U.S. measures for resisting progressive changes in Latin America have included funding of rightwing opposition groups, military deployment throughout the region, and the Fourth Fleet for monitoring a continent. This year seven new bases have been announced for Colombia, one in Peru and two in Panama.
Efforts to destabilize Venezuela’s socialist government have been part of the mix. Assets include despondent, formerly entitled Venezuelans and Colombian military force. The failed coup to remove President Hugo Chavez and attempted shutdown of the state oil company were early signs seven years ago. Since then Colombian paramilitary formations, in league with the U.S. puppet government there and rightwing elements in Venezuela, have embarked upon mayhem.
First hand testimony suggests paramilitaries plotted to assassinate President Hugo Chavez.
El Nuevo Herald of Miami recently published a prison interview with Geovanny Velásquez Zambrano. The ex-paramilitary said he attended two meetings almost 10 years ago at which Manuel Rosales, then mayor of Maracaibo, offered $25 million for killing Chavez. He hinted at U.S. sources. Velásquez reported that paramilitary chieftain Jorge Iván Laverde – known as “el Iguano” – accepted the offer: “I have the guys to kill this gentleman.”
The plotters established a training camp in Catatumbo to prepare for forays into Venezuela. Velásquez’ own group entered Venezuela in 2000. According to the Nuevo Herald, Laverde, also a prisoner, accused high Colombian Army officers of orchestrating paramilitary ventures.
From 2000 to 2008, Rosales governed border state Zulia. In 2006 he was the rightist candidate in a losing bid for the presidency and that year allegedly met again with Colombian paramilitaries in a border town. He escaped to Peru in April.
In late September, a video rendition of Velasquez’ testimony before Colombian prosecutors appeared on the Al Jazeera web site, along with lawyer Eva Golinger’s commentary. Interviewed by TeleSur, she characterized paramilitary intrusion into Venezuela as “part of what the United States classifies as irregular war [using] military groups to promote violent actions.” She saw the 2004 assassination of Venezuelan chief prosecutor Danilo Anderson as one example. Citing a U.S. Southern Command document dated April 13, 2003, Golinger accused Washington of creating a new “United Self Defense Forces of Venezuela” organized by paramilitaries of the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia.
Golinger recalled the arrest in 2004 of over 100 Colombian paramilitaries lodged at a farm near Caracas who were preparing to assassinate Chavez. She estimated 3,000 Colombian paramilitaries are active in Venezuela now. Acting upon Geovanny Velásquez’s revelations, Venezuela’s Attorney General Luisa Ortega recently began an investigation of paramilitary threats against President Chavez.
Such reports are not new. In media interviews in 2003, 2006, and on Sept. 3, former Colombian intelligence official Rafael Garcia, imprisoned for bribery, claimed that Colombian government officials conspired with paramilitary chiefs to create turmoil in Venezuela and assassinate Venezuelan leaders, including Chavez. In the recent session, televised by Noticias Uno and disseminated by TeleSur, Garcia asserted that “It was all a conspiracy against the Venezuelan government in which the DAS (his own intelligence agency) and factions of the Northern Bloc [of paramilitaries] participated.” Dissident Venezuelan military officers were involved.
An imprisoned Colombian Army officer, again interviewed by El Nuevo Herald, corroborated. Mauricio Llorente, a School of the Americas graduate convicted of allowing paramilitary massacres in Catatumbo in 1999, indicated that “professional soldier” José Misael Valero Santa (aka “Lucas”), while under his command, was preparing to kill Chavez. Llorente told the interviewer that Lucas still commanded 1,000 paramilitaries.
In Miami, rightwing Cuban exiles and Venezuelan ex-military officers and wealthy exiles have maintained a joint anti-Chavez project. Like Cuban-American counterpart groups, the so-called Venezuelan Patriotic Union carries out training exercises in the Everglades.
Retired Miami area FBI head Hector Pesquera attended a meeting in 2003 in Panama where, according to the Nuevo Herald, the assassination of Prosecutor Danilo Anderson was planned. Closely allied with Cuban-American honchos in Miami, Pesquera headed the FBI investigation leading to the conviction and skewed sentencing of the Cuban Five political prisoners.
Eva Golinger described the purpose of a seminar organized jointly last May by the conservative Cato Institute in Washington and a U.S.-funded non-governmental organization in Caracas as “training youth in the tactics of ‘gradual coup’ and subversion.” Destabilization and whittling away at governance are traditional U.S. tools for maintaining hegemony. Under Operation Mongoose in the 1960s, U.S. operatives bedeviled Cuba with assassination attempts, guerrilla insurgency, wholesale sabotage, and terrorism. A decade later in Chile, prior to the Pinochet takeover and death of President Allende, they “made the economy scream” and carried out selective killings.