By Wayne Madsen | Strategic Culture
American President Donald Trump’s recent threat to use US military force against Venezuela follows previous attempts by Washington to place one of its many Venezuelan puppets in charge of the oil-rich Latin American nation. In a semi-incoherent statement made on August 11, 2017, at his Bedminster, New Jersey country club, Trump said, «This [Venezuela] is our neighbor… You know, we are all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering, and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary».
Trump, who ran on a political platform of eschewing US military adventures abroad and «regime change,» is following in the footsteps of George W. Bush and Barack Obama in threatening to topple the elected government of Venezuela.
In April 2002, the Central Intelligence Agency, in cooperation with the Pentagon, attempted a coup d’état against the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. After only a few days, the coup failed after loyal military members restored Chavez, who was taken captive by disloyal army officers, to the presidency. The Bush administration, followed by that of Obama, attempted various ways to undermine Venezuela’s populist government.
Among the CIA-funded organizations that attempted to undermine both presidents Chavez and Maduro was the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the same CIA front that had its dirty fingerprints on destabilization efforts in Ukraine, Georgia, Serbia, Macedonia, Iran, Egypt, Burma, Bolivia, Honduras, Ecuador, and dozens of other nations. In 2005, Venezuela’s US-funded opposition leader Maria Corina Machado and three associates of her «Sumate group» went on trial for «conspiracy to change Venezuela’s republican system». Machado and Sumate were accused of illegally receiving funds from the NED.
On the eve of the December 4, 2005 election, boycotted by the US-financed opposition, CIA-backed terrorists blew up the critical pipeline for the Amuay-Cardon refinery. The previous October, another pipeline was sabotaged in Zulia state. The Venezuelan oil industry is a favorite target for American disruption. Just prior to the 2002 coup, US Special Operations personnel on loan to the CIA attempted to foment labor disruption within the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) oil infrastructure.
In September 2006, the current Venezuelan president and then-Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro, was detained for ninety minutes and rudely treated by Homeland Security agents while trying to board a plane for Caracas at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York after a United Nations General Assembly speech by Chavez. Referring to Bush, who spoke a day before at the plenary session of the General Assembly, Chavez said, «The devil [diablo] came right here . . . And it still smells of sulfur today». Violating the US-UN Treaty on diplomatic privileges, the Bush administration decided to vent their displeasure by targeting Maduro.
In addition to the CIA and Pentagon, Chavez and Maduro claimed that the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was constantly attempting to destabilize Venezuela by supporting drug cartels and engaging in narcotics smuggling in the country. Chavez revoked the diplomatic immunity of DEA agents assigned to the US embassy in Caracas, claiming they were working with anti-government forces.
Using back-handed tactics within the UN General Assembly, the US succeeded in denying Venezuela a much-coveted non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2006. The race for one of the reserved Latin American seats boiled down as one between Venezuela and the US-backed right-wing government of Guatemala. Even though Maoists and government officials in Nepal were engaged in a shaky truce, diplomatic negotiations between Nepalese Foreign Minister K. P. Sharma Oli and Guatemalan Foreign Minister Gert Rosenthal likely secured Nepal’s vote for Guatemala in the General Assembly. And that had the Maoists, who favored Venezuela, steaming mad.
Chile’s government of pro-Venezuelan Socialists and pro-Guatemala Christian Democrats in the «Concertation» coalition were at a standoff, thus ensuring that nation’s abstention. On the other hand, Lebanon’s coalition government, still outraged over Israel’s 2006 attack and invasion of Lebanon, strongly backed Venezuela over Guatemala.
A run-off presidential election in Ecuador between a pro-US billionaire and a populist leftist, Rafael Correra, resulted in that nation’s abstention in the General Assembly. For years, the Bush administration leaned on tiny tax havens to open their books to international law enforcement officials and tax inspectors. The Bush administration turned up the heat on Liechtenstein, Andorra, San Marino, Monaco, Nauru, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Luxembourg, Seychelles, and Mauritius to vote for Guatemala, or else. That equated to a quick 11 votes for Guatemala. Add the three former US Pacific territories of Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands (which are nothing more than American versions of the old Byelorussian and Ukrainian SSR UN seats of the former Soviet Union), and Guatemala was ensured 14 votes. In the end, there was a draw between Venezuela and Guatemala, and the Latin American and Caribbean member states, most of which supported Venezuela, reluctantly agreed to vote for Panama. The denial of a Security Council seat to Venezuela represented the use of American diplomatic and financial extortion against Caracas and it worked to Washington’s favor.
In 2010, the Obama administration authorized economic warfare against Venezuela, a policy that was continued under Trump. Chavez devalued the Venezuelan bolivar by fifty percent to make Venezuelan oil exports less expensive, thus boosting revenue for his country. However, the devaluation also saw expected price increases and inflation in Venezuela. The CIA and its subservient NGOs wasted little time in putting out stories about consumers rushing to the stories ahead of the increase in prices of consumer products. Imported flat-screen televisions was the favorite consumer item hyped by the corporate media as experiencing significant price increase, resulting in pre-price increase long lines at shopping malls favored by the Venezuelan elites.
The Western media failed to report that the Venezuelan government exempted certain consumer goods such as food, medicines, school supplies, and industrial machinery from being affected by the bolivar’s devaluation through a different set of exchange rate and price controls. Nevertheless, it was the price increases on televisions, tobacco, alcohol, cell phones, and computers that had the anti-Chavez forces in Venezuela and abroad hyping the ill-effects of Chavez’s move on the Venezuelan consumer. The same Western economic pressures on Chavez have been visited upon Maduro ever since he took over as president after Chavez’s untimely death from a deadly form of cancer.
The Obama administration also authorized covert military and intelligence action against Venezuela. US maritime surveillance overflights of Venezuelan airspace were conducted from bases in Aruba and Curacao. The flights were designed to intimidate Chavez and activate Venezuelan radar and command, control, communications, and intelligence (C3I) systems to gather electronic and signals intelligence data that would be used by the United States to jam Venezuelan military networks in the event of a US-inspired uprising against Chavez by embedded CIA assets in the Venezuelan military, police, PDVSA, and media. The US also stoked cross-border incursions into Venezuela by Colombian paramilitaries to gauge Venezuela’s border defenses. This culminated in November 2010 with Colombian right-wing paramilitary units killing two Venezuelan National Guardsmen inside Tachira state in Venezuela. Weapons caches maintained by Colombians inside Venezuela were seized by Venezuelan authorities. Venezuela has also arrested several Colombian DAS intelligence agents inside Venezuela.
The Western media altered the events to claim that it was Venezuela that was conducting raids inside Colombia in support of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). As far as Latin America is concerned, particularly after Vice President Mike Pence’s shortened and very unsuccessful visit to the region, Trump may be much more dangerous than Obama by threatening a return to flagrant US «gunboat diplomacy».