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Opinion and Analysis: International

Venezuela Rejects CIA, But Opens Doors to FBI & DEA

In mid June 2005, Venezuela’s national intelligence agency, the DISIP, underwent a crisis resulting in an Executive Order that called for a restructuring of the entire intelligence apparatus. The predicament was sparked by the escape of a Colombian drug trafficker, José Maria Corredor, aka "Boyaco", from the agency’s headquarters by paying out more then $3 million to corrupt DISIP functionaries to secure his freedom. Though the Boyaco incident formally set the transformation into motion, changes in the DISIP were long overdue.

Venezuela’s pending extradition request of Cuban-Venezuelan terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, currently detained in an El Paso, Texas immigration center, has brought to the surface grave facts about the DISIP’s shady past and clearly evidenced the need for a thorough review of the agency’s operations.

Posada Carriles and his self-exiled Cuban cohorts held top positions in the DISIP during the late 1960s and early 1970s, utilizing the Venezuela intelligence division as a platform to wage their war against the Cuban Revolution. Venezuela became home to the largest Cuban exile community outside of Miami, and the base of operations for numerous terrorist activities that resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of innocent civilians in Cuba and abroad. Posada Carriles and others, such as Carlos ("El Mono") Morales Navarette, were also known CIA agents at that time, placed on assignment in Venezuela.

Recently declassified documents from Venezuela’s military intelligence agency evidence Posada Carriles later ran a private investigation company in Caracas that was fully outfitted with surveillance equipment and materials provided by the U.S. Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). So even after he and his colleagues left the DISIP, they continued operating within Venezuela in the intelligence community, with full knowledge of the Venezuelan Government, then headed by Carlos Andrés Pérez in his first term.

Considering that today declassified documents from the CIA and other US agencies have provided proof of US involvement in the April 2002 coup d’etat against President Chávez, the subsequent oil industry sabotage that again attempted his ouster and last year’s recall referendum on President Chávez’s mandate, in which more than $9 million was injected to ensure an opposition victory, Venezuela must be cautious of CIA meddling and presence within its borders. (see www.venezuelafoia.info).

And though Interior Minister Jesse Chacón swore in a new chief of the DISIP on June 20, 2005, Colonel Henry Rangel, and made a pledge to reorient the agency’s responsibility to focus exclusively on intelligence and counterintelligence activities, his claim that Venezuela would not work with the CIA but would work with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), raises concern.

Of course the CIA, FBI and DEA are three different agencies, but after the recent restructuring of the U.S. intelligence system, which resulted in the creation of a National Director of National Intelligence (DNI) that would oversee all intelligence agencies in the nation, it is clear that the distinct agencies will have overlapping duties and responsibilities, filling in where others can’t act. And President George W. Bush’s chosen DNI, John Negroponte, is an individual who played a key role in the most heinous low intensity conflicts and interventions in Central America during the eighties.

Furthermore, confidential Venezuelan government reports say DEA agents in Venezuela have been involved in acts of sabotage, drug trafficking, infiltrations and violations of law intended to reflect poorly on Venezuela’s international reputation as a fighter of narco-trafficking. The reports evidence what has been proven in other parts of the world, that the Drug Enforcement Agency is used as yet another political tool of the United States government to promote its interests abroad. In the case of Venezuela, evidence demonstrates DEA agents have appropriated illegal drug shipments, bungling Venezuelan government efforts to seize and process drug traffickers, and have sabotaged numerous attempts to catch drug smugglers and traffickers. Instead of fulfilling its official role to aid in the seizure and arrest of drug traffickers, the DEA in Venezuela has played a criminal and interventionist role, evidently with the purpose of preventing the Venezuelan Government from complying with its international obligations. Nonetheless, the U.S. embassy in Venezuela published a report in 2003;(International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2003) that generally praised Venezuela's cooperation with U.S. drug enforcement efforts.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Venezuela operates from inside the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. As typical in most U.S. Embassies around the world, the Legal Representative of the Embassy is the FBI field officer. It is difficult to fathom that this individual, working under the auspices of the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, will not be promoting a pro-US agenda. As evidenced in recently declassified documents from the FBI regarding the Luis Posada Carriles case, it was the FBI officer in Venezuela that maintained contact with Posada Carriles during his years in Venezuela apparently as the liaison between the Cuban terrorist and the U.S. intelligence community.

Considering the notorious pasts of both the FBI and DEA in Venezuela, and their new relationship with the CIA and DNI, the newly structured Venezuelan intelligence agency would be wise to take great cautions when opening its doors to intelligence collaborations with the United States Government.

Pentagon Disinformation War On Venezuela And Increased Military Presence In Latin America

In a surprising act in the middle of the night on May 26, 2005, the Paraguayan Government authorized the entry of U.S. soldiers and military chiefs for an eighteen-month period, through December 2006. The midnight resolution also approved a regulation providing immunity to US soldiers for any violations of national or international laws committed on Paraguayan soil. Known as an Article 98 agreement, referring to Article 98 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the resolution has been used by the Bush Administration to chip away at the credibility and jurisdiction of the ICC.

The initial request of the U.S. government included the entry of thirteen (13) military contingents in Paraguay, comprised of 499 soldiers, equipment, weapons and ammunition. The U.S. military presence will be used to build a base of operations in the Southern Cone, an area the Bush Administration has repeatedly referred to as ripe for terrorists because of its porous tri-nation border. Currently, the U.S. military has small operational bases in Aruba/Curaçao, Manta, Ecuador and El Salvador, termed Forward Operating Locations (FOLs), and larger bases in Honduras, Guantánamo, Cuba and throughout Colombia. Since the coup d’etat against President Jean Bertrand Aristide in early 2004, the U.S. has increased its military presence on that Caribbean island, possibly with the long-term objective of building a permanent base. And the U.S. military still maintains a minor presence in Puerto Rico and Panamá, despite base closures during the past few years.

The growth of U.S. presence in the region falls in line with the new changes being adapted by SOUTHCOM, one of the five U.S. military commands that cover the entire globe. SOUTHCOM is charged with Latin America and the Caribbean and counts on an $800 million budget and 1,400 regular staff members.

Recently, SOUTHCOM Commander Brantz Craddock accused Venezuela of generating "destabilization" in the region resulting from the government’s "threats to democracy". Craddock’s statements repeat the numerous declarations made by U.S. Government spokespersons, ranging from President Bush himself, to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Sub-Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roger Noriega and other lower-level players. The statements have been reiterated in U.S. media, without providing solid evidence to back up such dangerous accusations, leading to concerns of a U.S. media-government propaganda campaign against Venezuela.

Despite repeated denials from the U.S. Government regarding a campaign against Venezuela, a recent Pentagon restructuring authorized the deployment of "counterpropaganda teams" to Latin America, set to neutralize points of "potential terrorist activity and regional destabilization," amongst them, Venezuela and Bolivia. According to a report from the June 13, 2005 edition of Time Magazine, referred to in La Nación Exterior (June 19, 2005, "EEUU lanza una Guerra de propaganda en la region"), during the last six months, the Pentagon has deployed teams of 2 to 4 military specialists in psychological operations to develop publicity campaigns that promote Washington’s interests in the Middle East, Latin America and other strategic parts of the world. The new unit, called the Joint Psyops Support Element (JPSE), nicknamed "gypsy" is based at the U.S. Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa, FL. Considered "psychological warriors", the Pentagon has been sending these specialists to its overseas commands, armed with "plans for pro-U.S. advertising campaigns to counter propaganda from enemies."

According to the Time Magazine article, "JPSE director Jim Treadwell told Time he eventually wants to send those units into Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, where they would produce commercial-quality television ads, radio spots, websites and printed material to burnish the U.S.’s image in those regions."

The JPSE team has a budget of US$77.5 million for the next seven years, in addition to extra funds available to counterattack accusations from "terrorist groups" in any nation. According to La Nacion, a SOUTHCOM spokesperson confirmed that the JPSE team will operate in Latin America, though specifics could not be provided. The JPSE team plans to contract four public relations agencies in the US during the next few weeks for US$250,000 each, in order to design the basic structures of the propaganda campaigns.

Director Treadwell, who headed the 4th Psychological Operations Group during the Irak invasion, confirmed that the idea is to "be as creative as possible." Such creativity could include the use of "black propaganda", information purporting to originate from the "enemy" to confuse and discredit society. According to Treadwell, "usually, we don’t use black propaganda. And if we did, I couldn’t tell you."

Considering that SOUTHCOM"s new "theater of operations" includes as its first security objective, "improving the ability of partner nation security forces to protect critical infrastructure of the energy industry in the region", Venezuela, as the largest oil exporter in SOUTHCOM’s territory must be an area of prime focus.

The sixth objective of the new SOUTHCOM theater of operations also appears directed at Venezuela: "Prevent rogue states from supporting terrorist organizations." Since Latin America is not home to any "rogue states", and the SOUTHCOM objectives leave such countries unnamed, one can only be left to assume that Cuba and Venezuela are the points of reference. The Bush Administration has accused Venezuela on numerous occasions of harboring groups considered terrorist by the U.S., such as the FARC and ELN from Colombia, despite never presenting any solid evidence. And recently, this author received a declassified secret document from the State Department alleging that groups such as Hezbollah and Asbat Al-Ansar receive operational and financial support in Venezuela and further claiming that the Venezuelan social organizations, Coordinadora Simon Bolivar, M-28 and the Jirajaras are groups engaged in terrorist activities. However, no concrete evidence has been provided to back these dangerous allegations.

Also, Venezuela’s commercial relationship with Cuba, a nation classified by the U.S. Government as a "terrorist refuge", clearly provides more reasons for SOUTHCOM to justify its growing intervention in the region.

Though a direct U.S. military action in Venezuela still seems far off, the expanding military presence in the region, particularly surrounding Venezuela, the newly launched PSYOPS teams intended to promote U.S. interests and policies for propaganda campaigns, and the ever-increasing energy needs of the U.S. all seem to imply an imminent operation against Venezuela is in the works.

Eva Golinger is a Venezuelan-American attorney specializing in international human rights and immigration law. She is the author of The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela, currently available on amazon.com or though her website, www.venezuelafoia.info/codigo.html