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Some Levity at the State Department Over Venezuela

Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's president

A couple of weeks ago, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki brought a bit of levity to a press briefing on the ongoing crisis in Venezuela, specifically regarding Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s accusation that the U.S. government was involved in an attempted military coup attempt in that country.

Here’s the pertinent exchange during the briefing:

Question: President Maduro last night went on the air and said that they had arrested multiple people who were allegedly behind a coup that was backed by the United States. What is your response?

Ms. Psaki: These latest accusations, like all previous accusations, are ludicrous. As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support transitions by non-constitutional means. Political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful, and legal…..

Question: The U.S. –

Question: Sorry, Jen—

Question: Sorry, the U.S. has — whoa, whoa, whoa. The U.S. has a longstanding practice of not promoting — what did you say? How longstanding is that? I would – in particular in South and Latin America, that is not a longstanding practice….

The reason the questioner was so surprised over Psaki’s answer is that it’s actually the exact opposite. The U.S. government has long supported transitions in Latin American and elsewhere by non-constitutional, non-democratic, violent, and illegal means.

Consider, for example, the coup in Egypt, one in which the democratically elected president of the country, Mohamad Morsi, was ousted from power by the military dictatorship that has long held that country in its grip. It would be difficult to find a better example of a tyrannical regime than that which rules over Egypt and has ruled over that country for the past several decades.

Not only have Egypt’s military goons destroyed Egypt’s experiment with democracy, they also have rounded up people for dissenting against their tyranny, incarcerated them, tortured them, and killed them. Under Egypt’s military dictatorship, there is no freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or right to peacefully assemble, and there is right to due process of law. There is also no economic liberty at all, with the military establishment maintaining strict control over economic activity.

How did this military dictatorship acquire the power to implement this tyranny? Its primary enabler has been the U.S. government, including the U.S. military establishment and the CIA, which has financed, built up, and fortified the dictatorship as well as train and work with the military and intelligence forces that are the instruments of the tyranny.

What about all that ballyhoo about the Arab Spring that was emanating from the federal government (and the mainstream press) a couple of years ago? It was all a sham, as reflected by the fact that no one is ballyhooing about it anymore. Once Egypt’s military dictatorship re-assumed omnipotent, tyrannical power, the U.S. government has continued flooding it with U.S. taxpayer money, enabling it to better enforce its tyrannical power over the Egyptian people.

It’s not only in the Middle East where the U.S. government has supported tyrannical regimes. Think Chile, where the U.S. government, working diligently (and secretly) in that country from 1970-1973 to bring about a violent military coup, successfully installed one of the most brutal and tyrannical military dictatorships in history, one that proceeded to round up some 40,000-50,000 innocent people and incarcerate, rape, torture, murder, or disappear them.

What did the U.S. government do to achieve this result? President Richard Nixon (of Watergate fame) ordered the CIA to do whatever was necessary to bring about a military coup, one in which the duly elected president of the country, a self-described Marxist named Salvador Allende, would be violently ousted from power and replaced with a pro-U.S. military dictator.

The CIA dutifully followed orders. It did everything to make “the economy scream” (Nixon’s words), thereby worsening the economic crisis caused by Allende’s socialist policies. The idea was to making the Chilean people suffer so much economically that they would eagerly embrace a coup.

The CIA also orchestrated the kidnapping-assassination of the head of the Chilean armed forces, a man named Gen. Rene Schneider.

Why Schneider?

Because Schneider’s position was that as long as he was in command, the Chilean armed forces would support and defend the constitution that they had sworn to support and defend. Since Allende had been duly elected president, Schneider maintained, the Chilean military would not interfere with that process by violently ousting him from power and taking military control over the country.

That wasn’t the position of the CIA and the U.S. military establishment. Their position was that the national-security establishment of a country — i.e, the military and the intelligence forces — has the duty to ignore and violate the country’s constitution if it determines that a president constitutes a threat to “national security.” They were ingraining that principle in the minds of thousands of Chilean military officials who were receiving training at the School of the Americas.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the CIA’s kidnapping-assassination of Rene Schneider and its installation of Gen. Augusto Pinochet in a violent military coup was not democratic, constitutional, legal, or peaceful. In fact, not only did the CIA’s actions violate the constitution and laws of Chile, it also violated the Constitution and laws of the United States. After all, where in the Constitution does it authorize the U.S. government to initiate a regime-change operation in Chile or any other country?

I would be remiss if I failed to point out the execution of two innocent American men, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, at the hands of U.S. and Chilean national-security state officials during the Chilean coup. Those executions certainly weren’t legal, democratic, constitutional, or peaceful.

Recall the violent military coup in Guatemala in 1954, another U.S. regime-change operation that wasn’t democratic, peaceful, constitutional, or legal. Again, the U.S. government, in violation of the constitution and laws of Guatemala and the United States, initiated a violent regime-change operation in that country, one that entailed ousting the democratically elected president of the country from office and replacing him with a brutal military dictator, just like it would do in Chile in 1973.

What about the Nicaraguan Contras, the group that the U.S. government funded and trained with the aim of bringing about regime change in that country? It certainly wasn’t democratic, peaceful, constitutional, or legal under either Nicaraguan law or U.S. law.

Indeed, just recently we learned of another regime-change operation on the part of the U.S. national security state, one that took place in Cuba, a country that has been the target of assassination attempts, a military invasion, and acts of sabotage and terrorism at the hands of the U.S. national-security state. How have all those regime change operations against Cuba been democratic, constitutional, legal, or peaceful under U.S. law or Cuban law?

The most recent example of the longtime national-security state obsession with Cuba has to do with a program called ZunZuneo. The secret plan, which lasted two years, entailed recruiting young people in Cuba with the aim of stirring unrest against Cuba’s communist regime.

According to the Associated Press, the “program sent almost a dozen youth to Cuba,” — including youth from Venezuela! — “with the aim of rousing opposition against the Cuban government.”

Is Maduro puffing smoke about U.S. government involvement in a military coup in Venezuela, one that would involve the ouster of Maduro from power and his replacement with a Pinochet-like U.S. stooge, one who would proceed to rape, torture, murder, or disappear tens of thousands of people who believe in socialism, as Pinochet and his goons did?

Perhaps Maduro is lying. It would not be the first time. But the problem is that U.S. officials are just as big liars as Maduro. In fact, U.S. officials always lie about covert U.S. regime-change operations. Lying is built into the regime-change process.

Richard Helms, who served as director of the CIA, flat out lied under oath to Congress about what the CIA was doing in Chile to bring about the coup. He got convicted of a criminal offense in U.S. District Court for doing that. When he returned to the CIA, he was honored for his criminal conviction. His colleagues considered him a “patriot.”

My hunch is that 50-75 years from now, when Americans who are living at that time are finally permitted to learn about what the U.S. national-security state was doing in 2015, no one is going to be surprised to learn that the U.S. government was actively involved in regime-change operations in Chile … and … Ukraine … and Cuba … and many others — and that denials about U.S. involvement were as false as they were regarding regime-change operations 50-75 years ago.

Of course, my hope is that Americans dismantle the federal government’s regime-change apparatus long before then. Our freedom and well-being, not to mention our legal and constitutional order, depend on it. The same goes for the people of Latin America and the rest of the world.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.


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