U.S. Intervention in Venezuela and in Latin America

Noted political activist and analyst Noam Chomsky answers an audience question about U.S. intervention in Venezuela and in Latin America in general at an event on the 30th anniversary of the bombing of the Cubana 455 airliner.

A public event on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the bombing of Cubana airliner, flight 455, which cost the lives of 73 passengers, was held on October 6th, 2006, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in Boston. Participating in this event were political activist and analyst Noam Chomsky, Cuban specialist and French scholar Salim Lamrani and the President of the National Lawyer’s Guild, Michael Avery, for a discussion of US foreign policy towards Cuba and Latin America, and the cases of Luis Posada Carriles and the Cuban Five.

The following is Noam Chomsky’s response to a question from the audience:

Audience Member: With the recent integration and cooperation between Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, obviously the US is paying more attention to these countries.  What in your opinion could be the agenda of secret agents currently in action in Venezuela? and could you please analyze the possibility of military intervention in Venezuela and Bolivia on the part of the US government.

Noam Chomsky: I think your point is well taken.  We know that the US did support a military coup, which briefly overthrew President Chavez and the US had to back down, when he was restored quickly and also had to back down in the face of a very angry reaction in Latin American. In almost all of Latin America, there was a very angry reaction. They take democracy there more seriously then we do here.

Right after trying to overthrow the government by force, the US immediately turned to subversion, supporting anti-Chavez groups.  That’s described in the press, the way it’s described is, the US is supporting pro-democracy groups, which are opposed to President Chavez.

Notice it’s true by definition that if you oppose the president, you are pro-democracy.  It’s completely irrelevant that according to the best polls (Latin America has very good polling agencies which take regular polls on these issues around the continent).  Support for democracy has been declining—not for democracy but for the democratic governments—has been declining through Latin America, for a pretty good reason, the governments have been associated with neo-liberal programs which undermine democracy—IMF, treasury department programs—so your support for the governments are declining.  There are exceptions, and the major exception by far is Venezuela.

Since 1998, when Chavez was elected, support for the elected government as be rising very fast, its now by far the highest in Latin America.  He has won several elections that have been recognized to be free and fair, he has won numerous referendums, but he is a dictator, a tin-pot dictator, which is proven by the fact that our dear leader said so, and since we are voluntary North Koreans, when the dear leader says it, it’s true.  So therefore, he’s a dictator, and if you carry out subversion to overthrow him, that’s pro-democracy by definition.  You have to look hard to find an exception to this, or even a comment on it, just like the other examples I discussed.

We might ask ourselves how we would react if Iran, say, had just supported a military coup that overthrew the government in the United States and when they have to back off from that, immediately turned to supporting pro-democracy groups in the United States that are opposed to the government.  Would we give them ice-cream and candy?  

Well in dictatorial Venezuela, they let them keep functioning.  In fact, even let the newspapers in support of the coup keep functioning.  I could go on with this, but what’s likely to happen?

Well, the US has had two major weapons for controlling Latin America for a long time.  One of them is economic controls, the other is military force.  They have both been used continually.  Both of them are weakening and it’s a very serious problem for U.S. planners.

The Economic, for the first time in its history since the Spanish colonization, Latin America is beginning to get its act together.  It’s moving towards some degree of independence, even some degree of integration.  The Latin American countries have been very separate from one another through their histories, they have a huge gap between the very rich and the huge massive poor, so when we are talking about the countries, we are talking about the rich elites.  The rich elites have been oriented towards Europe and North America, not their own citizens, not each other.  So that Capital flight goes to Zurich, or London, or New York, the second home is in the Riviera, the children study in Cambridge or something like that.  That’s the way it’s been, with very little interaction, and it’s changing.

First of all there are major popular movements, like in Bolivia.  They had a democratic election of the kind we can’t even dream of.  I mean if there was any honest newspaper coverage in this country we would be ashamed at the comparison between their election and ours.  I won’t go through it, but with a little thought you can quickly figure it out, because there is mass popular participation, and the people know what they are voting for, and they pick somebody from their own ranks and their major issues and so on.  It’s unimaginable here where elections are about the level of marketing toothpaste on television, literally.

There are mass popular movements all over and they have begun to integrate to some extent for the first time.

The military weapon has been weakened.  The last effort of the US had to back off very quickly, in 2002 in Venezuela.  The kinds of governments the US is now supporting—forced to support—are the kinds it would have been trying to overthrow not very long ago, because of this shift.

The economic weapon is weakening enormously.  They are throwing out the IMF.  The IMF means the US Treasury Department.  Argentina, it was the poster boy of the IMF, you know, following all the rules and so on.  It went in to a hideous economic crash.  They managed to get out of it, but only by radically violating IMF rules, and they are now, as the President put it, “ridding themselves of the IMF” and paying off their debt with the help of Venezuela.  Venezuela bought up a lot of their debt.  The same is happening in Brazil.  The same is going to happen in Bolivia. 

In general, the economic measures are weakening, the military measures are no longer what they were.  The US is deeply concerned about it, undoubtedly.  We shouldn’t think that the US has abandoned the military effort, on the contrary, the number of US personnel—military personnel—in Latin America is probably as high as its ever been.  The number of the Latin American officers being trained by the US is going up very sharply.  By now, for the first time (it never happened during the cold war) the US military aid is higher than the sum of economic and social aid from key federal agencies- that’s a shift.  There are more air bases all over the place. 

Keep your eyes on Ecuador, there’s an election coming up in about a week, the likely winner, [Rafael] Correa is an interesting person, he was recently asked what he would do with the big Manta US airbase in Ecuador and his answer was, well he’d allow it to stay if the United States agreed to have an Ecuadorian airbase in Miami. 

But these are the things that are going on. There’s a call for an Indian Nation for the first time. The indigenous—in some states like Bolivia—majority is actually entering the political arena for the first time in 500 years, electing their own candidates.  These are major changes, but the US is certainly not giving up on it.

The Military training has been shifted.  Its official focus now is on what’s called radical populism and street gangs.  Well, you know what radical populism means, like the Priests organizing peasants or anyone who gets out of line.  So yeah, it’s serious.  What will they do?

Governments have what are called security interests; they have to protect the national security. If any of you have ever spent any time reading declassified documents, you know what that the means. I’ve spent a lot of time reading them and it’s true, there is defense of the government against its enemy, that prime enemy.  Its prime enemy is the domestic population.  That’s true of every government I know.  So if you read the declassified documents, you find that most of them are protecting the government from its own population.  Not much has to do with anything you might call security interests, in another sense, and that’s true right now.  So we don’t know what they are planning because we have to be protected from knowing what the government is planning.  So we have to speculate.

If you want my speculation, based on no information except what I would be doing if I was sitting in the Pentagon planning office and told to figure out a way to overthrow the governments of Bolivia, Venezuela, and Iran, in fact.  The idea that immediately comes to mind, so I assume they are working on it, is to support secessionist movements, which is conceivable if you look at the geography and the places where the oil is and so on. 

In Venezuela, the oil is in Zulia province, which is where the opposition candidate is coming from, right on the boarder of Colombia (one of the only states [in Latin America] where the US has a firm military presence).  It’s a rich province, pretty anti-Chavez, and it happens to be where most of the oil is, and in fact there is rumor of a Zulia independence movement, which, if they can carry it off, the US could then intervene to protect against the dictator.  That’s Venezuela. 

In Bolivia, the major gas resources are in the low-lands, the eastern low-lands, which is mostly European, not indigenous, opposed to the government, rich area, near Paraguay (one of the other countries where the US has military bases), so you can imagine the same project going on – also secessionist movements. 

In Iran, which is the big one, if you look at it, the oil of the region (that’s where most of the hydrocarbons in the world are) they are right around the gulf, the Shiite sections of Iraq, the Shiite sections of Saudi Arabia and an Arab—not Persian—region of Iran, Khuzestan, right near the Gulf, it happens to be Arab.  There is talk floating around Europe (you know it’s probably planted by the CIA) of an Ahwazi Liberation Movement for this region.  A feasible, I don’t know if it’s feasible or not, but I think the kind of thought that would be occurring to the Pentagon planners is to sponsor a liberation movement, so-called, in the area near the Gulf then move in to defend it.  They’ve got 150,000 troops in Iraq; presumably, you might try that, and then bomb the rest of the country back to the Stone Age.  It’s conceivable, I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if those are the kinds of plans that are being toyed with.

Transcribed for Venezuelanalysis.com by Michael Fox