[Last update: 16 April 2002]

La Jornada on Venezuela

by Jim Cason and David Brooks

La Jornada, April 16, 2002

WASHINGTON, April 15. The failed military rebels in Venezuela were thinking that they had Washington's green light for the conspiracy in weeks previous to their attempt in demolishing the presidency of Hugo Chávez, this according to versions circulating in the US media, meanwhile a respected private intelligence company suggested today that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of State had knowledge about the coup last week.

"Our sources in Venezuela and The United States report that the CIA had knowledge, and possibly even supported, the civil ultraconservative and official military men that (tried to demolish Chávez)", the private intelligence company Stratfor reported today.

This company is composed of former US intelligence agents and other specialized analysts, and was described by the business magazine Barron's as "a private CIA", Stratfor said that the same group of conservatives endorsed by the CIA initially had planned the coup d'état for February 27, but they were convinced to abort the attempt under pressure by the government of George W. Bush.

Stratfor, which also gives analysis to the Economist Intelligence Unit and to the International Monetary Fund -IMF (Davos), described the existence of two parallel US operations whose goal was to support the overthrow of president Chávez, one organized by the CIA and other by the State Department.

"Stratfor's sources report that the State Department was silently supporting the moderate civil - centrist right wing military coalition attempting to force Chávez from power, due to his increasing authoritarian regime with a popular unarmed and pacifist power", the company report explained. "The US authorities that supported the civil groups that were looking for Chávez's exit, believed that their followers would eventually manage to form a critically sufficient massive force in order to change Chávez's politics or even provoke a change of regime."

Stratfor's credibility

Stratfor's analyst team is widely respected in this country because of its thoroughly investigated reports, which have been mentioned by The New York Times and other national media in years past. The report released this weekend received major credibility when The Washington Post published a story today indicating that the decision to demolish Chávez took almost six months, when a group of active and retired military officials under the command of vice-admiral Carlos Molina and Air Force colonel Pedro Soto started organizing against the president. According to the Post, the officials were waiting for a justification to act against Chávez. A justification, which came about during last weeks protests.

"There had to be a justification in order for the armed forces to intervene", commented the ex-minister of Defense Fernando Ochoa to The Washington Post. "The officials were sharing this idea with civil society".

But they were also under the impression that they had US support. The Washington Post reported that these military rebels met US Embassy authorities in Caracas in the weeks previous to the attempt of the coup and, on the other hand, La Jornada has found out that Colonel Soto also met with US authorities in Washington last week.

"Certainly he met someone in the State Department", confirmed a US government employee today, before refusing to offer more details. Colonel Soto visited Washington last week, but in an interview with La Jornada he declined to comment who he met or who hosted this visit, though he confirmed that he had visited a conservative Cuban-American community in Miami.

The Military officials believed that they had the tacit support of Bush's government. "The State Department always expressed its concerns with Chávez", commented the ex-minister of Defense Ochoa to The Washington Post." We interpreted that as a go ahead for his removal."

On Monday the US government refused to condemn those responsible for the interruption of constitutional order in Venezuela's elected government, and when La Jornada questioned one US authority about perceived US support for the coup, there was no comment offered. These facts reminded political analyst Mark Weisbrot of an old Latin American joke: Why has there never been a coup d'état in Washington? Because... they don't have a US Embassy there.

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