US returns to bad old ways in Venezuela
The one important thing to be learnt from the Venezuelan coup is that the United States has not changed its view that only Governments acceptable to Washington can be allowed to survive in Latin America and that like it or not, the United States will undermine and help overthrow even legally elected administrations if it so chooses. This became obvious when Pentagon sources gleefully revealed that the United States provided critical military and intelligence support to the Venezuelan military coup against President Hugo Chavez on Friday 12th April.
Under the cover of the COMPTUEX and a Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) training exercises in the Caribbean the US Navy provided signals intelligence and communications jamming support to the Venezuelan military. Particular focus by US Navy SIGINT vessels was on communications to and from the Cuban, Libyan, Iranian, and Iraqi diplomatic missions in Caracas. All four countries had expressed support for Chavez and the plans for US military and intelligence support for the coup d'etat were brought upto date following President Bush's visit to Peru and El Salvador in March 2002. The National Security Agency (NSA) supported the coup using personnel attached to the US Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force East (JIATF-E) in Key West, Florida. NSA's Spanish-language linguists and signals interception operators in Key West; Sabana Seca on Puerto Rico and the Regional Security Operating Centre (RSOC) in Medina, Texas also assisted in providing communications intelligence to US military and national command authorities on the progress of the coup d'etat.
From eastern Colombia, CIA and US contract military personnel, ostensibly used for counter-narcotics operations, stood by to provide logistics support for the leading members of the coup. Their activities were centred at the Marandua airfield and along the border with Venezuela. Patrol aircraft operating from the US Forward Operating Location (FOL) in Manta, Ecuador also provided intelligence support for the military move against Chavez. Additional USN vessels on a training exercise in the Outer Range of the US Navy's Southern Puerto Rican Operating Area also stood by in the event the coup against Chavez faltered, thus requiring a military evacuation of US citizens in Venezuela. The ships included the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and the destroyers USS Barry, Laboon, Mahan, and Arthur W. Radford. Some of the latter vessels reportedly had NSA Direct Support Units aboard to provide additional signals intelligence support to US Special Operations and intelligence personnel deployed on the ground in close co-operation with the Venezuelan Army and along the Colombian side of the border.
CIA relearn the rules of clandestine operations
For its part, the CIA provided Special Operations Group personnel, headed by a lieutenant colonel on loan from the US Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to help organize the coup against Chavez. They had been in the country since the summer of 2001 and consisting of US Special Operations Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) personnel. The group reportedly made contact with senior, pro-US military officers, including armed forces chief Gen. Lucas Rincon, Deputy Security minister Gen. Luis Camacho Kairuz, and business and union leaders, especially those with the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, and the Venezuelan Workers' Confederation (CTV). Last summer, the CIA lieutenant colonel began meeting with corporate and labour leaders at the PDVSA refinery in Maracaibo to lay plans for the coup against Chavez. One of those recruited early on by the CIA was the new interim Venezuelan President, Pedro Carmona, the head of the Fedecamaras business syndicate.
The coup was also supported by Special Operations psychological warfare (PSYOPs) personnel deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They put together Spanish-language television announcements, purportedly from Venezuelan political and business leaders and aired by Venezuelan television and radio stations, saying Chavez "provoked" the crisis by ordering his supporters to fire on peaceful protestors in Caracas. US electronic warfare technicians also helped to jam cell phone and radio frequencies in Caracas and other major cities in co-operation with the Intelligence Battalion "GRAL. DE BRIGADA ANDRES IBARRA" of the Venezuelan Army High Command
The United States overwhelming military power and dominating economic and political influence is allowing a drift back to the bad old days of CIA clandestine operations and covert subversion of any state that appears to threaten US interests. It is not just the inconvenient Palestinians who have been thrown to the Israeli 'wolves' or a Serbia to be bombed into submission.The 'war on terrorism' has already dragged in the so-called axis of evil of Iraq, Iran & North Korea to which Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and the Philippines have been added.
The US instigated coup in Venezuela is meant to send a clear message to countries right across the world from South America, to Europe to Central Asia, Washingtons intentions are quite clear, they will take unilateral action to protect their interests. The post 9-11 United States has changed, perhaps more that many Europeans have realised. Washington actually means 'either you are for us or against us' and those who are considered against the US are immediate targets for a combination of economic and diplomatic pressure to bring them into line. If that fails then covert action, US supported coup d'etat and even military invasion cannot be ruled out. Washington intends to prevail, and that is the bottom line.
Wayne Madsen in Washington DC and Richard M. Bennett