposed "six main areas of action for the US government to limit (his) influence (and) reassert US leadership in the region."

He stressed "strengthen(ing) ties to those military leaders in the region who share our concern over Chavez." He proposed "psychological operations" to exploit government vulnerabilities.

"We also need to make sure that the truth about Chavez - his hollow vision, his empty promises, his dangerous international relationships, starting with Iran - gets out, always exercising careful judgment about where and how we take on Chavez directly/publicly."

Throughout his tenure, Washington wanted him ousted. It wants state-owned enterprises privatized. It wants Bolivarian initiatives abolished. It wants Venezuela made a client-state.

In April 2008, the Pentagon reactivated its Fourth Fleet. It did so after a 60 year hiatus. It was established during WW II. It was disbanded in 1950.

It's part of US Naval Forces Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM). It's headquartered at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, FL. It operates throughout Central and Latin America.

Its purpose involves "conducting varying missions including a range of contingency operations, counter(ing) narco-terrorism, and theater security cooperation activities."

Former USSOUTHCOM commander Admiral James Stevenson called the move a message to the entire region, not just Venezuela.

National War College commandant General Robert Steele said:

"The United States' obsession with Venezuela, Cuba and other things indicates they are going to use more military force, going to use that instrument more often."

US bases infest Latin America. Seven operate in eastern Colombia. It borders Venezuela. Chavez was justifiably concerned. He called stationing US forces nearby "a threat of war at us."

So far, US destabilization efforts wage it by other means. Expect no letup ahead. Venezuela's targeted for regime change. Obama's more belligerent than Bush.

Chavismo remains the threat of a good example. Washington wants a client state replacing it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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