Lawyer Venezuelan-American Eva Golinger spoke in an interview from New York about her controversial book "The Chavez Code: Deciphering the Intervention of the United States in Venezuela," before its publication in the United States and a few days before its official presentation in Venezuela.
Q. How conclusive are the documents you published in your book on Washington's harassment of President Hugo Chavez?
A. The important thing is that the information that I have been able to declassify and access, like internal documents unavailable to the public of the National Endowment for Democracy, or NED, and of the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID support for anti-Chavez groups that today in 2005 continue to be financed by the U.S. government, which has as its final mission the overthrow of the Venezuelan government. These documents are very important to let the world know what is happening and in order to possibly help prevent the U.S. government intervention against Venezuela's sovereignty from succeeding.
Q. Did the documentary proof of North American harassment helped Chavez win the recall referendum?
A. He already had substantial support, but after I concretely proved with documentary evidence covert U.S. financing of opposition groups like Sumate and Plan Consensus Country -- which represented the opposition in June 2004 with a political platform for a government after Chavez shortly before the referendum -- the president's popularity rose and the opposition's went down. There are a lot of people in Venezuela who are not on Chavez's side, but who do not like the idea of an opposition that receives financing and orders from a foreign government either. The top-secret CIA documents that I managed to get declassified demonstrate that the U.S. government had previous knowledge and even detailed plans of how the coup d'etat was going to be organized, from provoking violence during an opposition march in early April, two months before the referendum. I do not know the exact date because they are crossed out in the documents, but the plans included taking President Chavez prisoner.
Q. What prompted you to undertake this investigation?
A. I am American and Venezuelan. I have been a person who has spent many years from my youth in the fight for social justice, which is why I became a lawyer. Since 1998, I have been writing about Venezuela for the alternative media because I am not a well-known journalist. What interested me most about the government was Venezuela's new constitution -- which focused particularly in human rights, my area of specialization -- and when the coup happened, it touched me personally because I have family there. Being from the United States, I felt I had the duty to find out if the American government had participated in a coup d'etat to overthrow a democratic and legitimate government. Many can debate on whether Chavez is democratic or not, but it cannot be denied that he was elected in democratic and transparent elections. And it seemed to me unusual that the United States was again intervening as it had done during the 1970s and 1980s in Central and Latin America.
The American government had a major role in an illegal action, and as a lawyer it was my duty to unmask the injustice if a foreign government intervenes in the internal affairs of another country, much less when it tries to overthrow a democratic government. That is why I did it, but I did not think that it was going to have the repercussions that it has.
Q. It is true that you have received death threats?
A. Yes, it is true.
Q. From whom?
A. All the threats have been via e-mail. I don't know if the names I have are true because anyone can open an account in Yahoo and write whatever he wants. I believe they are Venezuelans or Cubans related to Venezuelans, but I do not know if they are in Venezuela or other parts of the world.
Q. You are being accused of being a Venezuelan spy in the United States and there are allegations that Chavez's government has paid you a large sum of dollars. What do you say to that?
A. I had not seen that (she laughs). The question of me being a spy is absurd speculation and it has no legal foundations. The information I am uncovering and making public is information that the U.S. government itself is giving me and it knows who I am because we have been corresponding. In order to be a spy, you have to obtain data and documents secretly and then present them to a foreign government. I do not have any secret links with the American government and the documents that I publish in my Web page (venezuelafoia.info) are available to anybody who visits the Web site, not only to Chavez. As far as the money goes, I have just paid my taxes and the U.S. government has that information, of how much I have made last year and what my sources of income are, who my clients are. I am a lawyer, I have my own office. I am not going to break laws to receive money illegally or hide my finances either. Chavez's government did not finance my investigation and paid me nothing for the book. I had great difficulty finding a publisher as happens to any author with his first book.
Q. Then you financed it from your own pocket?
A. Yes. Chavez did not know of the book until somebody gave it to him; he then talked about it in his program 'Hello President.'"
Q. Chavez has referred to the book on numerous opportunities. Has anybody from the U.S. government, the CIA or the State Department contacted you?
A. No. Never.
Q. The fact that the first time the book was presented to the public was in Cuba has created much suspicion, taking into account the relations between Chavez and Fidel Castro. What about that?
A. Cuba has a vast and hungry readership. They are fanatical about books; the country has great publishing houses and the ability to satisfy public demand. In addition, they have some of the best translation teams in the world. I succeeded in getting them to help me translate the book into Spanish. Then they requested my permission to publish an edition for the book fair that took place in Santiago de Cuba last month on March 5.
Q. Cuba's Granma newspaper reported that this book is only your first step and says that you have more than 4,000 documents that show the participation of the United States not only in the coup d'etat, but also in the oil strike and the recall referendum.
A. That is true. Much of that information is in the book.
Q. What is going to be your next step?
A. After finishing the book, I received 50 percent of the document requests that I filed under the Freedom of Information Act, and I still need a lot of information. I have not yet reviewed at least 1,000 of the 4,000 documents I've received so far. They include State Department and Defense Department documents, and now with everything that is going on between Venezuela and the United States, and with the situation being so tense, these issues will continue to develop still further.
Q. But will we be getting continuing installments of your investigation?
A. Certainly, because the investigation continues.
Q. What is your true relationship with the Venezuelan government? Many have labeled you as being pro-Chavez.
A. I don't like political labeling of any type, but I share the desire for social reform, the social changes which are being implemented to achieve a fairer system, which would really take into account the majority of citizens. If to be pro-Chavez is to support a political system and a government that is looking for a way to meet the needs of its people, then yes, I share that political view.
Q. Do you admire Chavez as a leader?
A. Chavez is a person with an extraordinary manner of speaking and articulating his thoughts. It is very rare to see a person who spends so many hours speaking without losing the thread of the issue he is talking about. He is very charismatic; I have talked to him, and it seems to me, although many would say that it is not true, that he is a very sincere person, with the best intentions for the country, for Venezuela.
Q. Many people mentioned that after you published the declassified documents Chavez's verbal attacks on the United States increased.
A. They say that it was my fault?
Q. No, but that you indirectly helped to increase the number of Chavez's attacks.
A. If to know the truth somehow can help somebody to express himself better, in that sense they are right. But that argument is absurd because based on that logic then it would be better to leave everything hidden because otherwise people would know what is happening, and they are going to complain and to protest. To give somebody proof and the truth about a situation does not mean that one is increasing tensions. Sometimes, the truth hurts and the end result is not necessarily what everybody wants.
Q. Aside from these documents, do you think that there really is a plot to assassinate Chavez?
A. I do not rule it out. Very simply, it is necessary to look at history to see that that strategy has been implemented in other countries. Are Bush and his close officials are discussing Chavez's murder on a daily basis? I don't think so, and I hope that that is not the case. There are people who, of course, have publicly spoken publicly in favor of Chavez's assassination. For example, there are the declarations of Felix Rodriguez, a former CIA agent who was involved in killing Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Bolivia; he appeared on television in Miami speaking on the subject of assassinating Chavez. This is only circumstantial evidence; as lawyer I do not have solid proof.
(Pedro F. Frisneda is a writer with Tiempos del Mundo)