Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 12 April 28 - May 4, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
Bush Coup? America's Dirty Hands in Venezuela
of the abortive coup attempt in Venezuela against the government of President
Hugo Chavez has been coming fast and furious in recent days. No mainstream
reports have managed to reveal the story in its entirety to date, but an amazing
picture has begun to coalesce. Venezuela's democracy, emerging as a beacon of
progressive leadership in South America, was attacked by business interests that
wished to wrestle control of that nation away from a legitimately elected
leader. It is an old story in that part of the world, but this time around the
ending was different. Democracy in Venezuela survived its attempted murder,
essentially because the people took to the streets and saved it.
details in brief: Hugo Chavez won two Presidential elections in Venezuela, in
1998 and in 2000, by the largest margins in forty years. Upon his rise, he
instituted a number of socially progressive programs, based upon a concept
called Bolivarianism, aimed at elevating the standard of living for his people.
ratified a new Constitution guaranteeing new rights for women and indigenous
peoples. He cleared out the plague of graft and corruption in Venezuelan
government by restructuring the legislative and judicial branches. He instituted
a government-funded breakfast and lunch program for schoolchildren that has
helped increase enrollment by over a million students. He provided free health
care and public education up to the university level.
you ask, did he pay for all these programs? This is the $64,000 question...or to
be more accurate, the multi-billion dollar question. The answer lies in the
small word that has so dominated American foreign policy: oil. Venezuela is a
major source of petroleum, historically providing between 15% to 40% of
America's imported supply. Canada and Iraq, by comparison, make up only 26% of
our imported oil. Chavez's country is, without doubt, the most important nation
to America on this side of the planet because of this.
Chavez redirected vast sums
of money from Venezuela's petroleum production away from the multinationals,
which had been profiting wildly, towards his progressive government programs.
That alone was enough to draw the ire of the American petroleum industry and the
IMF. But Chavez also became deeply involved with OPEC when Venezuela took over
the leadership of that entity, giving it a burst of new influence that caused a
spike in the price of a barrel of oil. Once drawing only $8, the price of a
barrel of oil went as high as $27 on the international market after Chavez got
involved. Not long after Bush took office, the decision was made: Chavez had to
began with propaganda, as it always does. After Chavez won for the first time in
1998, he was labeled a demagogue and an authoritarian by members of the
mainstream American media. The drumbeat of criticism from 'journalists,' whose
fealty to the truth apparently came second to their support of business,
continues to this day. George W. himself chimed in at one point, making the
claim that Chavez's earning of a majority of the vote in two separate elections
did not necessarily confer legitimacy upon his administration.
he actually said that. Go figure.
this reached a crescendo in the past week. According to American media reports,
Chavez was chased from office after several anti-government protesters were
gunned down in the streets. He resigned, we were told, to preserve democracy in
the region. Said democracy was delivered into the hands of the Venezuelan
military and the leader of that nation's business (read: petroleum) community, a
man named Pedro Carmona.
seems, however, that Carmona and his allies misjudged the level of public
support Chavez enjoyed. When Carmona abolished the Venezuelan Congress and the
Supreme Court, when he changed the country's name to the Republic of Venezuela,
and when he instituted a house-to-house search for congressmen and former
cabinet members, the hours-old coup attempt flew apart at the seams.
popular uprising against Carmona erupted almost immediately in every quarter of
Venezuela. The common people took to the streets in support of Chavez and in
defiance of the coup in an extraordinary display of patriotic vigor that shames
virtually every other democracy in the world. Simultaneously, rank-and-file
soldiers and officers in the Venezuelan military refused to accept Carmona's
regime and began what ultimately became a successful counter-coup. In short
order, Carmona's rule in Venezuela was finished, and Hugo Chavez was reinstated
News reports of the existence in Venezuela of a CIA command bunker operating
under the name MIL GROUP. This operation greatly increased its staff size in the
weeks before the coup. Chavez himself has commented upon the appearance of a
private jet with American markings that arrived on the island where he was
briefly held before being reinstated. Individuals loyal to Carmona urged him to
board the plane and fly into exile, but he refused. Chavez has vowed to get to
the bottom of that strange aircraft, and the curious timing of its appearance.
potentially explosive story hit the wires on the afternoon of April 18th:
officials within Chavez's Presidential office claim that the American military
attaché to Caracas was present with the coup leaders at that city's main
military base in the days leading up to the coup attempt. The name of the
attaché has not yet been released, and the US State Department has vehemently
denied the charge.
number of shoes must still drop before the full story of what happened in
Venezuela comes clear. This much, however, is evident: Petroleum interests
attempted to overthrow a democratically-elected leader because he was
interfering with oil profits, and because he was engineering the rise of what
some have called the purest democracy in the world. A number of major American
news outlets, including the New York Times and the Associated Press, either
completely misreported or flat-out lied about the happenings there.
ominously, reports are gradually beginning to indicate American involvement in
the coup. The purported CIA presence, the mysterious private airplane with
American markings, and the report from Chavez's own office that the senior
American military diplomat in Venezuela was squatting with the plotters when the
deal went down, all point a finger towards Washington, D.C. The implications of
this are grievous. If the American government is implicated in a plot to destroy
a democratic government in its own neighborhood, its international stature in
this dangerous time of war will suffer a mighty blow.
attempt to discern the potential motivation for this involvement must center, as
it always seems to, around oil. Venezuela's connections to the American
petroleum industry are significant. Consider the case of Citgo, an American
gasoline and asphalt giant based out of Oklahoma that is wholly owned by
Petroleos de Venezuela. Petroleos is the dominant petroleum entity in Venezuela.
Petroleos provides a million gallons of oil per day to America, half of which is
routed to Citgo refineries on the East Coast and in Texas.
current President of Citgo is a man named Oswaldo Contreras, a brigadier general
in Venezuelan military. Contreras was suffering a depletion of profits with
Chavez in charge of Venezuela, as were most other oil interests, because of
Chavez's move to redirect petroleum profits into his social programs. Contreras
was appointed to his position by Chavez himself in October of 2000.
lies a possible direct American connection: a Venezuelan brigadier general,
whose American-shores profits were suffering under Chavez, with likely contacts
among the very Venezuelan military officers who helped execute the coup. For
this to be true, however, Contreras would have had undergone a change of
allegiance in the last two years, from the man who appointed him to the parent
company owners to whom he was required to answer as President of Citgo.
Contreras side with the coup leaders and Venezuelan oil interests in an attempt
to solidify Citgo's profits and petroleum supply? Did he use his contacts in the
Venezuelan military to further that agenda? These are but a few questions, and a
few possibilities, to be considered. Citgo is but one petroleum interest with a
stake in the outcome of the Venezuelan coup.
significantly, would the Bush administration have assisted oil interests in the
overthrow of a democratically-elected leader so as to re-establish corporate
hegemony over that nation's petroleum production? Would they have committed CIA
agents, military advisors (the aforementioned attaché), and an aircraft to
whisk Chavez away from Venezuela and thus complete the coup?
if their priorities have changed.
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