Destabilizing Venezuela: Longstanding US Policy

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April 8, 2013
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April 9, 2013

Destabilizing Venezuela: Longstanding US Policy
by Stephen Lendman
It doesn’t surprise. It’s likely happening ahead of Venezuela’s April 14 presidential election. It’ll continue when it’s over. 
Washington tolerates no independent governments. It demands pro-Western ones. It wants them serving US interests. Outliers are targeted for regime change.
Throughout his tenure, Chavez was America’s main hemispheric bete noire. He’s gone. Chavismo lives. Washington’s war on Venezuela continues. 
It’s the oil, stupid. Venezuela has the world’s largest reserves. It’s also for unchallenged regional dominance. No holds barred tactics persist to achieve it.
On April 5, Russia Today (RT) headlined “New WikiLeaks cable reveals US embassy strategy to destabilize Chavez government.”
America’s Caracas embassy’s a hotbed of anti-Chavismo subversion. RT referred to past events. William Brownfield was US ambassador. He’s now Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
From 2004 – 2006, his five-point plan included “strengthening democratic institutions,” (doing so by undermining them), “penetrating Chavez’s political base, dividing Chavismo, protecting vital US business, and isolating Chavez internationally.”
USAID handled implementation. It provided about $15 million dollars. It did so through its Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). It was created in spring 2002. Money went for training and technical assistance. Over 300 anti-Chavismo organizations got it.
A November 9, 2006 US Caracas embassy cable explained. WikiLeaks exposed it. Its full unredacted text states:
“Classified By: Robert Downes, Political Counselor, 
for Reason 1.4(d). 
“1.  (S)  During his 8 years in power, President Chavez has 
systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and 
governance. The USAID/OTI program objectives in Venezuela 
focus on strengthening democratic institutions and spaces 
through non-partisan cooperation with many sectors of 
Venezuelan society. 
2.  (S)  In August of 2004, Ambassador outlined the country 
team’s 5 point strategy to guide embassy activities in 
Venezuela for the period 2004 ) 2006 (specifically, from the 
referendum to the 2006 presidential elections). The 
strategy’s focus is: 1) Strengthening Democratic 
Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) 
Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) 
Isolating Chavez internationally. 
3.  (S)  A brief description of USAID/OTI activities during 
the aforementioned time period in support of the strategy 
Strengthen Democratic Institutions 
4.  (S)  This strategic objective represents the majority of 
USAID/OTI work in Venezuela. Organized civil society is an 
increasingly important pillar of democracy, one where 
President Chavez has not yet been able to assert full 
5.  (S)  OTI has supported over 300 Venezuelan civil society 
organizations with technical assistance, capacity building, 
connecting them with each other and international movements, 
and with financial support upwards of $15 million. Of these, 
39 organizations focused on advocacy have been formed since 
the arrival of OTI; many of these organizations as a direct 
result of OTI programs and funding. 
6. (S)  Human Rights: OTI supports the Freedom House (FH) 
“Right to Defend Human Rights” program with $1.1 million. 
Simultaneously through Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), 
OTI has also provided 22 grants to human rights 
organizations, totaling $726,000. FH provides training and 
technical assistance to 15 different smaller and regional 
human rights organizations on how to research, document, and 
present cases in situations of judicial impunity through a 
specialized software and proven techniques. Following are 
some specific successes from this project, which has led to a 
better understanding internationally of the deteriorating 
human rights situation in the country: 
Venezuelan Prison Observatory: Since beginning work with 
OTI, OVP has taken 1 case successfully through the 
inter-American system, achieving a ruling requiring BRV 
special protective measures for the prison ‘La Pica.’ Also, 
on November 7th – 12th they will be launching the 
Latin-American Prison Observatory, consolidating their work 
with a regional network. OVP receives technical support from 
FH, as well as monetary support from Pan American Development Foundation (PADF). Due to the success of the OVP in raising awareness of the issue, the BRV has put pressure on them in the form of public statements, announcing investigations, accusing them of alleged crimes as well as death threats. 
Central Venezuelan University Human Rights Center: This 
center was created out of the FH program and a grant from 
CARACAS 00003356  002.2 OF 004 
DAI. They have successfully raised awareness regarding the 
International Cooperation Law and the human rights situation 
in Venezuela, and have served as a voice nationally and 
Human Rights Lawyers Network in Bolivar State: This group 
was created out of the FH program and a grant from the DAI 
small grants program. They are currently supporting the 
victims of a massacre of 12 miners in Bolivar State allegedly 
by the Venezuelan Army. Chavez himself was forced to admit 
that the military used excessive force in this case. They 
will present their case to the Inter-American Commission on 
Human Rights in February 2007. 
7. (S) Citizen Participation in Governance:  Venezuelan 
NGOs lack a long history of social activism. In response, 
OTI partners are training NGOs to be activists and become 
more involved in advocacy. The successes of this focus have 
been as follows: 
Support for the Rights of the Handicapped: OTI has funded 3 
projects in the Caracas area dealing with the rights of the 
handicapped. Venezuela had neither the appropriate 
legislation nor political will to assure that the cities are 
designed and equipped in a handicapped sensitive fashion. 
Through these programs, OTI brought the issue of the 
handicapped to the forefront, trained advocacy groups to 
advocate for their rights and lobby the National Assembly, 
and alerted the press regarding this issue. Subsequent to 
this, the National Assembly was forced to consider 
handicapped needs and propose draft legislation for the issue. 
Por la Caracas Possible (PCP): Once-beautiful Caracas has 
decayed over the past several years due to corruption and 
lack of attention. PCP is a local NGO dedicated to bringing 
attention to this problem. They have held campaigns with 
communities shining a light on the terrible job elected 
leadership are doing resolving the problems in Caracas. 
During their work they have been expelled from communities by 
the elected leaders, further infuriating communities that 
already feel un-assisted. 
8. (S) Civic Education: One effective Chavista mechanism 
of control applies democratic vocabulary to support 
revolutionary Bolivarian ideology. OTI has been working to 
counter this through a civic education program called 
‘Democracy Among Us.’ This interactive education program 
works through NGOs in low income communities to deliver five 
modules: 1) Separation of Powers, 2) Rule of Law, 3) The 
Role and Responsibility of Citizens, 4) Political Tolerance, 
and 5) The Role of Civil Society. Separate civic education 
programs in political tolerance, participation, and human 
rights have reached over 600,000 people. 
Penetrate Base/Divide Chavismo 
9. (S) Another key Chavez strategy is his attempt to divide 
and polarize Venezuelan society using rhetoric of hate and 
violence. OTI supports local NGOs who work in Chavista 
strongholds and with Chavista leaders, using those spaces to 
counter this rhetoric and promote alliances through working 
together on issues of importance to the entire community. 
OTI has directly reached approximately 238,000 adults through 
over 3000 forums, workshops and training sessions delivering 
alternative values and providing opportunities for opposition 
activists to interact with hard-core Chavistas, with the 
desired effect of pulling them slowly away from Chavismo. We 
have supported this initiative with 50 grants totaling over 
$1.1 million. There are several key examples of this: 
10. (S) Visor Participativo: This is a group of 34 OTI 
CARACAS 00003356  003.2 OF 004 
funded and technically assisted NGOs working together on 
municipal strengthening. They work in 48 municipalities 
(Venezuela has 337), with 31 MVR, 2 PPT and 15 opposition 
mayors. As Chavez attempts to re-centralize the country, OTI 
through Visor is supporting decentralization. Much of this 
is done through the municipal councils (CLPPs). The National 
Assembly recently passed a law that creates groups parallel 
to the mayor’s offices and municipal councils (and that 
report directly to the president’s office). These groups are 
receiving the lions share of new monies Chavez is pumping 
into the regions, leaving the municipalities under-funded. 
As Chavez attempts to re-centralize all power to the 
Executive in the capital, local Chavista leadership are 
becoming the opposition as their individual oxen are gored. 
Visor has been providing these leaders with tools and skills 
for leadership to counter the threat represented by the new 
11. (S) CECAVID: This project supported an NGO working 
with women in the informal sectors of Barquisimeto, the 5th 
largest city in Venezuela. The training helped them 
negotiate with city government to provide better working 
conditions. After initially agreeing to the women’s 
conditions, the city government reneged and the women shut 
down the city for 2 days forcing the mayor to return to the 
bargaining table. This project is now being replicated in 
another area of Venezuela. 
12. (S) PROCATIA: OTI has partnered with a group widely 
perceived by people in the large Caracas &barrio8 as 
opposition leaning. Due to incompetence of the local elected 
leadership, the garbage problem in Catia is a messy issue for 
all those who live there. This group has organized brigades 
to collect and recycle trash, in the process putting pressure 
on the government to provide basic services and repositioning 
the group as a respected ally of the ‘barrio.’ 
13. (S) Finally, through support of a positive social 
impact campaign in cooperation with PAS, OTI funded 54 social 
projects all over the country, at over $1.2 million, allowing 
Ambassador to visit poor areas of Venezuela and demonstrate 
US concern for the Venezuelan people. This program fosters 
confusion within the Bolivarian ranks, and pushes back at the 
attempt of Chavez to use the United States as a ‘unifying 
Isolate Chavez 
14. (S) An important component of the OTI program is 
providing information internationally regarding the true 
revolutionary state of affairs. OTI’s support for human 
rights organizations has provided ample opportunity to do so. 
The FH exchanges allowed Venezuelan human rights 
organizations to visit Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Chile, 
Argentina, Costa Rica, and Washington DC to educate their 
peers regarding the human rights situation. Also, DAI has 
brought dozens of international leaders to Venezuela, 
university professors, NGO members, and political leaders to 
participate in workshops and seminars, who then return to 
their countries with a better understanding of the Venezuelan 
reality and as stronger advocates for the Venezuelan 
15. (S) More recently, OTI has taken advantage of the draft 
law of International Cooperation to send NGO representatives 
to international NGO conferences where they are able to voice 
their concerns in terms that global civil society understands. So far, OTI has sent Venezuelan NGO leaders to Turkey, Scotland, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Chile, Uruguay, Washington and Argentina (twice) to talk about the law. Upcoming visits are planned to Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia. 
CARACAS 00003356  004.2 OF 004 
OTI has also brought 4 recognized experts in NGO law from 
abroad to Venezuela to show solidarity for their Venezuelan 
counterparts. PADF supported visits by 4 key human rights 
defenders to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission 
meetings in Washington in October of 2006. These have led to 
various successes: 
Civicus, a world alliance of NGOs, has put the Venezuela 
issue on their Civil Society Watch short list of countries of 
Gente de Soluciones, a Venezuelan NGO presented their 
“Project Society” to the OAS General Assembly. While there, 
they met with many of the Ambassadors and Foreign Ministers 
of OAS member states to express concern about the law. 
Uruguayan parliamentarians met with NGOs at a special session of the Foreign Affairs commission, and have promised to help where they can. 
The Human Rights Commission of the OAS has made several 
public statements and sent private letters to the National 
Assembly expressing concern with the law. 
The most prestigious law faculty in Buenos Aires, Argentina 
has committed to hosting an event to deal with the draft law. 
The Democratic Observatory of MERCOSUR plans to hold an event early next year to discuss the draft law. 
So far the Venezuelan National Assembly has received many 
letters and emails of opposition to the law from groups all 
over the world. 
A private meeting between 4 Venezuelan human rights defenders and Secretary General Jose Miguel Inzulsa during the October 2006 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (please protect). 
The press, both local and international, has been made aware 
of the proposed law and it has received wide play in the US 
as well as in Latin America.
16. (S) OTI has also created a web site which has been sent 
to thousands of people all over the world with details of the 
law in an interactive format. 
17. (S) Through carrying out positive activities, working 
in a non-partisan way across the ideological landscape, OTI 
has been able to achieve levels of success in carrying out 
the country team strategy in Venezuela. These successes have 
come with increasing opposition by different sectors of 
Venezuelan society and the Venezuelan government. Should 
Chavez win the December 3rd presidential elections, OTI 
expects the atmosphere for our work in Venezuela to become 
more complicated. 
OTI funded over 50 projects. They aimed to foster “confusion within the Bolivarian ranks, and pushe(d) back at the attempt of Chavez to use the United States as a unifying enemy.”
In 2010, Venezuela closed OTI’s office. It did so for good reason. Chavez knew what he faced. So does acting president/United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) presidential candidate Nicolas Maduro. Elections are scheduled for Sunday, April 14. 
He’s odds on favored to win. Polls show him way ahead. He’s concerned about internal subversion and sabotage. On April 4, he ordered Venezuela’s military to protect power plants just in case.
He did so following suspicious Cararcas and Aragua state outages. He called them opposition efforts to wage “electricity” and “economic war.” He stressed the urgency of protecting “national security.”
Venezuela’s state-run National Electricity Corporation (Corpoelec) found 11 burned out transformers throughout Aragua state. Company president Argenis Chavez cited sabotage. So did Maduro, saying “(t)here’s nothing to indicate (a conventional) failure.”
“It’s not a secret to anyone that inside the structure of the electrical system, there are (anti-Chavismo) elements. Thank God every day there are less workers who answer the right-wing call to commit sabotage. But there is internal and external sabotage.”
Argenis Chavez said suspicious power failures occurred before last October’s presidential elections. They’re happening again now. Perhaps other destabilizing schemes are planned ahead of April 14.
Washington’s long arm’s been involved throughout Chavez’s tenure. It continues now. Replacing Chavismo is policy. Past efforts failed.
They included an aborted two-day April 2002 coup, a 2002-03 64-day oil industry lockout, an unsuccessful 2004 recall election, Western scoundrel media campaigns, and millions of dollars given anti-Chavismo political parties, journalists, NGOs, and other groups wanting oligarch power restored.
In 2006, Washington established a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) mission manager for Venezuela and Cuba. CIA veteran Timothy Langford heads it. He replaced interim manager Patrick Maher.
In June 2007, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Craig Kelly called Chavez a regional “enemy.” He proposed “six main areas of action for the US government to limit (his) influence (and) reassert US leadership in the region.”
He stressed “strengthen(ing) ties to those military leaders in the region who share our concern over Chavez.” He proposed “psychological operations” to exploit government vulnerabilities.
“We also need to make sure that the truth about Chavez – his hollow vision, his empty promises, his dangerous international relationships, starting with Iran – gets out, always exercising careful judgment about where and how we take on Chavez directly/publicly.”
Throughout his tenure, Washington wanted him ousted. It wants state-owned enterprises privatized. It wants Bolivarian initiatives abolished. It wants Venezuela made a client-state.
In April 2008, the Pentagon reactivated its Fourth Fleet. It did so after a 60 year hiatus. It was established during WW II. It was disbanded in 1950.
It’s part of US Naval Forces Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM). It’s headquartered at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, FL. It operates throughout Central and Latin America.
Its purpose involves “conducting varying missions including a range of contingency operations, counter(ing) narco-terrorism, and theater security cooperation activities.”
Former USSOUTHCOM commander Admiral James Stevenson called the move a message to the entire region, not just Venezuela.
National War College commandant General Robert Steele said:
“The United States’ obsession with Venezuela, Cuba and other things indicates they are going to use more military force, going to use that instrument more often.”
US bases infest Latin America. Seven operate in eastern Colombia. It borders Venezuela. Chavez was justifiably concerned. He called stationing US forces nearby “a threat of war at us.”
So far, US destabilization efforts wage it by other means. Expect no letup ahead. Venezuela’s targeted for regime change. Obama’s more belligerent than Bush.
Chavismo remains the threat of a good example. Washington wants a client state replacing it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at
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Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. In 1956, he received a BA from Harvard University. Two years of US Army service followed, then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. After working seven years as a marketing research analyst, he joined the Lendman Group family business in 1967. He remained there until retiring at year end 1999. Writing on major world and national issues began in summer 2005. In early 2007, radio hosting followed. Lendman now hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network three times weekly. Distinguished guests are featured. Listen live or archived. Major world and national issues are discussed. Lendman is a 2008 Project Censored winner and 2011 Mexican Journalists Club international journalism award recipient.