WASHINGTON – From the Bush administration’s standpoint, the less said the better about the abortive April 12 coup to oust Venezuela’s elected president, Hugo Chavez, an extraordinary defeat for the world’s sole superpower. Not since the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco, in which the CIA tried to overthrow the Cuban revolution has a U.S.-instigated coup d’etat gone so badly awry.
While they lost the first round, the enemies of Hugo Chavez and his Bolivian revolution have not given up. They are still conspiring to overthrow his popular revolution.
El Nacional, the largest daily newspaper in Venezuela, played a role in the attempt to overthrow Chavez, not unlike Chile’s El Mercurio, which poured out a torrent of lies in the coup that overthrew Salvador Allende in 1973.
But just last week, the Media Workers Union at El Nacional blew the whistle on their employer’s role in instigating strikes and street demonstrations against Chavez. “We will no longer allow ourselves to be used,” the Executive Council of the union declared. “We want to make it clear that we do not agree, nor will we agree, with aggressive political marches, work stoppages and strikes for political purposes.”
If media or other corporations are seeking “political power in Venezuela, we demand that they make it clear that it is the employers and not the workers’ position,” the statement continues. “We must take a stand … The real majority in the country just wants peace, no work stoppages, no war and no coup d’etats.”
Gregory Wilpert, a former Fulbright Scholar doing independent research in Caracas, was an eyewitness to the failed coup. In an article featured in the May edition of Montelibre Monthly, Wilbert argues that Pedro Carmona Estanga, leader of the coup, made a series of blunders and miscalculations. Hours after seizing the Milaflores palace, Carmona, apparently with the blessings of his handlers in Washington, dissolved the parliament and the Supreme Court, nullified the 1999 constitution, which had been ratified by popular vote. Carmona announced that he would hold power for a year before new elections.
The labor federation, CTV , and nearly all the moderate opposition parties were excluded from Carmona’s “democratic unity” cabinet, Wilpert writes. “The new transition cabinet ended up including only the most conservative elements of Venezuelan society.”
Carmona’s second miscalculation was assuming Chavez was so unpopular no one would rise in his defense. Instead, after the shock of the coup had worn off, 100,000 protested in front of the presidential palace as did many thousands more in towns and cities across the country. Within 48 hours, Chavez was returned to office.
Wilpert continued, “Once it became clear the coup was being hijacked by the extreme right and that Chavez enjoyed much more popular support than was imagined, large parts of the military decided to reject the coup.”
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), set up in 1983 under the Reagan administration to funnel money and political support to U.S.-backed political parties around the world, is under scrutiny for its role in the failed coup. At least $877,000 in NED contributions flowed in to support the anti-Chavez forces in Venezuela. NED has four constituent groups: The National Democratic Institute, tied to the Democratic Party, which contributed $210,000; the International Republican Institute, tied to the GOP, which contributed $339,998; the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, tied to the AFL-CIO, which gave $154,377; and the Center for International Private Enterprise, which apparently contributed $171,125 to the Venezuela project.
A statement by the AFL-CIO defended the decision to send money to the CTV but added that the AFL-CIO “unequivocally condemns the coup attempt of April 12 to dissolve democratic institutions that appears to have been engineered by a small group of military officers with the support of some powerful rightwing businessmen. There is no evidence that the CTV or its leaders went beyond the democratic expressions of discontent. In fact, the CTV, along with the vast majority of Venezuelans, refused to recognize the short-lived regime of Pedro Carmona and rejected his decree dissolving the country’s democratic structures.”
It might be wise for the AFL-CIO to study the Venezuelan Media Workers’ statement condemning politically inspired demonstrations. These workers recognize that even what seem “democratic expressions of discontent” can be manipulated by the CIA and other enemies of organized labor and the people to destabilize and undermine governments like that of Chile in 1973 or Venezuela in 2002.
NED’s bipartisan, labor-management structure is really only a façade to hide its role as an instrument of U.S.-corporate global domination. Just last February, NED named to its board of directors the notorious Frank Carlucci, a career CIA operative who is now CEO of the Carlyle Group, one of the wealthiest Pentagon weapons contractors. For over half a century, Carlucci has served as a CIA handyman, overthrowing democratic revolutions and helping install “U.S.-friendly” rightwing regimes on every continent. Also named was Gen. Wesley K. Clark (U.S. Army ret.), former Supreme Commander of NATO, and Richard C. Holbrooke. Clark commanded the bombing war against Serbia; Holbrooke orchestrated the dismantling of Yugoslavia as a viable state.
“We are incredibly fortunate that such a group of distinguished Americans is supporting and helping to guide NED in the mission to promote democracy,” said NED Director Carl Gershman, a top leader of the rightwing Social Democrats USA, who collaborated with Lt. Col. Oliver North in the Iran-Contra war in Central America.
These are the “old hands” who really called the shots in the NED operation in Venezuela. For them, democracy is spelled “o-i-l.” Venezuela provides 1.5 million barrels of the black gold to the U.S. each day.
Chavez has earned the hatred of the Bush administration and the oil companies by working closely with OPEC to secure fair oil prices for producer nations. He also befriended Cuban President Fidel Castro and has supplied Cuba with oil at fair prices in violation of the U.S. embargo.
U.S. Navy warships were just offshore during the coup, providing telecommunications support. According to The Guardian of London, U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Charles Shapiro met with Carmona April 12. One of Carmona’s first decisions was to terminate oil deliveries to Cuba.
Roger Rondon, a member of the Venezuelan Congress, told The Guardian that two U.S. military attaches, James Rogers and Ronald MacCammon, were at the Fuerte Tiuna Military Headquarters, meeting with the coup leaders during the night of April 11-12.
The Venezuelan people saved democracy in April by restoring their elected president. It is key for all democratic-minded people in the U.S. to unmask the ultra-right corporate and Bush’s interests in destabilizing Venezuela.
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