Nine months ahead of the presidential poll in Venezuela, US President B. Obama gave a written interview to the country’s top-conservative and sternly anti-Chavez outlet El Universal. Considering that until recently Obama and Chavez seemed to abide by an unarticulated non-aggression pact and refrained from the kind of angry exchanges that broke out on a regular basis during G. Bush’s presidency, Obama’s provocative comments were immediately read as a mobilizing signal by the opposition in Venezuela.
Obama charged Chavez in the message to El Universal with “government actions that have restricted the universal rights of the Venezuelan people, threatened basic democratic values, and failed to contribute to the security of the region”. As for security, the Venezuelan policy of connecting to Iran, Syria, and Cuba is known to feature prominently on the US list of security concerns, which explains why Obama chose to assert that such relations do not benefit the Venezuelan people and that, sooner or later, Venezuelans would have to opt out of them. Chavez responded in his usual uncompromising manner, saying that whatever claims the US president and his advisers make they become parts of the tremendous lie they need to justify an aggression against Venezuela and its partners. “Obama, you’re a phony”, Chavez hit back during a televised meeting – ”… Don’t be irresponsible. We are a free nation and will never be a colony, yours or anybody else’s. …Go and ask the black community in your country what you are to them: the biggest frustration in I don’t know how many years …Go and ask the many people in Africa who may have believed in you because of the color of your skin, because your father was from Africa. You’re a descendant of Africa, but you are the shame of all those people”.
Diosdado Cabello, a leading member of Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela who is widely seen as the likely successor to the country’s incumbent leader, similarly rebuked Obama: “We reject the statements made by this man (the US President). If anyone is involved in crimes and terrorism, that is the government of the United States”. Actually, according to Cabello, “Obama leads the club of world’s terrorists… They (the US) are withdrawing from Iraq after leaving more than one million people dead”. Cabello stressed that Venezuela is in no way hostile to North-Americans – rather, it has compassions for the nation run by an anti-national government – but said that, while Washington talks a lot about media freedom and democracy, the death toll is also high in Libya and the abuses perpetrated by the US continue to multiply.
Venezuela’s administration is permanently aware that the White House hopes to derail the upcoming elections and is laying the groundwork for a color revolution in the country. Outwardly, the efforts made by Washington are focused on having the opposition in Venezuela launch a common candidacy at the poll, with the anti-Chavez bloc “primaries” – a race played out between six candidates from the oppositional Coalition for Democratic Unity (MUD) – scheduled for February, 2012. Some of Chavez’s foes do plan to run on their own, but what unites the whole camp is undisguised hate for the populist regime and its leader. The opposition candidates’ programs, though, tend to be unspecific and clearly lack realism. The pro-Chavez forces occasionally complain that the opposition resorts to mimicry and simply steals the regime’s slogans. The tactic does not seem to pay even though the opposition dominates the media in Venezuela: surveys show that the part of the Venezuelan constituency which intends to play the opposition primaries game has shrunk from 30-35% to the modest 20-22% way ahead of the event.
As a result, calls are increasingly audible across the opposition to avoid embarrassment by scrapping the primaries plan and to quietly reach an internal compromise on the anti-Chavez candidacy. The related advising and the final confirmation are of course up to the Washington puppeteers.
One of the contenders is Leopoldo López, a Harvard graduate who used to incite riots, urge attacks on the presidential palace, and call for power seizure in 2002-2005. His involvement with the CIA began in the epoch when Primero Justicia, an NGO which later morphed into a political party, came into being. Bracing for the coming elections, López assembled Voluntad Popular, a new group drawing money from the same old sources like the US intelligence community and the Department of State plus USAID. López hopes that his extremist past and the corruption scandals which erupted serially when he served as mayor of the privileged Chacao municipality in Caracas have sank into oblivion, relies heavily on social media, and currently sells his candidacy emphasizing openness to dialog and compromise. Building a populist image, López occasionally shows up in urban slums where he chats with senior-aged citizens and generously dispenses promises to eradicate street crime.
Miranda State governor and Primero Justicia captain Henrique Radonski is a campaigner of the same type as Leopoldo López. Radonski happily combines the support from the US with financial infusions from the Jewish community and is seen in Washington as a remarkably capable figure: in November, 2008 he outran Diosdado Cabello in a competition over the governor post. Radonski generally tried to stay clear of activities that could cast a shadow of extremism over his reputation, but in April, 2002, when the anti-populist coup in Venezuela was raging and the country’s government sought refuge in the Cuban embassy, he did take part in laying siege to it and demanded that the Cuban ambassador consent to a search in the diplomatic compound. The ambassador did not give in to pressure and pledged resistance in response to Radonski’s threat to use force. Eventually, the opposition did not dare to storm the Cuban embassy and sufficed with acts like vandalizing cars with diplomatic license plates and cutting off water, gas, electric power supply, and phone communications of the mission.
María Corina Machado, MariCori in vernacular, is the female face of Venezuela’s opposition. Thanks to extraordinary media spin-off, the fragile housewife and a mother of three, who is also a lady with unbreakable willpower, currently enjoys unparalleled fame in the country. In fact, Machado may be the greatest success scored by the CIA in the agency’s battle against Venezuela. In 2001, she took part in establishing Súmate, an NGO whose stated purpose nationwide was vote-monitoring. The pursuit that loomed behind the agenda was to erode the credibility of the Venezuelan national elections council. Money was fed to Súmate via the US National Endowment for Democracy founded in 1983 by the US Congress. Large amounts also came from the CIA which had far-reaching plans for Machado’s career. In 2005, curators even arranged for MariCori to meet with US President G. Bush at the White House, where she predictably discussed resistance to dictatorship in Venezuela, democracy, and human rights advocacy. Upon being elected to parliament in 2010, Machado rolled out a plan to run for president, saying Chavez’s continued power was a “national threat” and confidently projecting that the opposition would win the October 7, 2012 election. Her foreign policy program is essentially identical to those of her opposition peers and includes abolishing the ALBA bloc, Venezuela’s withdrawal from Mercosur, revising Venezuelan oil policies vis-a-vis Latin American And Caribbean countries, and distancing from Cuba. The first foreign-policy steps Machado promises to take if elected are to rebuild the relations with the US and to restore the diplomatic ties with Israel.
James M. Derjam currently serves as the US chargé d’affaires in Venezuela. Derjam is an experienced diplomat who returned to the US Department of State after three decades in retirement. Having studied circumstances on site in Venezuela, he made several cautious statements to the effect that Washington would be happy to have normal relations with Caracas though the situation is tense at the moment, and that for his country Venezuela is a significant trade partner importing US products worth slightly under $12b a year. Of course, Derjam’s attempts at reviving dialog went down the drain momentarily as Obama’s recent El Universal interview saw the light of day.
Fresh surveys give Chavez a 60% rating, and the opposition’s chances to defeat the Venezuelan leader in fair elections appear slim. Given the multitude and proportions of welfare programs on-line in today’s Venezuela, the opposition can’t offer a serious alternative, and the constituency is not going to be swayed by downright demagoguery. Chavez says ironically that keeping their mouths shut makes the opposition candidates look more attractive, but suspects that in 2012 the future of his country may, instead of being contested in legitimate elections, become a stake in the framework of a scenario compiled in the US secret war laboratories. There is no doubt that, as a puppet of the US military-industrial complex, Obama will greenlight whatever escapades it would be pressing for.
The Venezuelan fifth column which constantly receives material support and training at various color revolution youth camps etc. is sure to follow the US lead. Mercenaries are recruited in Mexico, Central American countries, and Columbia to start a massacre in Venezuela. If provocateurs gain control over Venezuelan cities, MUD presidential hopefuls will easily shed their democratic rhetoric. The opposition did not have enough opportunity to fully demonstrate its ferocious character during the 2002 coup, though Chavez’s supporters were severely persecuted. The US plan for the next round of the fight is immensely more cruel – this time the Empire is going to teach a bloody lesson to the whole Latin America.