For Venezuela, what follows war of words?

Venezuela is fighting back against a propaganda onslaught from the U.S. media that, some observers say, is a harbinger of impending military aggression.

The temperature is rising. Four hundred Venezuelan journalists issued a statement March 8 highly critical of the growing U.S. media campaign against the government of President Hugo Chavez. Venezuelan Information Minister Andres Izarra accused a Washington Post writer of “lying” in a March 28 article critical of Venezuela for fostering political repression.

Venezuelan-American lawyer Eva Golinger, writing in venezuelanalysis.com, looked at the content of this media blitz. Unfavorable U.S. official commentary is being widely disseminated. Examples include characterizing Venezuela as “a flash point ... the leading Latin American country to be alarmed about” (from the CIA chief), and saying Chavez represents “a new breed of authoritarianism” (deputy secretary of state) and “a negative force in the region” (secretary of state).

Golinger reports that since January a mere handful of leading news sources have produced “well over 60 articles and programs regurgitating State Department accusations.” Another source calculated that, over a two-year period, five prestigious U.S. newspapers printed 184 negative articles about the Chavez government versus 35 friendly ones. She sees close parallels between media bashing of Chavez today and U.S. press propaganda that went along with the Contra war in Nicaragua.

The right-wing media in Miami has been particularly unrestrained. Recent television interviews there have included threats against U.S. organizations friendly towards Chavez; an update about a locally based, ongoing assassination plot against Chavez; and what amounts to an appeal for a volunteer to murder the Venezuelan president.

The intensified media binge occurs just as Washington is making a course correction in its campaign to topple the Chavez government. Covert and illegal methods have not budged him. Golinger’s new book, “The Chavez Code,” puts these methods on full display, courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act. The book documents U.S. machinations in both the April 2002 coup and the illegal oil industry “strike” later that year. It also details the millions of dollars that flowed to Chavez’ opponents in the 2004 recall vote.

For Washington, Chavez’ tenure is disappointedly secure. Venezuela’s social revolution is advancing, and newly forged ties with Cuba, China and South American countries have fortified its economy, which last year grew at a rate of 17 percent. And a string of election wins over six years has established Chavez’ mastery in electoral politics. Alternative parties barely register in public opinion polls.

Juan Foreno noted in a recent New York Times article that “American officials ... recognize the need for a longer-term strategy to deal with a leader who is poised to win a second six-year term in elections next year. A multi-agency task force in Washington has been working on shaping a new approach, one that ... would most likely veer toward a harder line.”

James Petras, writing in Counterpunch, suggests that the new approach will be open, direct and confrontational. Aggressive tactics will center on Colombia, one of the country’s neighbors. Already, he notes, cross-border incidents set off by Colombian paramilitaries, complete with kidnappings and murder, pose threats to Venezuelan sovereignty. The ongoing jostling may lead, eventually, to a more serious military conflict.

As the recipient of billions of dollars worth of military aid, the right-wing Uribe government of Colombia will presumably carry out U.S. orders, including the manufacturing of whatever pretext is needed for military intervention in Venezuela.

Petras also suggests that war on Venezuela is the necessary prerequisite for finishing off Cuba. With Chavez gone, Cuba would lose trade, return to oil shortages, and face great suffering under a tightened U.S. blockade. The resulting state of weakness would invite military attack on the island.

For the moment, with its previous strategies clearly ineffectual, the Bush administration appears to be relying on a media campaign — couched in “anti-terrorist,” anti-socialist, free-market lingo — that eerily echoes much of what preceded the invasion of Iraq