A few days before the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, then Vice President and now Acting President Nicolas Maduro, who is also the candidate of the left for the April 14 presidential elections, accused a group of right wing former U.S. officials -- Roger Noriega, Otto Reich and John Negroponte - of working to destabilize Venezuela.
Maduro repeated the accusations after Chavez' death and strongly suggested that his opponent in the new presidential elections scheduled for April 14, Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, is in contact with those circles. On Wednesday Maduro added that Venezuela had detected a plot from those same circles to kill Capriles. The implication was that the attack on Capriles might be a provocation to create a pretext for outside intervention in Venezuela. Maduro did not give details.
Also, in the wake of Chavez' death, the Venezuelan government expelled the air force attaché of the U.S. embassy in Caracas and another diplomat, charging that they had made inappropriate contacts with Venezuelan military officers. The United States retaliated by expelling the second secretary and another diplomat at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington D.C.
Finally, the Venezuelan government has ordered an investigation as to whether Chavez' cancer might have been induced by enemies of his Bolivarian political project.
The media in the United States have been on a nonstop campaign of slander against Chavez, Maduro and the leftist government of Venezuela, so it was no surprise that these developments caused various media to suggest that Maduro is paranoid or lying.
But all of the things that Maduro mentioned have at least some history behind them.
There are theories that certain microorganisms can stimulate the growth of cancer, and there are cases of it being induced via the introduction of radioactive substances into a person's body.
As to the involvement of U.S. embassy and military personnel in fomenting coups d'état in countries whose governments the U.S. government does not like, there are a great many examples. A running joke in Latin America is this: Question, "Why has there never been a coup d'état in the United States?" Answer: "Because there is no U.S. embassy in Washington D.C."
Latin American coups in which the United States played a role are so many that they can't be listed here; Readers may recall Honduras in 2009, Haiti in 2004, Venezuela itself in 2002, Chile in 1973, Brazil in 1964 and Guatemala in 1954 as just a few of dozens. In the 1980s the U.S. worked to undermine the left-wing Sandinista government in Nicaragua by funding violent terrorist actions. There are suspicions about the coup in Paraguay last year also.
Maduro's accusations were directed mostly at right wing Republicans linked to the Cuban exile circles in Miami and to other cold warriors such as ex Lieutenant Colonel Ollie North and Elliot Abrams. He named three specific individuals.
The first is Otto Reich, who was heavily involved in preparations for the failed 2002 coup in Venezuela. He was, at that time, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the government of George W. Bush. Previously, Reich had served Reagan as head of a unit that disseminated right wing propaganda about Latin America to the U.S. public. From 1986 to 1989 he was the U.S. ambassador in Venezuela.
Reich is closely connected to right wing Venezuelan lawyer Robert Carmona-Borjas, who had to flee from Venezuela in 2002 after the failure of the coup with which he, too, was intimately involved. In the United States, Carmona-Borjas set up the Arcadia Foundation, whose ostensible purpose is to fight government corruption internationally; in fact it is used by the U.S. and international right to attack progressive governments, especially in Venezuela. The fingerprints of Reich and Carmona-Borjas were all over the Honduran coup of the spring of 2009.
A second individual denounced by Maduro is Roger Noriega. As a U.S. permanent representative to the Organization of American States, Noriega was a strong supporter of the 2002 Venezuelan coup attempt and, after leaving the OAS post, also of the overthrow of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. After the Honduran coup of Spring 2009, Noriega worked as a lobbyist for the coup regime.
Finally, there is John Negroponte, former Deputy Secretary of State, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, former Director of National Intelligence, and former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, the last named during the Reagan administration when Negroponte was a major player in the contra wars. (Negroponte was named to a State Department advisory panel by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton).
Now, Reich, Noriega and Negroponte are in the U.S. press and media almost daily, calling for a tough line by the Obama administration against Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government claims these people are the ones with whom candidate Capriles Radonski and his representatives have been colluding. Capriles, for his part, accuses Maduro of being a "traitor" who is selling out Venezuela to Cuba.
Could it be that either public or private individuals in the United States, including the ones named by Maduro, as well as the CIA, the military, and other agencies, are working secretly to create provocations that will destabilize Venezuela and either affect the April 14 elections or their aftermath? The history of U.S.-Latin American relations and the careers of these shadowy figures show that this is by no means a crazy suggestion.
Post Chavez, the working class and other poor people of Venezuela would not tolerate another situation like the 2002 coup, and would fight back even more fiercely than they did then. We should support them one hundred percent.
Photo: Venezuela's acting President Nicolas Maduro speaks at the opening of the Ninth International Book Fair of Venezuela which pays tribute to late President Hugo Chavez, in Caracas, Venezuela, March 13. Ariana Cubillos/AP