Scott A. Keisler | February 3, 2019
Covert intelligence groups sowing seeds of destabilization overseas, funding front groups to promote ‘democracy’, engaging in economic warfare, media propaganda campaigns – the playbook is quite familiar to those who know the dark art of unilateral empire building. For the last two decades Neoconservatives and the State Department have, with varying degrees of success, mercilessly pursued a foreign policy of regime change in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Ukraine and Iran (among others).
Many will be surprised to learn that Venezuela has been on the dubious list of sovereign nation states targeted by Washington for toppling since 1998.(1)
On Wednesday, January 23rd Opposition Leader Juan Guaidó announced himself as the legitimate President of Venezuela, openly challenging President Nicolás Maduro’s grasp on power(2). This move was immediately supported and backed by the Trump Administration as well as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Germany, Israel, the Lima Group, Spain and the U.K..(3)
But who is Juan Guaidó? And why is the U.S. getting involved an another sovereign nation’s internal affairs? Venezuela has rightly been identified as a failed socialist state, but does this mean that drastic interventionism should be supported, no questions asked?
Venezuela used to be a wealthy nation. Not wealthy relative to Latin America but wealthy period. Professor Nelson Agelvis in Caracas explains:
In 1950, Venezuela was the FOURTH richest per capita country in the world. It was richer than Canada (6th place), four times richer than Japan and twelve times richer than China! By 1982, Venezuela was still the richest per capita nation in Latin America, above Mexico, Brazil, etc. (emphasis in original)(4)
The South American nation became a major player in the international oil market in 1922(5) and by the end of the 30s it was the world’s leading exporter and the third-leading oil producer behind only the U.S. and the U.S.S.R..(6)
Venezuela was a major supplier of petroleum to the allies during World War II and after the war business continued to boom as automobiles in service increased by more than 50 percent.(7)
From the 1920s through most of the 50s Venezuela had an autocratic form of government – yet during this time the people enjoyed “relatively high levels of economic freedom.”(8) For example the government did not attempt to control the oil business (it was kept private), tax rates were relatively low, international trade wasn’t burdened by quotas or safeguards, and other economic controls such as price controls, interest-rate controls and exchange-rate controls were never implemented.(9) These freedoms allowed the oil-driven economy to prosper.
Venezuela embraced a more democratic form of government in 1958 but ironically it was at this time that the aforementioned economic freedoms began to be slowly eroded.(10) From 1958 to 1998 all of Venezuela’s Presidents save one embraced socialism light and the nation’s leadership slowly chipped away at economic freedoms.(11) A political outsider and populist named Hugo Chavez rose to power in 1998 promising a more radical brand of socialism(12), and Washington has been plotting regime change and the installation of a suitable puppet government ever since.(13)
So the question is, why has Venezuela been targeted by the American Empire? U.S. Secretary of State and arch Neoconservative John Bolton left little room for imagination on January 24th when he told Fox Business:
It’ll make a big difference to the United States economically if we can have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela. It’d be good for the people of Venezuela, it’d be good for the people of the United States – we both have a lot at stake here making this come out the right way.(14)
Venezuela, a founding member or OPEC, has the largest proven oil reserves in the world.(15) It ranks 12th in the world in terms of both oil production(16) and crude oil exports.(17)
But Venezuela has had oil for decades and decades and in recent years the U.S. is actually moving toward energy independence, not away from it. For example according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2018 the United States became the world’s leading producer of crude oil, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia.(18) One can argue that controlling the oil is not so much about greed (though this is certainly a factor) or needing the oil for energy, but it’s about preventing another global center of power from emerging to challenge America’s unipolar hegemony.(19)
Venezuela is sitting on vast oil wealth and espouses an ideology that is at odds with the neoliberal economics and the neoconservative foreign policy of the globalists. Secretary Bolton has acknowledged this in a for-public consumption way. During a speech in November of 2018 Bolton dubbed Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua the Troika of Tyranny (not unlike the George W. Bush Administrations Axis of Evil):
This Troika of Tyranny, this triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua, is the cause of immense human suffering, the impetus of enormous regional instability, and the genesis of a sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere. The United States looks forward to watching each corner of the triangle fall…The Troika will crumble.(20)
As has been seen many times before target nations are demonized and painted as autocratic, repressive and brutal. Thus American motives are couched as humanitarian and pro-freedom.
To be clear, Venezuela has certainly been no saint. Retired CIA Chief of Station and Senior Operations Officer Brad Johnson wrote recently in The Epoch Times,
Venezuela has a long and well-documented history of antagonism towards the United States, and has declared itself a member of an ‘axis of unity,’ working with Iran, Cuba, and others, against ‘U.S. imperialism.'(21)
Other nations that are aligned with Venezuela in one way or another include Bolivia, China, Mexico, Russia and Turkey(22) not to mention transnational criminal organizations, narco-traffickers, gangs and radical Islamic terror groups.(23)
Brad Johnson recently wrote that the migrant caravan crisis on the southern border is part of an asymmetrical warfare / death by a thousand cuts strategy to weaken the U.S. and has been funded by Iran and implemented by Venezuela:
These columns of illegal migrants are purposely designed and implemented to inflict damage to the United States and undermine U.S. sovereignty, while avoiding direct conflict. They were likely conceived and financed by Iran, then implemented by Venezuela working closely with the Cubans and Nicaraguans to sow political division and chaos in the United States and absorb resources at little expense to them.
To make this work, there is close cooperation and coordination with transnational criminal organizations, such as narco-traffickers and gangs, which are active particularly throughout Mexico and who are very strong near Mexico’s shared border with the United States.(24)
Over the last couple of years The Common Sense Show’s Dave Hodges as extensively documented the existence of a para-military invasion force that has been pouring in over the southern border, backed by George Soros and supported by the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration.(25) This fifth column is very real and is a complex but organized network that consists of some of the globe’s most criminal organizations including:
Drug Cartels – Los Zetas, Sanchez Paredes, Sendero Luminoso, and Sinaloa
Gangs – Barrio Azteca and MS13
Radical Islamic Terrorists – Hamas, Hezbollah and Isis
Other – Peruvian Military and the Shining Path(26)
These groups network together to train young men for assassinations, paramilitary activities and terrorism and help funnel them over the open border using the migrant caravans as cover.(27)
Thus Secretary Bolton’s characterization of the Troika of Tyranny is not completely false, it just doesn’t tell the entire story.
Politicians in South America often score political points by grandstanding as an opponent to the United States. And there is a reason for this. Freelance writer Nick Cunningham recently penned an article that summarizes well:
The U.S. has a long and sordid history intervening in Latin America, playing a role in the overthrow of governments in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, among others. In fact, much of the legitimacy of Maduro’s Chavista government comes from the political narrative of opposing U.S. imperialism.(28)
From the CIA’s drug running United Fruit Company in Guatemala circa 1954 to Henry Kissenger’s role in helping Pinochet overthrow President Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973 to the U.S. backed Contras in Nicaragua during the 80s, the U.S. has left behind a decades long legacy of death, mass arrests and misery in Central and South America. Is it any wonder there is lingering resentment?
It is true that socialism is a failed economic philosophy but it is also true that the U.S. has had a hand in creating the extreme economic conditions that have now befallen Venezuela. On top of ongoing sanctions, a Wikileaks cable published in 2016 reveals that as far back as 2006 the U.S. had sought to isolate Venezuela from its trading partners.(29) This has affected shipment of food and has contributed to the widely reported hunger that is being experience by every day Venezuelans.(30) According to Whitney Webb of MintPress News,
…on more than one occasion, Venezuelan authorities have caught businesses hoarding food, medicine and other goods in order to create the appearance of scarcity while raising profits through massive price increases and the smuggling of goods to Colombia.(31)
Other financially-driven tactics include eliminating or siphoning off international aid money intended for Venezuela, artificially lowering oil prices to hurt the country’s economy and implementing austerity programs via the International Monetary Fund.(32)
In recent days the Trump Administration has put on a full court press with its economic warfare, as reported by Forbes:
…as (of) January 28, 2019, the U.S. has declared a full-scale economic assault. Indeed, it declared an embargo against Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)—the country’s state-owned oil company that controls the world’s largest oil reserves and produces virtually all of Venezuela’s foreign exchange.(33)
In 2004 Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro founded The Bolivarian Alliance (aka ALBA) as a sort of Socialist alternative to NAFTA. ALBA describes itself as a political, economic, and social alliance and an integration platform for member states.(34) ALBA currently has 11 member states including Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Grenada and the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis.(35)
In February 2018 Venezuela launched a new cryptocurrency called the Petro in an effort to circumvent U.S. sanctions and to curb ongoing hyperinflation.(36) The Petro is backed by oil, gas, gold and diamond reserves(37) and was linked to Venezuela’s Sovereign Bolivar in August of 2018.(38)
For some reason this is all starting to sound familiar.
Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi had a similar vision for Africa – an African Union with gold-backed money, not worthless fiat magic money. As this author previously wrote:
…under Col. Gaddafi Libya had stockpiled large quantities of gold and silver. How much gold? According to the International Monetary Fund Libya possessed 143.8 tons of gold which was valued at $6.5 billion in March of 2011.
But Gaddafi wasn’t just hoarding gold to look pretty somewhere in a vault. His plan was to create a currency called the Dinar that was to be backed by gold. And the Dinar wasn’t just for Libya, it was to be a pan-African currency to rival the U.S. Dollar and the Euro. The plan was also to sell oil and other resources only for the gold-backed Dinar, a move that would threaten the supremacy of the extant petro-dollar system.(39)
Venezuela has been trying to repatriate its own gold from the Bank of England and BoE is refusing to cooperate.(40) Opposition leader Juan Guaidó has publicly asked BoE not to give the gold to President Maduro, calling it an ‘illegitimate transaction’.(41)
And now it’s back to the original question. Who is this Juan Guaidó guy and where did he come from? The short answer is that he is the perfect U.S. puppet at the perfect time and his rise to power may signal the completion of a two-decades long plan to overthrow a duly elected South American government.
Guaidó is touted as the leader of the opposition movement in Venezuela but Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal point out that he was never elected to this position:
He is known as the president of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, but he was never elected to the position. The four opposition parties that comprised the Assembly’s Democratic Unity Table had decided to establish a rotating presidency.(42)
So really Guaidó seems to have been in the right place at the right time. But as will soon be shown this can hardly be seen as an accident.
Guaidó is known as a founding member of Venezuela’s Popular Will party in 2010(43) Popular Will was founded by Leopoldo López, a Venezuelan elitist educated at Princeton and Harvard.(44) López also attended Kenyon College in Ohio where he was likely recruited by the CIA.(45) He then began to frequently visit the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Washington which is a regime change factory funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.(46)
Readers will recall that IRI and other similar groups were instrumental in fomenting the supposedly spontaneous Arab Spring:
Entities and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as The Rand Corporation, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Freedom House, CANVAS (backed by the CIA), and George Soros’ Open Society Institute were all variously involved in the events that unfolded. The International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute are financed through the National Endowment for Democracy, which itself receives $100 million annually from Congress. Freedom House’s primary funding comes in the form of grants from USAID, a State Department agency, and the State Department itself. These groups and undoubtedly others laid the groundwork through financing, training and technology to ensure that democracy activists would be ready to act when the right trigger event arrived.(47)
These same groups were also involved in the 2013-2014 coup in Ukraine(48). It should come as no surprise that IRI and NDI have both funded Venezuela’s Popular Will party since it was founded.(49)
In 2005 CANVAS, the CIA front also funded through the National Endowment for Democracy, sent five students to Belgrade, Serbia for regime change training.(50) CANVAS had been busy destabilizing throughout Eastern Europe but was now turning its attention to Venezuela.(51)
Cohen and Blumenthal elaborate,
CANVAS is a spinoff of Otpor, a Serbian protest group founded by Srdja Popovic in 1998 at the University of Belgrade. Otpor, which means “resistance” in Serbian, was the student group that gained international fame — and Hollywood-level promotion — by mobilizing the protests that eventually toppled Slobodan Milosevic.(52)
These “regime change specialists” developed “a strategic blueprint that weaponized protest as a form of hybrid warfare, aiming it at states that resisted Washington’s unipolar domination.”(53) These so-called Optor tactics were later embraced by Guaidó and the groups with which he associated.(54)
Cohen and Blumenthal continue,
…in 2007, when Guaidó graduated from Andrés Bello Catholic University of Caracas. He moved to Washington, DC to enroll in the Governance and Political Management Program at George Washington University, under the tutelage of Venezuelan economist Luis Enrique Berrizbeitia, one of the top Latin American neoliberal economists. Berrizbeitia is a former executive director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who spent more than a decade working in the Venezuelan energy sector, under the old oligarchic regime that was ousted by Chávez.(55)
Guaidó was a member of the student protest movement called Generation 2007 which received funding from the aforementioned CANVAS.(56) Generation 2007 and other opposition groups have received more that $100 million from the U.S. since 1998.(57) By about 2010 “the Venezuelan opposition was receiving a staggering $40-50 million a year from U.S. government organizations like USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy.”(58) Guaidó spent most of his career as a mid-level operative in the most violent faction of Popular Will.(59)
Popular Will founder Leopoldo López participated in the 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez that actually succeeded for a short time before Chavez was able to wrest power back via the military.(60) In fact,
Throughout the administrations of U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Chávez survived numerous assassination plots, before succumbing to cancer in 2013. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has survived three attempts on his life.(61)
The Trump Administration had been deeply involved in continuing all of this. In September of 2018 The New York Times reported,
The Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious military officers from Venezuela over the last year to discuss their plans to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, according to American officials and a former Venezuelan military commander who participated in the talks.(62)
Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named Elliott Abrams as Special U.S. Envoy to lead efforts to install Juan Guaidó as President, despite the fact that President Trump had previously rejected the appointment of Abrams.(63) As a member of the Reagan Administration Abrams attempted “to whitewash a massacre of a thousand men, women and children by U.S.-funded death squads in El Salvador.”(64) He also organized illegal funding of Contras in Nicaragua and then twice denied being involved to Congress.(65) And naturally Abrams was a participant in the 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez.(66)
Even if this situation doesn’t turn into a hot shooting war, although the possibility for that is there, it could very easily turn into a messy ongoing proxy war very much like what has occurred in Syria over the last several years.
Russia and China both have significant economic interests in Venezuela and are not likely keen to see their investments ruined by Washington. Russia has invested around $17 billion in Venezuela over the last 20 years and has “significant ownership stakes in at least five major Venezuelan oil fields.”(67) Venezuela has also offered Citgo as collateral to Russia – Citgo is the U.S. based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state owned PDVSA.(68)
China has an even larger stake in what ultimately becomes of Venezuela. According to Whitney Webb,
China is believed to have invested around $70 billion, in the form of loans as well as social projects and maintenance of the country’s oil production infrastructure. Most of those loans are set to be paid back to China in the form of Venezuelan crude. In addition, China and Venezuela have formed several joint ventures involving the production of automobiles, mobile phones and computers, among other goods. These investments and connections make China by far Maduro’s largest and most influential foreign sponsor and creditor.(69)
Prior to January 22nd fewer than one in five Venezuelans knew who Juan Guaidó was. Vice President Mike Pence made a phone call and within a day half of the free world was proclaiming him the legitimate leader of Venezuela. As an unknown Guaidó arrives on the seen with little political baggage and an appeal to the common man.
But clearly this guy is a stooge whom Washington has been grooming for over a decade for such a perfect time as this. It will be up to the reader to decide if hating socialism is reason enough to approve of such machinations.
(1) Whitney Webb, Washington Follows Ukraine, Syria Roadmap in Push for Venezuela Regime Change https://www.mintpressnews.com/us-follows-ukraine-syria-roadmap-in-venezuela-regime-change-push/254265/
(2) Ana Vanessa Herrero, After U.S. Backs Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s Leader, Maduro Cuts Ties https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/23/world/americas/venezuela-protests-guaido-maduro.html
(3) Thema Newsroom, Which countries support Maduro and which Guaido in Venezuelan stand off en.protothema.gr/which-countries-support-maduro-and-which-guaido-in-venezuelan-stand-off-infographic/
Webb, Venezuela Regime Change
Note: The Lima Group is a multilateral body that was established following the Lima Declaration in August of 2017 and consists of 12 countries seeking to establish a peaceful exit to the Venezuela crisis.
Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal, The Making of Juan Guaidó: How the US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader https://grayzoneproject.com/2019/01/29/the-making-of-juan-guaido-how-the-us-regime-change-laboratory-created-venezuelas-coup-leader/amp/?__twitter_impression=true
(4) Nelson Agelvis, Quora: Is it true that Venezuela used to be a rich country? https://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-Venezuela-used-to-be-a-rich-country
NationMaster, Economy > GDP per capita in 1950: Countries Compared https://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Economy/GDP-per-capita-in-1950
(5) Wikipedia, History of the Venezuelan oil industry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Venezuelan_oil_industry#cite_ref-9
(8) Rafael Acevedo and Luis B. Cirocco How Socialism Ruined Venezuela https://mises.org/library/how-socialism-ruined-venezuela
(13) Webb, Venezuela Regime Change
(14) Fox Business John Bolton: I don’t think Maduro has the military on his side https://video.foxbusiness.com/v/5993599263001/#sp=show-clips
(15) Strauss Center, Venezuela https://www.strausscenter.org/energy-and-security/venezuela.html
(17) Daniel Workman, Crude Oil Exports by Country http://www.worldstopexports.com/worlds-top-oil-exports-country/
(18) EIA, The United States is now the largest global crude oil producer https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=37053
(19) Tony Cartalucci, US Regime Change in Venezuela: The Documented Evidence https://www.globalresearch.ca/us-regime-change-venezuela-documented-evidence/5666500
(20) Josh Rogin, Bolton promises to confront Latin America’s ‘Troika of Tyranny’ https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/bolton-promises-to-confront-latin-americas-troika-of-tyranny/2018/11/01/df57d3d2-ddf5-11e8-85df-7a6b4d25cfbb_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c221bc3d675d
(21) Brad Johnson, Migrant Caravans Part of Larger Plan to Damage US https://m.theepochtimes.com/migrant-caravans-part-of-larger-plan-to-damage-us_2705356.html
Americans for Intelligence Reform, About Us https://intelreform.org/meet-the-founder/
(22) Webb, Venezuela Regime Change
(23) Johnson, Larger Plan to Damage US
Dave Hodges, The Organizational Structure of the Red Dawn Invasion Force https://www.thecommonsenseshow.com/the-organizational-structure-of-the-red-dawn-invasion-force/
(24) Johnson, Larger Plan to Damage US
(25) Hodges, Organizational Structure of Invasion Force
Johnson, Larger Plan to Damage US
(28) Nick Cunningham, Is Trump Eyeing A Coup In Venezuela? https://oilprice.com/Geopolitics/South-America/Is-Trump-Eyeing-A-Coup-In-Venezuela.html
Note: Others interventions include Bolivia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay
See Webb, Venezuela Regime Change;
also Wikipedia, United States involvement in regime change
(29) Wikileaks – 06CARACAS1169_a https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06CARACAS1169_a.html
(30) Dave Hodges, America’s Enemies Are Coming Into Clear Focus https://www.thecommonsenseshow.com/americas-enemies-are-coming-into-clear-focus/
(31) Whitney Webb, Venezuela Cash Reserves Reach New Low Amid U.S.- Led Sabotage https://www.mintpressnews.com/venezuela-cash-reserves-reach-new-low-amid-u-s-led-sabotage/225641/
(32) Telesur English, Clinton Emails Reveal Direct US Sabotage of Venezuela https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/12104
Webb, Venezuela Cash Reserves Reach New Low
(33) Steve Hanke, The U.S. Declares Economic War Against Venezuela https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevehanke/2019/01/29/the-u-s-declares-economic-war-against-venezuela/#3d9d292a4711
(35) ALBA Info, What is the ALBA and who supports it?
What is the ALBA?
(36) Rachelle Krygier, Venezuela launches the ‘petro,’ its cryptocurrency https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/02/20/venezuela-launches-the-petro-its-cryptocurrency/?utm_term=.f49ed2bad91f
Deisy Buitrago, Venezuela opposition leader urges Britain not to give gold to Maduro https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-gold/venezuela-opposition-leader-urges-britain-not-to-give-gold-to-maduro-idUSKCN1PM02F
(37) CNBC, Venezuela is launching a cryptocurrency backed by oil, gas, gold and diamonds https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/03/venezuela-is-launching-a-cryptocurrency-backed-by-oil-gas-gold-and-diamonds.html
(38) Anthony Cuthbertson, Venezuela pegs bolivar to cryptocurrency to save country from economic collapse https://www.independent.co.uk/news/venezuela-bolivar-cryptocurrency-economy-crisis-collapse-petro-bitcoin-a8499266.html
(39) Scott A. Keisler, Libya: A Case Study in Globalism https://truthandlibertyblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/15/libya-a-case-study-in-globalism/
(40) Alice Scarsi, Bank of England REFUSES to give £1BILLION gold bullion back to Venezuela https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1078864/venezuela-riots-news-bank-of-england-nicolas-maduro-juan-guaido
(41) Buitrago, Venezuela opposition leader urges Britain not to give gold to Maduro
(42) Cohen and Blumenthal, The Making of Juan Guaidó
(43) Webb, Venezuela Regime Change
(45) Maria Paez Victor, Venezuela Under Attack Again https://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/17/venezuela-under-attack-again/#_ednref7
(46) Webb, Venezuela Regime Change
(47) Keisler, Libya
(48) Webb, Venezuela Regime Change
(50) Cohen and Blumenthal, The Making of Juan Guaidó
(57) Webb, Venezuela Regime Change
(58) Cohen and Blumenthal, The Making of Juan Guaidó
(62) Ernesto Londoño and Nicholas Casey, Trump Administration Discussed Coup Plans With Rebel Venezuelan Officers https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/08/world/americas/donald-trump-venezuela-military-coup.html
(63) Chris Menahan, Trump Rejected Elliott Abrams For State Dept In 2016. Pompeo Just Hired Him For Regime Change In Venezuela http://www.informationliberation.com/?id=59726
(64) Julian Borger, US diplomat convicted over Iran-Contra appointed special envoy for Venezuela https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/26/elliott-abrams-venezuela-us-special-envoy
(67) Webb, Venezuela Regime Change