Background Analysis For Your Information

by Arnold August
March 2014

Click here to see the book cover.

This is not the first time that Latin American and Caribbean countries have been the target of the Obama administration. In 2009, right after Obama’s coming to power the previous year, the Honduras coup took place with his full involvement. The role of the Honduran military, armed and trained by the U.S., became notorious for its violent suppression of the Hondurans, who struggled for months on end against what the grass roots called a dictatorship.

The February 2014 U.S. interference in Venezuela was initiated in Washington by the Obama administration the day after the April 14, 2013, presidential elections victory by the Bolivarian Revolution’s candidate, Nicolás Maduro. From April 15, 2013, to date (March 2014), Washington has tried everything to provoke incidents in Venezuela in order to usher in a coup d’état. This amounts to a slow-motion coup attempt. The goal was and is to draw Venezuela into its orbit once again, as was the case before Hugo Chávez won the presidential elections in December 1998. On April 15, 2013, Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, gave the green light to the pro-U.S. opposition to violently protest the election results by declaring:

“...given the tightness of the result — around 1 percent of the votes cast separate the candidates — the opposition candidate and at least one member of the electoral council have called for a 100 percent audit of the results. And this appears an important, prudent and necessary step to ensure that all Venezuelans have confidence in these results.”

That same day, the opposition organized violent riots and killed eight Chavistas who were defending health centres and other public places from the bands. On April 16, Patrick Ventrell, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, appeared in a daily press briefing. The following interaction with a journalist indicated the desire of the U.S. to refrain from recognizing the election results and call into question the legitimacy of the Maduro government:

MR. VENTRELL: ...And we said yesterday, a full recount would be important, prudent, and necessary in ensuring that an evenly divided Venezuelan electorate is confident that the election meets their democratic aspirations....

QUESTION: Well, okay. So are you prepared to congratulate Mr. Maduro on his victory?

MR. VENTRELL: We’re not there.

QUESTION: Why? The vote has been certified. He has been elected. So either you say, “Okay, and we’ll work with you,” or, “try to work with you,” or you say, “We don’t think that you’re the real winner”, or, “We think that there is no winner because the vote hasn’t been certified,” so — I mean, are you prepared to work with President Maduro, President-Elect Maduro?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we said we’re prepared to work with whichever government comes out of this electoral process. Having said that, given what happened yesterday, we’re consulting with key partners, the OAS, the EU, other regional neighbors as we examine this.”

The next day on April 17,  the Obama White House issued the following statement:

“The United States congratulates the Venezuelan people for their participation in the April 14 presidential elections in a peaceful and orderly manner. We call on the Venezuelan government to respect the rights of Venezuelan citizens to peaceful assembly and free speech. We also urge everyone to refrain from violence and other measure [sic] that could raise tensions at this difficult moment. The United States notes the acceptance by both candidates for an audit of the ballots and supports calls for a credible and transparent process to reassure the Venezuelan people regarding the results. Such a process would contribute to political dialogue and help advance the country’s democracy.”

On April 19, 2013, regarding the elections in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, a communiqué from the 33 countries — that is, the entire hemisphere, excluding the U.S. and Canada — composing the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (celac), read in part:

“...celac congratulates President Nicolás Maduro on the election results and for his election as President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

Despite, and perhaps in response to this, Obama himself stepped up to the plate and said in a May 4 interview to an important and widely accessed Spanish-language media,

“...María Elena Salinas: I have two more questions. One is does the U.S. recognize Nicolás Maduro as the legitimate President of Venezuela?

President Barack Obama: Well, you know, I think it’s not what the U.S. alone is concerned about. But I think that the entire hemisphere has been watching the violence, the protests, the crackdowns on the opposition. I think our general view has been that it’s up to the people of Venezuela to choose their leaders in legitimate elections.... (Emphasis added)

Obama went even further than his own administration and openly called the Venezuelan elections illegitimate and, by completely ignoring the celac position taken only a few days earlier, Obama de facto claimed that the “entire hemisphere” is composed of only the U.S. and Canada!

I googled for the repercussions of this interview right after it was made public and immediately found over 50 entries in Spanish “Obama habló de Venezuela: ‘El hemisferio completo está viendo la violencia y los ataques a la oposición’” (the entire hemisphere has been watching the violence, the protests, the crackdowns on the opposition).

With regards to the most recent February 2014 wave of violence carried out by the opposition, this time led by another figure (Leopoldo López rather than Capriles), what did Marie Harf, Deputy U.S. State Department Spokesperson, say in a Washington, D.C., press briefing held on February 13, 2014? She left the door wide open for the Obama administration to switch loyalties from Capriles to the more openly violent López, if it was not already done:

“...QUESTION: I’d like to ask if you have any comment about the violent protest that took place yesterday there and the lack of coverage provided by the local TV. And also, this morning the Venezuelan foreign minister in an interview blamed an opposition politician, Leopoldo López, for violence that took place yesterday and said that López and his acolytes have been financed by the U.S. Government for a long time. If you please have a comment on those two points, I would appreciate it.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, let me see if I can get some specifics on what’s happened in the last few days. In general, when it comes to Venezuela, we’ve made clear that we’re open to having a constructive relationship with the Government of Venezuela. Quite frankly, we haven’t seen that — we have not seen that reciprocated, to be clear. So we also, I think, see a lot of conspiracy theories or rumors out there in the press about how the U.S. is interested in influencing the domestic political situation in Venezuela, which is absolutely not true. It’s not up to us to comment on internal Venezuelan politics. So I’m happy to check with our team to see if there is more specifics about the protest specifically that I’m not as familiar with, and see if we can get you something on that....” (Emphasis added)

The very next day, on February 14, in another daily press briefing by Harf, notice how Washington walks the tightrope. It continues with the claim that the U.S. is not involved in the internal affairs of Venezuela, while at the same time taking sides with the violent opposition leader against the constitutionally elected Maduro government.

“...QUESTION: So the government accused Washington of being involved in these — the [Venezuelan] protests.

MS. HARF: It’s not true. It’s not true.

QUESTION: They didn’t accuse you?

MS. HARF: No. We are not involved in them.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MS. HARF: They may have accused us; we’re not involved in them.

QUESTION: And they’re also accusing an opposition leader. Do you think this is a step up in the regime’s --

MS. HARF: Are you talking about Mr. López?


MS. HARF: Yes. So we are deeply concerned by rising tensions, by the violence surrounding these February 12th protests, and by the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo López. We join the Secretary General of the oas in condemning the violence and calling on authorities to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of peaceful protestors. We also call on the Venezuelan Government to release the 19 detained protestors and urge all parties to work to restore calm and refrain from violence.... (Emphasis added)

This interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela was solidified even more through a press statement by John Kerry, Secretary of State, on February 15, 2014, which reads in full:

“Recent Violence in Venezuela

The United States is deeply concerned by rising tensions and violence surrounding this week’s protests in Venezuela. Our condolences go to the families of those killed as a result of this tragic violence.

We are particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protestors and issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Leopoldo López. These actions have a chilling effect on citizens’ rights to express their grievances peacefully.

We join the un High Commissioner for Human Rights, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, eu High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and others in condemning this senseless violence. We call on the Venezuelan government to provide the political space necessary for meaningful dialogue with the Venezuelan people and to release detained protestors. We urge all parties to work to restore calm and refrain from violence.

Freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are universal human rights. They are essential to a functioning democracy, and the Venezuelan government has an obligation to protect these fundamental freedoms and the safety of its citizens.” (Emphasis added)

On February 17, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías Jaua disclosed in a press conference in Caracas that the Venezuelan ambassador to the oas, Roy Chaderton, had received a telephone call from a State Department official. According to the Venezuelans, the U.S. is “asking” the Maduro government for “a series of conditions” and threatened Venezuela with “international consequences” if opposition leader Leopoldo López were arrested. Elías Jaua also revealed proof indicating that Washington has been directly involved in training the violent groups.

On February 19, 2014, at a Press Conference by President Obama, President Peña Nieto (Mexico) and Prime Minister Harper (Canada), in Toluca, Mexico, Obama stated:

“In Venezuela, rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, the government ought to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people. So, along with the Organization of American States, we call on the Venezuelan government to release protestors that it’s detained and engage in real dialogue. And all parties have an obligation to work together to restrain violence and restore calm.”

How can Obama say that the accusations against U.S. diplomats for interfering in the internal affairs of Venezuela are false? The above three-sentence statement exclusively on Venezuela uttered by the U.S. president consists in itself an arrogant attempt to interfere in Venezuela’s internal affairs. The “legitimate grievances” of the Venezuelan people were addressed by the Bolivarian Revolution in numerous ballot box contests since December 1998. These electoral gains precisely target the U.S.-dominated economic and political system existing from 1958 to 1998. The voting includes the April 14, 2013, presidential election won by Nicolás Maduro and which the U.S. refuses to recognize; by negating the results recognized by the whole continent, Obama had planted the seeds of the current violence carried out by the pro-U.S. elements in the country. The candidates of the Bolivarian Revolution’s Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (psuv) also won the majority of municipalities, mayoralties and the popular vote in the December 8, 2013, municipal elections.

Furthermore, who is Obama to declare that the U.S.-dominated Organization of American States (oas) is the reference point for Venezuela, while the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (celac) is not considered? celac excludes two of the three countries represented at the above-cited press conference in Mexico: Canada and the U.S. They are omitted because of the historical role in the south played by the U.S. especially but also Canada as gendarmes and plunderers of natural resources. Moreover, by what right does the U.S. define the vandals and their leader Leopoldo López as “protesters” and representatives of the “Venezuelan people,” as if they have no history of U.S.-driven violent coup attempts against the Hugo Chávez and Maduro legitimate governments? Does Venezuela not have the right to arrest and put on trial individuals who have been responsible for the violence? Obama urges “all parties” to “restrain violence.” He thus places the perpetrators of violence on the same footing as those who are trying to calm the situation, restore order and protect public and private property from the vandals. Furthermore, by calling for “real dialogue,” he thus condemns the government for failing to consider grievances while painting a picture of the “protesters” as innocent victims of the Maduro government. However, despite the provocations, Maduro was and is calling for dialogue with the opponents.

This “opposition promotion” is part of the U.S. plan to create a pretext for a coup d’état in that oil-rich country. The role of the media in turning truth on its head and thus invent excuses for intervention in Venezuela is pointed out in an article by Professor Steve Ellner (who, since 1977, has taught at the Universidad de Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela). Despite the combined forces of the oligarchy’s international and local Venezuelan media, as well as the U.S.-financed and inspired democracy promotion groups, the first battle was won by Venezuela’s participatory democracy. On February 18, the Bolivarian Revolution, led by its government and Nicolás Maduro, displayed a show of force. A massive demonstration was held by mainly oil-industry workers in Caracas. This sector has been the source of forces to overthrow the legitimate constitutional regime and open up a path for the re-colonization of Venezuela. This demonstration temporarily put the pro-U.S. forces in Venezuela on the defensive. It is only because the people are empowered and are effectively part of political power that this momentary victory and other subsequent ones are able to take place. These successful inroads into the pro-U.S. imperialist camp can come about because of Venezuela’s new experiments in participatory democracy under way since Hugo Chávez won the election in December 1998. Thus, on April 19, the day after the “Chavista” counter-offensive, the situation was relatively calm.

However, to counter the February 18 victory and the ensuing relative order prevailing on February 19, it was no accident that Obama came to the rescue. The above-quoted statement by Obama on February 19 encouraged Washington’s allies in Venezuela to restart their violent activities in Venezuela and create a climate of chaos. Thus, the next day, on February 20, violent incidents erupted once again, inflamed by Washington’s support, in various parts of Venezuela. On-the-spot reporting by testifies to the nature of the violent opposition protests and the growing desire at the grass roots to take the streets back from the perpetrators of violence; others deftly analyze the proponents of violent regime change.

The international media, including the liberal cnn, played their usual role. However, it is very refreshing to hear Maduro telling the cnn that, if it does not cease its “war propaganda,” it “will have to leave Venezuela.”

The U.S. and their Venezuelan media allies are blaming the Venezuelan government for the violence in that country, while it is the so-called “pro-democracy” groups that are in fact causing the rampage and disturbances. The U.S. expansionist goals toward Latin America and the Caribbean go all the way back to the last quarter of the 18th century. U.S. mainstream political parties, now known as Republicans and Democrats, have always been involved in direct and indirect military intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean; in fact, the Democrats actually scored better than their Republican with more — not less — military interventions.

In order to increase the U.S. policy of domination over the southern part of the hemisphere, much of which has been in revolt against U.S. control, a new face was needed for U.S. ambitions; this new image was necessary in order to close the international and domestic credibility gap created by the Bush years. This is the role of Obama; his image of “change” was, and is, consciously promoted by Obama himself and the Chicago marketing specialists.

Obama’s arrogant interference in Venezuela constitutes the latest example from among the long list of U.S. presidents who adopt and actively sponsor the original 17th- century evangelical notion: the U.S is a chosen people, the beacon on the hill for the world to look toward for salvation. Herein lies the pompous nature of Obama, which can only be smashed in Venezuela through the channels of participatory democracy fashioned by the Bolivarian Revolution. One must also add that the solidarity of other countries and peoples, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean, but also the world, is a key ingredient.

Where heads of state, nations, academics and social activists stand on Venezuela is the litmus test of being progressive. Some academics and their associations in the U.S. and elsewhere are starting to stir. Among academic circles, Ellner points out that “political scientist and Venezuelan specialist David Smilde of the University of Georgia, who is not pro-Chavista but rather even-handed in his analyses, has stated that the Venezuelan government has nothing to gain by the violence.” It is desirable that other academics and intellectuals also do not follow into the Obama trap of “opposing violence” by “all parties.” It is preferable that these circles take a stand against the amply-documented media war (to which all academic circles have easy access) and U.S. intrusion. Tipping the balance in favour of allowing the Maduro government to settle the issues, without outside interference by the Obama administration, will help restore order and respect for constitutional legality in Venezuela.