News Analysis

A report came over the Internet Oct. 15 with an intriguing headline: “Intelligence Report: U.S. ‘private military contractors’ already in country to ‘deal with’ Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez.” It came from

Here is the text: “Intelligence agencies are revealing that U.S. private military contractors, active in Colombia ‘under various contract umbrellas, including counter-narcotics and counterinsurgency,’ are building up to yet another attempted coup d’etat against Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez.”

The private military contractors, the story said, “are known already to have conducted several incursions across the Colombia-Venezuela border to link up with rebel units of the Venezuelan military operating along the border badlands between the two countries.”

It continued, “Senior officials at the U.S. Pentagon have authorized the intruder operation as part of a plan to make it appear that Chavez is militarily assisting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The U.S. mercenaries have also established close links with right-wing Colombian paramilitaries … to smuggle weapons into Venezuela.”

The report indicated that a Colombian Army general is working at the Pentagon to coordinate “force development” and “scenario simulation” invasive techniques.

The communication appeared with no verification, corroboration, or source identification. It may be false. There are reasons to believe it is true, however. Here is the reasoning.

The U.S. military is deeply involved in Columbia under so-called Plan Colombia, introduced at the end of the Clinton presidency. The program now goes under the name Andean Regional Initiative. Its former cover of fighting the drug war was blown long ago. The U.S. government provides open support for Colombia’s campaign against leftist guerillas, who have been fighting for social justice for over four decades.

In Colombia — and throughout the world — private military contractors do the work of soldiers. The use of private citizens for military functions relieves the U.S. government of the onus of military failures and casualties and of responsibility for crimes they commit. The U.S. government relies heavily on the multibillion-dollar corporation DynCorp to carry out military actions in Colombia. In late 2004 the Bush administration increased the U.S. military allotment in Colombia to 800 U.S. soldiers and 600 private military contractors, up from 300.

One assumes that a U.S. military presence in Columbia means military involvement throughout the region, including Venezuela. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) testified as much on Oct. 29, 2003, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“We’re all aware Plan Colombia’s undergoing changes in its name,” Dodd said. “Now we talk about the Andean Counter-drug Initiative and the Andean Regional Initiative. It remains to be seen whether the new name reflects a shift in focus from Colombia, specific to a more comprehensive regional strategy. I certainly hope it does.

“As I mentioned before, I strongly believe the United States assistance to Colombia and other Andean countries must support a regional game plan to include countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru as full partners in destroying the drug cartels and the scourge of this hemisphere.”

Lastly, James Petras, writing in Counterpunch last March, makes the case that Washington indeed plans to instigate turmoil along the Colombia-Venezuela border as a prelude to war to oust Chavez government, which has resisted U.S. domination and provided economic and social benefits to the country’s workers and poor.

Petras envisions “a calibrated action plan to overthrow the Chavez government. The key [to the plan] is incremental military intervention in association with the terrorist Uribe regime in Colombia, [involving] a joint U.S.-Colombian attack of Venezuela backed by internal terrorists and the ruling class.”

“First of all,” he continues, “Washington and Uribe have greatly strengthened military bases surrounding the Venezuelan border. Secondly, ‘trial military incursions’ involving both Colombian military and paramilitary forces occur on a regular basis. … Thirdly, the U.S. has provided nearly $3 billion dollars in military aid to Colombia, tripled the size of its armed forces (to over 275,000), greatly increased its air force combat units … provided advanced military technology and several thousand official and ‘contracted’ military specialists.”

Presumably, such “contracted military specialists” would be expected to be in the thick of things today, as our mysterious “Intelligence Report” suggests is the case.