On August 14,
2004, Venezuelan voters will decide on a referendum, which has the
utmost world historic and strategic significance.
What is at stake is nothing less than the future of the energy world,
the relations between the US and Latin America (particularly Cuba),
and the political and socio-economic fate of millions of Venezuela's
urban and rural poor. If Chavez is defeated and if the Right takes
power, it will privatize the state petroleum and gas company, selling
it to US multinationals, withdraw from OPEC, raise its production
and exports to the US, thus lowering Venezuelan revenues by half
Internally the popular health programs in the urban "ranchos" will
end along with the literary campaign and public housing for the
poor. The agrarian reform will be reversed and about 500,000 land
reform recipients (100,000 families) will be turned off the land.
This will be accomplished through extensive and intensive state
bloodletting, jailing and extrajudicial assassination, and intense
repression of pro-Chavez neighborhoods, trade unions and social
movements. The apparently "democratic" referendum will have profoundly
authoritarian, colonial and socially regressive results if the opposition
of Venezuela's oil will heighten US control over world oil,
decrease its dependence on the Mid East, especially with high
intensity conflict in Iraq now, Saudi Arabia and Iran in the
an anti-Chavez outcome will tighten the grip of US and Europe on
Latin America's oil resources; the denationalization of the petroleum
industry in the post-Chavez period will follow in the footsteps
of Lula's privatization of Petrobras in Brazil, Gutierrez' privatization
in Ecuador and the continuity of private foreign ownership in Argentina,
Bolivia and Peru. Control of Venezuela's oil will heighten US control
over world oil, decrease its dependence on the Mid East, especially
with high intensity conflict in Iraq now, Saudi Arabia and Iran
in the future.
Equally important the US will eliminate the strongest opponent of
ALCA - the free trade treaty - and pave the way for direct US control
over the rules and regulations for trade and investment in the hemisphere.
Strategically the US takeover of Venezuelan oil will have grave
consequences on the Cuban economy as Washington will abruptly end
exports and its client regime will likely break relations. Direct
colonial control over Iraq and Venezuela, two of the top suppliers
of oil, will increase US global power over its competitors, while
serving as an "object lesson" to potential opposition regimes.
in Venezuela emerges as a major clash between the US and OPEC, US
imperialism and Latin American nationalists, neo-liberalism and
social nationalism, between US-backed authoritarian ruling elites
and endogenous socially conscious urban workers, unemployed, small
business people, landless rural workers and small peasants. These
historical confrontations find their specific focus in the referendum.
The events leading up to the referendum speak eloquently of the
crass US intervention, the violent tactics of the elites, the rule
or ruin strategy of the opposition, the unbridled totalitarian propaganda
of the privately owned mass media. The opposition has backed a violent
military coup (which was defeated); it organized a bosses' lockout
that almost destroyed the economy (which ended in defeat); it organized
a contingent of over 130 Colombian military and paramilitary forces
with the aid of active Venezuelan officers to sow violence - that
was aborted by Venezuelan intelligence.
Equally ominous, in the campaign to secure signatures for the referendum,
fraudulent identity cards were massively produced and distributed,
tens of thousands of deceased, incapacitated and coerced had their
signatures forged and thousands of signatures were written by a
single hand. Opposition corruption and fraud was rife but the official
international observers urged the Chavez government to accept them
and proceed to the referendum. More ominously among the key voices
that made their presence felt were the ubiquitous Jimmy Carter and
Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch.
HISTORY OF JAMES CARTER
The two faces
of imperial power include the iron fist military intervention and
the "soft sell" of electoral frauds, intimidating diplomacy and
democratic blackmail. Jimmy Carter is "the quiet American" of Graham
Greene fame, who legitimates voter fraud, blesses corrupt elections,
certifies murderous rulers, encourages elections, in which the opposition
is funded by the US state and semi-public foundations, and the incumbent
progressive regime suffers repeated violent disruption of the economy.
simple and humane façade, Carter has a strategy to reverse
progressive regimes and undermine insurgent democrats. Carter and
his "team" from his Center probe and locate weaknesses among insecure
democrats, particularly those under threat by US-backed opponents
and thus vulnerable to Carter's appeals to be "pragmatic" and "realistic"
- meaning his barely disguised arguments to accept fraudulent electoral
results and gross US electoral intervention.
has deliberately and systematically worked over the past quarter
of a century to undermine progressive regimes and candidates
and promote their pro-imperialist opponents.
Carter is a
quiet master in mixing democratic rhetoric with manipulation of
susceptible democrats who think he shares their democratic politics.
The international mass media feature his self-promoted overseas
trips to conflictual countries and, above all, his phony "human
rights" record. The mass media provide Carter with the appearance
of democratic credentials.
In fact, his
frequent political interventions have been dedicated to sustaining
dictators, legitimizing fraudulent elections and pressuring popular
democratic candidates to capitulate before US-backed opponents.
Carter has deliberately and systematically worked over the past
quarter of a century to undermine progressive regimes and candidates
and promote their pro-imperialist opponents.
Today in Venezuela,
faced with a referendum of dubious validity, backed by the most
rancid reactionaries, Carter once again poses as a "neutral monitor"
while working with the anti-Chavez opposition to first legitimate
the referendum then to provide opportunities for its favorable outcome.
Carter has said absolutely nothing about strenuous US funding of
the opposition - a blatant violation of any democratic, electoral
process - activities which would be felonious in his own country,
He calls for "fair reporting" by the hysterically anti-Chavez mass
media, knowing full well that, with a wink of his eye, they have
free rein to provide exclusively favorable coverage of the opposition
and uniformly negative disinformation about Chavez. In exchange
Carter secured from Chavez a promise to avoid compulsory national
chain broadcasts. Carter refuses to recognize that the electoral
playing field is not equal, yet under the guise of "free press"
he defends the right of the media oligarchs to voice venomous lies,
denying the electorate the right to hear both sides.
Carter refuses to recognize the intimidating effects of US military
maneuvers in the Caribbean, the belligerent statements of undersecretary
of state of Latin American Affairs Noriega against Chavez and the
hyperactivity of the US Ambassador Shapiro in support of the anti-Chavez
forces. Above all Carter ignores the plots, fraudulent practices
and paramilitary activities leading up to and beyond the referendum.
Focusing on enforcing the Government's compliance with electoral
procedures and ignoring the highly prejudicial context of the election,
Carter is fulfilling his role of a "set-up man" for either an electoral
victory of the opposition or in the event of a defeat, for a post-election
pretext for violent coup. Carter's history provides an extremely
useful context for substantiating these observations and affirmation.
A STOLEN ELECTION: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 1990
In 1993, I
spent several hours interviewing Juan Bosch, the Dominican Republic's
most notable democratic political leader. He told me that in the
aftermath of the presidential elections of 1990, which he legally
won, his opponent, the rightist, pro-US Juan Balaguer, engaged in
massive theft, witnessed by poll watchers. Jimmy Carter headed the
mission "monitoring" the election.
Bosch presented Carter with a wealth of documents and testimony,
witnesses and photos of Balaguer supporters dumping ballots in the
river. Carter acknowledged the corruption and fraud, but urged Bosch
to accept the results "to avoid a civil war". Bosch accused Carter
of covering up to gain a US client. He led a march of 500,000 in
protest. Carter certified Balaguer as the product of a "free election"
and left. Balaguer proceeded to repress, pillage and privatize basic
CARTER THE SMILING BLACKMAILER
In 1990, Bertrand
Aristide, a very popular former priest, was leading in the polls
with over 70 per cent against a US-backed former World Bank functionary,
Marc Bazin, with barely 15 per cent of popular support. Jimmy Carter,
the self-styled neutral electoral monitor, set up a meeting with
Aristide in which he demanded that Aristide withdraw from the elections
in favor of the unpopular US candidate in order to avoid a "bloodbath".
Carter did everything in his power to frighten Aristide and deny
the populace its right to choose its president.
Carter must have known in advance from his contacts with President
Bush (Senior) that Washington was intent on preventing Haiti from
taking an independent road. Eight months after Aristide's accession
to the Presidency, a coup, backed by the US, took place. Aristide
was ousted and replaced and Carter's preferred candidate, Marc Bazin,
was appointed Prime Minister, backed by a paramilitary terrorist
group called FRAPH that instituted a "bloodbath" killing more than
4,000 Haitians. Carter and Bush, the quiet diplomat and the President
with the iron fist, worked in tandem, when the first failed, the
latter stepped in.
GENERAL CEDRAS - SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER 1991-94
out of the way, the US-backed regime proceeded to massacre thousands
of Haitian supporters of the former elected President. The key member
of the governing junta was General Cedras. With thousands of Haitians
fleeing his brutal regime and heading for Florida, Jimmy Carter
spoke in defense of the bloody General Cedras, "I believe and trust
in General Cedras." Later Carter gushed, "I believe he would be
a worthy Sunday school teacher."
Carter later certified the respectability of the disreputable dictator
on his way to exile - after emptying the treasury. President Clinton
convoked a meeting with Aristide in Washington. A Congressional
aide privy to the meeting told me that Clinton's aide handed Aristide
a neo-liberal program and list of cabinet ministers and told him
his return to Haiti was contingent on accepting Washington's dictates.
After many hours of psychological pressure, threats and arguments,
Aristide capitulated. Clinton allowed him to return. Carter welcomed
the return of "democracy" -US style.
Carter Presidency (and not Reagan) was responsible for the
organization, financing, training of the Islamic uprising
and the terror campaign which followed. Zbig Brzesinski later
wrote of the US-Afghanistan campaign as one of the high points
in US Cold War diplomacy - it provoked Soviet intervention
on behalf of the secular Afghan ally.
Ten years later
when Aristide refused to comply with threats from the US to privatize
public utilities and break relations with Cuba (which was providing
hundreds of doctors and nurses for Haiti's public health system),
the US sponsored a paramilitary attack, followed by a US invasion.
Aristide, the elected President, was kidnapped by US forces and
flown - virtually blindfolded - to the Central African Republic.
Carter did not protest the gross US intervention but questioned
Aristide's election. Carter's criticism of Aristide (at a time when
Aristide was a prisoner in the Central African Republic) provided
a fig leaf of legitimacy for the US invasion, kidnapping, occupation
and establishment of a murderous puppet regime. The US intervention
in Haiti was seen in Washington as a "dress rehearsal" for an invasion
1979: PART I - CARTER AND SOMOZA
In June 1978,
President Jimmy Carter sent a private letter to the Nicaraguan dictator
Anastasio Somoza lauding Somoza for the "human rights initiatives"
while he criticized Somoza publicly. Carter had made "human rights"
a centerpiece of his interventionist propaganda (Morris Morley,
Washington, Somoza and the Sandinistas, 1994, pp 115-116). This
two-faced policy occurred during one of the bloodiest periods of
Somoza's rule when he was bombing cities sympathetic to the revolution.
Carter's rhetorical declaration of concern for human rights was
for public consumption, his private assurances to Somoza encouraged
the dictator to continue his scorched earth policy.
MAY 1979: PART II - CARTER PROPOSES INTERVENTION
In June 1993
the Foreign Minister under the late Panamanian President Torrejos
told me of President Carter's briefest regional meeting. It took
place in May 1979, less than two months before Somoza was overthrown.
Carter convened a meeting of foreign ministers of several Latin
American countries who were opposed to Somoza's dictatorship. President
Carter entered and immediately tabled a proposal to form an "Inter-American
Peace Force", a military force of US and Latin American troops to
invade Nicaragua to "end the conflict" and support a diverse coalition.
The purpose, according to the former Panamanian minister present,
was to prevent a Sandinista victory, preserving Somoza's National
Guard and replace Somoza with a pro-US conservative civilian junta.
Carter's proposal was rejected unanimously as unwarranted US intervention.
Carter in a pique ended the meeting abruptly. Carter's attempt to
throttle a popular revolution to preserve the Somocista state and
US dominance clearly belied his pretensions of being a "human rights"
President. His legacy of using "Human Rights" to project imperial
military power became standard operating procedure for Reagon, Clinton
and both Bush presidencies.
CARTER FINANCES THE INVASION OF ISLAMIC TERRORISTS
In the late
'70s Afghanistan was ruled by a nationalist secular regime allied
with the Soviet Union. The regime promoted gender equality, free
universal education for women and men, agrarian reform including
the redistribution of feudal estates to poor peasants, the separation
of religion and the state and adopted an independent foreign policy
with a Soviet tilt.
Beginning at least as early as 1979, the US, Pakistan and Saudi
Arabia orchestrated a massive international recruiting campaign
of Islamic fundamentalists to engage in a "Jihad" against the "atheistic
communist regime." Tens of thousands were recruited, armed by the
US, financed by Saudis Arabia and trained by the CIA and Pakistani
Intelligence. Pakistan opened its frontiers to the flood of armed
invaders. Internally the displaced Mullahs, horrified by the equality
and education of women, not to speak of the expropriation of their
huge land holdings, joined the Jihad en masse.
Presidency (and not Reagan) was responsible for the organization,
financing, training of the Islamic uprising and the terror campaign
which followed. Zbig Brzesinski later wrote of the US-Afghanistan
campaign as one of the high points in US Cold War diplomacy - it
provoked Soviet intervention on behalf of the secular Afghan ally.
Even when confronted with the consequences of the total devastation
of Afghanistan, the rise of the Taliban and Al Queda and 9/11, Carter's
former National Security Adviser, Brzesinski, replied that these
were marginal costs in comparison with a war which successfully
hastened the fall of the Soviet Union. President Carter's intervention
in Afghanistan initiated the Second Cold War, which was pursued
with even greater intensity by Reagan.
Carter backed a series of surrogate wars in Angola, Mozambique,
Central American, the Caribbean and elsewhere. Carter was clearly
an advocate and practitioner of the worst kind of imperial intervention
and a master of public relations: he was an early practitioner of
"Humanitarian Imperialism" - humane in rhetoric and brutally imperialist
FACTOR: VENEZUELA 2002-2004
at no time does Jimmy Carter, the kindly-appearing human rights
rhetorician, pose a more dangerous threat to democratic freedoms
and national independence than he does today in Venezuela.
With the ardent backing of the violence-prone opposition, Carter
has frequently intervened in Venezuelan politics, presenting himself
as a neutral mediator. At every step of the way Carter has moved
to legitimate an opposition engaged in coups, uprisings, paramilitary
terrorists and bosses lockouts devastating the economy. Carter convinced
President Chavez to "reconcile" with the elite leaders and supporters
of a violent coup which briefly overthrew his elected government.
He continually pressured the elected President to negotiate and
"share power" with an opposition even after he had won six national
elections. Carter refused to recognize Chavez' electoral victories
and constitutional mandates - instead he supported the opposition's
demand for new unscheduled elections and then promoted the "referendum".
Carter endorsed the referendum results pronounced by the opposition
- even though there were gross electoral violations. He then exercised
pressure on the National Electoral Council to accelerate its examination
of votes - urging them to get on with the referendum. Carter never
acknowledged hundreds of thousands of instances of voter fraud (as
he refused to do in the case of Juan Bosch's stolen victory earlier)
and fraudulent identity cards. Carter was acting in Venezuela as
the "Quiet American" - one espousing high ideals while engaged in
The historical record is abundantly clear - Carter cannot be trusted
to act as a "neutral observer". He has been and is today a partisan
of US imperial interests and is not merely an "observer" but an
active, insidious partner of US clients. He continues to defend
and promote any political opposition or regime, any ruler or "coordinator"
which will defeat popular movements and progressive governments.
Carter is not
a democrat! He is a lifelong partisan of the US Empire. He is especially
dangerous as the Venezuela referendum approaches. The US is illegally
providing millions of dollars to the anti-Chavez opposition via
the National Endowment for Democracy and other "foundations". And
the Carter Institute will be there to legitimate fraud and deceit:
to question the questions for the referendum and the election if
Carter is especially likely to take advantage of some opportunist
politicos who surround Chavez and are prone to make concessions
to secure "democratic legitimacy" from the presence of this envoy
of Empire. Carter fits into the larger strategy of US-backed coups
and lockouts, paramilitary violence and support of Colombia's military
No one in the
Chavez regime intent on an honest referendum can permit this pious
hypocrite to play any role in Venezuela.
OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS MERCENARIES
The US imperial
state is mobilizing all of its organizational resources to defeat
Chavez. In addition to Carter, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the National
Endowment for Democracy and a small army of NGOs (local and international),
are active on behalf of the US-orchestrated anti-Chavez campaign.
"Human Rights" Director Vivanco is among the most blatant early
interveners: Shortly after President Chavez concurred with the National
Electoral Council decision to convoke the referendum, Vivanco announced
a "report" in which he declared that Venezuela "was suffering a
constitutional crisis that could affect its already fragile institutions".
He accused the Chavez government of "purging and taking over the
judiciary". He called for the "intervention of the US-dominated
Organization of American States".
To force the
Chavez government to conform to his declaration, Vivanco demanded
that the World Bank and IMF suspend aid directed at "modernizing"
the judicial system. Over the past three years, HRW has followed
the State Department's lead in attacking Chavez democratic credentials
- overlooking his participation (and victory) in six free electoral
contests and his generous acceptance of the dubious signatures backing
the referendum. HRW totally ignored the vast voter fraud by the
opposition, echoing the line of the opposition. HRW leaders are
rife with former US officials including its recent recruitment of
Marc Garlasco, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official, as
a senior military analyst.
a major role in demonizing Yugoslavia's President Milosovic, supported
the US invasion of the Balkans and was silent over US war crimes,
including the bombing of civilian targets, the KLA's assassination
of over 2,000 Serb civilians and the ethnic purge of 200,000 non-Albanians
During the peace negotiations between President Pastrana and the
FARC, which the US opposed and was keen on disrupting, Mr. Vivanco
and HRW issued a "report" claiming that the FARC was violating all
the terms of the peace negotiations - something no other human rights
group on the ground in Colombia claimed - in order to pressure Pastrana
to break negotiations and resume the military campaign, which he
HRW, like the Carter Center, has already intervened on the side
of the authoritarian US-backed opposition. It has smeared the independence
of the courts to pressure it to conform to the opposition, it has
rejected the democratic deliberations of the Venezuelan Congress
and its vote on judicial reform, it has openly declared the government
as illegitimate and it has already called for a US-backed intervention
via the OAS.
Watch out for
the humanitarian interventionists! Their presence is extremely dangerous
for the integrity of the electorate and Venezuelan independence.
Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University,
New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an
adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina and
is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed). He can be reached