In mid February 2015 the Venezuelan authorities discovered and foiled a plot by rogue elements of the air force to stage a coup against the government that would start by the bombing of a series of strategic targets in Caracas with a Super Tucano counter-insurgency plane piloted by one José Antich Zapata. The planned targets included the Telesur building, the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly, and the Defence Ministry. Just 24 hours before the planned coup, the Mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, and Leopoldo López, in jail for his part in orchestrating last year’s months of street violence designed to overthrow the government that led to 43 deaths, along with one Maria Corina Machado, had signed and circulated a call for a ‘National Transition Agreement’ and regime change.
Following the failed coup a number of military personnel and civilians suspected of having been involved were arrested. President Maduro has said that those involved were being paid in US dollars and one of the suspects (now believed to have been the pilot Zapata) had been granted a visa to enter the United States in the event of the plot failing. None of this drew much attention from the bourgeois media until Ledezma himself was arrested in connection with the coup attempt following further investigations, whereupon a chorus of ‘unfair victimisation of a political opponent of the regime’ started up all over the globe.
It appears that the plan for the coup involved various stages. The first was the economic assault on the country that various capitalist enterprises have been found to have been involved in, creating through hoarding artificial shortages of essentials in order to promote discontent with the government . For some months, the government has been taking action against cases of deliberate economic sabotage, such as proceedings taken against several managers at the Farmatodo chain who had been deliberately understaffing their stores in order to create massive queues. We now know that such queues were designed to be manipulated by provocateurs to incite riots, though in fact this tactic failed. In January it was disclosed that the Herrera Corporation had been discovered hiding away 88 tons of corn flour, 90,000 pounds of rice, over 1.4 disposable nappies, 800,000 pounds of detergent, in addition to soap, milk, razors and other goods. At the time it was believed that they were profiteering, intending to sell the goods at a higher price in Colombia, but in the light of what has recently been discovered, their motives may have been even more sinister. In addition executives of the national chain Dia a Dia have been detained for investigation because they declared a lack of inventory at a time when their warehouses were stashed full.
The second stage was raising an international hue and cry about the ‘humanitarian’ crisis and ‘human rights abuses’ being committed by those seeking to control ‘popular discontent’. The imperialist press is always on board to promote the propaganda of this kind that favours US imperialist interests. Leopoldo López is described as a ‘political prisoner’, in complete disregard of the lethal crimes he has committed, while the difficulties caused by the bourgeoisie’s acts of economic sabotage are both greatly exaggerated and, of course, attributed to ‘economic mismanagement’ on the part of the government. Every government counter-measure is an abuse of human rights. All information coming from the government is denounced as untruthful and/or self-serving. Maduro’s government has even been described as one of the 20 most corrupt in the world, as well as being engaged – of course! – in drug running. And all this by ‘respectable’ bourgeois newspapers such as The Independent, The New York Times and The Telegraph. But the US government was also directly involved in imposing on 18 December 2014 unilateral sanctions against Venezuela in the form of visa denial to certain government officials on the excuse of ‘human rights abuses’ by the Venezuelan government – a measure that was of course trumpeted loudly from every possible platform. And incidentally, as part of its 2016 U.S. Federal Budget proposal, the U.S. government proposes to spend US$5.5 million in funding civil society institutions and Venezuelan opposition groups, an increase of more than US$1 million over its 2015 budget for this purpose.
At the same time, in preparation for the coup, officials were being wooed with a view to their turning on the government at the time of the coup.
Finally the military coup itself, which we now know was intended to take place on 12 February, the anniversary of the start of last year’s violent opposition-led demonstrations against the government, would install the ‘transitional programme’ that was in the event announced by Ledezma and López on 11 February. Thierry Meyssen claims on his website voltairenet.com that the putschists proposed to declare Maria Corina Machado, a well-known opposition figure and a signatory of the ‘National Transition Agreement’, president. Her organisation, Súmate, mounted a recall referendum against Hugo Chávez and lost, despite ample funding from the National Endowment for Democracy and other imperialist institutions, and she has been warmly received in Washington by George W Bush. Meyssen also claims that ” Military action was overseen by General Thomas W. Geary, from SOUTHCOM in Miami, and Rebecca Chavez, from the Pentagon, and outsourced to a private army, Academi (formerly Blackwater); a company now administered by Admiral Bobby R. Inman (former head of the NSA) and John Ashcroft (the former Attorney General of the Bush administration). A Super Tucano, registered N314TG, purchased by the Virginia firm in 2008 to assassinate Raul Reyes, the No. 2 man in the Colombian FARC, was to be disguised as an airplane of the Venezuelan army.” If true, it would appear that the plane to be used for the bombing of Caracas would not even have belonged to the Venezuelan air force but would have had to be supplied from abroad.
Ledezma has now been indicted on charges of conspiracy against the Venezuelan government and plotting an American-backed coup.
The US government claims that it is ridiculous to implicate it in what it claims is a fictional coup attempt, yet it can hardly conceal the fact that it has been intimately involved in trying to demonise the Venezuelan government in order to soften public opinion in favour of some right-wing alternative that would ‘address Venezuela’s economic problems’ in favour of imperialism and at the expense of the poor by such measures as reprivatizing Venezuela’s oil industry so that so much of its profit did not end up either in providing better living standards for the poor or in helping out Venezuela’s Caribbean neighbours – especially Cuba.
Hence the US has been involved in imposing visa sanctions on Venezuelan government officials because of their country’s alleged ‘human rights abuses’.
It is clear, however, that Venezuela’s major ‘economic problem’ is that the production and distribution of the necessaries of life are still in the hands of the bourgeoisie whose thirst for profit will always come into irreconcilable conflict with the needs of the Venezuelan people. In the circumstances the Venezuelan bourgeoisie sees US imperialism as its protector and would be more than willing to subject the country to the latter’s political and economic subjugation in the hope of maximising their own profits. The people of Venezuela need to have not just a government which is on their side, which they have, but also an economic system that is capable of catering to their needs, which is in their hands and not in the hands of the enemy class. That is the real struggle ahead.