[Writing for Counterpunch, George Ciccariello-Maher reviews Eva Golinger's latest book, Bush Versus Chavez. For Ciccariello-Maher, Golinger continues the diabolical narrative of her previous book, this time relying
less on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests than on a series of other key documents
and bits of testimony gleaned from anonymous sources. Click here to access the appendices to Bush Versus Chávez, largely composed of declassified or leaked documents.]
The Coming War on Venezuela
More than a year ago, I attended the official book release for the Venezuelan edition of Eva Golinger's Bush Versus Chávez, published by Monte Avila, and the book had previously been printed in Cuba by Editorial José Martí. I recount this to make the following point: long before the publication of Bush Versus Chávez in the current English-language edition, the book was already a crucial contribution to international debates regarding United States' efforts to destroy Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution.
In choosing to publish the English edition of the book, Monthly Review Press has opened that debate to an entirely new audience, and for this we should be grateful. Furthermore, in an effort to streamline production, Monthly Review has further made the appendices to Bush Versus Chávez, largely composed of declassified or leaked documents, available publicly on its website, at the address: https://monthlyreview.org/bushvchavez.htm.
A New Toolbox
Golinger, a U.S.-born lawyer who has recently taken up full-time residence in Venezuela (and Venezuelan citizenship), first shot to prominence with her 2005 book The Chávez Code: Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela. There, Golinger drew on a multitude of documents requested via the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) to thoroughly and convincingly document the role of the U.S. government in funding and sponsoring those Venezuelan opposition groups that participated in the undemocratic and illegal overthrow of Chávez in April 2002, most of which also signed the interim government's Carmona Decree which dissolved all constitutionally-sanctioned branches of Venezuelan power. All this against Condoleezza Rice's recent claim, patently preposterous, that "we've always had a good relationship with Venezuela."
In Bush Versus Chávez, Golinger continues this diabolical narrative, this time relying less on FOIA requests than on a series of other key documents and bits of testimony gleaned from anonymous sources. After the failed 2002 coup, Golinger documents how the United States changed its tack slightly, drawing upon the variety of experiences gained in the military overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile and the electoral overthrow of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. While it would be easy to say that this represented a "Nicaraguanization" of U.S. policy in the aftermath of the botched coup, in reality this new policy draws equally heavily on the many other elements that constituted the multifaceted war against Allende, and hence the thesis of the "Chileanization" of Venezuela remains all-too-relevant.
The key institutional devices deployed by the U.S. in its covert support for the coup remained the same in its aftermath: the neoconservative National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), both convenient mechanisms for bypassing Congressional oversight. What was new on this front, as Golinger demonstrates, was the establishment by USAID in the months following the coup of a sinister-sounding Office of Transition Affairs (OTI). Both the NED and USAID (via the OTI) immediately began to shift strategies, providing covert support for the opposition-led bosses lockout of the oil industry which crippled the Venezuelan economy for two months in late 2002 and early 2003, and when this failed, by providing direct support for efforts to unseat Chávez electorally (a là Nicaragua) in a 2004 recall referendum spearheaded by opposition "civil society" organization Súmate. Needless to say, doing so entailed continuing to support those very same organizations who had proven their anti-democratic credentials in 2002, but such things are hardly scandalous these days.
Through the popular and military support enjoyed by the Chávez government, all these efforts failed, which is unprecedented in and of itself. In response to the emptying of its traditional toolbox, the U.S. government has been forced to diversify its tactics even more drastically than ever before, and this is where Bush Versus Chávez comes in.
In her analysis of contemporary U.S. strategies to unseat Chávez, Golinger speaks of three broad fronts: the financial, the diplomatic, and the military (43-48). But we should be extremely wary of distinguishing too cleanly between such tightly-interwoven categories: the "financial front" remains largely in the hands of the NED and USAID, agencies directly controlled by the U.S. government and the embassy in Caracas, funding the domestic side of the equation through support for destabilizing opposition organizations and even psychological operations (psyops) targeting the Venezuelan press and military.
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