Obama's war plans against Venezuela

“Don’t make the mistake, President Obama, of ordering an overt aggression against Venezuela utilising Colombia … We are ready for anything, and Venezuela will never, never be a Yankee colony again”, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stated on November 8, in the wake of the Obama administration’s signing on October 30 of a 10-year accord with Colombia for a joint military build-up. Addressing Venezuelan military commanders the previous day, Chavez said: “The best way to avoid war is preparing for it … military comrades, we shouldn’t lose a day in the compliance of our main mission: prepare for war, and help the people prepare for war … We are going to form militias of revolutionary students, workers, women, everyone ready to defend this sacred homeland.”

The Colombia-US accord, under which Washington to set up seven new military bases in Colombia, is the latest move in a seven-year campaign by the US imperialist rulers, in alliance with the capitalist opposition in Venezuela, to overthrow Chavez since his government moved to take control of the state-owned oil company PDVSA from US corporations and the Venezuelan capitalist class.

The first attempt at a US-backed business-military coup successfully overthrew Chavez on April 11, 2002, but it was defeated two days later by a mass insurrection of workers and soldiers that defied the military high-command. Chavez then purged the military of those who supported the coup, leaving the capitalist politicians and their US-backers without control over the core institution of state power.

In December 2002, Carlos Ortega, the corrupt Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV) leader, PDVSA executive Juan Fernandez and business federation chief Carlos Fernandez led a crippling shutdown of the oil industry, hoping to this would financially cripple the Chavez government and cause Venezuela’s working people, including the ranks of the military forces, to turn against Chavez. But with the pro-capitalist officers having been purged from the military, Chavez was able to mobilise the army in alliance with the oil production workers to break the capitalists control over PDVSA.

When Carlos Fernandez was arrested on February 19, 2003, the US, Colombian and Spanish governments condemned it. Militares Democraticos (MD, Democratic Military), an organisation of purged military officers, then bombed the Colombian and Spanish embassies, leaving leaflets supporting Chavez in an attempt to frame his Bolivarian movement as terrorists. Washington has refused Venezuela’s demand that two leaders of the MD, Lt. German Rodolfo Varela and Lt. Jose Antonio Colina, be extradited to stand trial for the bombings.

Having taken control over PDVSA, Chavez’s working people government has used its revenues and administrative resources to create a series of “social missions” to begin to meet the health, education and other needs of Venezuela’s working people. In alliance with socialist Cuba, Venezuela’s socialist revolution presents a renewed threat to US imperialism’s interests in Latin America through its example of a socialist alternative to the corporate capitalist domination of society. When, in February 2008, General Mike McConnell, the US Director of National Intelligence, issued his “annual threat assessment”, he classified the Chavez government as the “principal threat against the US in the [western] hemisphere”. In July last year the US Fourth Fleet naval command, based in Florida, was reactivated. It had operated from 1943 to 1950, and had been tasked with securing US imperialist domination over the Caribbean and South America.

To destabilise the Chavez government, the pro-capitalist opposition continue to attempt economic sabotage and assassination plots. The opposition has also devised a plan to split the country and declare independent the oil-rich states of Tachira and Zulia, both of which have opposition governors. Implementation of this plan is impossible while Venezuela’s capitalist class does not have any armed forces at its command. The opposition’s plans for ousting the Chavez government turn on gaining US involvement in Colombian military aggression against Venezuela. With the bulk of US battalions tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington can not deploy large numbers of US troops for a direct military confrontation with Chavez. Instead, Washington is using covert operations with the Colombian military and its extensive paramilitary forces which conspire with the Venezuelan opposition.

Washington has provided $6 billion in foreign aid to the Colombian government since 2000, under “Plan Colombia”, most of it to equip and train the military and police ostensibly to combat Colombia’s drugs trade. Colombia is the world’s largest source of cocaine, accounting for 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the US. The Colombian military and police continue to organise right-wing paramilitary forces, which also harness the trafficking of cocaine to the US and Europe to obtain funds. These right-wing paramilitaries have at least 7000 armed personnel.

In May 2004, 126 Colombian paramilitaries were captured wearing Venezuelan military uniforms outside the capital, Caracas, on an estate owned by US-based Cuban right-wing emigre Roberto Alonso, and another estate owned by Venezuelan opposition leader and billionaire media magnate Gustavo Cisneros. According to one of the paramilitaries, the group was training to attack a National Guard base and seize enough weapons to arm 3000 other paramilitaries.

Three days before the Colombia-US agreement was signed, two Colombian intelligence (DAS) agents were captured in the Venezuelan state of Aragua. Their capture lead to the discovery of documents outlining destabilisation and spying operations against the governments of Venezuela (“Operation Falcon”), Cuba (“Operation Phoenix”), and Ecuador (“Operation Salomon”), financed by the CIA through the US embassy in the Colombian capital of Bogota and jointly organised with the DAS.

The bases accord will increase the number of Colombian military bases used by the US from three to 10. It also allows the use of “all other installations and locations” including civilian airports by the US military. There are currently 230 US troops and 400 US mercenaries (“private military contractors”) in Colombia. The 2010 fiscal year budget of the US Air Force Military Construction Program allocates $46 million for the expansion of Colombia’s Palanquero air base as a “Cooperative Security Location (CSL)” — described as providing “a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical subregion of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, endemic poverty and recurring natural disaster”. This document has since been altered to remove the reference to “anti-US governments”.

In response to the bases accord and the killing on November 2 of two Venezuelan soldiers by Colombian paramilitaries, Venezuela deployed 15,000 troops along its 2219km border with Colombia. Troops were sent to defend a valuable coltan deposit on the border, eradicate coca crops and cut off drug trafficking routes from Colombia in the Venezuelan states of Tachira and Zulia, to destroy illegal airstrips used in the Colombia-US drug trade, and to uproot Colombian paramilitaries. Colombian right-wing President Alvaro Uribe cynically denounced the deployments and Chavez’s call to prepare for US-backed Colombian aggression as “threats of war enunciated by the government of Venezuela”, for which Colombia would seek the help of the UN Security Council. Uribe defended the bases accord claiming that the “only thing we are interested in is defeating terrorism related to drug trafficking”.

Washington is seeking to use its “war on drugs” as an excuse to intervene in Venezuelan politics by presenting the Chavez government as an obstacle to this “war”. On July 20, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report claiming Venezuela tolerated drug trafficking and wouldn’t cooperate with Washington’s “war on drugs”. According to Venezuelan minister for justice and internal affairs, Tarek El Aissami, US interdiction of illegal drugs has decreased since the 1990s while the UN Office on Drugs and Crime recognises that Venezuelan interception of narcotics has increased since abandoning cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Agency in 2005, after Venezuela discovered the DEA was spying on the Chavez government.

Replying to US and Colombian claims that his November 8 call for Venezuela’s working people to prepare for war by joining the Bolivarian Militia meant he was calling for a war, Chavez declared on November 16: “I’m not calling for any war. The gringo empire is calling for war. I’m calling for the defence of the sacred land that is Venezuela. I’m obligated to call on all Venezuelans to prepare for combat to defend the homeland. If not, who will? … We do not want wars. We are fighting against hunger, against misery, against insecurity, crime, drug trafficking; these are our wars, a war for social justice, for life.”