ISR Issue 60, JulyAugust 2008
The U.S. threat to democracy in Venezuela
Bush Versus Chávez: Washington’s War on Venezuela
Monthly Review Press, 2008
160 pages $16
IN BUSH Versus Chávez: Washington’s War on Venezuela, Eva Golinger shows in great detail how the U.S. has plotted
to oust Venezuela’s democratically-elected government and manipulated information to disguise
their actions and paint Hugo Chávez as a dangerous and provocative. The book is based largely on information
about U.S. agencies and their surrogates in Venezuela gained through use of the
Freedom of Information Act by Golinger and her colleagues.
Bush versus Chávez continues the work that Golinger began with her first book, The Chavez Code:
Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela in tracking how U.S. taxpayer dollars
are funneled to opposition groups in Venezuela. She also shows how techniques
such as “psychological operations” are employed by U.S. military intelligence to shape opinions and influence
behavior in relation to Venezuela, and how, as Golinger puts it “lies become truths that are used to justify wars.”
The rich and powerful Venezuelans (known as the oligarchy) who traditionally
dominated politics are closely aligned with U.S. interests. They had been
disoriented and weakened by Chávez’s sweeping electoral success in 1998 but still held all their wealth, including
strategic industries and mass media outlets.
The U.S. intelligence apparatus moved into gear and began employing its tried
and tested methods of subversion against the new government. The National
Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) are the organizations responsible for funding most of the U.S.
interventions in Venezuela, and both have a long history of acting as fronts
for CIA activity. The NED had been minimally active in Venezuela for years, but
from 2000 to 2001, its Venezuelan budget quadrupled. These funds were used to
support the legal and illegal activities of right-wing political parties and
other anti-Chávez forces. The opposition used various tactics to destabilize the government
and hurt the economy. Protests, strikes, acts of civil disobediance, and
defections of senior military officers were coordinated by opposition leaders while the corporate media produced an endless barrage of propaganda to de-legitimize Chávez and paint the opposition as champions of democracy.
This campaign culminated in a coup organized by sections of the military and
opposition political parties that briefly ousted Chávez in April 2002. The main actors in the coup were directly tied to the NED,
USAID, and other agencies funded by the U.S. government. Business leader Pedro
Carmona was declared the new president, and the Constitution, National
Assembly, and Supreme Court were all dissolved.
Yet much to the dismay of its U.S. and Venezuelan planners, the coup government
was pushed out of power within 48 hours by a popular uprising of loyalist
soldiers and the poor. The State Department claims that “The United States provides funding to groups that promote democracy and
strengthen civil society in Venezuela.” But after the groups funded by the U.S. had attempted to overthrow an elected
government and establish a dictatorship, the U.S. responded by increasing its
funding of these same groups. Shortly after the coup’s defeat the State Department issued a special grant to the NED for its work in
Venezuela in the amount of $1 million.
Bush versus Chávez recounts in great detail how U.S. intervention has continued to develop.
Funding for NED and USAID programs in Venezuela continues to multiply, now
exceeding $10 million per year. The U.S. has also stepped up saber-rattling and
military intimidation, concentrating large numbers of soldiers, gunships, and
fighter planes in close proximity to Venezuela. The strength of Bush versus Chávez is the hard facts that dispel any doubts about U.S. imperial behavior. But for
those readers who don’t need great convincing, the laundry list of technical minutia that tracks
agencies and funding may become tiresome. Many of the facts are repeated
throughout the book, when this space could have been used to shed more light on
the grass-roots forces at play in Venezuela. The book’s purpose is, of course, to uncover U.S. intervention, not to give a people’s history of Venezuela, but the lack of context is sometimes times detrimental.
One glaring omission is the role of organized labor in Venezuela. Golinger
correctly points to union involvement with the opposition, but she leaves out
information that’s crucial to an accurate understanding. Golinger writes that before the 2002
coup “An opposition to Chávez had been loosely formed…that included Venezuela’s largest labor union, the Confederacion de Trabajadores Venezolanos (CTV).” It’s true that the CTV was the largest union federation in 2002, but by 2003 most
unionized workers were members of newly formed Union Nacional de Trabajadores
(UNT)—having left the CTV because of its role in economic sabotage and the coup.
This information is notably absent from the book, yet Golinger goes on to
describe support for the right-wing opposition presidential candidate in 2006
as “a coalition of political parties, labor unions, business associations.” By then, however, the opposition-aligned CTV unions were empty shells with few
members, while the UNT overwhelmingly supported Chávez. Golinger does not mention this or even acknowledge the UNT’s existence. There are more than half a dozen references to the reactionary role
of “labor unions” in Venezuela and not a single mention of the progressive role played by rank
and file union leaders who led the mass exodus from the CTV in protest.
Leftist union militants were at the forefront of struggles against the coup and
economic sabotage of 2002–2003, but again, not a word about it from Golinger. The reason for these
omissions is not clear, but may be due to suspicion of the labor movement by
some dogmatic Chavistas who disapprove of the constructive criticism of Chávez offered by left-wing union currents. These and other omitted topics could
have easily been touched on in a few paragraphs and perhaps have replaced, for
example, the entire page devoted to viewer comments posted to Fox news,
intended to show how anti-Chávez propaganda is working.
Whatever its faults, however, Bush Versus Chávez is certainly a useful tool in taking on the big lies perpetuated by the U.S.
ruling class. People should also visit www.venezuelanalysis.com for updates and
well-informed commentary about Venezuela and U.S. intervention.