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US-Venezuela (1948-2005)

Project: History of US Interventions
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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President Romulo Gallegos, Venezuela’s first democratically elected leader, is overthrown within eight months of his election in a military coup led by Marcos Perez Jimenez, who forms a government with backing from the armed forces and the US. [Klein, 2003, pp. 489; BBC, 8/14/2004]

Entity Tags: Romulo Gallegos, Marcos Perez Jimenez

US banker Douglas McDermott says of the US-backed Venezuelan dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez, “You have the freedom here to do what you want with your money, and to me, that is worth all the political freedom in the world.” [Hunt, 9/1/2009, pp. 9]

Entity Tags: Marcos Perez Jimenez, Douglas McDermott

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, Global Economic Crises

Hugo Chavez is elected president, beating Henrique Salas Romer, a Yale-educated former governor of Carabobo state. [CNN, 12/6/1998; CNN, 12/7/1998; New York Times, 12/9/1998]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

In a national referendum, 72 percent of Venezuelan voters approve a new constitution that significantly increases the state’s role in the economy and society. The constitution—Venezuela’s 26th since winning independence from Spain in 1821—codifies into law Chavez’s progressive agenda. It requires the state to promote sustainable agriculture, protect the environment, guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples, take affirmative action against the effects of institutionalized discrimination, and guarantee every Venezuelan the right to a fair wage, health care, and a secure food supply. The victory seems to have been a result of Chavez’s immense popularity and not necessarily the constitution itself, which, according to one poll cited by the Washington Post, was read by only about two percent of the population. [Washington Post, 12/16/1999; Washington Post, 12/17/1999]
Selection of Constitutional Provisions -
bullet The constitution changes the country’s name from “Republic of Venezuela” to “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title IX, 1999] in honor of Simon Bolivar, the South American liberator who fought for the independence of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. [Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003] The constitution bases “its moral property and values of freedom, equality, justice and international peace on the doctrine of Simon Bolivar, the Liberator,” Article 1 says. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title I, 1999] The new name reflects Chavez’s desire for a more integrated Latin American, which he hopes will be achieved through a federation of “Bolivarian Republics.” [Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet The new constitution implies a distinction between the concepts of “law” and “justice.” [Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003] Article 2 of the constitution says that “Venezuela constitutes itself as a Democratic and Social State of Law and Justice… .” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title I, 1999] Gregory Wilpert, a supporter of the Chavez government, notes: “This stands in contrast to many other country’s constitutions [such as Germany’s], which simply say that its state is a state of law. In other words, the Venezuelan constitution highlights the possible differences between law and justice, implying that justice is just as important as the law, which might not always bring about justice.” The term “justice” is not defined anywhere in the document; however, Wilpert suggests that the constitution’s “declaration of motives,” (the section that precedes the official text of the document) provides an indication of what the constitutional assembly understands justice to be. It states: “The state promotes the well-being of Venezuelans, creating the necessary conditions for their social and spiritual development, and striving for equality of opportunity so that all citizens may freely develop their personality, direct their destiny, enjoy human rights and search for their happiness.” Others warn that the constitution’s failure to explicitly define the meaning of the term creates the possibility that the government could use its own understanding of justice to subvert the law. [Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet Article 13, in designating the country as an “area of peace,” prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases or facilities in Venezuela “by any power or coalition of powers.” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title II, 1999]
bullet The constitution requires the state to respect and guarantee any and all rights declared in international human rights treaties that are signed and ratified by Venezuela. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title II, 1999]
bullet The constitution adopts a broad definition of discrimination and makes it the responsibility of the state to correct any inequalities resulting from discrimination. Article 21 thus states: “[A]ll persons are equal before the law and consequently: No discrimination based on race, sex, creed or social standing shall be permitted, nor, in general, any discrimination with the intent or effect of nullifying or impairing upon the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on equal terms, of the rights and liberties of every individual. The law shall guarantee legal and administrative conditions such as to make equality before the law real and effective manner; [and] shall adopt affirmative measures for the benefit of any group that is discriminated against, marginalized or vulnerable… .” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 58 guarantees the right to information that is “timely, true, and impartial” and adds that such information must be disseminated “without censorship, in accordance with the principles of this constitution.” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999] Critics argue that what constitutes truth and impartiality is subjective and therefore this article could provide the government with a pretext for censoring the media. [Washington Post, 12/16/1999, pp. A30; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet The constitution eliminates state financing of political parties. [Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet Articles 71 through 74 gives the national assembly, the president, and registered voters (when a petition is signed by 10 to 20 percent of the registered voters) the power to initiate a public referendum. A referendum can be one of four types: consultative, recall, approving, and rescinding. A consultative referendum asks the population to give its opinion on a non-binding question that is of a “national transcendent” nature. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999] For example, a referendum might ask whether the country should sign a free trade agreement. [Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003] A recall referendum is a binding referendum that can be used to recall any elected official after the official has served half of his or her term in office. In an approving referendum, also binding, the public would be called upon to approve a constitutional amendment or an important law or treaty that would infringe on national sovereignty. The rescinding referendum would allow citizens to rescind existing laws. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet The constitution guarantees the freedoms of expression, assembly, political participation, as well as the right to employment, housing, family planning, and health care. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999] For example, with regard to health care, Article 83 states: “Health is a fundamental social right and the responsibility of the State, which shall guarantee it as part of the right to life. The State shall promote and develop policies oriented toward improving the quality of life, common welfare and access to services.” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999] Concerning employment, Article 91 states, “Every worker has the right to a sufficient salary that allows a life with dignity and covers his own and his family’s basic material, social, and intellectual necessities.” The constitution also requires that the state promote and protect economic democracy. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 84 charges the state with administering a national public health system that is “governed by the principles of gratuity, universality, completeness, fairness, social integration and solidarity.” The article also outlaws the privatization of health care. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 87 states that all Venezuelans are entitled to the benefits of the social security system, including those who are unable to contribute. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 88 recognizes the contribution of women homemakers and accordingly guarantees them the right to receive social security benefits. “The State guarantees the equality and equitable treatment of men and women in the exercise of the right to work. The state recognizes work at home as an economic activity that creates added value and produces social welfare and wealth. Homemakers are entitled to Social Security in accordance with law.” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 91 states that the minimum wage is to be computed on an annual basis and that its value will be based, in part, on the cost of the basic consumer goods basket. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 103 guarantees every Venezuelan free education up to the undergraduate university level. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 115 states: “The right of property is guaranteed. Every person has the right to the use, enjoyment, usufruct and disposal of his or her goods. Property shall be subject to such contributions, restrictions and obligations as may be established by law in the service of the public or general interest. Only for reasons of public benefit or social interest by final judgment, with timely payment of fair compensation, the expropriation of any kind of property may be declared.” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Articles 119-126 of the constitution recognizes, for the first time in the country’s history, the indigenous population’s right to exist, to its languages, cultures, and to hold its lands in collective ownership. It also requires the state to help indigenous groups demarcate their lands and guarantees that state-led exploitation of natural resources in their lands “shall be carried out without harming the cultural, social, and economic integrity of such habitats, and likewise subject to prior information and consultation with the native communities concerned.” Under the new constitution, the state is also required to promote indigenous cultures and languages and protect their intellectual property. It prohibits outsiders from registering patents derived from indigenous knowledge. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003] Article 186 guarantees the political rights of Venezuela’s indigenous population—estimated at 316,000—mandating that they be allocated three of the 130 seats in the National Assembly. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Articles 127-129 charges the state with protecting biological diversity, genetic resources, ecological processes, and national parks. It requires that environmental and socio-cultural impact reports be prepared in advance of any activities that could potentially cause environmental damage. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet The constitution specifies that the national government will consist of five powers: the legislative, executive, judicial, electoral, and public. The public, or citizen, power would provide oversight to the four other powers to ensure that they adhere to their constitutionally determined functions. Public power is thus charged with “preventing, investigating and punishing actions that undermine public ethics and administrative morals; to see to sound management and legality in the use of public property, and fulfillment and application of the principle of legality in all of the State’s administrative activities, as well as to promote education as a process that helps create citizenship, together with solidarity, freedom, democracy, social responsibility and work.” The responsibility of the electoral power is to oversee state elections, and in certain cases, the elections of civil society organizations, such as unions. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title V, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet The new constitution replaces the former bi-cameral system with a unicameral one. The stated reason for this change is that it will enable the quick passage of legislation. Critics argue that this centralizes state power. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title V, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet At the insistence of President Chavez, the constitutional assembly extended the presidential term from five to six years and eliminated the provision that previously barred presidents from serving two consecutive terms. Chavez argued that a single five-year term would not be sufficient to fully implement the revolution’s policies. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title V, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet Title VI of the constitution charges the state with promoting industry, agriculture, and various other smaller branches, such as fishing, cooperatives, tourism, small businesses, and crafts. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999]
bullet Article 301 grants the state the right to use “trade policy to protect the economic activities of public and private Venezuelan enterprises” and charges the state with ensuring that foreign-owned enterprises are not afforded preferential terms that could put Venezuelan enterprises at a disadvantage. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999]
bullet Article 302 enshrines continued state control of the petroleum industry and states that all industries of a strategic nature are subject to state control. Article 303 gives the state complete ownership of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999]
bullet Article 304, acknowledging that water “is essential to life and development,” specifies that it belongs in the public domain. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999]
bullet Articles 305 and 306 require that the state pursue a food production strategy aimed at self-sufficiency. The approach would entail promoting “sustainable agriculture as the strategic basis for overall rural development”; promulgating any necessary “financial, commercial, technological transfer, land tenancy, infrastructure, manpower training and other measures”; and compensating agricultural producers “for the disadvantages inherent to agricultural activity.” Article 307 states emphatically that the “predominance of large land estates is contrary to the interests of society” and that “farmers and other agricultural producers are entitled to own land.” It thus authorizes the state to implement taxes on landholdings that are left in fallow, to establish the necessary measures to convert fallow lands into productive economic units, and to protect and promote associative and private forms of property. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999]
bullet Article 311 requires that “any revenues generated by exploiting underground wealth and minerals, in general, shall be used to finance real productive investment, education and health.” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999]
bullet Article 236 gives the president the exclusive authority to promote high-ranking military officers. This authority previously laid with the legislature. Critics of the constitution argue that these provisions effectively consolidate Chavez’s control over the military by providing him with a means to pack its leadership with political supporters. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title V, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet Article 330 gives members of the military the right to vote, a right they were denied under the previous constitution. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

In Bolivarian Circles and other pro-government political study groups, people read and study the 1999 constitution (see December 15, 1999). According to supporters of the Chavez government, the constitution becomes an integral part of a grassroots movement to advance Chavez’s social agenda. “It is a political project towards which pro-Chavez Venezuelans want to move the society,” says Gregory Wilpert, a former US Fulbright scholar in Venezuela. By contrast, notes Wilpert, few in the general population ever read the country’s previous constitution, drafted in 1966. Roland Denis, a veteran political organizer in the barrios of Caracas and former Vice-Minister for local planning, similarly describes the significance of the 1999 constitution: “[Chavez’s] leadership was and is undisputed, but his ideas would not have been enough to bring together the movement. The constitution fills this gap. It is a political program and simultaneously serves the purpose of providing a framework for the process. This constitution is not simply a dead text. It reflects values and principles. Perhaps not enough, perhaps one will have to reform it, maybe later one will not need it anymore for the revolutionary process. But at the moment it has the function of Mao’s Little Red Book: It represents the demands and goals of the grassroots movement.” [Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

Air Force Colonel Pedro Soto, on a visit to Washington, attends a House committee hearing in which Otto J. Reich, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, is testifying. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduces Soto as a “great patriot.” [Washington Post, 4/21/2002, pp. A01]

Entity Tags: Carlos Molina, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Otto Juan Reich

Spanish Armed Forces conduct Operation Balboa, a military exercise involving a simulated attack on the western part of Venezuela. The attack is in response to a scenario where a popularly supported group has proposed “actions against the interests of the legally constituted government” and against properties of the US. The UN Security Council calls on the Venezuelan Revolutionary Force (VFL), which is operating in the western part of the country, to end its belligerent actions and come to an agreement with the national government. When the VFL fails to make peace, the Council authorizes the creation of an allied Joint Combined Force—led by the US and its allies—to rescue the foreign residents. [VHeadline, 5/15/2004] According the “General Rules of Simulation” and the “Specific Exercise Plan for Operation Balboa,” the goal of the mock operation is to “destroy the enemy air force’s potential, support the ground troops, occupy the northwest part of [Venezuela] to recover the [petroleum] capital, blockade the main ports in the occupied territory, and secure land communications to maintain logistic flow and military control of the area.” [VHeadline, 5/15/2004] 36 Lieutenant Colonels, other Spanish Air Force officials, as well as officials from other countries, participate in the exercise. Intelligence about Venezuela used in the exercise is provided by the US and NATO. [VHeadline, 5/15/2004]

Venezuelan Rear Admiral Carlos Molina, along with a group of dissident officers led by Air Force Colonel Pedro Soto begin planning the overthrow of President Hugo Chavez. At some point before the April 11 coup, he leaves the group to join a more powerful faction of senior navy and national guard officers. [Washington Post, 4/21/2002, pp. A01]

Entity Tags: Carlos Molina, Pedro Soto

Rogelio Pardo-Maurer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs, meets with chief of Venezuela’s military high command, General Lucas Romero Rincon. Pardo-Maurer, who served for three years as the chief of staff to the representative of the Nicaraguan contras, later tells the New York Times that he told Rincon during this meeting that the US would not support a coup against Chavez. “Nada de golpes,” he claims to have told him. [New York Times, 4/23/2002] Rincon will participate in the April 2002 coup attempt to unseat Chavez (see April 11, 2002).

Entity Tags: Lucas Romero Rincon, Rogelio Pardo-Maurer

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The San Francisco Examiner publishes an article speculating that the US may be planning a coup in Venezuela. The article also notes that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has reduced inflation from 40 percent to 12 percent, generated economic growth of 4 percent, and increased primary school enrollment by 1 million students. [San Francisco Examiner, 12/28/2001; Foreign Policy in Focus, 4/17/2002]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Venezuelan Air Force Colonel Pedro Soto makes a public statement calling on President Hugo Chavez to resign. [Washington Post, 4/21/2002, pp. A01] It is later learned that Soto receives $100,000 from a bank in Miami for this denouncement (see Between Late March and Early April 2002).

Entity Tags: Pedro Soto

Venezuelan Rear Admiral Carlos Molina, Chavez’s former national security adviser, appears on television to demand Chavez’s resignation. Molina is a well known figure and according to the Washington Post, “even the president’s supporters interpreted the break as an alarming sign of the depth of opposition to Chavez… .” [Washington Post, 4/21/2002, pp. A01] It is later learned that Molina receives $100,000 from a bank in Miami for this denouncement (see Between Late March and Early April 2002).

Entity Tags: Carlos Molina

Two days after Rear Admiral Carlos Molina calls for Chavez’s resignation (see February 18, 2002), two staff members of the International Republican Institute, Michael Ferber and Elizabeth Winger Echeverri, approach Molina. Recalling the encounter, Molina later tells the Washington Post: “They wanted to talk about human rights, democracy, their operation in Washington. I can’t remember what else we discussed.” [Washington Post, 4/21/2002, pp. A01]

Entity Tags: Carlos Molina, Michael Ferber, Elizabeth Winger Echeverri

The International Republican Institute brings a group of Chavez opposition figures, including members of Venezuela’s largest labor and business groups, to Washington for a panel discussion on the threats to democracy in Venezuela. The group also arranges a series of meetings between the Chavez opponents and members of Congress and the administration. [Washington Post, 4/21/2002, pp. A01]

Entity Tags: International Republican Institute, Bush administration (43)

Venezuelan Vice Admiral Carlos Molina has a meeting with a US official. (The identity of this official is not known. According to the Washington Post, the official is not affiliated with the US embassy.) [Washington Post, 4/18/2002, pp. A17]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias, Fox News

The CIA notes in its daily Senior Executive Intelligence Brief that “[o]pposition to President Chavez is mounting.” A heavily redacted copy of the document is later obtained by freelance investigative reporter Jeremy Bigwood. The lead sentence in one of the document’s paragraphs states, “A successful coup would be difficult to mount.” The remaining text of the paragraph—which appears to be an additional four lines in length—is whited out. [Central Intelligence Agency, 3/5/2002]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency

A CIA Senior Executive Intelligence Brief reports: “There is increased signs that Venezuelan business leaders and military officers are becoming dissatisfied with President Chavez, and he clearly is concerned and is trying to tone down his rhetoric. The opposition has yet to organize itself into a united front. If the situation further deteriorates and demonstrations become even more violent, or if Chavez attempts an unconstitutional move to add to his powers, the military may move to overthrow him.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 3/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency

Venezuelan Rear Admiral Carlos Molina reportedly attends meetings with US officials during the weeks leading up to the April 11 overthrow of Hugo Chavez, according to several retired Venezuelan military officers and members of the post-coup provisional government. Molina however denies this in a post-coup interview with the Washington Post. According to Molinas, he had not had any contact with US officials “for many months.” [Washington Post, 4/21/2002, pp. A01]

Entity Tags: Carlos Molina

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Venezuelan Vice Admiral Carlos Molina and Air Force Colonel Pedro Soto each receive $100,000 from a Miami bank account for denouncing Chavez (see February 18, 2002). [Washington Post, 4/18/2002, pp. A17]

Entity Tags: Carlos Molina, Pedro Soto

A CIA Senior Executive Intelligence Brief reports: “President Chavez is facing continued strong opposition from the private sector, the media, the Catholic Church, and opposition political parties angered by a host of laws he decreed in December. Reporting suggests that disgruntled officers within the military are still planning a coup, possibly early this month. An attempted coup would risk considerable violence and a severe crackdown by Chavez on any domestic opposition.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 4/1/2002]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency

The CIA files a Senior Executive Security Briefs stating: “[D]issident military factions, including some disgruntled senior officers and a group of radical junior officers, are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chavez, possibly as early as this month…. To provoke military action, the plotters may try to exploit unrest stemming from opposition demonstrations slated for later this month or ongoing strikes at the state-owned oil company PSVSa.” The brief also notes, “The level of detail in the reported plans [censored] targets Chavez and 10 other senior officials for arrest—lends credence to the information, but military and civilian contacts note that neither group appears ready to lead a successful coup and may bungle the attempt by moving too quickly.” But is also says that “repeated warnings that the US will not support any extraconstitutional moves to oust Chavez probably have given pause to the plotters.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 4/6/2002; Newsday, 11/24/2004; Associated Press, 12/3/2004] Senior Executive Security Briefs are one level below the highest-level Presidential Daily Briefs and are distributed to roughly 200 top-level US officials. [Newsday, 11/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The CIA states in its daily Senior Executive Intelligence Brief, “Disgruntled officers are planning a coup, although the military and the opposition as a whole appear to prefer that Chavez be removed by constitutional means.” The document adds, “An attempted coup would risk considerable violence and a severe crackdown by Chavez on any domestic opposition.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 4/8/2002]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is overthrown in a military coup. However, the coup collapses after two days, and Chavez returns to power. [BBC, 4/14/2002] Otto J. Reich, the US’s assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, is in contact with Chavez’s successor on the very day he takes over. The Bush administration claims Reich was pleading with him not to dissolve the National Assembly. [New York Times, 4/17/2002]

Entity Tags: Rogelio Pardo-Maurer, Lucas Romero Rincon, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez Frias, Otto Juan Reich, Elliott Abrams

George A. Folsom, president of the International Republican Institute, applauds the ouster of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. “The Venezuelan people rose up to defend democracy in their country,” he says in a statement. “Venezuelans were provoked into action as a result of systematic repression by the government of Hugo Chavez.” [New York Times, 4/25/2002]

Entity Tags: International Republican Institute

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez alleges that “a plane with US registration numbers was at an army airstrip on Venezuela’s Orchila Island, one of five places he was held in captivity during his brief removal from power,” reports the BBC. [BBC, 4/16/2002]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

An unnamed US senior administration official says, “The United States did not know that there was going to be an attempt of this kind to overthrow—or to get [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez out of power.” [Newsday, 11/24/2004]

US President Bush warns Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to draw a lesson from the unrest that his country has just experienced and insists that he commit himself to democracy. “If there’s lessons to be learned, it’s important that he learn them,” Bush says in a meeting with Colombian President Andres Pastrana. [BBC, 4/18/2002]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias, Andres Pastrana, George W. Bush

An official investigation by the Venezuelan government reveals that two high-ranking US officers joined the Venezuelan military commanders who backed the coup at Fort Tiuna, the largest military base in Caracas, where President Hugo Chavez was forcibly taken after being captured by soldiers supporting the overthrow of his government. [Agence France-Presse, 4/20/2002; Guardian, 5/13/2002]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claims he has proof of US military involvement in the events that took place in April, claiming “he has radar images showing a foreign military vessel, a plane and a helicopter violating the country’s waters and air space during the failed coup,” reports the BBC. [BBC, 5/14/2002; Foreign Policy in Focus, 6/2002]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claims to have foiled another coup plot to remove him from office. [BBC, 10/6/2002]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claims to have escaped an assassination attempt while returning from a trip to Europe. [BBC, 10/20/2002]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

A “strike” (referred to by some as an employers’ lockout) organized by Venezuela’s employers begins. [Venezuela Analysis, 12/3/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 12/11/2002]

February 3, 2003: Strike Ends in Venezuela

A strike in Venezuela (see February 3, 2003) ends after 63 days. Although some oil workers continue striking, oil output slowly returns to a level about half of pre-strike production. [BBC, 2/3/2003]

A friend of John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, allegedly tells Perkins that a private contractor recently asked him if he would be interested in fomenting strikes in Caracas and bribing military officers to turn against Chavez. According to Perkins, his friend has “led clandestine operations in many countries,” but never under the direct employment of any government. [BBC, 4/16/2002; Perkins, 2004, pp. 200]

Entity Tags: John Perkins

For the two-month duration of a strike in Venezuela (see February 3, 2003), the only commercials on Venezuelan TV are pieces by the opposition attacking President Hugo Chavez. [Adage, 2/10/2003]

Washington awards coup plotter Gustavo Cisnero the Inter-american Economic Council’s “Prestigious Excellence in Leadership” award. [Venezuela Analysis, 1/29/2004; VHeadline, 1/30/2004; US Newswire, 12/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Gustavo Cisnero

VHeadline.com reports that the Bush administration is planning another coup in Venezuela. [VHeadline, 2/3/2004]

After a two-day conference in the resort town of Montego Bay, Jamaica, energy officials from a number of Caribbean countries agree to a proposal by Venezuela to form a new oil company that would distribute crude and refined oil products to Caribbean countries under preferential terms. A commission led by Venezuela will devise a plan for the new company, to be called PetroCaribe, and a follow-up meeting will take place in the Bahamas in November. “PetroCaribe should be a catalyst for the introduction of alternative approaches to market access… and correction of the various pricing inequities that prevail in some markets,” the officials say in a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the conference. Many of the countries are concerned that high energy prices will devastate their economies and lead to social unrest. Another initiative proposed by Venezuela during the conference is the establishment of a fund to provide grants for health, education, and housing programs in the Caribbean. Countries participating in the talks include Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. [Associated Press, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Venezuela, Petrocaribe, Barbados, Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, Belize, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba

Rodrigo Rato, the new managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), urges oil producing countries to save the extra revenue generated from high oil prices. Venezuela, the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, shuns the advice and continues to use its oil revenue to fund literacy, health, and other social programs. In addition to the money that Petroleos de Venezuela, the country’s state oil company, contributes to the government, the company directly funds and administers another $3 billion in social projects. [BBC, 11/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Venezuela, International Monetary Fund, Rodrigo Rato

Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the private non-profit National Security Archive in Washington, tells Newsday that documents recently acquired by the National Security Archive provide “substantive evidence that the CIA knew in advance about the coup, and it is clear that this intelligence was distributed to dozens of members of the Bush administration, giving them knowledge of coup plotting.” [Newsday, 11/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Peter Kornbluh

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s government signs a deal with China to expand its oil market into China in search of more lucrative deals. [United Press International, 1/30/2005; Bloomberg, 2/2/2005]

Entity Tags: Scott McClellan, Hugo Chavez Frias

President Hugo Chavez announces that the Venezuela controlled oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, may sell eight oil refineries owned by US companies. Four of them are owned by Citgo Corporation and are currently used to refine Venezuela’s heavy, high-sulfur crude oil for use in the US. This move is part of a strategy to reduce Venezuelan dependency on US oil markets. At his speech in Argentina, Hugo Chavez describes Venezuelan dependency: “Not one Venezuelan works at these refineries… they don’t give us one cent of profit… they don’t pay taxes in Venezuela… this is economic imperialism.” Ivan Orellana, Venezuela’s representative to OPEC says that any “contracts found to be not in the national interest would be renegotiated.” [Bloomberg, 2/2/2005] The Venezuelan oil industry currently exports half of its oil to the US. [New York Times, 1/25/2005] This latest move is an indication to the Bush administration that the Chavez government is willing to test their relationship. US officials are worried about the implications of the sale for the American economy as 15 percent of US oil imports currently come from Venezuela. White House spokesman Scott McClellan says, “we have serious concerns. We have made our concerns known when it comes to President Chavez….” [Bloomberg, 2/2/2005]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias, Scott McClellan

Fox News runs a three-part series on Venezuela, narrated by Fox News’ Steve Harrigan, suggesting that the Chavez government “is moving toward totalitarian rule” and is a potential threat to the US. Miami University political science professor Anibal Romero tells Harrigan that Chavez is a “dangerous fellow. He’s a confused person. He has radical instincts. He’s deeply anti-American… and is prepared to do terrible things.” Harrigan acknowledges the president’s popularity among the country’s poor, but cites the opposition’s concerns that his popularity “does not give the president the right to do whatever he wants.” The “police, military and armed thugs have been tools used freely by Chavez to hang on to power during a coup attempt and a national strike in 2002.… Chavez has packed the Supreme Court and the army with his supporters, seized control of the country’s wealth and introduced a penal code that criminalizes dissent. Anyone who opposes him faces violence or prison.” Chavez opponents also complain that he is clamping down on the press. Ana Christina Nunez, legal counsel for Globovision, the country’s only 24-hour news channel, says, “Our own journalists don’t know whether they can show whatever it is they are trying to cover.” Harrigan also reports that Chavez is “pushing the idea that anyone can grow what they want on someone else’s land” and that he “has declared war on large landowners.” “More than 1,000 of Venezuela’s urban poor have set up bamboo shacks” on land that has “belonged to a British company for a century.” They use the land “to raise their own products for income,” he reports. The British firm’s employees show Harrington on a map how these successive invasions are eating away at the British company’s land holdings and threatening to drive the company into “bankruptcy.” Joaquin Roy, a professor at Miami University, warns that what’s happening in Venezuela could be the first step of land takeovers that could threaten US interests. [Fox News, 2/4/2005]

Entity Tags: Fox News, Hugo Chavez Frias

Roger Noriega, US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, says the US is concerned that an arms trade deal struck between Venezuela and Russia could destabilize the region. Venezuela has agreed to purchase about 40 Russian military helicopters and 100,000 rifles. CNN reports that Noriega told its Spanish-language service “that Washington [is] worried the arms may end up with groups such as Columbia’s Marxist FARC rebels.” [Reuters, 2/8/2005; Al Jazeera, 2/13/2005] Observers interpret this latest move by the Hugo Chavez government as another step in a strategy apparently aimed at decreasing Venezuela’s dependence on the US economy by strengthening ties with states such as China, Russia and Iran. [Al Jazeera, 2/13/2005] Venezuela’s Vice President Jose Vincente Rangel defends the weapons trade deal with Russia. Rangel says that the deal is of no relevance to the US and that the deal is “a concern only for the Venezuelan people and the nation’s institutions.” [Reuters, 2/8/2005]

Entity Tags: Roger Francisco Noriega

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, “I think we have to view, at this point, the government of Venezuela as a negative force in the region.” [Washington Post, 3/15/2005, pp. A01]

Entity Tags: Robert B. Zoellick, Condoleezza Rice

Robert Zoellick, the new deputy secretary of state, testifying before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing, describes the Chavez government as “a creeping authoritarianism” and says that Chavez is “do[ing] away with [his] opponents,… do[ing] away with the press,… do[ing] away with the rule of law,… [and] pack[ing] the courts.” [Fox News, 2/15/2005; US Congress, 2/15/2005]

Entity Tags: Robert B. Zoellick

CIA Director Porter Goss, testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, names five Latin American countries as “potential areas for instability” for 2005. First on his list is Venezuela, followed by Colombia, Haiti, Mexico, and Cuba. In Venezuela, according to Goss, President Chavez “is consolidating his power by using technically legal tactics to target his opponents and meddling in the region, supported by Castro.” In Colombia, Haiti, and Mexico, 2005 elections could bring instability, he says, while in Cuba, “a bad fall last October has rekindled speculation about his declining health and succession scenarios.” [US Congress, 2/16/2005; Venezuela Analysis, 10/19/2005]

Entity Tags: Venezuelan National Assembly, Salomon Centeno, Nelson Merentes, Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela accuses the US government of planning “new aggressions” against him. The aggressions, Chavez describes, include another attempted coup and an assassination attempt. Chavez warns US president George W. Bush that if an assassination attempt was successful the people of Latin America would assume that democratic rules “no longer apply.” Chavez warns that another consequence of his assassination would be an “interruption of the flow of oil to the US.” Chavez asks that Bush consider these consequences before making a decision about his assassination. [Venezuela Analysis, 2/20/2005]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The US State Department says that President Chavez’s allegations (see February 20, 2005) that they are planning to assassinate him are “ridiculous.” [Voice of America, 2/23/2005]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

Venezuelan Navy Commander Armando Laguna announces that the Navy has detected a small fleet of US military vessels off the coast of Curacao in the Caribbean. The Venezuelan Armed Forces are monitoring the vessels, but Laguna says that the US vessels are conducting routine procedures and there is no reason to be alarmed. The presence of the US military has led to rumours about a US invasion, and another coup. William Lara, National Assembly Deputy, and leader of Chavez’s MVR party, says that the US vessels are part of “a plan to intimidate and provoke.” Concern for the vessels is sparked by the fact that the US military did not notify the Venezuelan Navy of their presence as Laguna says they “traditionally have been doing.” [Venezuela Analysis, 3/1/2005]

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declares that the US-sponsored project, the Free Trade Agreement for the Americas (FTAA), is dead. Chavez says that a new model will be put in place to increase trade between Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil regardless of the US government’s position. Chavez says that eventually a new organization similar to NATO will be established for the countries of South America. [VHeadline, 3/4/2005]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Venezuela and Cuba sign a number of deals, deepening economic ties between the two countries. One of the deals made is that the two countries will construct a joint shipyard in the western Venezuelan state of Zulia where naval ships will be built and repaired. The Cuban government also agrees to purchase from Venezuela food products such as canned sardines, gelatin, puddings and marmalades, chocolate drinks, condensed milk, as well as work clothes, including 400,000 pairs of boots. Additionally, Venezuela says that the 53,000 barrels of oil it began selling to Cuba on preferential terms in 2000 (see Late April 2005) has been increased to 90,000 barrels per day. In exchange, Cuba will increase the presence of Cuban doctors working in Venezuelan slums and rural hamlets from 13,000 to 30,000 by the end of 2005, in addition to providing training to 40,000 new Venezuelan doctors. [Canadian Press, 5/5/2005; Associated Press, 7/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Venezuela, Cuba

Thirteen Caribbean countries, led by Venezuela, sign the Petrocaribe Alliance, an energy cooperation agreement that will allow member nations to purchase oil from Venezuela under preferential terms. The agreement, signed during a one-day regional summit in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, calls for the establishment of a regional refinery network overseen by Venezuela that will produce and ship oil to member nations. The agreement is signed by Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Dominican, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, San Cristobal and Nieves, Santa Lucia, San Vicente and the Granadinas, Surinam, and Venezuela. Two countries, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, choose not to sign. [United Press International, 6/30/2005; BBC, 9/7/2005; Nation News (Barbados), 9/18/2005; Petroleos de Venezuela, 11/28/2005] The details of the pact will be decided in September (see September 7, 2005)

Entity Tags: Dominican Republic, Grenada, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Petrocaribe, Venezuela, Bahamas

A protester holds a sign signifying his agreement with Pat Robertson’s call to assassinate Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.A protester holds a sign signifying his agreement with Pat Robertson’s call to assassinate Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. [Source: Foreign Policy Magazine]Right-wing Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, a former Republican candidate for president, tells his viewing audience that the US should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Robertson makes his statement on The 700 Club, the flagship broadcast of his Christian Broadcast Network. The US should assassinate Chavez to prevent Venezuela from becoming “a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.” Robertson says: “We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator [referring to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein]. It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.… You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war… and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.” [Associated Press, 8/22/2005; Foreign Policy, 10/22/2010]

Entity Tags: Pat Robertson, Hugo Chavez Frias

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Wayne Simmons, a former CIA operative, appears on the Hannity & Colmes show to offer his assessment of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He calls Chavez “a college-educated, militarily trained, lethal murderer, treacherous letch, who has… threatened not only the United States and the West, but armed himself with the revolutionary armed forces of Colombia.” “He specializes in murder, mayhem, extortion, and so on,” he adds. Simmons also accuses Chavez of being “in bed with Castro” and alleges that he is part of “the Bolivarian neo-communist regime movement that… will not be satisfied until they have penetrated every government from Ecuador to Panama, Colombia, and so on… .” When asked by Colmes whether the US should “assassinate him,” Simmons replies, “Well, listen, if a stray bullet from a hunter in Kentucky should find its way between… this guy’s eyes,… no American should lose any sleep over it.” Colmes then asks if “assassinating a leader of another country [would] be the Christian thing to do,” to which Simmons responds: “Listen, this is not about Christians. I’m a Christian, as well, but I’m about protecting this country and protecting Americans.… I absolutely would [support his assassination]—he should have been killed a long time ago.… this guy needs to go.” When Hannity and Holmes insist that assassinating Chavez would be against the law, Simmons compares Chavez to Adolf Hitler warning that the Venezuelan president “absolutely has the possibility of becoming [a Hitler] in South America.” [Fox, 8/24/2005]

Entity Tags: Fox News, Hugo Chavez Frias

Caribbean leaders sign an agreement specifying the details of Hugo Chavez’s Petrocaribe Alliance. Under the agreement, Caribbean governments would purchase Venezuelan oil at market price. Whenever world market prices for oil surpass the $40 a barrel mark, Venezuela would offer to finance 40 percent of the cost to be payable over a period of 17-25 years at 1 percent interest. Further concessions would be granted if the price of oil surpasses the $100 mark. Governments will be permitted to pay a portion of their oil tab with services or goods such as rice, bananas, or sugar. “We have the opportunity to break from the path of imposed domination and servitude,” Chavez says during the talks. “The capitalist model… imposed on us is not sustainable.” The talks are attended by representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Surinam, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines. [Associated Press, 6/30/2005; BBC, 9/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Suriname, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominican Republic, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados, Venezuela, Petrocaribe, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announces that Venezuela has moved its central bank reserves out of US banks and liquidated its US Treasury securities. The funds have been transferred to Europe and other countries, he says. [Associated Press, 9/30/2005]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

Nicaraguan presidential candidate Daniel Ortega strikes a deal with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that will allow an alliance of 51 Nicaraguan mayors, many from the Sandinista party, to purchase 10 million barrels of Venezuelan fuel on preferential terms. Under the agreement, the mayors will pay 60 percent of the cost of their purchases within 90 days of shipment, with the remaining 40 percent payable over the next 25 years at one percent interest, with a two-year grace period. In Nicaragua, high oil prices have led to rolling blackouts and transportation strikes. [Xinhua News Agency (Beijing), 4/26/2006; Associated Press, 5/5/2006] Chavez says Venezuela will also donate 10,000 tons of urea to Sandinista farming organizations. [Associated Press, 5/5/2006] During Ortega’s visit to Venezuela, he also says (see April or May 2006) that if he wins the November 5 elections, he will make sure Nicaragua joins the Alternativa Bolivariana para la America (ALBA), or the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, which was initiated by Venezuela and Cuba in 2005.

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias, Daniel Ortega

Timeline Tags: US-Nicaragua (1979-)

The US Department of State releases its 2005 edition of Country Reports on Terrorism, in which it states that Cuba remains a “state sponsor of terrorism, while Venezuela virtually ceased its cooperation in the global war on terror.” According to the report, Venezuela has been “tolerating terrorists in its territory and seeking closer relations with Cuba and Iran.” [US Department of State, 2006, pp. 155 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Venezuela, Cuba, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

US Southern Command concludes in an internal report that efforts in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia to nationalize their petroleum industries pose a threat to US energy supplies. “Pending any favorable changes to the investment climate, the prospects for long-term energy production in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Mexico are currently at risk,” the report says. This assessment is based on the view that extending state control over oil supplies “will likely increase inefficiencies and… will hamper efforts to increase long-term supplies and production.” Energy from the region accounts for 30 percent of US energy imports. Commenting on the report, Colonel Joe Nunez, professor of strategy at the US Army War College in Carlisle, says that it is “incumbent upon the command to contemplate beyond strictly military matters.” [Financial Times, 1/26/2006]

Entity Tags: US Southern Command, Joe Nunez

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) announces that Intelligence Director John Negroponte has appointed J. Patrick Maher as a new acting mission manager to collect “timely and accurate intelligence” on Cuba and Venezuela. Maher, who will continue to serve his current position as National Intelligence Officer for the Western Hemisphere, is a Latin American specialist and has been with the CIA since 1974. The appointment was made shortly after news surfaced on July 31 that Fidel Castro was in the hospital and that his brother Raul Castro had temporarily taken over. According to a statement released by the ODNI, this task is “critical” because “policy-makers have increasingly focused on the challenges” that the two countries “pose to American foreign policy.” Iran and North Korea are the only other countries for which there are currently mission managers. [Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 8/18/2006; Washington File, 8/21/2006]

Entity Tags: John Negroponte, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, J. Patrick Maher

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Carl Kropf, chief of media relations for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, says that Venezuela and Cuba “have deepened their relationship and both countries continue to stifle opposition and constrict democracy.” [Washington File, 8/21/2006]

Entity Tags: Carl Kropf, Office of the Director of National Intelligence


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