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Opinion and Analysis: International

CIA Classifies Venezuela as Top "Potentially Unstable Country"

Porter Goss, the Director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) named Venezuela as the leading Latin American nation to be alarmed about in 2005. In testimony before the U.S.
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding “Global Intelligence Challenges 2005: Meeting Long-Term Challenges with a Long-Term Strategy”, Goss classified Venezuela as a “potential area for instability” for this year. Considering Venezuela as a “flashpoint” in 2005, the CIA Director alleged that President Chávez “is consolidating his power by using technically legal tactics to target his opponents and meddling in the region.” Goss also raised alarm that Chávez is “supported by [Fidel] Castro.”

The other four Latin American nations named as areas of concern for 2005 are Colombia, Haiti, Mexico and Cuba, but Venezuela is at the top of the list. The CIA makes specific reference to upcoming elections in Colombia, Haiti and Mexico as the reason for the “potentially unstable” classification. In the case of Cuba, Goss refers to concerns over President Castro’s “declining health and succession scenarios” as the cause of alarm.

Venezuela is the only country referred to in this list of five as a cause of concern because of actions the Government is pursuing. Goss’s choice of the wording “technically legal tactics” evidences the U.S. administration’s push to label Venezuela as an “authoritarian democracy” or an “elected dictatorship.” Various State Department officials and communications media have been fiddling with implementing this change in semantics regarding Venezuela’s “peculiar situation” over the past year. Recently, Miami Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer began referring to Venezuela as an “authoritarian democracy” a term contradictory in itself.

Furthermore, the use of the term “technically legal tactics” demonstrates the Bush Administration’s conundrum with Venezuela. While the U.S. Government has on numerous occasions publicly acknowledged that President Chávez has been democratically elected twice and won a transparent recall referendum by a landslide in August 2004, it has also launched a well coordinated campaign to isolate Venezuela internationally, labeling Chávez as a “negative force to the region” and a “threat to democracy.”  The “technically legal” also shows that the CIA is struggling to find a way to justify regime change in Venezuela: “technically” Chávez’s actions are “legal”, but... [fill in the blanks].

Top Secret CIA documents declassified late last year and made public by this author evidence the CIA was involved in the April 2002 coup against President Chávez. The U.S. Government has also given millions in financing to over twenty anti-Chávez groups in Venezuela during the past few years, in an apparent attempt to support Chávez’s ouster. [see www.venezuelafoia.info].

Over the past few weeks, the U.S. has rigorously augmented its aggression towards Venezuela. Yesterday, Robert Zoellick, the new Deputy Secretary of State, referred to the Venezuelan Government as a “new breed of authoritarianism,” claiming “You win the election, but you do away with your opponents, you do away with the press, you do away with the rule of law, you pack the courts.” He also declared in his confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “Chávez is carrying out anti-democratic activities, in the same way that former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori did in the 1990s.”  In 1992, ex-President Fujimori dissolved the Peruvian congress, purged the judiciary and suspended the Constitution in order to implement his policies authoritatively. He later
was charged with a massive corruption scandal and fled to Japan in self-exile.

Venezuelan President Chávez has not once suspended constitutional guarantees nor infringed on the separation of powers enumerated in the Constitution, despite a coup d’etat that briefly ousted him in April 2002 and a debilitating strike in the oil industry later that same year.

In an interview yesterday with Colombia’s El Tiempo, Marc Gossman, Sub-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, reiterated Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s declarations confirming the Bush Administration considers President Chávez “a negative force in the region” and is a cause of concern. Rice made the exact same statements in January during her confirmation hearings.

Media outlets in the U.S. have been incorporating such sentiments into editorials, opinion pieces and news stories over the past month, evidencing a coordinated campaign between the State Department and the media. FOX News Channel ran a three-part documentary at the beginning of February entitled
“The Iron Fist of Hugo Chávez” that portrayed Chávez as a “brutal dictator” who is “threatening U.S. interests.”

This past Saturday, February 12, the Miami Herald ran a front-page story declaring “Chávez Arms for Attack by U.S.” and alarmingly stated on the inside page, “Chávez Arms for War with the U.S.” The Herald story is the first to mention the world “War” regarding the tensions between Washington
and Venezuela.

The CIA’s latest classification of Venezuela as a leading cause of concern in Latin America could indicate an escalation of conflict between the two countries. President Chávez and members of his cabinet have made clear on numerous occasions that Venezuela wishes to maintain “respectful” relations with the Bush Administration. Apparently, Washington does not share this desire.