August 12, 2004

The Bolivarian Revolution

There's a bizarre rumor going 'round that the CIA is looking to overthrow Hugo Ch�vez if he beats the recall referendum scheduled for this weekend in Venezuela.

The always entertaining dsquared over at Crooked Timber sums it up as follows:

  • The CIA undersecretary for southern hemisphere affairs, William Spencer, has convened a conference for CIA country heads in Santiago to discuss what they are going to do about Hugo Chavez
  • The CIA apparently regards it as a foregone conclusion that Chavez will win his recall referendum on Sunday (note: I think it�s actually pretty close [that's dsquared, not me- I've sort of tuned out the situation in .ve -ed])
  • The CIA believe that if Chavez wins, he will overthrow the governments of Bolivia and Colombia, then use the multiple corruption scadals in Peru as an excuse to invade and remove the current government
  • The CIA believe that Chavez� ultimate plan is to use Venezuela and Peru as twin centres of a revolution to create a Latin American socialist superstate.
  • In order to forestall this �domino effect�, the CIA is seriously thinking about using �military and financial pressure� to remove Chavez
  • He readily admits that this (far-fetched) to-do list is based on second hand accounts of a story that appeared in Spain's El Mundo, conveniently only available on a subscription basis.

    So far no one has done any independent reporting on it: whether they be chavista, anti-chavista, or nominally neutral, all the press on Spencer's trip refers back to the El Mundo article.

    The article itself (which I found via Factiva- hat tip to the token readers out there who are minions of the Dow Jones Media Empire) is a fiesta of speculation: there is only one source cited, and he's an anonymous "functionary" at the Embassy in Santiago.

    And, like the game of telephone that is the internet, several facts have been distorted, substituted, or just lost in translation as they came down the pipe: turns out Spencer is supposed to be meeting with the security heads of regional governments, not CIA station chiefs. And the dire scenarios sketched out above are contingency plans based on rumors circulating in the anti-Ch�vez camp.

    Finally, the one point that is sourced (however sketchily), doesn't exactly point towards g-men jumping out of black helicopters:

    De acuerdo con un alto funcionario de la legaci�n norteamericana en Santiago, a la reuni�n que ha convocado Spencer asistir�an representantes de Colombia, Ecuador, Brasil y Per˙. En la capital chilena se elaborar�a un plan financiado por el Departamento de Tesoro y con el apoyo del Pent�gono en las �reas que le compete.*

    As the Treasury Department is providing the budget on this nefarious plan, I can't see it as being really hardware-intensive, or indeed, being a really big plan at all. Certainly, if this is what the most powerful nation in the world does in response to feared uprisings in half a different countries in it's own backyard, we might as well surrender now.

    * At the foot of the letter: "According to a high functionary at the US Embassy in Santiago, also attenting the meeting which Spencer has organized will be representatives of Colombia, Ecuador, Brasil and Peru. In the Chilean capital they will develop a plan financed by the Treasury Department with the support of the Pentagon in it's areas of competence."

    Posted by Mike at 04:51 AM GMT

    Damn. I was hoping the CIA was actually up to something. Down with Hugo!

    Posted by: Jame on August 12, 2004 09:28 AM

    "in it's own backyard"

    This is a particularly unfortunate commonplace: the attitude that Latin America is essentially the US's "backyard" has been partly responsible for some of Washington's most disgraceful acts. After all you own your backyard.

    Posted by: DC on August 12, 2004 11:28 AM

    While I'm no fan of the former Colonel, Jame, the USG has already tried whistling that tune once, and we saw how much of a success that was.

    The "own backyard" comment was actually just riffing off the title of a magisterial history of US involvement in Central America. I peddle my condescention in other ways.

    Posted by: mike on August 12, 2004 02:20 PM

    Look, guys...the withdrawing...from cheek! Presto!

    Posted by: Jame on August 12, 2004 02:41 PM