Critic Of U.S. Venezuelan Policy, News Coverage Speaks In DC At Press Club

 

Longtime Washington journalist Ken Silverstein delivered during a dinner lecture on March 27 at the National Press Club his hard-hitting critique of mainstream media coverage of the ongoing Venezuelan crisis.

venezuela flag waving customSilverstein, an author and the editor of the WashingtonBabylon.com news site, spoke to the McClendon Group speaker society about Venezuela and the U.S. Media: Pravda Was Better.

Silverstein, right, has traveled to Venezuela three times, in 1993, 2004 and this February. His new article “Caracas Chronicles” on ken silversteinWashington Babylon describes how the media has so routinely misread — or lied — about the political situation in Venezuela.

He is writing an ongoing series about what he assesses as the likelihood that the Trump administration will invade the country. Caracas Chronicles is Part I of the forthcoming series.

Since then one major flashpoint among commentators has been whether the massive power outages afflicting Venezuela this month are because of covert sabotage by allies of the United States on behalf of legislator Juan Guaido (at left below) who has declared himself the rightful president.

Guaido thus seeks to replace Nicolás Maduro, shown at right below, who was elected to another term last year in a disputed election. Critics claim that the electricity blackout was caused by poor policies and performance of the incumbent government.

juan guaido nicolas maduro

Silverstein's reporting coincides in general with a March 5 column by the Justice Integrity Project U.S. Mainstream Media Propagandize Venezuelan Rebellion.

"News coverage of current political strife in Venezuela," we wrote, "serves as a fresh reminder that U.S. mainstream newspapers and broadcasters too often deliver remarkably biased 'news' reports on sensitive global topics."

We continued:

The corporate media — including the prestigious newspaper outlets like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post — consistently portray leaders of Venezuela, Syria and Russia as bloodthirsty dictators with no semblance of popular appeal. That's despite independent evidence that they have won elections (unlike some tyrants counted as strong U.S. allies) and probably could continue to do so in fair elections, according to independent popularity polls and other evidence.

Appendices to that column and this contain excerpts from a sampling of corporate-controlled and alternative media. Readers can thereby see  differences and patterns.

Silverstein is the creator of WashingtonBabylon.com, a political, satirical and investigative website. He has previously worked as an AP correspondent from Brazil, at the Washington office of the Los Angeles Times, and as the Washington Editor of Harper's Magazine.

He has been a columnist at the New York Observer and a Contributing Editor at VICE, and has written for scores of other publications, with datelines from dozens of countries. These nations include Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Dubai, Egypt, Venezuela, Colombia and many more. Also, he is the author of several books, most recently The Secret World of Oil, and has two more books in the works. He will sign copies at the event.

The Venezuelan crisis is not only an ordeal for its population but a test for the entire Hemisphere’s democratic institutions, including the media’s performance.

The McClendon News Group is a private speaker society founded in 1946 by the late White House Correspondent Sarah McClendon (1911-2003). The current chairman is her former colleague, John Edward Hurley. The Justice Integrity Project's editor facilitates the logistics as deputy chair.

Editor's note: A preview of the lecture was updated above to reflect that the talk occurred as planned.

Contact the author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About Ken Silverstein

Books:

Washington Babylon, Verso Books, 1996 (co-authored with Alexander Cockburn)
Private Warriors, Verso Books, 2000
Washington on $10 Million A Day: How Lobbyists Plunder the Nation, Common Courage Press, 2002
The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor, Random House, 2004
Turkmeniscam: How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship, Random House, 2008
The Secret World of Oil, Verso, 2014

On Life In Washington

Harper's Magazine, Washington Babylon: Signing Out, Ken Silverstein, Sept. 29, 2010. This is my last post here at Washington Babylon and I’ll be leaving my position as Harper’s Washington Editor (I will remain as a contributing editor to the magazine). I’ve received a fellowship at the Open Society Institute and will also be leading special investigations at Global Witness, which has offices in London and in Washington. My work for both will focus on long-term international investigations.

I moved to Washington in 1993, when a young, new Democratic president replaced George Bush and promised to reform politics and be a transformative leader. Backed by huge majorities in Congress and with public opinion squarely in his corner, he had the opportunity to shake things up and change American politics. Instead, he and his party squandered their chance through timidity, weak leadership, a lack of any original ideas and their refusal to confront special interest groups.

Related News Coverage

Updates

April 13

washington post logoWashington Post, Venezuela’s military, despite U.S. expectations, has not turned on Maduro, Karen DeYoung and Mary Beth Sheridan, April 13, 2019. Underpaid, underfed and humiliated by the autocratic turn their country had taken, the armed forces were the linchpin of the Trump administration’s strategy to get the ruling government to step aside. Some U.S. officials predicted they would flip en masse within days. That hasn’t happened.

April 11

Telesur, Venezuela's Moncada Fires Back at Pence in Heated UNSC Exchange, Staff report, April 11, 2019. "The only state representing Venezuela is the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela," he said and framed the so-called humanitarian crisis as "part of the machinary of lies spread about the government of Venezuela." mike pence o  As part of his argument against the legitimate Venezuelan government, Pence (right) also told Venezuela’s Ambassador Samuel Moncada “with all due respect, you shouldn’t be here.”

In response, Russia’s United Nations permanent representative Vasily Nebenzya questioned the real intentions behind the U.S. aid and stressed that Venezuela does not reject international cooperation when it is friendly.

"The U.S. has still not overcome the devastation of Hurricane Maria," the Russian ambassador said in response to Pence claiming the U.S. is trying to deliver aid to Venezuela, adding that the Venezuelan government "is not rejecting humanitarian assistance. Russia and other countries have provided assistance along with WHO."

During his speech, the Russian ambassador pointed out that the current situation in Venezuela is related to the U.S. geopolitical interest of controlling the region. "If you want to make America great again stop interfering in the interest of other states," Nebenzya said and, addressing the Latin American neighboring, made it clear that “Venezuela is a bargaining chip for geopolitical influence in the world."

Once the first round of statements was concluded, Venezuela’s Ambassador Samuel Moncada took the stage and strongly rejected the U.S. interpretation of what is happening in his country.

"To begin, I think it is called upon us to speak on the falsehoods that have been spoken about Venezuela,” he said and denounced that a new coup attempt had just happened yesterday, as “the U.S. is attempting to pillage our resources.”

Moncada also expressed his categorical denial of the U.S. statements, which has no basis in the Venezuelan constitution and laws. "The only state representing Venezuela is the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela," he said and framed the so-called humanitarian crisis as "part of the machinery of lies spread about the government of Venezuela.”

The prior Security Council meeting on Venezuela was held on Feb. 28, when Russia, China and South Africa vetoed a U.S. draft resolution in which the Venezuelan government would have been held responsible for the country's economic collapse, a political maneuver aimed at disguising the U.S. economic war against the government of Nicolas Maduro.

April 8

Foreign Policy, Opinion: U.S. Military Wary of China’s Foothold in Venezuela, Lara Seligman, April 8, 2019. The head of U.S. Southern Command says Beijing is using disinformation and debt diplomacy to dig in as Maduro clings to power. As U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security team mulls a military intervention to oust Venezuela’s strongman president, Nicolás Maduro, the Pentagon is watching China’s commercial and financial creep in the crisis-gripped nation with growing alarm.

In an interview with Foreign Policy, Adm. Craig Faller, the four-star military officer who heads U.S. Southern Command, pointed to a Chinese disinformation campaign designed to blame the United States for the devastating blackouts that devastated Venezuela in recent weeks.

Maduro, whose government is backed by China, Russia, and Cuba, has himself publicly accused the U.S. Defense Department of causing the blackouts. Following the power failures, Beijing offered to help the Venezuelan government restore its grid.

“China came out publicly, a state spokesman, implying the blackouts were attributable to U.S. cyberattacks,” Faller said during a recent trip to Washington, D.C. “That is just such a blatant lie. The blackouts are attributed to Maduro’s inept leadership, corruption, inattention to his people, and lack of concern for any humanity.”

The Pentagon is worried about China in other arenas as well. In the Pacific, China is building up its military capability, intimidating its smaller neighbors, and threatening Taiwan. In Africa, Beijing is using debt diplomacy to gain control of crucial ports and other infrastructure. And in Europe, the Trump administration is pushing NATO to address potential Chinese cyberthreats and commercial threats.

“I think the biggest threat to democracy and the way of life around the world is the trend that we see in China,” Faller said.

He said China was trying to assert economic control in Venezuela by investing in infrastructure and providing hefty loans that Caracas would have difficulty paying back. Much of Beijing’s financial interest in Venezuela is tied to loans-for-oil deals struck between the two countries in 2007. By 2014, the China Development Bank had provided Venezuela with more than $30 billion in loans tied to oil production.

April 2

Unz Review, Opinion: Venezuela, a New Syria, Israel Shamir, April 2, 2019. A few days ago, an Ilyushin IL-62M liner carried over a hundred Russian soldiers and officers to Caracas. Symbolically, they made a stopover in Syria, as if saying that Venezuela is the next country after Syria to be saved from ruin and dismemberment. The military mission was led by the Head of General Staff, General Tonkoshkurov (“Thin-Skinned”, a name that would thrill Vladimir Nabokov).

‘Don’t you dare,' exclaimed John Bolton, 'meddle in the Western Hemisphere! Hands off Venezuela! It is our back yard!’ The Russians didn’t buy it. Some time ago they tried to object to the US tanks being positioned in Estonia, a brief drive from St Petersburg, and all they’ve got was preaching that sovereignty means sovereignty, and Estonia does not have to ask for Russian permission to receive American military assistance. Now they repeated this American sermon verbatim to John Bolton and his boss. Get out of Syria first, they added.

venezuela flag waving customThis is a new level in the Russian-American relations, or should we say confrontation. For a very long time, the Russians convinced themselves that their liking for the United States was mutual, or at least would be returned one day. However, this stage is over, the scales fell off their eyes and they finally realised America’s implacable enmity.

I do not regret that Russian-American relations have gone from bad to worse. The world needs balance, and Russians do provide a counterweight to the heavy-handed Uncle Sam. The worst time in recent history was around 1990, when Russia practically ceased to exist as an important factor of international politics. Then, the US stormed over Panama and Iraq, bombed Belgrade, created al Qaeda, and destroyed its own working class. If uppity darkie bus driver Maduro would try to say ‘no’ to Washington in 1990s, he would be kidnapped, arrested, tried for, say, child abuse or drugs trafficking and jailed for thirty years. The then Russian president Yeltsin wouldn’t even notice between his drunken bouts that Venezuela had reverted to direct colonial rule.

Putin decided to support Venezuela’s Maduro. Thus a new level in the hybrid war had been broken. Venezuelans had moved the headquarters of their oil company to Moscow, and defiant Russia has accepted them.

The US immediately responded by cyber-attacking Venezuelan power stations and causing an extensive blackout.

It is probably the first large-scale cyber-attack upon the infrastructure of an enemy. The destruction of Iranian centrifuges by means of Stuxnet was still limited in scope and did not interfere with the general economy. The Venezuela electric grid had been recently updated and extensively modernised by the big international company ABB. When the upgrading was done, the company said in its press release that now Venezuela has the best and most advanced electric equipment. Apparently, the most advanced equipment is more vulnerable to cyber threats.

Every Washington-organised regime change in Latin America usually included an attack on the power grid (for instance, removal of Chile’s Allende), but until now the adversary had to dirty his hands physically, by sabotaging power stations and transmission lines. Now they have learned how to do it from outside, from Miami. Venezuelans noticed that the first warning of their blackout had been made by Marco Rubio: “Marco Rubio announced hours before the blackout that “Venezuelans will live the most severe shortage of food and gasoline,” revealing he had knowledge that some kind of shock would happen in the next few hours.” The Moon of Alabama also accepts the cyber-attack explanation, though hedges it by reminding that ‘shit happens’, and the US has also experienced blackouts.

I asked a Russian expert on cyber warfare, and he told me that a cyber-attack on infrastructure is feasible. He connected it with the US struggle against the Chinese communication giant Huawei: it is the only major manufacturer that provides no backdoor for NSA spying operations.

March 28

ken silversteinWashington Babylon, Investigative Commentary: Is The Intercept An Intelligence Operation? An Ongoing Inquiry, Ken Silverstein (right), March 28, 2019. Washington Babylon has been running a number of stories this week by Tim Shorrock and I which raise the possibility — mine did directly — that Pierre Omidyar’s The Intercept (TI) is an intelligence operation, working in collaboration with the U.S. and/or a foreign government. I understand why some readers might be skeptical of that charge, so let me lay out here some additional information and why I think everyone should be open-minded about the topic.

Let me also say that I don’t have 100 percent proof that TI was and is an intelligence operation, but the preponderance of evidence points that way. And I’m accumulating more evidence every day that makes the case even more compelling.

Before going further, here is a brief, lightly edited excerpt from the first story I ran on this topic. I urge all genuinely interested parties to read the entire story, before or after finishing this one.

Did Omidyar set up The Intercept on behalf of U.S. intelligence, in order to entrap, expose and prosecute whistleblowers? It’s curious: Greenwald was Omidyar’s first hire and he had pretty much exclusive access to Edward Snowden’s NSA treasure trove. When I worked at TI, the Snowden archive was locked in a safe. Omidyar and Greenwald long promised they would make it all available to the public but they never did, and last week, amid staff cuts that will inevitably lead to Omidyar killing the publication, TI announced that the Snowden archive will be sealed off from the public for an undetermined amount of time. So it looks like the most explosive leak in U.S. intelligence history will end up being buried by Omidyar and Greenwald.

I briefly noted in that story that I had previously worked at TI, being one of the first hires in 2014. I quit in disgust in early 2015 and wrote about my experience for Politico.

Back then, I didn’t suspect anything nefarious. I merely thought TI was experiencing a lot of the same problems any web start up would face. I remember joking with colleagues that by hiring so many left-leaning writers and paying them so much money to effectively not write — my two best stories for TI ended up in VICE — Omidyar had effectively decommissioned half of progressive journalism in the country. (Recall here Omidyar is a tech oligarch with rich ties to Silicon Valley, which in turn has deep links to U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies.)

But looking back, I have to wonder: was it merely incompetence and standard problems faced by start ups that kept TI from publishing much, or was it something worse?

Washington Babylon: Why Did Omidyar Shut Down The Intercept’s Snowden Archive? Ken Silverstein, March 25, 2019. His deep ties to USAID and relationship to a private contractor who advises the government on global counterinsurgency tactics may explain why...

Remember the “Pierre Omidyar Insurgency”? That was the title of a fawning New York Magazine profile in 2014 of the Silicon Valley billionaire who financed The Intercept after Edward Snowden’s theft of thousands of classified National Security Agency documents from his Booz Allen Hamilton NSA workstation in Hawaii. The story was just one of many adoring articles to appear in the left-liberal media at the time, with its author swooning over The Intercept’s “scorching brand” of “fearless, adversarial journalism” and detailing in ironic tones the wacky adventures of its world-famous founding editor, Glenn Greenwald.

Five years later, those articles, and The Intercept’s extravagant claims, look ridiculous. On March 13, its readers learned that Omidyar’s First Look Media, was shutting down access to its vast archive of NSA documents. The news appeared in The Daily Beast, a center-right entertainment publication that’s known for its slanted, neocon-tinged reporting on Russia and North Korea. Its initial dispatch focused on Laura Poitras, Snowden’s first contact, who was said to be “livid” and “sickened” about the archive’s closing.

“This decision and the way it was handled would be a disservice to our source, the risks we’ve all taken, and most importantly, to the public for whom Edward Snowden blew the whistle,” Poitras wrote in an email shared with Intercept staff. According to the Beast, she learned of the decision when First Look CEO Michael Bloom sent out an email saying that because other news organizations had “ceased reporting” on the NSA archive “years ago,” First Look had decided to “focus on other editorial priorities.”

Greenwald, who won a Pulitzer for his spoon-fed reporting on Snowden, has been surprisingly reticent about the closing. He has provided only the vaguest of details about the future of the documents that Snowden earmarked for him while he was working for Booz, one of America’s most notorious intelligence contractors. In a Twitter post the after the Beast story broke, he took the company line that it was purely a business decision. “Like all digital media outlets, the Intercept has been confronted with financial restraints,” the $500K+ a year founder and journalist explained in his best bureaucratic voice. “The budget given to the Intercept by First Look Media for 2019 forces its editor-in-chief Betsy Reed, in consultation with the Intercept’s senior editors, to make extremely difficult decisions.”

Greenwald added that he and Poitras “continue to possess full copies of the archive” and that he is working to “ensure that publication” of the material will continue with “academics and researchers, not reporters” working with institutions that have enough funds “to do so robustly, quickly and responsibly.” He didn’t bother to mention Omidyar and the enormous investment ($250 million, equal to what Jeff Bezos paid to buy the Washington Post) gave to him and his partners to create The Intercept in the first place (Omidyar is the “sole shareholder” of First Look, its IRS form 990 states). And true to form, his “fearless” Intercept has yet to inform its many readers and supporters about the shutdown on its website. That’s odd, considering that it was financed by Omidyar specifically to control, publicize and promote Snowden’s archive. And perhaps that’s why the slogan “fearless, adversarial journalism” quietly disappeared from The Intercept Twitter feed in recent months and was replaced by the bland “We pursue the stories others don’t.” Who doesn’t?

SouthFront, Analysis: Russian Special Forces And Cybersecurity Personnel Are Deployed In Venezuela: Report, Staff report, March 27, 2018. A recent visit of the Russian military delegation to Venezuela has already caused significant jitters in the mainstream media.

Now, ‘anonymous’ sources are claiming that the Russian military contingent, which is allegedly deployed in Venezuela, consists of special forces, including “cybersecurity personnel.”

Reuters reports:

"A Russian military contingent that arrived in Venezuela over the weekend, drawing U.S. condemnation, is believed by the U.S. government to be made up of special forces including “cybersecurity personnel,” a U.S. official told Reuters on Tuesday. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States was still assessing the Russian deployment, which Washington has called a “reckless escalation” of the situation in Venezuela."

It should be noted that the Russian side described the presence of its “specialists” in Venezuela as a part of the military-technical cooperation agreement between the two countries.

While there is little doubt in the deepening Russian-Venezuelan ties amid the developing crisis, it’s apparent that Reuters-style reports are mostly designed to fuel the current situation and justify further US actions to pressure the legal Venezuelan government.

March 26

SouthFront, Venezuela Plunged Into Second Blackout Within 20 Days Of The First, Staff report, March 26, 2018. On the evening of March 25th, Venezuela was plunged into a second blackout within a month.

Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said that all teams are working on site to restore power as quickly as possible. He also announced that work and school are suspended throughout the country on March 26th. “We have experienced a new attack to the transmission and charging center of the National Electric System, aimed to take out the machines of the Simon Bolívar Hydroelectric Power Plant located in Guri,” explained Rodriguez.

“Although the attack had similar characteristics to the March 7th event," he said, "we had the capacity to respond quickly and the service has been restored in almost all the national territory and in the next few hours all the country will have electricity back on,” assured Rodriguez. He also added that the Venezuelan far-right’s intention does not pursue any political or ideological basis.

"The real intention," he continued, "is to attack, generate anxiety, plunge the population in a situation of deep distress to be able to seize power and achieve what they have already done, which it is steal all the resources that belong to the Venezuelans.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Pompeo warns Russia about its military presence in Venezuela, Karen DeYoung, March 26, 2019 (print ed.). mike pompeo portraitSecretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) told his Russian counterpart Monday that the United States “will not stand idly by” if Russia continues to send military personnel to Venezuela to prop up President Nicolás Maduro, the State Department said.

Pompeo’s telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov followed weekend reports that at least two Russian air force planes carrying a senior defense official and about 100 troops landed at Venezuela’s main airport Saturday.

venezuela flag waving customThe United States and dozens of other countries in January recognized Juan Guaidó, the head of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, as interim president, but Maduro has managed to hold on to power.

U.S. frustration with the situation has grown as efforts to persuade the Venezuelan military to switch sides and support Guaidó have produced few results, even as thousands of anti-Maduro protesters have taken to the streets amid severe shortages of food, water and medical care.

March 19

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Venezuela -- Journalists Doubt Guaidó's Legitimacy - Regime Change Plans Continue, b, March 19, 2019. On February 23 the U.S. created a 'humanitarian aid' stunt at the border between Colombia and Venezuela. The stunt ended in a riot during which the supporters of the self-declared 'president' Guaidó burned the trucks that were supposed to transport the 'aid'. Even the New York Times had to admit that.

The riots also marked the day that Guaidó lost the legal argument he had used to make himself 'interim president.' The hapless coup plotters in Washington DC were finally put on notice that the issue creates a legal problem for them. During a March 15 press briefing elliot abramsElliott Abrams, the U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela, was asked about the issue.

Here is a video of the exchange. (Abrams, shown at right, seems to be lying about the alleged National Assembly resolution.)

The legal argument Abrams produced lacks logic and clearly contradicts the wording of the constitution quoted above.

The legal subterfuge Abrams is using would not convince any serious court. It is of course well known that Abram's has little regard for the law. He was convicted for lying to Congress in two cases. But the issue will matter.

venezuela flag waving customThe U.S. seized Venezuelan assets, especially the Citgo refineries which are in financial trouble. The U.S. is trying to move all the valuable assets towards Guaidó to finance the next phased of its 'regime change' plan. Bondholders of Citgo will likely contest these impoundments and transfers of assets in court. There the argument Abrams made is not going to be a winning one.

The first round of the U.S. 'regime change' change attempt in Venezuela failed but it is far from over. The State Department alone foresees to spend $500 million more on it. The CIA and the Pentagon will have made much larger budget requests even while an invasion of Venezuela continues to be unlikely.

In preparation of the 'humanitarian aid' stunt the U.S. had asked Brazil to use military force to bring in the 'aid' into Venezuela and to allow a U.S. presence at the border. The far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil supported that but the military of Brazil, which holds significant power in the cabinet, vetoed it (in Portuguese). Bosonaro is currently in Washington to meet cia logoPresident Trump. He also made an unusual visit to the CIA headquarter likely to review plans for future operations in Venezuela.

That a Brazilian President visits the CIA, the agency responsible for violent coups and brutal dictatorships in Latin American is disgusting. Many people in Brazil will dislike it. Supporting a CIA coup in a neighboring country is worse. It’s hard to sink any lower.

March 16

Strategic Culture Foundation via Southfront, Opinion: Rubio’s Gloating Betrays US Sabotage in Venezuela Power Blitz, Finian Cunningham, March 16, 2019. US imperialists are so desperate in their regime-change predations over Venezuela, they seem to have a problem controlling their drooling mouths. The latest orgy of American gloating was triggered by the massive power outages to have hit Venezuela. No sooner had the South American country been blacked out from its power grid collapsing, senior US officials were crowing with perverse relish.

marco rubio official.jpg SmallRepublican Senator Marco Rubio (right) – who has become a point man for the Trump administration in its regime-change campaign in Venezuela – was a little too celebratory. Within minutes of the nationwide power outage last Thursday, Rubio was having verbal orgasms about the “long-term economic damage”… “in the blink of an eye.” But it was his disclosure concerning the precise damage in the power grid that has led the Venezuelan government to accuse the US of carrying out a sabotage.

venezuela flag waving customInformation Minister Jorge Rodriguez noted how Rubio, in his tweeted comments “three minutes” after the power outage, mentioned failure of “back-up generators” in Venezuela’s main hydroelectric plant, known as the Guri Dam, located in Bolivar State. The dam supplies some 80 per cent of the Venezuelan population of 31 million with its electricity consumption.

Rodriguez mockingly ascribed “mystic skills” to Rubio because the Florida Republican senator appeared to know the precise nature of the power failure even before the Venezuelan authorities had determined it.

The Venezuelan government has since claimed that the failure in the electric grid was caused by a cyber attack on the computer system controlling the Guri Dam turbines. Caracas said it will present proof of its claims to the United Nations.

Apart from Rubio’s apparent insider information, there are several other indicators that Venezuela’s latest turmoil from power blackout was indeed caused by US sabotage, and specifically a cyber attack.

Furthermore, US officials like President Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton as well as “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams have been warning that Washington is seeking new ways to pile pressure on Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro to stand down.

The immediate reaction by Washington officials and the US-backed political opposition in Venezuela was to blame the Maduro government for the power disorder. The failure was flagged up as a sign of “incompetence” and “mismanagement” of the oil-rich country by the socialist juan guaidóadministration.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido (right), who has declared himself the rightful president with Washington’s blessing, conveyed the logic of blackmail when he declared, “the lights will come back on when usurper Maduro is gone.”

mike pompeo portraitUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) also weighed in with repulsive gloating within hours of Venezuela’s power crisis. Pompeo tweeted: “No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro.”

The delight openly displayed by Washington officials in regard to aggression against Venezuela has broken new ground in terms of the brazenness of US imperialism.

Only a few weeks ago, Bolton announced that the objective for seeking regime change in Venezuela against the elected President Nicolas Maduro was for US corporations to seize the South American state’s vast oil wealth – reckoned to be the largest known reserves on the planet, far exceeding those of Saudi Arabia.

March 12

Grayzone via Consortium News, US Regime Change Blueprint Proposed Venezuelan Electricity Blackouts as ‘Watershed Event,’ max blumenthal screenshot rt americaVenezuelan Crisis, Max Blumenthal, right, March 12, 2019. The group that trained Juan Guaidó and his allies laid out plans for galvanizing public unrest in a 2010 memo, Max Blumenthal reports for Grayzone.

A September 2010 memo by a U.S.-funded soft power organization that helped train Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaidó and his allies identifies the potential collapse of the country’s electrical sector as “a watershed event” that “would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate.”

The memo has special relevance today as Guaidó moves to exploit nationwide blackouts caused by a major failure at the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant at Guri dam – a crisis that Venezuela’s government blames on U.S. sabotage.

venezuela flag waving customIt was authored by Srdja Popovic of the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), a Belgrade-based “democracy promotion” organization funded by the U.S. that has trained thousands of U.S.-aligned youth activists in countries where the West seeks regime change.

This group reportedly hosted Guaidó (shown below at left) and the key leaders of his Popular Will party for a series of training sessions, fashioning them into a “Generation 2007” determined to foment resistance to then-President Hugo Chavez and sabotage his plans to implement “21st century socialism” in Venezuela.

In the 2010 memo, published by WikiLeaks, CANVAS’s Popovic declared, “A key to Chavez’s current weakness is the decline in the electricity sector.” Popovic explicitly identified the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant as a friction point, emphasizing that “water levels at the Guri dam are dropping, and Chavez has been unable to reduce consumption sufficiently to compensate for the deteriorating industry.”

juan guaidóSpeculating on a “grave possibility that some 70 percent of the country’s electricity grid could go dark as soon as April 2010,” the CANVAS leader stated that “an opposition group would be best served to take advantage of the situation and spin it against Chavez and towards their needs.”

Flash forward to March 2019, and the scenario outlined by Popovic is playing out almost exactly as he had imagined.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. pulling out remaining diplomats from Venezuela amid deteriorating conditions, Mary Beth Sheridan and Anthony Faiola, March 12, 2019. The United States will withdraw its remaining diplomatic personnel from Venezuela this week, authorities said Tuesday, intensifying a rupture in relations as the socialist South American country plunges further into chaos.

The move comes as Venezuelan society appears to be unraveling amid a nationwide blackout and critical water shortages that have worsened already dire conditions. Some fear the oil-rich country could become a failed state.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) said in statement late Monday that the remaining U.S. diplomatic personnel were being pulled mike pompeo portraitout. “This decision reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on U.S. policy,” he said.

But Venezuelan authorities said that they had informed the U.S. charge d’affaires in the country, Jimmy Story, on Monday that the government was cutting off diplomatic privileges. Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said Tuesday that the decision reflected the “risk to national peace posed by allowing the U.S. personnel to stay in Venezuelan territory.”

Fears of a Libya-style collapse in Venezuela are growing, a threat that has raised the specter of the 2012 assault on the American compound in Benghazi that resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens.

March 10

ny times logoNew York Times, Footage Contradicts U.S. Claim That Maduro Burned Aid Convoy, Nicholas Casey, Christoph Koettl and Deborah Acosta, March 10, 2019. Unpublished footage obtained by The Times and previously released tapes allowed for a nicolas maduro customreconstruction of the incident. It suggests that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an antigovernment protester was the most likely trigger for the blaze.

The narrative seemed to fit Venezuela’s authoritarian rule: Security forces, on the order of President Nicolás Maduro, right, had torched a convoy of humanitarian aid as millions in his country were suffering from illness and hunger.

mike pence oVice President Mike Pence, left, wrote that “the tyrant in Caracas danced” as his henchmen “burned food & medicine.” The State Department released a video saying Mr. Maduro had ordered the trucks burned. And Venezuela’s opposition held up the images of the burning aid, reproduced on dozens of news sites and television screens throughout Latin America, as evidence of Mr. Maduro’s cruelty.

But there is a problem: The opposition itself, not Mr. Maduro’s men, appears to have set the cargo alight accidentally.

March 9

venezuela flag waving customMoon of Alabama, Opinion: Venezuela - Three Total Blackouts In Three Days - Government Presumes U.S. Cyberattack, b, March 9, 2019. Venezuela currently experiences multiple total outages of its electricity network. It is quite possible or even likely that the U.S. is causing these incidents. But it is not certain.

The blackout affected 18 out of 23 states in Venezuela with some 25 million people. It took 24 hours for some power to come back. It would have taken another day or two for the network to again reach full capacity. But today another total outage happened.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Nicolas Maduro has been able to stay in power as Venezuela crumbles, Mary Beth Sheridan​, March 9, 2019. As demonstrators and security again clash in the streets, his popularity slumps, his nation's economy is collapsing, and dozens of countries no longer recognize him as president. But he has the military on his side.

March 5

Justice Integrity Project, U.S. Mainstream Media Propagandize Venezuelan Rebellion, Andrew Kreig, March 5, 2019. News coverage of current political strife in Venezuela serves as a fresh reminder that U.S. mainstream newspapers and broadcasters too often deliver remarkably biased “news” reports on sensitive global topics.

The extreme bias in U.S. reports about Venezuela frequently appears also in coverage of such other topics as Syria, Palestine and Russia – regardless of repeated reassurances to audiences by the relevant outlets that they are committed to professional standards of fairness, accuracy and unbiased coverage.

Clearly, that’s not the case on certain topics.

The corporate media — including the prestigious newspaper outlets like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post — consistently portray leaders of Venezuela, Syria and Russia as bloodthirsty dictators with no semblance of popular appeal. That's despite independent evidence that they have won elections (unlike some tyrants counted as strong U.S. allies) and probably could continue to do so in fair elections, according to independent popularity polls and other evidence.

March 1

Strategic Culture Foundation, Military Intervention and Mercenaries, Inc. (MIAMI), Wayne Madsen (left, syndicated columnist, author of 16 books and former Navy intelligence officer), March 1, 2019. The city of Miami, Florida may have started out as a retirement mecca for winter-worn pensioners from northern climes. However, after the beginning of the Cold War and US military and Central Intelligence Agency intervention in Guatemala, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Guyana, the Bahamas, and other Western Hemisphere nations, Miami became a refuge for exiled wealthy businessmen escaping populist revolutions and elections in South and Central America and spies. The retirement and vacation capital of the United States quickly became the “Tropical Casablanca.”

Now home to thousands of limited liability corporations linked to the CIA, as well as private military contractors, sketchy airlines flying from remote Florida airports, the interventionist US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), and exiled oligarchs running destabilization operations in their native countries, Miami – or MIAMI, “Military Intervention and Mercenaries, Inc.” – serves as the nexus for current Trump administration “regime change” efforts.

The latest example of Miami being a hive of CIA operatives came after five Americans, one Serbian permanent resident of the United States, and another Serbian national, were arrested by the Haitian National Police in Port-au-Prince with weapons, advanced communications devices, drones, and other military hardware amid anti-government protests linked to CIA regime change operations.

The government of Haitian President Jovenel Moise and Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant is under US pressure to sever its diplomatic and financial links with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who the Trump administration is attempting to replace with Juan Guaido, a CIA agent-of-influence and US puppet.

The Americans and Serbs were subsequently transferred to Miami on the authorization of Haitian Justice Minister Jean Roody Aly, who was assured by the Donald Trump administration that the seven men would be criminally tried by the United States. Once in Miami, the US Attorney’s Office in Miami, which takes its orders from the CIA-friendly Attorney General, William Barr, declined prosecution of the men but “debriefed” them, a term usually applied to intelligence agents who are caught and expelled by foreign authorities.

The decision by the Haitian administration to release the seven men has resulted in a political firestorm in Port-au-Prince, with the Haitian Senate demanding answers about the role Moise played in ordering the Central Bureau of the Judicial Police of Haiti to release the individuals, described by Prime Minister Céant as “mercenaries” and “terrorists.”

UN logo

Southfront, US-Proclaimed ‘Venezuelan President’ Announces Another Humanitarian Aid Provocation, Staff report, March 1, 2019. On February 28th, the rival resolutions on Venezuela by US and Russia were both blocked at the United Nations Security Council. The US proposal received the necessary 9 votes but was vetoed by Russia, China and South Africa.

venezuela flag waving customThe US draft resolution called for the holding of new elections and a recognition of self-proclaimed interim President Guaidó. Nine voted in favour (Germany, Poland, Peru, US, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Kuwait), three against (Russia, China, South Africa) and there were three abstentions (Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire).

The Russian draft received 4 votes in favor – from Russia, China, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea. The resolution called for a dialogue between the Government and the opposition, in line with the Montevideo mechanism – a forum for talks, launched by Mexico and Uruguay earlier this February. It received 7 votes against (Germany, Poland, Peru, US, United Kingdom, France, Belgium) and 4 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kuwait).

Separately, in statements posted by TeleSUR’s Madelein Garcia, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez claims that the Venezuelan military has been battling “unprecedented aggression by the fiercest empire of the US.” He also claimed that “everything is supported by lying, manipulation” and is a “perverse aggression to break the institutionality and seize power.”

He also said that in total 109 National Guard members have defected and they were promised $20,000 for crossing the border and joining the opposition’s side.

juan guaido nicolas maduro

Washington Babylon, First Person Report: Caracas Chronicles, Part I of an Ongoing Series, Ken Silverstein, March 1, 2019. I just got back from Venezuela and I’ll be writing a lot about the country next week. Virtually everything you read or see about it in the U.S. media is a lie. And to be clear, I don’t mean skewed or misleading or incomplete, I mean a lie.

For example, people in Venezuela are not starving — at least very few are, if any — nor is the country a dictatorship. But that’s exactly what you would believe from reading the likes of the atrocious Hannah Dreier, who failed upward from the Associated Press to ProPublica, that beacon of investigative reporting, and who has been a chief propagandist for the rancid old oligarchy.

I was all over the barrios of Caracas, especially San Augustin.

In another, La Vega, I had a meal at the home of a resident. She cooked me blood sausage, Pasta Bolognese and rice and chicken liver.

People live humbly but they have food — especially because the government distributes a monthly food package, for the equivalent of a few pennies — to everyone who needs it and even some who don’t. Furthermore, food — fruits, vegetable, meat, bread, for example — is available everywhere. You have to be a blind liar like Dreier to miss it since street markets overflow with abundance. It’s not cheap but it’s available.

Furthermore, President Nicolas Maduro (above at right), who I personally dislike, is corrupt and repressive, but he is not a dictator. There are anti-government slogans painted all over Caracas and people spoke openly about wanting him gone, from the barrios to barbershops to markets. I had an intense argument with many people close to the government while I was in Venezuela, yet continued to wander the streets and dive bars of the city until the wee hours. No one, neither government security forces nor crack heads, of which there are a few, bothered me.

Maduro does not appear to be widely liked, but he is certainly more popular than the reviled and mocked Juan Guiado (above at left), President Donald Trump’s toy poodle. This clown was formerly an electronics trafficker, for Fuck’s sake. (Note: I got the picture below from a security guard who used to work in the area where Guiado street hustled, before he became the Trump administration’s full time brothel whore.)