Lacking the drama of previous counterrevolutionary ventures against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — examples include the failed U.S.-backed coup of April 11, 2002, and the subsequent sabotage campaign against the state-run oil company — new stratagems invoked by his opponents are more gradual and are taking place, by and large, backstage.

They unfold as the Chavez revolution is making strides. Wages are up. Health care has become accessible to millions who never had it before. Illiteracy has been eradicated.

After a four-week campaign, 1.6 million people now belong to the “socialist battalions,” or leadership layers, of the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Over 5.7 million are counted as members.

A July opinion poll gave the Chavez government a 72.1 percent approval rating. But schemes hatched by the Venezuelan oligarchy and its U.S. allies against that government continue.

Eva Golinger’s recent experience makes the point. The Venezuelan-American lawyer testified Aug. 1 before a committee of Venezuela’s National Assembly that the Voice of America had given $10 million to Venezuela’s opposition press with the aim of undermining public support for Chavez’s government.

She also said U.S. Agency for International Development, well known for its hostility to socialist policies, was financing over 300 programs in the country.

Replying to charges of having unleashed a “witch hunt” by her testimony, Golinger said her purpose was “to alert the public and government bodies about the level of subversion inside different sectors of Venezuelan society by imperialist forces.” Writing at rebelion.org, she described “a powerful ‘enemy within’ that corrupts, confuses and distracts, and is allowed to keep on with its work of destabilization.”

Her Caracas apartment was illegally entered on Aug. 4. “That enemy violated my personal space, messing up my personal things … to send me a message,” she said. “They are always watching us and will do all they can to frighten and silence us.”

The “politics of undermining” prevails in the northwestern state of Zulia, contiguous with Colombia. Separatism has thrived for more than a century there, with U.S.-backed plots to foment secession evident in 1869, 1916 and 1928, oil serving as bait on the latter two occasions. An invasion of Zulia, the source of almost half of Venezuela’s oil sales, figured in U.S.-NATO war games in 2001.

Zulia’s governor, Manuel Rosales, was Chavez’s opponent in last year’s presidential election. Rosales is a separatist who has maintained close contacts with departing U.S. Ambassador William Bromfield.

In June, former Vice President Jose Vincent Rangel charged Rosales traveled to Colombia for meetings with right-wing paramilitary units there, which have now deployed 2,500 troops along the border. Reportedly these troops slip frequently into Venezuela.

Rangel accused the Zulian government of using its 10,000-member regional police force for its own selfish purposes, to the neglect of national interests.

Jean Carlos DiMartino, the mayor of Maracaibo, Zulia’s capital, doesn’t like the situation either. In a July 22 open letter to Venezuela’s minister of justice and to the president of the National Assembly, DiMartino demanded “investigation of the nexus between the regional government and the paramilitary structure that operates on the frontier with Colombia.”

Kidnappings, sabotage, smuggling, extortion, drug trafficking and murders are threatening to overwhelm Zulia, and the ties between the regional police and the Colombian paramilitaries are seen as fomenting chaos and hurting law enforcement.

DiMartino accused Gov. Rosales of too long relying upon violent security adviser Henry Lopez Sisco. Charged with massacres of left-wing activists from 1982 on, Lopez disappeared from view in June 2006.

Recent reports are emblematic of instability in Zulia. Anti-government agitators have been found talking with workers on rigs owned by PDVSA, the state-owned oil company. According to Gustavo Petro, a left-wing senator in Colombia, paramilitaries from his country are working with dissident PDVSA officials to bring contraband gasoline into Colombia.

In June, two undercover intelligence agents associated with the Colombian military were found murdered in Santa Barbara, Venezuela.

At a press conference in Caracas on Aug. 6, Carlos Lozano, director of Voz, newspaper of the Colombian Communist Party, denounced the Colombian government for sending agents into Venezuela.

“I see them as part of a strategy of destabilization against the Chavez government by the paramilitaries,” he said.

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