The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela

Article excerpt

Eva Golinger The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela Pluto Press, 2007, vii + 224 pp. ISBN: 0-7453-2627-7 (pbk) £12.99

Reviewed by Chris Hesketh

In an article for the openDemocracy website entitled 'Bolivarian myths and legends', Phil Gunson (2006) called for the debate on the revolutionary process in Venezuela to be 'based on reality and not propaganda'. Amongst other things, the article sought to cast doubt not only on us involvement in the April 2002 coup to oust Chávez, but also more broadly on the us government's intervention in Venezuelan democracy in general. For this reason, VenezuelanAmerican lawyer Eva Golinger's superbly researched book comes at a timely moment. With evidence compiled from declassified documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Golinger presents irrefutable evidence for active us involvement in subversion of the democratic process in Venezuela by the funding of various opposition groups through the now-infamous National Endowment for Democracy (NED), as well as via the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) both prior to and after the coup.

The book begins with a brief account of us intervention in other Latin American countries. While scholarship in this area already abounds, particularly in the work of Noam Chomsky (1985, 1992) as well as in William Robinson's outstanding Promoting Polyarchy (1996), Golinger examines the way the techniques of subversion used in Chile, Nicaragua and Haiti would later be applied to the Venezuelan case. Of particular importance is the establishment of the NED in 1983. Ostensibly set up to 'promote democracy', the NED served as a conduit for the transfer of funds from the us government to help support parties and organisations that better served its interests. It was used in Nicaragua to unite the opposition behind Violeta Chamorro though a combination of techniques such as the creation of an 'independent' electoral education group called Vía Cívica, the manipulation of the media, and the use of private polling firms to influence public opinion.' Golinger demonstrates how current intervention in Venezuela can be traced back to us efforts to undermine the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. She highlights the fact that Venezuela played a key role in channelling funds from the us government to various opposition groups through the thenpresident, Carlos Andrés Pérez, and also through the Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CTV)-Venezuela's largest confederation of labour unions, which worked in connection with the NED to establish connections with workers in Nicaragua. As Gollinger states, 'the Venezuela connection to the NED and CIA intervention in Nicaragua in the late 1980$ evidences the strong bond between those entities and the politicians of that period. Such relationships have clearly been integral to recent interventions the us government has pursued in Venezuela during the Chavez era' (p. 19). For example, many of the very same diplomats, with 'regime change' experience behind them, found themselves working to 'promote democracy' in Venezuela.

Although the relationship between the us government and Hugo Chávez was never particularly cordial, Golinger argues that it only really soured after Chávez publicly criticised the bombing of Afghanistan, declaring that 'terror cannot be fought with more terror'. It was at this period, Golinger documents, that NED funding for Venezuela's oppositional parties quadrupled, invested through one of the core trustees, the International Republican Institute (IRI), in such things as political party strengthening and civil society 'political education'. Thanks to funding provided by both NED and USAID, the newly-formed conservative party Primero Justicia was able to become the number-one oppositional party in Venezuelan politics.

The real crux of Golinger's argument, however, stems from the month prior to the coup of n April 2002, and its aftermath. …