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April 12, 2002


Democracy Held Hostage

in Bolívar's Venezuela

Narco News '02

Q&A on "Remote

Control Coup"

Journalist Jules Siegel interviews

Narco News Publisher Al Giordano

Friday Morning, April 12, 2001

Jules Siegel: Why did Chávez try to force the changes in Petróleos de Venezuela?

Al Giordano: Corruption by both the management and the union was out of control. The boss of the petrol workers union refused to abide by new Venezuelan laws requiring free elections of union leaders, and the old board refused to act on it. Thus, you saw this strange alliance of the big business magnates who looted the country for 40 years suddenly singing "Solidarity Forever" and "Strike! Strike! Strike!" in a disingenuous, made-in-DC, simulation of a grassroots movement. Call it "astro-turf."

The march yesterday of, according to press reports, between 50,000 and 150,000 people, was really not by any normal standards earthshaking.

Despite the unified backing of:

1. The corrupt and bureaucratic petrol workers union,

2. The national chamber of commerce and industry (whose chief is now the military junta-installed illegitimate "president" of the country),

3. The Catholic Church hierarchy (upset that the Chávez government had enacted a Separation of Church and State in education funds that used to be given to Church schools who left a 90% illiteracy rate in the country),

4. The old guard of the military, upset with the sweeping reforms made by Chávez in favor of the rank and file (read: poor) soldiers and ending longtime abuses by the brass, and,

5. The nation's media moguls, in particular five TV chains, who under previous regimes paid no taxes at all and used media as a mere business, training a generation of "journalists" skilled mostly in shaking down bribes and blackmail, who could not stand the fact that they now paid taxes like any other business...

All these institutional forces could only muster, at maximum, 150,000 people into the streets of Caracas (with live TV exortations on a 24/7 basis: one TV station, while showing the march, had a chyron text across the screen "NOT
ONE STEP BACK"). This, in a city of more than 2 million people and in a country of 24 million, makes a lie of all the US media claims that this was somehow a "popular" revolt.

Then some snipers fired from rooftops into the crowd, and particularly toward the ambulances! Former President Perez was on hand to blame the Chávez government for the shootings. He should know. In 1989, when Perez was president, and the poor marched in the streets, he massacred more than 1,000 unarmed citizens in what is now called the Caracalazo).

There was no military nor political motive for the Chávez government to order sniper fire. To the contrary, the only side that had motive to do that was that of the ones who have now seized illigitimate power. But the US correspondents say, without offering a shred of testimony or proof, that it was government troops who fired into the crowd.

The response from Washington (Bush crying crocodile tears over the estimated 10 to 30 deaths) contrasts greatly, say, with Washington's position when someone like Sharon or the King of Saudi Arabia routinely shoots into crowds, and there is real evidence that their troops did the shooting.

This was a "remote control coup d'etat," engineered from Washington, with a strong media element by the TV moguls and military hardliners who all danced a carefully choreographed script.

JS: How did these actions affect American strategic or commercial interests?

AG: The Dow Jones wire today (big grain of salt: last night they published a story NINE times with the headline "REPEAT: Venezuela President Chávez Seen Leaving Country-Report" (obviously, in retrospect, total fiction because Chávez is locked today in a military fortress and kept incomunicado as his enemies make claims that he has "resigned") is filled with gushing remarks by the international oil industry (ecstatic predictions that Venezuela will now, once again, sabotage OPEC's price-setting cuotas and limits on production) and Wall Street analysts urging everyone to invest now in Venezuela.

But the 800-pound gorilla in this story has to do with Plan Colombia. Washington never forgave Chávez for leading the charge against this US military intervention. That's the factor that caused Clinton to sign the clandestine destabilization order, Bush to execute it, and it will take Jeremy Bigwood or the National Security Archives ten years of FOIA requests
to get the documents.

JS: Is the situation in any way similar to the destabilization of Chile under Allende? Is there any reason to believe the general strike instigated or supported by the CIA or other American intelligence forces?

AG: Oh, Jules! How could you possibly think that a State Department dominated by corrupt Iran-Contra narcos like Otto Reich and John Negroponte, and thugs like Peter Romero and former Jesse Helms svengali Roger Noriega would do such a thing again? It's only a coincidence that the State Department has one of the 1973 Chile coup-plotters, former political officer of the Embassy in Santiago (1971-1974), Jeffrey Davidow, as Ambassador to Mexico today! Pay no
attention to that Bush behind the curtain.

The bottom line: a twice democratically elected government has been deposed by a military junta that has installed an illigitimate unelected president.

What happens next is not going to be pretty. Already, this morning, the raids of homes of Chávez supporters by police and military forces has begun, with the pretext of searching for arms.

But the sorriest group of all has been the US news correspondents in Venezuela. Not a single one of them has asked the right questions, much less answered them.

Jules Siegel is a writer and graphic designer who has been living and working in Mexico since 1981, in Cancun since 1983. His work has appeared in Playboy, Rolling Stone, Best American Short Stories and many other publications.

Al Giordano, journalist, reports on the drug war from Latin América.

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