Apr
08
2013

WikiLeaks: Was Chavez Right About U.S. Meddling?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (Photo: Bernardo Londoy)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (Photo: Bernardo Londoy)

It's no secret that U.S. media loathed the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Much of that was purely political; sure, Chavez could have given shorter speeches and been nicer to his political opponents–but it's hard to imagine that would have mattered much to, say,  the Washington Post editorial board.

One thing that turned up constantly in Chavez coverage over the years was his suspicion that the United States government was looking to undermine his rule. As a Washington Post news article (1/10/13) put it:

A central ideological pillar of Chavez's rule over 14 years has been to oppose Republican and Democratic administrations in Washington, which he accuses of trying to destabilize his government.

"I think they really believe it, that we are out there at some level to do them ill," said Charles Shapiro, president of the Institute of the Americas, a think tank in San Diego.

As ambassador to Venezuela from 2002 to 2004, Shapiro met with Chavez and other high- ranking officials, including [Vice President Nicolas] Maduro. But the relationship began to fall apart, with Chavez accusing the United States of supporting a coup that briefly ousted him from power. U.S. officials have long denied the charge.

Shapiro recalled how Maduro made what he called unsubstantiated accusations about CIA activity in Venezuela, without ever approaching the embassy with a complaint. He said that as time went by, the United States became a useful foil for Chavez and most Venezuelan officials withdrew contact.

"A sure way to ruin your career, to become a backbencher, was to become too friendly with the U.S. Embassy," Shapiro said.

There was, as I argued at the time, plenty of evidence that this was more than a hunch; there was U.S. involvement in the 2002 coup that removed Chavez from power. And a newly released WikiLeaks cable fleshes out some more details about the intentions behind U.S. policy.

As a short write-up in the Hill notes (4/5/13), the 2006 cable,

signed by then-Ambassador William Brownfield, outlines a five-point strategy that includes "penetrating Chavez's political base," "dividing Chavismo," "protecting vital U.S. business" and "isolating Chavez internationally." Those goals are to be obtained by strengthening "democratic institutions," according to the cable.

That strategy was, according to the cable, to be carried out via the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI).
 
The cable has received almost no media coverage.  I wonder why.
About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.