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Opinion and Analysis: International

The CIA Was Involved In the Coup Against Venezuela's Chavez

On April 12, 2002, White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer stated:

Let me share with you the administration's thoughts about what's taking place in Venezuela. It remains a somewhat fluid situation. But yesterday's events in Venezuela resulted in a change in the government and the assumption of a transitional authority until new elections can be held.

The details still are unclear. We know that the action encouraged by the Chavez government provoked this crisis. According to the best information available, the Chavez government suppressed peaceful demonstrations. Government supporters, on orders from the Chavez government, fired on unarmed, peaceful protestors, resulting in 10 killed and 100 wounded. The Venezuelan military and the police refused to fire on the peaceful demonstrators and refused to support the government's role in such human rights violations. The government also tried to prevent independent news media from reporting on these events.

The results of these events are now that President Chavez has resigned the presidency. Before resigning, he dismissed the vice president and the cabinet, and a transitional civilian government has been installed. This government has promised early elections.

The United States will continue to monitor events. That is what took place, and the Venezuelan people expressed their right to peaceful protest. It was a very large protest that turned out. And the protest was met with violence.”[i]

On that same day, U.S. Department of State spokesperson Philip T. Reeker, claimed:

In recent days, we expressed our hopes that all parties in Venezuela, but especially the Chavez administration, would act with restraint and show full respect for the peaceful expression of political opinion. We are saddened at the loss of life. We wish to express our solidarity with the Venezuelan people and look forward to working with all democratic forces in Venezuela to ensure the full exercise of democratic rights. The Venezuelan military commendably refused to fire on peaceful demonstrators, and the media valiantly kept the Venezuelan public informed.

Yesterday's events in Venezuela resulted in a transitional government until new elections can be held. Though details are still unclear, undemocratic actions committed or encouraged by the Chavez administration provoked yesterday's crisis in Venezuela. According to the best information available, at this time: Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans gathered peacefully to seek redress of their grievances. The Chavez Government attempted to suppress peaceful demonstrations. Chavez supporters, on orders, fired on unarmed, peaceful protestors, resulting in more than 100 wounded or killed. Venezuelan military and police refused orders to fire on peaceful demonstrators and refused to support the government's role in such human rights violations. The government prevented five independent television stations from reporting on events. The results of these provocations are: Chavez resigned the presidency. Before resigning, he dismissed the Vice President and the Cabinet. A transition civilian government has promised early elections.

We have every expectation that this situation will be resolved peacefully and democratically by the Venezuelan people in accord with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The essential elements of democracy, which have been weakened in recent months, must be restored fully. We will be consulting with our hemispheric partners, within the framework of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, to assist Venezuela.”[ii]

Why re-cite these statements here? These statements from the highest levels of the U.S. Government show the prepared version of the events that took place during the April 11-12 coup d’etat against Venezuelan President Chávez. Moreover, these revealing statements now prove, in light of documents recently obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), that this prepared version of events was knowingly false and made with the intention of deceiving the international community in order to justify a violent overthrow of a democratic government.

The White House and the State Department both claimed that the Chávez government had provoked violence and actions that resulted in the President’s alleged resignation. They also asserted that the Chávez government had fired on unarmed, peaceful protesters and that the Venezuelan military and police had refused orders to “support the government’s role in human rights violations”. The U.S. Government referred to the protests and actions of that day as though they were spontaneous, unplanned events.  The U.S. Government has also continued to deny to this day any involvement whatsoever in the April 2002 coup d’etat.

However, there is a vast amount of evidence that has surfaced since the coup demonstrating that the events on April 11, 2002 were entirely premeditated by a sector of the opposition intent on overthrowing the Chávez government. Furthermore, my own investigations have provided a plethora of evidence proving the U.S. involvement in the coup on various levels. Most revealing on the Venezuelan front was a news program on Saturday morning, April 12, 2002, “24 Horas” with host Napoleon Bravo. On that program, Bravo interviewed Vice-Admiral Carlos Molina Tamayo, a professed coup leader, and Victor Manuel Garcia, Director of the polling company CIFRA who claimed to have represented the “civil society” during the coup. Both Molina Tamayo and Garcia gave a jaw-dropping, detailed account of the events leading up to the coup and those key Venezuelans involved, including crediting the private televisions stations for their complicity and aide. Their testimony, along with Chacao municipal mayor Leopoldo Lopez of the Primero Justicia political party and Napoleon Bravo’s own admissions of complicity in the coup, provided plenty of proof that the overthrow of Chávez was a premeditated event.

Later, an extraordinary and award-winning documentary by filmmaker Angel Palacios, “Puente Llaguno: Claves de un Masacre”, revealed how the Venezuelan private media had manipulated and distorted the events that unfolded on April 11, 2002 in the opposition march, which resulted in widespread violence and death. The documentary also provided sufficient proof that snipers unrelated to the Chávez government had provoked the violence in the opposition march that justified the forced removal of Chávez from office. Furthermore, the documentary succeeded in proving that a well-planned military-civilian coup d’etat had taken place that day and that those involved were connected to the highest levels of the U.S. government.

But the evidence of actual U.S. involvement in the coup itself remained scarce up until recently. On www.venezuelafoia.info, I have posted hundreds of documents that evidence the intricate financing scheme the U.S. government has been carrying out in Venezuela since 2001, that includes financing well over twenty million dollars to opposition sectors. The funding of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a quasi-governmental entity in the U.S. financed entirely by Congress and established by congressional legislation in 1983, has provided more than three million dollars since late 2001 to opposition groups, many of which were key participants in the April 2002 coup. And in June 2002, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), set up an Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) in the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, allegedly for the purposing of helping Venezuela to resolve its political crisis. The OTI in Caracas has counted on more than fifteen million dollars in funding from Congress since June 2002 and has recently requested five million more for 2005, despite the fact that it was only supposed to be a two-year endeavor. All evidence obtained to date shows that the OTI has primarily funded opposition groups and projects in Venezuela, particularly those that were focused on the August 15, 2004 recall referendum against President Chávez.

I have written other articles explaining the intervention model applied through NED and USAID in Venezuela. This method of intervention is very sophisticated and complex, as it penetrates civil society and social organizations in a very subtle way and is often either undetectable or flimsily justified by the concept of “promoting democracy”, which is what the NED claims to do around the world, despite evidence to the contrary. The mere fact in Venezuela that the NED has financed exclusively anti-Chávez groups and those very same organizations that were involved in the April 2002 coup shows that “democracy” is far from the NED’s intention.

But the CIA intervention in Venezuela is of the crudest, simplest kind. Top secret documents recently obtained and posted on www.venezuelafoia.info show that in the weeks prior to the April 2002 coup against President Chávez, the CIA had full knowledge of the events to occur and, in fact, even had the detailed plans in their possession. An April 6, 2002 top secret intelligence brief headlining “Venezuela: Conditions Ripening for Coup Attempt”, states, “Dissident military factions, including some disgruntled senior officers and a group of radical junior officers, are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chávez, possible as early as this month, [CENSORED]. The level of detail in the reported plans – [CENSORED] targets Chávez and 10 other senior officers for arrest…” The document further states, “To provoke military action, the plotters may try to exploit unrest stemming from opposition demonstrations slated for later this month…”[iii]

So the CIA knew that a coup attempt would take place soon after April 6, 2002, and moreover, they knew the plan would include Chávez’s arrest and an exploitation of violence in the opposition march. In other words, they knew the plans before the coup occurred and surely they knew the actors involved, many of whose names are probably in the censored parts of the top-secret documents. One could assume that if the CIA had the detailed plans in their possession in the weeks prior to the coup it was because they were associating and conspiring with the coup plotters. So, when Ari Fleischer and Philip Reeker made those statements on April 12, 2002 on behalf of the U.S. Government, they did so with full knowledge that a coup had taken place, Chávez had been arrested and the violence in the opposition march, which they attributed to Chávez, had actually been a premeditated part of the coup plot. The top secret documents that prove this information show they were sent to the U.S. Statement Department and the National Security Agency, which means frankly, the White House knew what was happening all along.

Furthermore, the CIA documents make no mention of any attempts to have Chávez forcibly resign from office. The CIA warnings indicated as early as March 5, 2002 (which is the date of the earliest document provided) that a coup was on the rise and even hinted that prospects for a successful coup were limited. The CIA rightfully felt the opposition was too disperse and divided to successfully overthrow Chávez. But the concept that Chávez had “resigned” as the White House and State Department “confirmed” on April 12, 2002 was merely a set-up, a false claim made with the intention of deceiving the U.S. public and the international community. Remember that the U.S. stood practically alone in the world in its endorsement of the coup-implemented Carmona Government, which it later weakly condemned but only after the coup came tumbling down and the U.S. realized it needed to save face quickly.

A top secret CIA document from April 14, 2002 shows concern that Latin American governments will view U.S. foreign policy as “hypocritical” because of its sole endorsement of the Carmona coup government. The CIA also seems surprised that the region of Latin America so quickly rejected the coup in Venezuela and that the Carmona government “stunningly collapsed”, which demonstrates a possible out-of-date view of the hemisphere and a failure in intelligence gathering and analysis. In fact, the CIA never imagined the coup would buckle because of support for Chávez – their analysis all along showed possible failure due to lack of opposition unity and hasty actions. This is a very important point, because it demonstrates that although the CIA was involved in the coup plotting and the collaborations with dissident military factions and opposition leaders, it was fairly detached from the reality of Venezuelan society.

The CIA’s intelligence failures in Venezuela were apparently repeated during the oil industry strike later in 2002 and the guarimba destabilization attempt, an old-school CIA tactic applied in Chile and Nicaragua. Both of these harsh actions injured the Venezuelan economy and affected the government’s international image, but failed in their goal to oust President Chávez. The NED’s and USAID’s tens of millions of dollars in financing to build and maintain the opposition movement and finance the recall referendum campaign against President Chávez also failed to achieve their mission. In fact, all of these bungled attempts by the U.S. government and its marionette opposition movement have served to strengthen Chávez’s support within Venezuela and paint him as a strong and solid international leader. 

Now that some of the top-secret documents have surfaced that show the CIA’s complicity and involvement in the April 2002 coup, it leaves one to wonder what is next on the agenda. In September 2001, shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, President Bush unconditionally authorized former CIA Director George Tenet’s “Worldwide Attack Matrix”, which targets leaders and prominent figures in 80 countries around the world for assassination. The authorization of the Worldwide Attack Matrix provided the CIA with a virtual carte blanche to conduct political assassinations abroad, justified under the “war against terrorism”. The “Attack Matrix”, a top secret CIA document, authorizes an array of covert CIA anti-terror actions that range from “routine propaganda to lethal covert action in preparation for military attacks”.[iv] The plans give the CIA the broadest and most lethal authority in history. Some analysts have indicated that Venezuela is possibly included in the plans.

The recent assassination of Venezuelan Prosecutor Danilo Anderson, conducted in a style reminiscent of CIA operations, could be setting the stage for future political murders. History shows that when the CIA fails to remove a target via non-lethal means, more desperate measures are taken. Despite the fact that the Venezuelan government and its supporters appear to have foiled the CIA numerous times already over the past few years, vigilance, intelligence and increased security measures should become a priority.