Relying on the advice of neo-conservative war hawk John Bolton, pompous Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Iran-Contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams, Donald Trump has embarked on the containment encircling of Venezuela. Trump is engaged in a fool’s errand of relying on the support of fascist leaders of Venezuela’s neighbors to pressure Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro to turn over power to a motley collection of Wall Street puppets who want to reverse the Bolivarian socialist policies of Maduro and his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez.
The Trump administration has made Colombia, where President Ivan Duque rules with the assistance of cartel drug lords and Central Intelligence Agency-linked paramilitary units. Abrams, Trump’s “special envoy” for Venezuela, failed miserably during the 1980s in trying to bring down the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Instead of President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Abrams and his cohorts almost brought down the administration of Ronald Reagan when it was discovered that the CIA was illegally using the proceeds of arms sales to Iran to fund the anti-Sandinista Nicaraguan Contras.
Trump and his team of incompetents are reinforcing Maduro’s support within Venezuela and around the Western Hemisphere. Trump announced that Philip Goldberg, formerly the US ambassador to Bolivia, will take up the same post in Bogota, Colombia. In 2008, Goldberg was expelled from Bolivia for trying to overthrow the progressive government of President Evo Morales. Goldberg also previously served in Bogota as the coordinator of Plan Colombia, a discredited State Department program that was, in reality, a US weapons-transfer and intelligence-sharing operation for Colombian paramilitary units to commit human rights abuses against Colombia’s indigenous population, farm workers, and Afro-Caribbean people along the northern coast.
Goldberg’s modus operandi in Latin America is well known. The Bolivian government said Goldberg conspired with the opposition to foment unrest in Bolivia’s natural gas-rich provinces. Goldberg has also allowed the US embassy in La Paz and the US Peace Corps and Fulbright scholars in the country to be used for espionage purposes. Goldberg was also adept at coordinating terrorist attacks on key infrastructure components. On September 11, 2008—note the date—a gas pipeline from Bolivia to Sao Paulo, Brazil was blown up by US-supported forces. Goldberg also coordinated anti-Morales actions of the right-wing governors of Santa Cruz, Pando, Beni, and Tarija. Opposition groups funded by the United States took over government buildings in the four states. Expect Goldberg, in coordination with Duque’s government, and President Jair Bolsonaro’s neo-fascist government in Brazil to carry out similar actions targeting Venezuela.
As Trump’s coup against stumbled as badly as George W. Bush’s 2002 coup attempt against Chavez, the anti-Maduro forces began making accusations, some aimed at one another. Alejandro Ordonez, the Colombian ambassador to the Organization of American States and a far-right Catholic zealot, claimed that the Venezuelan refugees were streaming out of Venezuela to “spread socialism” as part of a “global agenda” on behalf of Maduro’s government. That resulted in the Americas director for Human Rights Watch calling Ordonez “delirious.” Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo was forced to issue a “rectification” of Ordonez’s statement, without offering a retraction. The finger pointing in Colombia was matched by that among the CIA-supported opposition forces in Venezuela.
From Brazil, Bolsonaro declared that his government would use the “limits of Itamaraty” to force Maduro from power. Itamaraty is the nickname for the Brazilian Foreign Ministry. Bolsonaro also accused Maduro of being controlled by Venezuelan generals, Cubans, and Russians. Bolsonaro also repeated groundless propaganda emanating from neo-conservative circles in the Trump administration that the Lebanese Shi’a movement, Hezbollah, had established a major presence in Venezuela.
The attempted coup against Maduro will go down in history as one of the most laughable fiascos of all time. Bolton, Abrams, Pompeo, and Vice President Mike Pence believed that by paying off a few lower-ranking Venezuelan National Guardsmen to defect to the opposition duo of Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo Lopez a massive wave would sweep Maduro from office. The National Guard defectors enticed a few thugs, freed from a prison, to toss tear gas grenades back at armored police vehicles on a Caracas highway within the same narrow news feed camera angle. CNN, Fox News, MS-NBC, BBC, Deutsche Welle, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation all fell for the Trump administration’s information warfare operation by calling 300 men, including prison convicts, tossing spent tear gas canisters a “coup.”
The 300 irregulars, some on motorbikes, were trying to storm through the fencing of the Carlota military base, located in the eastern Altamira region of Caracas. It was from within the base where Guaidó and his supporters had set up their coup headquarters and called for people to come to the base to support them.
Trump tweeted his support for the coup that never was, as well as a threat against Cuba: “If Cuban Troops and Militia do not immediately CEASE military and other operations for the purpose of causing death and destruction to the Constitution of Venezuela, a full and complete embargo, together with highest-level sanctions, will be placed on the island of Cuba . . . Hopefully, all Cuban soldiers will promptly and peacefully return to their island!”
Trump’s threat turned out to be as toothless as all of his other braggadocio-laden ultimatums.
Bolton had egg all over his face after the high-level “defections” of Maduro government officials never occurred. Bolton singled out Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, Venezuelan Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Moreno, and Commander of Presidential Guard Rafael Hernandez Dala as supporting the coup. Bolton looked more foolish than usual after the three officials all publicly announced their loyalty to Maduro.
Contrary to false information from Washington, the Venezuelan military did not support the coup attempt. TeleSur broadcast a rebuttal to the opposition’s claim that Major General Ornelas Ferreira, Chief of Staff of the FANB [Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela] had joined the coup plotters. A TeleSur reporter stated, “I just spoke with Major General Ornelas who stated that it is a disinformation campaign. The general said, ‘I am in the military headquarters with Admiral-in-Chief [Remigio] Ceballos. It is totally false. We are knee-deep with Commander-in-Chief Nicolás Maduro and we remain loyal to our country.”
Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, Samuel Moncada, said the coup was a “failed attempt to overthrow, by violence, our government.” Moncada also revealed that the US prepared for the coup by turning the US diplomatic mission in Caracas into a virtual “war embassy.” Just hours prior to the coup, Blackwater mercenary firm founder Erik Prince, who now runs the mercenary company, Reflex Responses (R2), offered to send his Spanish-speaking Latin American mercenaries—many with horrible human rights records—from Abu Dhabi to Venezuela to help the CIA-supported opposition to overthrow Maduro. Prince’s “reinforcements” never appeared.
While the coup collapsed in Altamira, thousands of Maduro supporters took to the streets around the Miraflores presidential palace in downtown Caracas. No televised shots of these crowds made it onto CNN, MS-NBC, Fox, or the BBC.
Lopez and his family were forced to seek asylum, first in the Chilean embassy and then in the Spanish embassy. A couple of dozen defecting National Guardsmen were given asylum in the Brazilian embassy. Later, some of the National Guardsmen said they were misled by their commanding officer into joining Guaidó at the Carlota base.
For Bolton, Abrams, and the CIA to have chosen May 1—the international holiday of socialist and labor solidarity—to launch a coup against the Bolivarian socialist government of Venezuela was truly an insane decision. After the failure of the coup against Maduro, Trump tweeted that “all options” were on the table as far as forcing Maduro to resign was concerned. Ironically, there were more calls in Washington for Trump and his embattled Attorney General to resign than there were for Maduro to step down.
This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).