The AFL-CIO Foreign Policy Program and the 2002 Coup in Venezuela

Because of the apparent connection between the oil workers' union and the coup attempt, and the long-standing ties between the CTV and the US labor center, the AFL-CIO, questions have risen about possible involvement of the AFL-CIO in the coup attempt. This article addresses the question of possible AFL-CIO involvement in the coup attempt, trying to confirm or deny any possible involvement.

In April 2002, following a general strike led by oil company management and collaborating labor union leaders in Venezuela, parts of the Venezuelan military launched a coup to remove democratically-elected President Hugo Chavez Frias from office.  After physically removing Chavez from the presidential palace in Caracas, Miraflores, the head of the national business confederation, FEDECAMARAS, Pedro Carmona, was sworn into office.1

In response, literally millions of Venezuelans swarmed to Miraflores, surrounding the palace, protesting the coup.  Faced with the widespread public opposition, frustrated by loyal military forces who supported President Chavez, and condemned by heads of state across Latin America, the coup attempt collapsed. Chavez was returned to Miraflores, unharmed, where he resumed his duties as head of state2 (Ellner and Rosen, 2002).

Because of the apparent connection between the oil workers' union–the key union of the labor center Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV in Spanish) and whose leader, Carlos Ortega, was the president of the CTV–and the coup attempt, and the long-standing ties between the CTV and the US labor center, the AFL-CIO, questions have risen about possible involvement of the AFL-CIO in the coup attempt. 

This article addresses the question of possible AFL-CIO involvement in the coup attempt, trying to confirm or deny any possible involvement.  To do this, the paper proceeds in the following directions:  (A) it discusses the AFL-CIO's foreign policy program and its history of foreign interventions; (B) it considers evidence of the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center staff activities in Venezuela prior to the coup attempt, and the coup attempt itself; (C) reports AFL-CIO statements as well as others' concerning the coup attempt that followed, and subsequent analyses of the coup and US involvement; and (D) it answers the question as to whether the AFL-CIO, through its Solidarity Center, was involved in the 2002 coup attempt.  To this task, we now turn. 

A.  AFL-CIO's Foreign Policy Program

Before we can consider possible involvement of the AFL-CIO in the 2002 Venezuelan coup attempt, we must first consider any foreign policy it may have established:  if the AFL-CIO has no history of foreign involvement, then obviously it was unlikely to be involved.  However, if it has such a foreign policy program, then the possibility of such involvement is more likely to be substantiated.

Although not generally known by union members as it has been consciously hidden by its leaders, the AFL-CIO actually has a long-time foreign policy program that goes back to the days of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) during the 19-teens under then-president, Samuel Gompers.  And, in fact, much of this foreign policy program–during Gompers' time but also since 1962–has been carried out in Latin America [among others, see Morris, 1967; Hirsch, 1974, n.d; Scott, 1978; Spaulding, 1984; Scipes, 1989; Andrews, 1991; Sims, 1992; Scipes, 2000, 2004a, 2005a, b).

This foreign policy program has been initiated and carried out behind the backs of American workers, although "in our name." The AFL-CIO has long been known to carry out a reactionary labor program around the world.  It has been unequivocally established that they have worked to overthrow democratically-elected governments, have collaborated with dictators against progressive labor movements, and have supported reactionary labor movements against progressive governments (Scipes, 2000: 12; Shorrock, 2002, 2003; see, among others, Snow, 1964; Morris, 1967; Radosh, 1969; Scott, 1978; Spaulding, 1984; Barry and Preusch, 1986; Cantor and Schor, 1987; Weinrub and Bollinger, 1987; Armstrong, et. al., 1988; Sims, 1992; Scipes, 1996; Carew, 1998; Nack, 1998; and Buhle, 1999).

And while the AFL-CIO's regional organization, AIFLD (American Institute for Free Labor Development), was especially known for its involvement in events leading to the 1973 coup in Chile (Hirsch, 1974, n.d.; Scipes, 2000; Shorrock, 2003), what is less well known is it's long-standing ties with the Venezuelan CTV.  In fact, according to labor journalist Lee Sustar,  

Venezuela–a key focus of U.S. foreign policy since the oil boom of the 1920s–became Washington's counterweight to the Cuban Revolution of 1959. The headquarters of the AFL-CIO-initiated Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers (ORIT) was moved to Caracas. In 1962, Venezuela was the linchpin of the AFL-CIO's newly launched American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD); the AIFLD board included both the AD leader Betancourt and his COPEI counterpart, Rafael Caldera. Next, in the mid-1960s, the AFL-CIO even provided funding for a CTV-owned bank. AIFLD chief Serafino Romualdi, later alleged to have been a CIA agent, called his relationship with Betancourt "the most fruitful political collaboration of my life." Romualdi helped engineer the expulsion of the Communist Party and other leftists from the CTV; elsewhere, AIFLD collaborated with the CIA and the State Department to undermine or overthrow Latin American governments opposed to the U.S. (Sustar, 2005; 3 see also Hirsch, 2005). 

In other words, not only has the AFL-CIO had a long-standing foreign policy program, it long has been active in Latin America, and especially in Venezuela. 

B.  Solidarity Center Activities in Venezuela, and the Attempted Coup

With the 1995 election of John Sweeney to the presidency of the AFL-CIO, the labor center appeared to have changed its foreign policy "stripes."  One of the things that Sweeny did was disband the semi-autonomous regional organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Western Europe, and put them under control of the newly established and centrally-controlled "Solidarity Center" (officially known as the American Center for International Labor Solidarity or ACILS) (Scipes, 2000).  It appeared to have changed its international orientation from "anti-communism" to "international labor solidarity," although critics such as Judy Ancel (2000), Peter Rachelff (2000); and Kim Scipes (2000: 6-7), all noted specific problems that continued under the Sweeney Administration.

The biggest problem was the AFL-CIO's continuing relationship with the National Endowment for Democracy or NED.  The NED was established by the Reagan Administration in 1983 to do overtly what the CIA had previously tried to do covertly.  Although the NED is proclaims itself a "private" organization–a non-governmental organization (NGO)–in reality, it was US Government initiated through US Government legislative processes, it was signed into law by US President Ronald Reagan, its Board members have included a number of people who have served at the highest levels of the US Government's foreign policy apparatus under both Democratic and Republican Administrations (including former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, and former National Security Council Chair Zbigniew Brezezinski), and it has been overwhelmingly funded by annual appropriations by the US Congress (Robinson, 1996; Blum, 2000: 179-183; Golinger, 2005; Scipes, 2005b).

The NED was established with four "core institutes":  the International Republican Institute (the international wing of the US Republican Party); the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (the international wing of the US Democratic Party); the Center for International Public Enterprise (the international wing of the US Chamber of Commerce); and the Free Trade Union Institute (superceded by the Solidarity Center) of the AFL-CIO (Lowe, 2004). So far, no one has publicly stated what exactly is meant by "core institute" other than they each channel funding from the NED (which gets it from the US Congress via the US Information Agency) to non-governmental organizations in various countries around the world.  I have suggested before that these are likely to be policy-making organizations for the NED itself (Scipes, 2005b). Harry Kelber reports that over 90% of the Solidarity Center's funding comes via the US State Department (Kelber, 2005a, b).

The Solidarity Center has been active in Venezuela since 1997.  According to then-AFL-CIO International Affairs Department Assistant Director Stan Gacek, the Solidarity Center was working to help democratize the CTV and its member unions (Gacek, 2004, 2005).

While that might have been true, it is not all the Solidarity Center was doing. During early 2002, CTV leaders visited Washington, DC, to meet with high level AFL-CIO and Bush Administration officials.  Katherine Hoyt, of the Nicaraguan Solidarity Committee, reported that CTV leaders had visited Otto Reich, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (Hoyt, 2002; see also Golinger, 2005: 85-86).4

Just before these visits–according to a January-March 2002 quarterly report from the Solidarity Center to NED that was discovered through a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request by journalists Jeremy Bigwood and Eva Golinger (Bigwood and Golinger, n.d.)5–Solidarity Center staff members were involved in a series of meetings that were designed to bring together leaders of the CTV and FEDECAMARAS (the national business confederation).  These meetings, six in all, took place around the country and culminated in a national meeting on March 5, 2002.  At that meeting, the CTV and FEDECAMARAS, supported by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, came together to discuss their concerns, perspectives and priorities regarding national development and to identify common objectives as well as areas of cooperation.  At this meeting, the CTV and FEDECAMARAS were anointed "flagship organizations" in the struggle against President Chavez (Bigwood and Golinger, n.d.). 

According to the Solidarity Center documents unearthed by Bigwood and Golinger, this national conference was the culminating event of some two months of meetings and planning between FEDECAMARAS and the CTV.  The joint action was intended to produce a "National Accord" to avoid a supposedly "deeper political and economic crisis."

The report continues:  "The Solidarity Center helped support the event in the planning stages, organizing the initial meetings with the governor of Miranda state and the business organization, FEDECAMAS, to discuss and establish an agenda for such cooperation in mid-January.  The report continued to detail more of their efforts, concluding with the comment that, "The March 5 national conference itself was funded by counterpart funds" (Bigwood and Golinger, n.d.)6

Barely more than 30 days after the March 5 conference, the CTV and FEDECAMARAS launched a national general strike on April 9th to protest the firing of oil company management on April 7th,7 and the events leading to the coup attempt–in which CTV and FEDECAMAS played central roles–began. On April 11th, a massive march and demonstration was held to support the union.  "About midday on April 11th, speakers at the opposition rally, including Carmona and Ortega, began calling for supporters to march on the Presidential Palace, Miraflores, to demand Chavez's resignation" (Golinger, 2005: 96).  In case there was any doubt of CTV leaders' active role in events, Lee Sustar wrote, "What is indisputable, however, is that Ortega joined with FEDECAMAS to call the strike and march that set the stage for the coup" (Sustar, 2005).

When the coup's military leaders decided to act and depose Chavez, FEDECAMARAS' Carmona was chosen by coup leaders to become the new president.  Carmona was sworn in on April 12, and immediately dissolved "all of Venezuela's democratic institutions, including the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, the Public Defender's Office, the Attorney General, the Constitution and the 49 laws Chavez had decreed in December" (Golinger, 2005: 105).

The coup was denounced generally throughout the hemisphere (Golinger, 2005: 105, fn. 23), with two notable exceptions.  The President of the International Republican Institute, George A. Folsom, issued a statement publicly praising the coup leaders for their coup (Marquis, 2002).8 And then, the Bush Administration supported the coup (see Golinger, 2005, but specifically pp. 103-105).9

In response to this coup attempt, the people mobilized in the millions, the military split and the coup attempt failed.  Chavez was returned to Miraflores on April 14th, where he resumed his duties as President.

C.  Developments After the Attempted Coup

Once the coup attempt collapsed and constitutional order was returned, many efforts were made to "explain" developments.  Both the CTV and the AFL-CIO provided their views, as did others.

On April 25, 2002, the New York Times published a piece by Christopher Marquis that discussed US involvement in the coup attempt.  While Marquis did not provide any specific details about the work of the Solidarity Center, he did provide considerable information about NED efforts in Venezuela in the year prior to the coup, such as providing hundreds of thousands of dollars to Venezuelan opposition groups "including the labor group whose protests led to the Venezuelan president's brief ouster earlier this month."  Marquis did point out, however,  

Of particular concern is $154,377 given by the [NED] to the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, the international wing of the AFL-CIO, to assist the main Venezuelan labor union in advancing labor rights.

The Venezuelan union, the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers [CTV], led the work stoppages that galvanized the opposition to Mr. Chavez.  The union's leader, Carlos Ortega, worked closely with Pedro Carmona Estanga, the businessman who briefly took over from Mr. Chavez, in challenging the government (emphasis added) (Marquis, 2002). 

Marquis also noted that the NED had quadruped its annual budget to its Venezuelan clients to $877,000 in the year before the coup attempt.  In addition to the $154,377 given to the Solidarity Center, the NED also provided the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs $210,000 "to promote the accountability of local government': $399,998 to the International Republican Institute for "political party building"; and apparently the balance to Center of International Private Enterprise (Marquis, 2002).

On April 27, 2002, the AFL-CIO issued a statement, "The AFL-CIO and Workers' Rights in Venezuela."  In this statement, the AFL-CIO wrote in response to the coup, "… there is no evidence that the CTV or its leaders went beyond the democratic expressions of dissent."  In this statement, the AFL-CIO detailed its work in Venezuela: 

… the CTV conducted an impressive process of internal democratization with the assistance of the AFL-CIO and the Solidarity Center.  The assistance included:  the printing of election materials, the training of CTV election committees, and the sponsoring the forums which brought labor, business, human rights and religious leaders together in defense of freedom of association.  All of the AFL-CIO-Solidarity Center funding for Venezuela went for this purpose" (quoted in Scipes, 2002). 

On May 2, 2002, this author published a piece on Z Net, whereby he noted the incredible similarities between the coup in Chile on September 11, 1973, and the April 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela.  This author noted that he had no proof to his accusations, but that the patterns were strikingly similar, and his suspicions had been raised.   After including the "AFL-CIO and Workers' Rights in Venezuela" statement in his article that tried to make sense of developments in Venezuela, this author was willing to consider the possibility that the AFL-CIO had not been involved in the coup attempt.  However, he advanced three questions–(1) Why is the AFL-CIO doing anything in Venezuela?; (2) Why does the AFL-CIO have any relationship with the National Endowment for Democracy [NED]?; and (3) Why has the AFL-CIO never given a detailed and honest accounting of its past and present operations to its members?–that he felt had to be answered before he considered the issue resolved (Scipes, 2002).  As far as can be determined, no answers to these questions have ever been provided publicly.

In the Spring 2004 issue of New Labor Forum, Stan Gacek again discusses the AFL-CIO's work with the CTV.   He writes, "… our total solidarity program with the CTV amounted to less than $20,000 in support of the Confederation's highly successful internal democratization program" (Gacek, 2004). 

However, Gacek also gives the AFL-CIO's perspective of the 2002 coup attempt, which exonerates the CTV from participating in the coup attempt.  Gacek states "The CTV publicly condemned the April 2002 coup, never recognized the short-lived regime of Carmona and, unlike the Catholic Church, refused to endorse Carmona's degree dissolving the National Assembly" (Gacek, 2004).10

Journalist Robert Collier, with many years' experience of reporting in Latin America for the San Francisco Chronicle, directly contradicted Gacek's statement in the following issue of New Labor Forum.  Collier wrote that the CTV had worked with FEDECAMARAS not only in the April 2002 attempt, but also in an earlier lockout in December 2001, and a subsequent 63-day oil strike in December 2002-February 2003.  Collier reports according to many published reports and interviews that he had conducted in Venezuela, that "… the CTV was directly involved in the [April 2002] coup's planning and organization."  Further, Collier reported, "For months before, CTV Secretary-General Carlos Ortega created a tight political alliance with FEDECAMARAS leader Pedro Carmona, and they repeatedly called for the overthrow of Chavez" (Collier, 2004; see also Ellner, 2004).

In March 2004, Alberto Ruiz, writing from inside the labor movement, asked, "What is the AFL-CIO Doing in Venezuela?" In this article, he addresses the issue as to whether the AFL-CIO knew about the CTV role in the coup: 

To deflect criticism about the aid to the CTV, the AFL-CIO has publicly claimed that the CTV did not have anything to do with the coup against Chavez.  However, as the Boston Globe reported … [August 18, 2002], 'the Venezuelan media broadcast a recorded telephone conversation between [exiled former president Carlos Andres] Perez and Carlos Ortega, president of the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, in which the pair plotted against Chavez.'  Moreover, the AFL-CIO has privately conceded that the CTV leadership did have participation in the coup against Chavez" (Ruiz, 2004).

In the April 2004 issue of Labor Notes, this author again returned to the debate, this time with evidence.  He focused on issues concerning CTV involvement in the coup attempt, Solidarity Center staff members' involvement in efforts beyond traditional labor movement activities, and outside (of the labor movement) funding of Solidarity Center's Venezuelan activities. 

(1) The CTV was involved in the coup attempt.  This author joined accounts of the Times' Christopher Marquis and the Chronicle's Collier with that of Professor Hector Lucena, another labor observer in Venezuela, and then with an account of the coup by Professor Steve Ellner and long-time Latin Americanist Fred Rosen, each who presented evidence of CTV's participation in the coup attempt, and that the CTV leadership played a leading role.  Ellner and Rosen report–based on Hearings of the Special Political Commission of the National Assembly that were broadcast on Venezuelan TV on May 10, 2002–that "[CTV leader] Ortega had publicly called for the immediate dissolution of the [National] Assembly on April 12, prior to the announcement of Carmona's decree" (emphasis added) (Ellner and Rosen, 2002).  Additionally, in a personal communication with this author on March 6, 2004, Steve Ellner elaborated on events:   

"The CTV promoted a march which was designed to topple the Chavez regime and everybody knew at the time that the idea was to create chaos so that the military would intervene."  Going further, he explained that "Opposition leaders openly called on the military to overthrow Chavez, and the strike leaders–not only Ortega but the supposed 'moderates' like Manuel Cova, Alfredo Ramos, Pablo Castro, Rodrigo Penson, Froilan Barrios–none of them stated at least publicly that they were opposed to a military coup" (quoted in Scipes, 2004a). 

Yet what about Gacek's claim that the CTV condemned the coup?  Yes, he is correct, but the CTV leaders condemned it after they had been betrayed by Carmona and his people.  According to Ellner and Rosen, despite the CTV and Ortega being key players in the coup efforts, upon attaining the presidency during the coup, Carmona ignored the labor wing of the opposition, appointing a cabinet of business leaders, military men and conservative politicians (Ellner and Rosen, 2002).

It was only after this betrayal that the CTV condemned the coup, according to Robert Collier (2004).  And David Corn, writing in the August 5, 2002 issue of The Nation, confirmed this:  "The CTV did denounce Carmona–but not until Carmona, on the afternoon of April 12, announced his decree to shutter the National Assembly and the Supreme Court" (Corn, 2002).

And Eva Golinger, writing in her book on the US attacks on Chavez, The Chavez Code, adds even more detail to the CTV role.  She presents the CTV's activities before and during the general strike to support the fired oil managers.  She reports that Ortega, along with Carmona, called for the general strike to be "indefinite" on April 10th.  And she reprints the March 2002 cable from the US Embassy in Caracas to the Secretary of State, in which it reports Ortega's drive for a new "government for democratic unity" (Golinger, 2005).  There cannot be any doubt of the CTV leadership's involvement in the events leading up to and including the coup, despite the AFL-CIO's efforts to deny it. 

(2) Solidarity Center staff members were involved in something beyond traditional labor movement activities.  The Solidarity Center reports surfaced by Bigwood and Golinger (n.d.) are important.  Solidarity Center staffers were detailing their efforts in quarterly reports to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).11

Not only does their existence conclusively prove that Solidarity Center staff members were involved in bringing together disparate groups–the CTV and FEDECAMARAS, most particularly–but they also organized an initial meeting with the governor of Miranda state.  Additionally, as they put it, "The March 5 [2002] national conference itself was financed by counterpart funds."  While they don't detail what they mean, since they talk about this differently than any other funding, it is clear it does not come from "ordinary" processes, but from something "outside."12

In other words, they are obviously working in a broader "field" than just the labor movement (Hirsch, 2005).  They are using their position "within" the US labor movement for purposes other than to advance the well-being of workers and their organizations, ostensibly the role of any labor movement.  Because NED is part of US Government's foreign policy apparatus–despite their claims otherwise, and their so-called "private" status (see Robinson, 1996; Agee, 2005; Golinger, 2005; Jones and Tayler, 2005; Scipes, 2005b)–it is clear that the Solidarity Center in Venezuela has been helping to carry out US foreign policy operations in that country. 

It's telling that the NED grants often allocate equal amounts to the Solidarity Center and its counterpart institutions run by the Republican and Democratic parties and business.  This allows US unions to project political weight abroad that they never had at home, even in the long-gone days of 'Big Labor'.  The reality is that the Solidarity Center's clout is based not on the strength of US unions, but on government funds from the world's only superpower (emphasis added) (Sustar, 2005). 

Similarly to developments in Chile preceding the September 11, 1973 coup against the government of Salvador Allende (see Hirsch, 1974, n.d., Scipes, 2000; Shorrock, 2003), these "labor" efforts are part of something larger.  As Scipes wrote,  

This destabilization effort in Venezuela is not singular, but is one component of a multiple-track endeavor that includes supporting a peasant organization that opposes land reform; an educational organization that has suggested no education reforms; an organization seeking to incite a military rebellion; a civic association that has worked to mobilize middle class neighborhoods to 'defend themselves' from the poor; a civil justice group that opposes grassroots community organizations because they support the Chavez government; a 'leadership group' that supports the metropolitan Caracas police, whose behavior has become markedly more repressive over the past year; and a number of other anti-Chavez organizations, each which have received funding from NED (Scipes, 2004a). 

(3) Funding from outside the labor movement.  This author was able to locate NED funding for Venezuela: 

NED has been long active across Latin America.  It has been active in Venezuela, the fifth largest oil producer in the world, since 1992.  According to accounts gathered from the NED itself, NED provided $4,039,331 to Venezuelan and American organizations working in Venezuela between 1992-2001; 60.4 percent of that, or $2,439,489 was granted between 1997-2001.  Of that, $2.4-plus million since 1997, $587,926 (or almost one-quarter) went to ACILS for its work with the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV in Spanish).  In 2002, the last year for which details are available, NED pumped in another $1,099,352, of which ACILS got $116,001 for its work with CTV.  Altogether, ACILS received $703,927 between 1997-2002 for its work in Venezuela alone (Scipes, 2004a). 

In her book, Eva Golinger (2005) provides extensive funding accounts from the NED to its various grantee agencies in the country.  Most of these accounts–not all–however, agree with my figures.  In short, combining my own research with that of others, this author shows that the CTV leadership was involved in the coup, that Solidarity Center staff members were involved beyond the field of organized labor, and that all of these operations were funded from outside of the US labor movement.

Interestingly, even with publication of extensive material by a number of authors, the AFL-CIO has stuck to its original position:  the CTV was not involved in the coup: 

The CTV executive refused to sign the infamous decree of the short-lived Carmona regime that dissolved the National Assembly.  The CTV refused any and all offers to serve in the coup-installed government, and made a point of not being present at the inauguration of Carmona's cabinet (Gacek, 2005). 

However, Gacek actually made a demonstrably false claim; referring to the series of meetings that led to the March 5 national conference, he wrote, "The five events financed by the Solidarity Center involved the participation of organized labor only, not the national business federation."  If that is correct, then why did Solidarity Center staff report that they themselves were involved in a series of meetings that were designed to bring together leaders of the CTV and FEDECAMARAS (the national business confederation)? (Bigwood and Golinger, n.d.) 

(4)  Synopsis.  Despite the protestations and claims otherwise by the (now former) Assistant Director of the AFL-CIO's International Affairs Department, Stanley Gacek–and, interestingly, as far as can be ascertained, not corroborated by a single independent analyst–the evidence is overwhelming that the AFL-CIO and particularly its Solidarity Center were knowingly involved in events preceding the coup attempt against democratically-elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias; that they acted as part of a multi-pronged attack by the US Government and its misnamed National Endowment for Democracy on democracy in Venezuela and particularly the administration of President Chavez; that they were funded by the US Congress through the National Endowment for Democracy; and they lied and tried to cover up their involvement and the involvement of the leaders of their long-time associate, the CTV.


In this paper, this author has taken a comprehensive look at the possibility of AFL-CIO involvement in the April 2002 coup against Venezuela's democratically-elected president, Hugo Chavez Frias.  He noted that the AFL-CIO had a long-time foreign policy, that was involved previously in Latin American in general, and specifically in Venezuela.  This author previously expressed concerns around the strikingly similar situation to that of Chile before the September 11, 1973 coup, that he also suggested that possibility for Venezuela, although he published the AFL-CIO's denial out of the possibility that its' statement might be correct.  However, through discovering a number of independently-produced accounts and analyses–and after seriously considering the AFL-CIO's version of what happened, conveyed through the writings of Stanley Gacek–he came to the conclusion that the AFL-CIO, and specifically its Solidarity Center–played an active and conscious role in helping to create the conditions that led to the April 2002 coup attempt, and also played a similar role in trying to deny the now-established involvement of the CTV leadership in the planning and participating in at least the initial efforts that led to the coup.

Thus, any understanding of the AFL-CIO foreign policy program in the post-1995 years must specifically include its activities in Venezuela, and their similarities to previous pre-1995 operations, most importantly in Chile.


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    — 1996.  KMU:  Building Genuine Trade Unionism in the Philippines, 1980-1994.  Quezon City, Metro Manila:  New Day Publishers: 116-125. 

    — 2005a.  "Labor Imperialism Redux?:  The AFL-CIO's Foreign Policy Since 1995"  Monthly Review, Vol. Vol. 57, No. 1, May:  23-46.  (On line at www.monthlyreview.org/0505scipes.htm

    Scott, Jack.  1978.  Yankee Unions Go Home!  How the AFL Helped the US Build an Empire in Latin America.  Vancouver, B.C.: New Star Books. 

    Shorrock, Tim.  

    Sims, Beth.  1992.  Workers of the World Undermined:  American Labor's Role in US Foreign Policy.  Boston:  South End Press. 

    Snow, Sinclair.  1964.  The Pan-American Federation of Labor.  Durham:  Duke University Press. 

    Spaulding, Hobart.  1984.  "US Labour Intervention in Latin America:  The Case of the American Institute for Free Labour Development" in LABOUR, Capital and Society, Vol. 17, No. 2, November: 136-172, and reprinted in Roger Southall, ed., 1988, Trade Unions and the New Industrialisation of the Third World.  London: Zed:  259-286. 

    Sustar, Lee.  2005.  "Revolution and Counter-revolution:  Assessing the Role of the AFL-CIO."  New Labor Forum, Vol. 14, No. 3, September.  Published on-line as part of "AFL-CIO's Role in Venezuela:  Assessment and Debate," which includes Sustar's article, a response by the AFL-CIO's Stan Gacek, and Sustar's response to Gacek at www.selvesandothers.org/article10406.html

    Weinrub, Al and William Bollinger.  1987.  The AFL-CIO in Central America:  A Look at the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD).  Oakland:  Labor Network on Central America. 


*   Kim Scipes is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Purdue University North Central in Westville, Indiana, USA.  A member of the National Writers Union, AFL-CIO, he can be reached at n [email protected][email protected] This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it .  Scipes has an on-line “Contemporary Labor Bibliography” that would probably be of interest to all active and/or interested in labor, which is at http://faculty.pnc.edu/kscipes/LaborBib.htm.

[1]   While it does not appear that the United States Government under George W. Bush instigated the coup, it was unhappy with the regime of Hugo Chavez, and sent clear signals to the opposition in Venezuela that it would not be upset should a coup against Chavez take place.  Nonetheless, Venezuela was clearly a concern of the Bush Administration, which at least held one inter-agency meeting between the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department in November 2001, where they talked for two days about Venezuela—Katherine Hoyt (2002) notes that “Similar meetings had been held before previous US-organized coups in Iran, Guatemala, South Vietnam, Chile and elsewhere.”  She also reported that CIA Director George Tenet told Congress in February 2002 that Venezuela was one of the “main concerns” for US foreign policy (Hoyt, 2002).  The New York Times reported on CIA documents that showed that the Bush Administration had detailed information about the coup plans days prior to the coup (Forero, 2004).  See also Eva Golinger (2004). 

In her 2005 book, Golinger (2005) provides extensive, in-depth documentation and analysis establishing this claim—see particularly the Senior Executive Intelligence Brief generated by the CIA dated April 6, 2002 printed on pp. 209-210.  Regarding the Bush Administration, who publicly supported the coup, Mark Weisbrot (2004) wrote, “… the Bush Administration was not just lying about what it knew, but actively joining the coup leaders in their short-lived attempt to convince the media and the world that a ‘transitional civilian government’ had legitimately seized power in order to defend the public from alleged state violence.  And all the while knowing that this was false, and that the military coup was part of a plan that they knew about in advance.”  For the Bush Administration’s pubic position on the coup, see the “Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer” of April 12, 2002 (Fleisher, 2002).  Among other things later disproved, Fleischer reported that “President Chavez has resigned the presidency,” which he never did.

  For analyses of US efforts in Venezuela since the coup, see Agee, 2005; Golinger, 2004; and Jones and Tayler, 2005.  For an in-depth report of on-going US activities against Venezuela, until January 2006, see James, 2006.

[2]  Events around and leading to the coup attempt, and the coup attempt itself, were captured on film by an Irish film team that had happened to be in Miraflores at the time of the coup, filming for a documentary on President Chavez.  The resulting film, “The Revolution Will Not be Televised,” was released in 2004.

[3]  Sustar cites Buhle, 1999: 143 for the source on the alleged CIA involvement of Romualdi; and Romauldi, 1967: 417, 434, 486-511, for Romauldi’s accounts of his relationship with Venezuelan president Betancourt.  Both Betancourt and Rafael Caldera were later to serve as President of Venezuela.

[4]   Golinger (2005: 85-87) provides useful background information on Reich and his career.  She also cites an e-mail message from Lourdes Kistler of ACILS to Mary Sullivan of the Department of State, “confirming the Ortega delegation visit and meeting with Otto Reich on February 11, 2002.”  This was obtained under FOIA.  (Golinger, 2004: 86, fn. 2).

[5]  Documents unearthed by Bigwood and Golinger have been placed on the Venezuelan Solidarity Committee’s website at www.venezuelafoia.info, and are herein referred to as Bigwood and Golinger, n.d.  To access these reports from ACILS to NED, go to the box on National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and click on “ACILS-CTV.”  There you will find Quarterly Reports from the Solidarity Center (ACILS) to NED, and these extend from July-September 2000 to July-September 2003.  Quotes in this paper are from the January-March 2002 Quarterly Report, and are found at http://venezuelafoia.info/ctva1.html and http://venezuelafoia.info/ctva2.html .

[6]  In her book, Golinger discusses this meeting (Golinger, 2005: 90-92) and its importance.  More importantly, she prints an unclassified cable, which she identifies as being from March 2002 (the date on the memo is March 2, but from the contents, more likely should have been dated March 12), from the US Embassy in Caracas to the Secretary of State, where this meeting is reported.  In this cable, the following is stated:  “The existence of this Accord was announced last week and has since drawn much speculation about whether it was intended as the basis for a post-Chavez government or a last-ditch effort to promote a dialogue with the government.  In his combative centerpiece address, CTV President Carlos Ortega dispelled any remaining doubts:  this accord is ‘a pact for us’, he emphasized, to guide us through the transition and to establish a ‘government of democratic unity’.  The crowd greeted these remarks with rousing anti-Chavez chants” (emphasis added) (Golinger, 2005: 203-205; quote on p. 204).

[7]  That the strike was to protest the firing of management, and not union members, was confirmed in a personal interview by this author with Dick Juanique, Director of the Department of Informal Economy of the CTV, in Caracas, June 19, 2006.  Juanique’s explanation was that hiring and promotions had previously all been done within the state oil company, PDVSA, on the basis of merit, and that the workers had launched a general strike to maintain such a standard in response to President Chavez’ firing of the oil managers for corruption.  Golinger (2005: 94) says “The workers [in reality, managers-KS] were dismissed largely due to mismanagement of the industry, embezzlement of finances and a difference in policy from the Chavez’s Government.”

[8]  Golinger (2005: 64-65) reprinted the IRI Press Release issued by George Folsom that praised the coup.

[9]  The role of the privately-owned media in Venezuela in the coup efforts is detailed throughout Golinger’s 2005 book.  However, she also briefly comments on the US media’s support for the coup, specifically naming the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times, of which she discusses the latter’s April 14th and April 18, 2002 editorials on the coup (Golinger, 2005: 110, fn. 29).

[10]  Steve Ellner (2004) responded to Gacek’s claims in Gacek, 2004.  Ellner, Professor of Labor History at the Universidad del Oriente in Barcelona, Venezuela and perhaps the leading authority on labor today in Venezuela, challenged many of Gacek’s claims about the CTV.

In a following article in 2005, responding to Lee Sustar (2005), Gacek made basically the same claims as he did in his 2004 article.  Sustar, in turn, responded to Gacek (2005), and argued that Gacek had not, in reality, addressed the central claim of his article, while Gacek made himself to appear as though he was doing just that.

[11]  Although Solidarity Center activists reported regularly to the National Endowment for Democracy, they have never reported their activities to AFL-CIO affiliated unions’ members, nor to the public.  In fact, they have even refused to “open their books” about their activities—past and present—even when asked by a unanimously-passed resolution from the 2004 California State AFL-CIO Convention.  See Hirsch, 2004; Scipes, 2004ab, 2005c.  For an on-going effort to force the AFL-CIO to open its books on all foreign operations, historically and currently, and to cut all ties with the National Endowment for Democracy, see the Worker to Worker Solidarity Committee’s web site at www.workertoworker.net, and for a collection of some of the best writings on AFL-CIO foreign policy, go to the “Links” page on the web site.  For the most complete compilation of all sources on the AFL-CIO foreign policy program, go to http://faculty.pnc.edu/kscipes/LaborBib.htm#AFL-CIO_foreign_operations.

[12]  Stan Gacek (2005) of the AFL-CIO stated unequivocally, “We did not finance the March 5 event.”