Washington Plots Regime Change
Is Venezuela the Real Target of
Bush's New Cuba Plan?
By JOSÉ PERTIERRA
Clearing House" -- --
Cuba calls the shots; and Venezuela pays the bills. That is the
major premise underlying the Report made public last Monday by the
U.S. State Department concerning Cuba. Its findings are as much
about the Bush Administration's plans for regime change in Cuba, as
they are about the alleged threat that Venezuela poses to U.S.
national security interests.
The ninety-three page Report was prepared by the Commission for
Assistance to a Free Cuba, co-chaired by Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez. Its
recommendations were accepted by President George W. Bush. They
include a budget of $80 million during the next two years to ensure
a transition, rather than a succession of leadership, in Cuba. The
Report also contains a classified attachment that contains a secret
plan for regime change in Cuba.
Although the Commission's Report and its recommendations are
ostensibly about Cuba, Venezuela is a featured star player in the
drama. It mentions Venezuela at least nine different times, always
emphasizing Washington's perception that the Chávez government is
bankrolling the Cuban government: "Cuba can only meet its budget
needs with the considerable support of foreign donors, primarily
Venezuela," says the Report.
SUBVERSION IN LATIN AMERICA
Besides keeping the Cuban government afloat, Venezuelan money is
allegedly also responsible for subversion in Latin America. The
first paragraph of the Report boldly proclaims that "there are clear
signs the regime [Cuba] is using money provided by the Chavez
government in Venezuela to reactivate its networks in the hemisphere
to subvert democratic governments." We are not told which countries
the Bush Administration thinks Cuba and Venezuela are subverting,
nor are we ever told how.
A good guess may be Bolivia. The South American country recently
elected Evo Morales as President. Washington considers him to be a
friend of both Cuba and Venezuela. What have Castro and Chávez been
up to in the Andes?
Cuba has 719 medical doctors in Bolivia. They go where Bolivian
doctors fear to tread. In the most remote areas of the Andean
country, Cuban doctors have treated more than 776,000 patients and
saved 326 lives. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has pledged $1.5
billion in energy investment to Bolivia. Venezuela is also investing
in projects to produce organic tea, coffee, dairy and legal coca
products there. The Chávez government recently also donated
computers to schools in the remote Chapare region of Bolivia.
Cuban doctors and Venezuelan investments: they are a lethal recipe
for subversion in Latin America according to the Bush
"THE CASTRO-LED AXIS"
The Bush Administration Commission compares the Cuba´s relation to
Venezuela with its "earlier failed relationship with the Soviet
Union, only this time not as the junior partner: Fidel Castro is
calling the shots." It of course offers no evidence to support its
thesis that President Chávez is anything other than his own man. The
Report simply posits the myth as fact.
This "Castro-led axis," the Report finds, "undermines our interest
in a more democratic Venezuela and undermines democratic governance
and institutions elsewhere in the region. Together, these countries
are advancing an alternative retrograde and anti-American agenda for
the hemisphere's future and they are finding some resonance with
populist governments and disenfranchised populations in the region."
From these flawed premises flows the Bush Administration's foreign
policy toward Cuba and Venezuela. The Bush Doctrine is clear: in
order to protect its interests in Latin America, Washington must
overthrow the Cuban government and replace it with one more akin to
U.S. interests. To help overthrow the Cuban government, it is
necessary to cut off its money supply. That's where Venezuela comes
The Report that the State Department released to the public this
week makes it abundantly clear that Washington considers Cuba and
Venezuela to be two peas in a pod, and that their relationship
constitutes an axis of evil that is detrimental to U.S. interests.
THE THREAT OF USING TITLE III OF HELMS-BURTON AGAINST VENEZUELA
One of the more troublesome of the Commission's recommendations is
the threat to apply Title III of the 1996 Cuban Liberty and
Solidarity Act, known as "Helms Burton", to Venezuela.
Title III gives the United States unprecedented authority over
property within another nation's borders. It permits lawsuits in
U.S. courts brought by individual citizens against businesses that
operate on property the Cuban government nationalized after the 1959
revolution. Concerned about the chilling effect on U.S. relations
with foreign governments if it were to implement it, successive U.S.
Presidents have suspended Title III since Helms-Burton was enacted
ten years ago.
According to the Commission's Report, the White House is now
prepared to apply, for the first time, Title III to individual
countries that are "engaged in a process of support for regime
succession (with Cuba)." This is a not-so-veiled threat to
Venezuela, as well other nations who maintain normal relations with
Were the United States to apply Title III to Venezuela, it would
have profound and long-lasting implications on U.S.-Venezuela
relations. Trade between the two nations in 2005 amounted to almost
$39 billion. The specter of Miami Cubans suing Venezuela over
nationalized pre-1959 property will loom heavily over any future
trade ventures between the United States and Venezuela.
President Chávez, reflecting on the U.S. threats against Venezuela
contained in the Report, said that "there are no threats that will
discourage Venezuela from supporting the Cuban revolution and the
Cuban people." "Rather than thinking of a transition plan for Cuba,
he added, "the United States ought to elaborate a transition plan
for themselves because this is the century that will see the end of
the U.S. empire."
THE BUSH DOCTRINE FOR REGIME CHANGE
The Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba lays down the gauntlet
to Latin America. Under the Bush Doctrine, Cuba's government must be
overthrown. Moreover, the United States foreign policy towards other
nations in the Hemisphere will be measured by whether these nations
support U.S. efforts for regime change in Cuba. Governments that
support Cuba risk the wrath of the U.S. government and may be
overthrown as well.
The Bush Doctrine makes it clear that legal, political and military
options remain at the disposal of the United States government to
overthrow the government of Cuba, as well as the governments of the
"friends of Cuba." Some of these options are sealed, and we can only
suppose their magnitude.
We don't know whether they include another coup d'état such as the
one the U.S. launched in 2002 that almost succeeded in deposing
President Chávez, or whether Washington intends to activate its
Miami-Cuban "assets" to carry out terrorist attacks, or whether an
outright invasion is a possibility, or even whether the
assassination of President Hugo Chávez is in the cards.
The Bush Doctrine is premised on arrogance and mendacity, but it is
consistent with U.S. "diplomacy" in the region. Recent history tells
us that it is the United States, not Cuba or Venezuela, that
subverts democracy in Latin America. The United States overthrew the
elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 in Guatemala and
replaced it with a military dictatorship that left more than 200,000
dead and disappeared. The United States is now shamelessly promoting
Guatemala as a prime candidate for a seat on the United Nations
The Pinochet government with which the United States replaced
democratically elected President Salvador Allende in Chile left a
bloody trail of terror from Santiago to the streets of Washington,
D.C. where Cuban-American terrorists working for the Chilean secret
service murdered Chilean exile Orlando Letelier in cold blood.
Who have been Washington's friends and allies in Latin America? The
Salvadoran governments that brutally murdered over 75,000 of their
own citizens, the Argentinean military junta that tortured,
disappeared or murdered over 30,000 men, women and children, the
Uruguayan and Paraguayan dictatorships that participated in
Operation Condor with zeal, even kidnapping the babies of some of
the clandestine prisoners they were torturing.
To help subvert democracy, the United States recruited, trained and
employed terrorists such as Luis Posada Carriles, known as the Osama
Bin Laden of Latin America. He was "our man in Latin America," as he
helped train the Nicaraguan Contras, as well as the Guatemalan and
Salvadoran death squads. In violation of its own international legal
obligations, Washington refuses to extradite him to Venezuela to
stand trial for 73 counts of first degree murder in relation to the
downing of a passenger plane. Instead, the Bush White House shelters
Posada in Texas, as the terrorist threatens to tell how he was just
The Bush Doctrine was formulated by politicians who are not
listening to the winds of change in America. The banana republics of
yesterday are being replaced by independent and sovereign nations,
free of U.S. interference. This continent will soon see a monumental
regime change, but that change will come in Washington--not in
Havana or Caracas.
José Pertierra is an attorney. He represents the government of
Venezuela in Washington, D.C.
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