Is US Supporting Oligarch Coup Attempt In Venezuela?

Venezuela is a country engulfed in myth in the US media.  It is almost impossible to get the truth from corporate media outlets. Indeed, Venezuela may be the most lied about country in the US media.  Sadly, groups that had been previously trusted like Human Rights Watch have joined the anti-Venezuela propaganda campaign and their reports on the country have been rebutted in great detail.  In this current round of misinformation, the presence of propaganda against Venezuela also been evident in the social media.

The misinformation in the United States is because Venezuela is the lynch pin of the movement of Latin America away from US domination.  Further, the oligarch class in Venezuela continues to control much of the media and big business interests.  They are able to have a big influence on the economy, create scarcity of key goods and can impact the value of Venezuelan currency by flooding Venezuela with off-market US dollars.  The oligarchs lost big in recent municipal elections and have lost national elections to Chavez and Maduro repeatedly.  Not only is Venezuela a challenge to US hegemony in the Americas, it is a challenge to big finance capitalism.  It has rejected the corporate-based neoliberal economics that the US is pushing throughout the world to the detriment of most people and the benefit of the wealthy. For all these reasons Venezuela is a top target of the United States and the oligarchs in Venezuela.

The opposition leader, Leopoldo López , has deep roots in the United States where he went to college and graduate school.  He received his masters degree from Harvard and reportedly has had ties to the CIA since undergraduate school (see Maria Paez Victor article below).  He is openly inciting violence, calling for the removal of Maduro and promising violence until he leaves. López is being sought for arrest in Venezuela.  Secretary of State John Kerry has threatened repercussions if he is arrested.  López is an economist who worked in the Venezuelan oil industry.  His father was Secretary of Agriculture in the 1940s and he is the great, great, great grandson of the first president of Venezuela, Cristóbal Mendoza (who served from 1811-12). He was elected mayor of Chacao in 2000 and 2004. In November 2005 López was suspended from future political activity after his term as mayor expired in 2008 over allegations of misuse of funds. López  is calling for a major march on Tuesday and promises to present himself to officials who are seeking his arrest.

President Maduro has expelled three US diplomats. Venezuelan authorities identified the expelled diplomats as Breeann Marie McCusker, Jeffrey Gordon Elsen and Kristofer Lee Clark, all vice consuls.  They were allegedly involved in providing visas and were meeting with college students of the last few months, according to the Venezuelan government. Maduro expelled three other US diplomats on September 30, 2013 because they were working with the right wing oligarchs to undermine the Venezuelan economy.

Below are two articles and a video that provide more information.  A consistently reliable source for information on Venezuela is VenezuelaAnalysis.com.

KZ

Ecnomic Sabotage: Venezuela Under Attack Again

By MARIA PAEZ VICTOR
Counterpunch, February 17, 2014

Again, a highly organized attack is being carried out against the democratic and popular government of Venezuela. It has involved monetary manipulations, economic sabotage, international media campaign against the economy despite excellent economic indicators, defaming the state run oil company, and this last week riots on the streets that have left 3 dead and 66 injured.

The tactics are the same that the un-democratic opposition has tried for 15 years ever since the first election of President Hugo Chávez. Such tactics have been used in the so-called Rainbow Revolutions in Eastern Europe, Libya, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Ukraine. The object is to give a semblance of chaos, to provoke the forces of public order, to discredit the government through the compliant international media, to foster civil unrest, even civil war (as it successfully happened in Syria), and ultimately to promote conditions for international intervention and even occupation.

However, Venezuela is not in the Middle nor Near East and its government is a participatory democracy that enjoys a very strong majority, the backing of all key institutions under the rule of law, and the support of its regional neighbors. Furthermore, the population is linked to many organized community groupings, it is not an amorphous mass.

The stakes are high because the country has the largest known oil reserves and these are a stone’s throw from Washington.

The opposition believes that in the absence of Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro, is easy pickings. They greatly underestimate the man whose popularity has soared inside and outside the country.[i]

The attack on Venezuela, aimed to create popular discontent  has had the following features:

Monetary warfare. This started with run on the currency, the manipulation of the black market dollar, obtaining dollars at preferential price from the government under false reasons. Maduro did not hesitate: he regulated prices and changed the monetary exchange rules and 70% approved of his response.[ii]

False scarcity:  A double blow of outrageous overpricing of goods plus artificial food scarcity started just as people were beginning their Christmas shopping. Wealthy merchants proceeded to hoard essential goods: corn flour, sugar, salt, cooking oil, toilet paper, etc. placing them in hidden warehouses or spirited off to Colombia through a well-planned smuggling operation. The military discovered an illegal bridge built for motorcycles that carried the smuggled goods. Thousands of bags of foodstuffs  were discovered simply left rotting on Colombian byways: this was not smuggling for economic reasons, but for political reasons. The Colombian government cooperated with the Venezuelan government to stop this smuggling.

Attack on Venezuela’s petroleum company PDVSA: the international press has been alleging that PDVSA is failing because it is using its profits for social programs instead of re-investing, and that the country is running out of petroleum. Funnily enough they never warn Canada or Saudi Arabia about oil scarcity.  They even state the preposterous notion that Venezuela is importing gasoline from the USA. The fact is that PDVS owns the large oil company CITGO in USA whose refinery often sends back to Venezuela a special liquid used for improving gasoline grade 95. PDVSA is still one of the top 5 oil companies in the world according to the influential Petroleum Intelligence Weekly.[iii]

Campaign to discredit the economy. The international media has been predicting doom and gloom for Venezuela for years! The Venezuelan economy is doing very well. Its oil exports last year amounted to  $94 billons while the imports only reached $59.3 billons – a historically low record. The national reserves are at $22 billons and the economy has a surplus (not a deficit) of 2.9% of GDP. The country has no significantly onerous national or foreign debts.[iv] These are excellent indicators that many countries in Europe would envy, even the USA and Canada.  The multinational bank Wells Fargo has recently declared that Venezuela is one of the emerging economies that is most protected against any possible financial crisis and the Bank of America Merril Lynch has recommended to its investors to buy Venezuelan government bonds.   [v]

Exaggeration of Security risks.  Venezuela has high crime rate, unfortunately, just like most countries in Latin America. The recent death of a young high profile media couple spurred the opposition to exaggerate insecurity. Maduro responded by a widespread Plan for Peace with intense community policing, involving communities and communal councils, dividing the cities in sectors with hotlines and special patrols, the creation of 25 citizens committees for Police Control in total 250 people, new services for victim of crime, involvement of media to curb violent programs. This was highly popular.

There is a section of the opposition that is democratic and law abiding, unfortunately it is the undemocratic elements of opposition that seems to lead. These last few days, these prominent leaders of the undemocratic opposition, parliamentarians Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado, were urging violence.  Orchestrated riots, with professional sabateurs, and the manipulation of young men, assassinated 3 people and injured 66.[vi] López –whose link to the CIA goes back to his stay at Kenyon College, Ohio[vii] –  stated publicly that the violence would go on until they “got rid of Maduro”. One of the protestors told the media “We need a dead guy”. Twitter messages abound urging that someone kill Maduro. One Twitter message gave out details of the school of the child of President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, urging that the child be kidnapped.

The Attorney General, who is a woman, was physically attacked her offices ransacked. Police cars burnt, cultural establishment vandalized, the Governor of Tachira’s house was nearly burnt with his family in it.

The opposition’s violence has a been a constant. Last October, Henrique Capriles, the presidential candidate four times a loser, upon losing to Maduro openly called for violent protest saying: “go out into the streets and show your rage.” The result was that 10 people died (one who was a 5 year old indigenous little girl) and 178 injured, 19 popular clinics attacked and set fire to, Cuban doctors having to flee Cuban doctors fleeing for their safety.

The international press does NOT REPORT THE VIOLENCE UNLEASHED BY THE VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION. When it reports these violent events it insinuates that it is the fault of the government.

The result of 15 years of the Bolivarian Revolution is evident in the increasing wellbeing of its population.[viii]  The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean has declared Venezuela to be now the least unequal country of the region (GINI Coefficient) having reduced inequality by 54%.[ix]

Poverty levels are at 21% and extreme poverty dropped from 40% to 7.3%. Infant mortality has been reduced from 25/1000 (1990) to 10/1000.  [x] The Chávez government eliminated illiteracy and provided free public education, housing and health services. In just one decade, Venezuela advanced 7 places in the UN Human Development Index.[xi]

Polls show Venezuela has one of the happiest populations in the world.[xii]In all this it has been greatly helped by the solidarity and expert teachers and doctors from Cuba.  Cuba and Venezuela have shown the world what is real solidarity between nations.

The financial crisis that has hit the North these past six years,  has been met with state antagonism against workers and  the general population.  With the excuse of  a supposed need for austerity, public programs are cut and unions undermined. The crisis also affected Venezuela as oil prices dropped. However, the government solidly continued to reduce poverty, increase salaries, trained thousands of workers,  and the country’s Human Development Index continued to rise despite the contraction of the economy. By protecting employment as a basic strategy to counter the crisis, the economy continued to grow at an average that has ranged from 2.5 to 5% GDP.   [xiii]

The real opposition in Venezuela is the USA, its allies and its agents who feed the illegal pipeline of dollars that pour into bogus NGOs and the opposition parties.

Venezuela represents the rejection of neo-liberal economics and corporate capitalism. The corrupt elite- governed Venezuela, darling of corporate capitalism, that had impoverished its own population during 40 years, is no more.

These violent tactics have no hope of succeeding because, unlike 1999, the Venezuelan people are now organized into many groups: the communal councils, the communes, the thousands of health, security, militia, sports, educational, cultural committees. The Bolivarian Revolution has fostered, not a mass of people, but an organized organic population that makes decisions about its living conditions along with its government because Venezuela is now a fully functioning participatory democracy.

The opposition has no popular base – as can be seen by its string of electoral defeats.

It has no support of the military – even governors who form part of the democratic opposition have appeared on TV denouncing these tactics with military staff standing beside them.

They do not have the backing of any South American neighbour, as countries have been quick to avow solidarity with President Maduro and denounce their violence.

Their only card is to hope Venezuela is invaded by US Marines. That would be the beginning of regional warfare.

María Páez Victor is a sociologist, born in Venezuela.

Notes.

[i] Rafael Rico Ríos, Un pueblo maduro, Rebelión, 09/12/13; Survey by international news outlet NTN24 indicates Nicolás Maduro is the most popular president in Latin America, as well the poll by ICS. YVK Mundial – www.aporrea.org 01/10/13 – www.aporrea.org/venezuelaexterior/n237249.html

[ii] AVN, 15 Dec. 2013, Hinterlaces: 70% de los venezolanos apoya la ofensiva económica emprendida por Maduro;

[iii] Agencia Venezolana de Noticias, 09/05/2013

[iv] Mark Weisbrot, How Europe can learn from Latin Amrica’s independence, The Guardian, 21 August 2013; El tan esperado apocalisis en Venezuela es poco probable,  

http://www.ultimasnoticias.com.ve/opinion/firmas/mark-weisbrot—desconsenso-en-washington/el-tan-esperado-apocalipsis–en-venezuela-es-poco.aspx#ixzz2jc5ULbi7

Is Venezuela in Crisis? Ewa Sapiezynska & Hassan Akram, AL JAZEERA, 2 December 2013; Venezuelanalysis.com

[v] La Guerra económica y las elecciones municipales, Juan Manuel Karg, Rebelión, 2 diciembre 2013

[vi] Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, Venezuelan Opposition Leaders Demand More Demonstrations Following Deadly Clashes, VENEZUELANALYSIS, Feb 13th 2014

[vii] Jean-Guy Allard, Para destruir la obra de Chávez, la CIA apuesta por López, el fascista que crió, TWITTER:  @AllardJeanGuy

[viii] Carles Muntaner, Joan Benach, Maria Paez Victor, The Achievements of Hugo Chavez, COUNTERPUNCH, 20 December 2013.

[ix] http://english.pravda.ru/society/stories/06-12-2012/120428-Venezuela_Lessons_in_Socialism-0/

[x] National Institute of Statistics, Agencia Venezolana de Noticias, 27 March 2012; Yolanda Valey, BBC, 4 March 2012

[xi] UN Human Development Indexhttp://www.telesurtv.net/articulos/2013/03/16/venezuela-subio-en-el-indice-de-desarrollo-humano-segun-pnud-8411.html

[xii] Gallup Poll 2012; Happy Planet Sustainable Wellbeing Index, Global Footprint Network, 14 June 2012; New Economic foundation, 24 Oct. 2012; World Happiness Report, University of Columbia, 2012.

[xiii] Jesse Chacón, “La economía nacional en el context de la crisis global del capitalismo” 27 abril 2012, Agencia Venezolana de Noticias”

Anchor Mike Walter of CCTV America sits down with Mark Weisbrot to debunk the myths behind the February 2014 Venezuelan protests.

Venezuela’s Maduro expels 3 US consular officials, alleging conspiracy

RT America
February 17, 2014 10:59

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a national broadcast at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, February 16, 2014.(Reuters / Miraflores Palace)

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a national broadcast at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, February 16, 2014.(Reuters / Miraflores Palace)

After days of protests led by students and opposition forces, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the expulsion of three US consular officials whom he accused of conspiracy and meeting students involved in anti-government protests.

Maduro did not identify the US officials, but pledged that the Venezuelan foreign minister would give more details later.

“It’s a group of US functionaries who are in the universities. We’ve been watching them having meetings in the private universities for two months. They work in visas,” Maduro stated in a nationally televised broadcast.

It’s believed that the expulsion has been provoked by the Obama administration’s support for the Harvard-educated opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, whom Maduro accuses of leading a US-backed “fascist” plot to oust the socialist government.

Forty-two-year-old Lopez (who was the mayor of the Chacao Municipality of Caracas from 2000 until 2008) has led the biggest demonstration yet against Maduro’s 10-month-old government, when over 10,000 people poured onto the streets on Wednesday to peacefully protest their growing worries, such as the country’s high murder rate and a record-breaking 56 percent inflation.

An opposition demonstrator confronts riot police during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas February 15, 2014. (Reuters / Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

An opposition demonstrator confronts riot police during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas February 15, 2014. (Reuters / Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

According to Maduro, a US State Department official said in a phone conversation with Venezuela’s ambassador to the Washington-based Organization of American States that arresting Lopez would cause serious negative consequences with international ramifications, AP reported.

These are unacceptable, insolent demands,” Maduro said during a televised address Sunday night. “I don’t take orders from anyone in the world,” he added.

There has been no immediate reaction from Washington, which has denied the accusations that the US has been busy plotting with the opposition against Maduro. The US hasn’t had an ambassador in Caracas since 2010.

Maduro’s government accused Lopez of inciting violence when at the end of opposition protests in the capital a group of students battled with security forces and pro-government militias, leaving three people dead. Shortly after the incidents an arrest warrant was issued against Lopez.

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.(Reuters / Jorge Silva)

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.(Reuters / Jorge Silva)

On Sunday, after Venezuelan security forces raided the homes of the opposition leader and his parents, Lopez posted a message on Twitter, and a three-minute long video.

“Maduro, you’re a coward,” López wrote. “You’re not going to force me or my family to bow down.”

Meanwhile, the raids wrapped up another night of protests during which security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up a group of about 500 students who vowed to remain on the streets until all arrested anti-government demonstrators are released, AP reported. More protests took place Sunday, according to authorities 18 people were injured.

López said on the video that he invited his supporters to join him on a march on Tuesday from Venezuela Square towards the Justice Ministry building, which has become a “symbol of repression, torture and lies.” He said he didn’t fear arrest and accused authorities of violating his constitutional right to protest Maduro’s government. “I haven’t committed any crime,” Lopez said. “If there is a decision to legally throw me in jail I’ll submit myself to this persecution,” adding that after Tuesday’s march to the ministry he planned to walk alone to the agency to deliver a petition demanding a full investigation of the government’s role in the deaths.

enezuelan opposition supporter waves a Venezuelan flag during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government at Angel de la Independencia monument in Mexico City, February 16, 2014.(Reuters / Edgard Garrido )

enezuelan opposition supporter waves a Venezuelan flag during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government at Angel de la Independencia monument in Mexico City, February 16, 2014.(Reuters / Edgard Garrido )

In his TV address, Maduro also called for a march by oil workers on Tuesday, beginning at the same central plaza in Caracas where Lopez is planning to rally. He urged Lopez to negotiate his surrender for his own safety, claiming that some sectors of the extreme right-wing want to assassinate opposition leader to provoke a political crisis.

In an effort to hamper anti-government demonstrations, which have been held since Wednesday, Maduro ordered the suspension of subway and bus service in the area where the protests take place in Caracas.

US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement expressing concern about escalating tensions in Venezuela.

“We are particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protestors and issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. These actions have a chilling effect on citizens’ rights to express their grievances peacefully,” the statement informed on Saturday.

It’s not the first time the socialist leader has expelled American officials from office. Hours before announcing the death of Hugo Chavez in March, Maduro expelled two US diplomats, claiming the United States might have been behind the leader’s cancer. Six months later, on September 30, Maduro said that the top US diplomat in the country, Charge d’Affaires in Venezuela Kelly Keiderling, along with two other American diplomats had 48 hours to leave the country for allegedly helping opponents sabotage the electrical grid.

Sunday’s expulsion is the third by Maduro. Venezuela’s President has repeatedly claimed that the United States is determined to topple him.