REGIME change policy has been characteristic of almost all US presidencies; however after the 2nd World War seven cases of the CIA’s globe-spanning campaign of coups have been conspicuous. As regards the CIA’s exploits, David Wise in his famous book titled ‘The American Police State: The government against the people’ published in 1976, wrote on page 223: “The CIA helped to overthrow the government of Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954; it secretly trained Tibetans in Colorado in the late fifties to infiltrate their homeland and fight the Chinese Communists. It supported the rebels fighting Sukarno in 1958; invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. And it encouraged the military coups in Vietnam and Chile in which the leaders of those countries were killed”. There is incontrovertible evidence that the CIA hatched conspiracies for assassination of Petrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of Congo.
There is a perception that CIA is at work in Venezuela to topple its government. The White House on Friday warned Russia and other countries backing President Nicolas Maduro against sending troops and military equipment to Venezuela, saying the United States would view such actions as a direct threat to the region’s security. The warning comes after two Russian air force planes landed outside of Caracas on Saturday, believed to be carrying nearly 100 Russian Special Forces and Cyber-security personnel. “We strongly caution actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela or elsewhere in the Hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations,” White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said in a statement. The US recognised Juan Guaido, the leader of the National Assembly, as Venezuela’s interim President earlier this year after the opposition leader declared himself the country’s leader.
As President Trump pulls US troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton are focusing on Venezuela and other parts of the region. Though Venezuela poses no threat to the United States, it is one of the world’s largest oil producers, and reportedly most of its oil revenues go to pay off Russia. In August 2017, President Trump had said: “We have many options for Venezuela including the military option; by the way, I’m not going to rule out a military option. We’re all over the world, and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away, and the people are suffering, and they’re dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary.” This statement speaks volumes about his intentions.
In 2002, President Hugo Chavez had confronted a military coup supported by the United States. Governments across Latin American had rallied in defense of Chavez’s government, and the coup fizzled. Now Latin America has more conservative governments that feel threatened by the exodus of some 3 million Venezuelans into neighboring countries. However, the hegemonic presumption is that Latin America is the United States’ backyard, and in this backdrop Venezuela is seen as a private domain where Washington can do what it pleases, with or without the support of other countries. Trump’s special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, had been pursuing regime change in Latin America through illegal means 30 years ago. He served in foreign policy positions for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Convicted of withholding information from Congress in the Iran-Contra conspiracy, Abrams was pardoned by the late President Bush.
The CIA has a 75-year history of regime change operations in Latin America going back to the coup in Guatemala (1954), the failed invasion of Cuba (1961), scores of assassination attempts in Cuba (1961-2001), the invasion of the Dominican Republic (1965), election meddling and a coup in Chile (1964-73), intervention in Nicaragua (1980s), invasion of Panama (1990) and a soft coup in Honduras (2009). While we don’t have verifiable information about the CIA’s activities in Venezuela today, U.S. regime change operations in Latin America have consistent features, some of which are visible in Venezuela today. Supporters of Socialist President Nicholas Maduro blame Washington for the country’s woes, as the sanctions have crippled Venezuela’s economy coupled with sharp decline in oil prices four years ago. Oil sales account for 95 percent of export revenues. They accuse the US of attempting covert regime change in 2017 by stirring nation-wide riots to replace government with pro-Washington puppet.
The colonial powers had created divisions and break-up of colonies at the time of their independence and manipulated certain territorial and border disputes to remain unresolved, which could enable them to keep the neighbouring countries in a state of war. Old Arab States were crushed and new ones were created. Israel was created in place of Palestine. The Congo was divided into Brazzaville and Leopoldville. Vietnam and Korea were both divided into North and South. China was divided into Peoples’ Republic of China and Taiwan and Hong Kong. Thus an organization like the CIA was needed to implement rather advance America’s imperialist agenda. They had thought North Vietnam an easy morsel, and on specious grounds and patent lies they took on the Communist State. But they could not subdue it, and their own satellite South Vietnam imploded into formidable popular resistance against them and their puppets. And the rest is history.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.