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FTR #736 Taqqiya Sunrise: More about the Muslim Brotherhood and the Piggy-Back Coup in the Middle East

NB: This description contains material not included in the original broadcast.

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Introduction: Since the turmoil in the Middle East began, we have been treated to numerous media presentations assuring us that the Muslim Brotherhood wouldn’t be coming to power in the Middle East and/or that if they did come to power, it wouldn’t be so bad because they have adopted  a “democratic,” “parliamentarian,” “pluralistic” political viewpoint. This appears to be an example of Taqqiya, a principle of Islamic warfare and political struggle that obliges Muslim faithful to lie to non-Muslims about matters of importance.

After examining WikiLeaks kingpin Julian Assange’s claims of being targeted by an international “Jewish conspiracy,” we view two op-ed columns printed by The New York Times on successive days in February, 2011. Authored by Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna’s grandson Tarqiq Ramadan and Egyptian Brotherhood official Essiam el-Errian, the columns lied brazenly about the history and methodology of the Brotherhood.

Portraying this fascist organization as having been opposed to the Axis in World War II (they were allies of Hitler and Mussolini), Ramadan lies fundamentally about the group, adding that it has been committed to principles of non-violence (except for fighting against Israel). The group is nothing if not violent, as even a cursory looks at its history will reveal.

The Times’ publication of these lies and refusal to print numerous rebuttals that were submitted suggests that the “Grey Lady” is fulfilling its role as the CIA’s number one propaganda asset, supporting an operation aimed at installing free-market ideological principles in the Muslim world, the Middle East in particular. The Brotherhood’s championing of the ideology of Ibn Khaldun (viewed by the World Bank as the first advocate of privatization) appears to be central to its appeal to transnational corporate interests. Khaldun might be thought of as “The Milton Friedman of the Islamic World.”

Recall that the term “Piggy-Back Coup” alludes to the influence of the Tunisian uprising on the Egyptian popular revolt and also to the probability that the Corporatist Muslim Brotherhood will be the beneficiary of the democratic activism of The Jasmine Revolution and Tahrir Square, with dire consequences for our civilization.

Much of the program sets forth the activities of non-violent theoretician Gene Sharp and his financial benefactor Peter Ackerman. One of the ideological mentors and sources of inspiration for the Tunisian and Egyptian protesters, Sharp’s resume suggests that he has been utilized by the intelligence community to effect some of the “colored revolutions.”

Sharp’s financial backer Peter Ackerman has an interesting background as well. Former right-hand man to junk bond king Michael Milken, Ackerman has numerous connections to intelligence-linked institutions, as well as right-wing think tanks such as the Koch Brothers’ Cato Institute.

Program Highlights Include: Gene Sharp’s connections to Harvard Institute of International Studies; that organization’s co-founding by former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence and John J. McCloy protege Roberrt R. Bowie; Ackerman’s links to the United States Institute of Peace, whose Muslim World Initiative has been scored by conservatives as a repository for Muslim Brotherhood extremists; review of the links between American University in Cairo and pro-Muslim Brotherhood theoreticians of the Ibn Khaldun stripe; review of the role played in the Egyptian uprising by Wael Ghonim, Google marketing executive, American University graduate and icon of the April 6 movement; Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Al Jazeera’s release of information [about the recent peace negotiations damaging to the Palestinian Authority  (alleged by both PA and Israeli authorities to be distorted and misleading.)

1a. Evidently feeling the heat, WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange has shown something of his true nature–not the altruistic “warrior for truth” that he represents himself as being. In an article in Private Eye (UK), Assange posited a Jewish conspiracy against WikiLeaks, reacting to criticism of his selection of a celebratory anti-Semite, Holocaust denier and intimate of the Swedish Nazi milieu Joran Jermas, aka “Israel Shamir.”

Defending this overt fascist, who has stated that “It is the duty of all good Christians and Muslims to deny the Holocaust,” Assange initially blamed the bad publicity the  group has received over this Nazi on a “Jewish conspiracy.” Considering that The Guardian (UK) was one of his targets in that rhetorical flourish, the comment is as ludicrous as it is offensive and revealing–The Guardian is fiercely anti-Israel.

Assange echoed the substance of his remarks about Jermas/”Shamir” in an article in The New York Times.

. . . . He was especially angry about a Private Eye report that Israel Shamir, an Assange associate in Russia, was a Holocaust denier. Mr. Assange complained that the article was part of a campaign by Jewish reporters in London to smear WikiLeaks.

A lawyer for Mr. Assange could not immediately be reached for comment, but in a statement later released on the WikiLeaks Twitter feed, Mr. Assange said Mr. Hislop had “distorted, invented or misremembered almost every significant claim and phrase.”

The Private Eye article quoted Mr. Assange as saying the conspiracy was led by The Guardian and included the newspaper’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, and investigations editor, David Leigh, as well as John Kampfner, a prominent London journalist who recently reviewed two books about WikiLeaks for The Sunday Times of London.

When Mr. Hislop pointed out that Mr. Rusbridger was not Jewish, Mr. Assange countered that The Guardian’s editor was “sort of Jewish” because he and Mr. Leigh, who is Jewish, were brothers-in-law. . . .

“Report Says Assange Complains of Jewish Smear Campaign” by Ravi Somaiya; The New York Times; 3/1/2011.

1b. As the Egyptian uprising was gathering momentum, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Al Jazeera network aired a leaked document concerning the Israeli/Palestinian Authority negotiations for a Palestinian state. Charged by both Israeli and Palestinian Authority with selectively editing the documents in such a way as to fundamentally misrepresent the substance of the negotiations, Al Jazeera has strengthened the hand of Hamas–the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate in Gaza.

It is unclear how Al-Jazeera got the documents. Were they leaked by WikiLeaks and Joran Jermas aka “Israel Shamir?”

Classified documents leaked by al- Jazeera signal that Israeli and Palestinian peace positions may have been closer than previously perceived.

Al-Jazeera television said it had been given access to thousands of pages of memos and e-mails of private meetings that show Palestinian negotiators were prepared to give up claims to parts of east Jerusalem and swap some Jewish settlements in the West Bank for territory within Israel in 2008 talks. Al-Jazeera didn’t say how it obtained the documents, which covered the period from 1999 to 2010.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat called the reports “unfounded, twisted and taken out of context” in a telephone interview yesterday. Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, said at a press conference that it was “an organized campaign to distort the positions of the Palestinian leadership.” . . .

“Leak Shows Israel, Palestinians May Not Have Been so Far Apart” [Bloomberg]; The San Francisco Chronicle; 1/24/2011.

2a. A stunning op-ed piece was penned for The New York Times and carried by other publications. In it, Tariq Ramadan lies through his teeth about the history of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brothers began in the 1930s as a legalist, anti-colonialist and nonviolent movement that claimed legitimacy for armed resistance in Palestine against Zionist expansionism during the period before World War II. The writings from between 1930 and 1945 of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Brotherhood, show that he opposed colonialism and strongly criticized the fascist governments in Germany and Italy. [Italics are mine–D.E.] He rejected use of violence in Egypt, even though he considered it legitimate in Palestine, in resistance to the Zionist Stern and Irgun terror gangs. . . .

. . . .Today’s Muslim Brotherhood draws these diverse visions together. But the leadership of the movement — those who belong to the founding generation are now very old — no longer fully represents the aspirations of the younger members, who are much more open to the world, anxious to bring about internal reform and fascinated by the Turkish example. Behind the unified, hierarchical facade, contradictory influences are at work. No one can tell which way the movement will go.  . . .

“Whither the Muslim Brotherhood?” by Tariq Ramadan; The New York Times; 2/8/2011.

2b. Ramadan’s op-ed piece in The New York Times was followed, the next day,  by an equally disingenuous column by a key member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, who also lied about the Brotherhood and its “peaceful” origins, intentions and methodology.

In more than eight decades of activism, the Muslim Brotherhood has consistently promoted an agenda of gradual reform. Our principles, clearly stated since the inception of the movement in 1928, affirm an unequivocal position against violence. . . .

“What the Muslim Brothers Want” by Essam el-Errian; The New York Times; 2/9/2011.

2c. Aside from the Brotherhood’s long association with the Axis and the Underground Reich, its violent orientation could not be more  clear from the historical record. In Cairo to Damascus, John Roy Carlson infiltrated the Brotherhood in the immediate aftermath of World War II, chronicling its fundamental violence toward Egyptians who didn’t support its political agenda.

Note that Carlson infiltrated the Brotherhood and obtained an interview with Hassan al-Banna.

He [Hassan el-Banna, the Moorshid or supreme guide] also had a special assassin squad, entrusted with the duty
of liquidating political opponents. El Banna resented a verdict
that Judge Ahmed el Khazindar Bey meted out against a
Moslem Brother, and ordered him liquidated. One of the
Moorshid’s henchmen took care of this assignment, aided by
an assistant who pumped six bullets into the judge.

Under public pressure Cairo’s police chief staged a few
raids and made a few arrests. El Banna was annoyed. He
ordered his terror squad to “teach the police chief a lesson.”
The latter was promptly killed by a hand grenade while on a
tour of inspection of Fouad University.

When the president of Fouad complained, he was denounced as a “European,”
publicly insulted, and narrowly missed being shot.
El Banna played for high stakes. Not content with liquidating
a judge and a police chief, he ordered Abdel Maguid
Ahmed Hassan, a twenty-three year old student and a member
of his terror squad, to carry out his duty to Allah. A religious
sheikh told Hassan that the Koran sanctioned the
murder of the “enemies of Islam and of Arabism,” whereupon
Hassan dutifully swore to kill any traitor the Moorshid named.

Hassan retired and spent his days in meditation, prayer, and
preparation. On the tenth day after his oath he donned a
policeman’s uniform and went to the Ministry of Interior,
where he waited for the Egyptian prime minister, Mahmoud
Fahmy el Nokrashy Pasha, to emerge. As soon as Nokrashy
Pasha appeared, followed by his bodyguard, Abdel whipped
out a pistol and shot the minister dead, his duty to the Moorshid
and to Allah fulfilled, his place in heaven assured. . . .

Cairo to Damascus by John Roy Carlson; Alfred A. Knopf & Company [HC]; Copyright 1951 by John Roy Carlson; pp. 90-91.

3a. Considerable insight into the machinations underlying the Piggy-Back Coup can be gleaned from a New York Times profile of Gene Sharp.

. . . . When the nonpartisan International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, which trains democracy activists, slipped into Cairo several years ago to conduct a workshop, among the papers it distributed was Mr. Sharp’s “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action,” a list of tactics that range from hunger strikes to “protest disrobing” to “disclosing identities of secret agents.”

Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian blogger and activist who attended the workshop and later organized similar sessions on her own, said trainees were active in both the Tunisia and Egypt revolts. She said that some activists translated excerpts of Mr. Sharp’s work into Arabic, and that his message of “attacking weaknesses of dictators” stuck with them.

Peter Ackerman, a onetime student of Mr. Sharp who founded the nonviolence center and ran the Cairo workshop, cites his former mentor as proof that “ideas have power.”

Mr. Sharp, hard-nosed yet exceedingly shy, is careful not to take credit. He is more thinker than revolutionary, though as a young man he participated in lunch-counter sit-ins and spent nine months in a federal prison in Danbury, Conn., as a conscientious objector during the Korean War. He has had no contact with the Egyptian protesters, he said, although he recently learned that the Muslim Brotherhood had “From Dictatorship to Democracy” posted on its Web site. . . .

. . . . Mr. Ackerman, who became wealthy as an investment banker after studying under Mr. Sharp, contributed millions of dollars and kept it afloat for years. But about a decade ago, Mr. Ackerman wanted to disseminate Mr. Sharp’s ideas more aggressively, as well as his own. He put his money into his own center, which also produces movies and even a video game to train dissidents. An annuity he purchased still helps pay Mr. Sharp’s salary. . .

“Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution” by Sheryl Gay Stolberg; The New York Times; 2/16/2011.

3b. Sharp has enjoyed appointments at Harvard University’s Center for International Studies.

Sharp was born in Ohio.[1] He received a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences in 1949 from Ohio State University, where he also received his Master of Arts in Sociology in 1951.[3] In 1953-54, Sharp was jailed for nine months after protesting the conscription of soldiers for the Korean War.[1] In 1968, he received a Doctor of Philosophy in political theory from Oxford University.[3]
Sharp has been a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth since 1972. He simultaneously held research appointments at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs since 1965.[1] In 1983 he founded the Albert Einstein Institution, a non-profit organization devoted to studies and promotion of the use of nonviolent action in conflicts worldwide.[4] . . .

“Gene Sharp”; wikipedia.org

3c. The Harvard Center for International Studies was founded by Robert R. Bowie, an individual with numerous connections to the intelligence community.

Robert R. Bowie (born August 24, 1909) is an American diplomat and scholar who served as CIA Deputy Director from 1977-1979.
Robert Bowie graduated from Princeton University in 1931 and received a law degree from Harvard University in 1934 and turned down offers to work as a corporate lawyer with New York’s major law firms, returning to Baltimore to work in his father’s law firm, Bowie and Burke. He served in the U.S. Army (1942–1946) as a commissioned officer with the Pentagon and in occupied Germany from 1945 until 1946. In 1946 he resigned as a lieutenant-colonel. He taught at Harvard from 1946-1955. The youngest professor of the school, he was a trusted confidant to John J. McCloy the “unofficial chairman of the American establishment”. During periods of leave from Harvard between 1950 and 1952 Bowie worked for McCloy as one of his legal advisers in Germany.[1]
He served as Director of Policy Planning from 1953–1957; co-founder of Harvard’s Center for International Affairs (1958); Counselor for the State Department from 1966-1968. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and the American Academy of Diplomacy. He is a recipient of the Legion of Merit and the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. . . .

“Robert R. Bowie”; wikipedia.org.

4. Ackerman has served as an advisor to the United States Institute of Peace, whose Muslim World Initiative has  been cited by critics as a theater of Islamic extremist penetration and activity.

Peter Ackerman is on “the U.S. Advisory Council of the United States Institute of Peace.” [4]

“United States Institute of Peace”; Sourcewatch.

5. Ackerman’s resume is interesting, for a promoter of social justice.

Peter Ackerman was born in New York City, Nov 6 1946, and educated at Colgate University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University) where he earned a PhD in International Relations.[10]

After his graduation he joined the junk-bond dealers, Drexel Burnham Lambert, and for most of the next fifteen years, he was the right-hand man to Michael Milken the “Junk-Bond King”. He became the key deal-maker and strategist for the company, and his innovative approach to deal-making, together with his unusual academic qualifications, earned him the nickname “the absentminded professor”. But the record shows that he was far from absent minded. . . .

“Peter Ackerman”; Sourcewatch.

6. [Uprising leader Wael] Ghonim has been widely publicized as a graduate of American University in Cairo. The broadcast relates part of an interview with Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a professor at American University who is very pro-Islamist and pro-Brotherhood. Interestingly and significantly, Ibrahim is the founder of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, named after a 14th century Islamic advocate of free markets. Khaldun is highly regarded by the Brotherhood and that attitude has led the corporate business community to support the Brotherhood.

Note that no less an authority than the World Bank views Ibn Khaldun—revered by the Brotherhood—as “the first advocate of privatization”!

In the days of the caliphate, Islam developed the most sophisticated monetary system the world had yet known. Today, some economists cite Islamic banking as further evidence of an intrinsic Islamic pragmatism. Though still guided by a Qur’anic ban on riba, or interest, Islamic banking has adapted to the needs of a booming oil region for liquidity. In recent years, some 500 Islamic banks and investment firms holding $2 trillion in assets have emerged in the Gulf States, with more in Islamic communities of the West. British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown wants to make London a global center for Islamic finance—and elicits no howl of protest from fundamentalists. How Islamists might run a central bank is more problematic: scholars say they would manipulate currency reserves, not interest rates. The Muslim Brotherhood hails 14th century philosopher Ibn Khaldun as its economic guide. Anticipating supply-side economics, Khaldun argued that cutting taxes raises production and tax revenues, and that state control should be limited to providing water, fire and free grazing land, the utilities of the ancient world. The World Bank has called Ibn Khaldun the first advocate of privatization. [Italics are mine–D.E.] His founding influence is a sign of moderation. If Islamists in power ever do clash with the West, it won’t be over commerce.

“Islam in Office” by Stephen Glain; Newsweek; 7/3-10/2006.

7. Excerpts from the interview with Saad Eddin Ibrahim indicate his support for Islamists. In fact, Gamal Al-Banna, the brother of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna is on the board of directors of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies!

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: This is one of the projects we are working on in the Ibn
Khaldun Center. On our Board of Trustees is Gamal al-Banna – the only surviving
brother of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brothers. He is in his mid
80s but lucid. . . .

Alan Johnson: You have argued for an alliance of sorts between democrats and
‘moderate’ Islamists. In August 2006 you wrote that ‘Mainstream Islamists with
broad support developed civic dispositions and services to provide are the most
likely actors in building a new Middle East.’ And in December 2006 you complained
about an ‘unjustified fear of modern Islamists’ and called for a policy of dialogue and
inclusion, saying ‘Hamas, Hezbollah, Muslim Brothers – these people you cannot
get rid of; you have to deal with them … the name of the game is inclusion.’ You deny
that these organisations are inimical to democracy, pointing out that Islamists have
never come to power via elections and then reneged on democracy. Warning that
‘the Islamist scare is propagated and marketed by autocratic regimes to intimidate
the middle class and the West, to ward off any serious democratic reforms,’ you
have urged a positive response to Hamas and Hezbollah’s participation in elections.
While you warn that ‘no sober analyst would consider this a final commitment by
Islamists to democracy,’ you believe ‘the process of transforming them into Muslim
democrats is clearly under way.’ Now, these views have raised some eyebrows. Can
you set out your thinking? . . .

“A Politics of Inclusion:An Interview with Saad Eddin Ibrahim”; Dissent Magazine; Spring/2007.

8. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman highlighted the difficulties ahead for democracy activists in Egypt and elsewhere.

. . . . But fasten your seat belts. This is not going to be a joy ride because the lid is being blown off an entire region with frail institutions, scant civil society and virtually no democratic traditions or culture of innovation. The United Nations’ Arab Human Development Report 2002 warned us about all of this, but the Arab League made sure that that report was ignored in the Arab world and the West turned a blind eye. But that report — compiled by a group of Arab intellectuals led by Nader Fergany, an Egyptian statistician — was prophetic. It merits re-reading today to appreciate just how hard this democratic transition will be.

The report stated that the Arab world is suffering from three huge deficits — a deficit of education, a deficit of freedom and a deficit of women’s empowerment. A summary of the report in Middle East Quarterly in the Fall of 2002 detailed the key evidence: the gross domestic product of the entire Arab world combined was less than that of Spain. Per capita expenditure on education in Arab countries dropped from 20 percent of that in industrialized countries in 1980 to 10 percent in the mid-1990s. In terms of the number of scientific papers per unit of population, the average output of the Arab world per million inhabitants was roughly 2 percent of that of an industrialized country.

When the report was compiled, the Arab world translated about 330 books annually, one-fifth of the number that Greece did. Out of seven world regions, the Arab countries had the lowest freedom score in the late 1990s in the rankings of Freedom House. At the dawn of the 21st century, the Arab world had more than 60 million illiterate adults, the majority of whom were women. Yemen could be the first country in the world to run out of water within 10 years.

This is the vaunted “stability” all these dictators provided — the stability of societies frozen in time. . . .

“If Not Now, When?” by Thomas Friedman; The New York Times; 2/22/2011.

Discussion

9 comments for “FTR #736 Taqqiya Sunrise: More about the Muslim Brotherhood and the Piggy-Back Coup in the Middle East”

  1. […] am suggesting as well Dave Emory’s last show, FTR #736, which continues the analysis on the coup d’état that was perpetrated in Egypt. Bring your […]

    Posted by The 50-Point Manifesto of Hasan al-Banna: where catholic bigotry meets Soviet Russia and Mussolini’s Corporate State | lys-dor.com | March 23, 2011, 10:40 am
  2. Taqqiya isn’t actually a widely held idea in Islam, but rather it is an concept that was created by the Ismaili, or more accurately the Nizari Ismaili. The sect was hunted by other Muslims due to its ability to infiltrate and kill not only Crusaders in their castles but also other Muslim leaders it saw as being in the way of the Ismaili plans on dominating all of the countries in the Middle East. If the Muslim Brotherhood or other islamist groups are employing taqqiya then you can be assured that they themselves have been infiltrated by a radical Muslim group that aims to destroy or co-opt both Sunni and Shia sects.

    It’s a tangled web in the Middle East. Some books you may be interested in are:

    The secret order of assassins : the struggle of the early Nizârî Ismâʻîlîs against the Islamic world by Marshall G.S. Hodgson

    The Assassins : a radical sect in Islam by Bernard Lewis

    The assassins : The story of Islam’s medieval secret sect
    by W. B. Barlett

    The Assassins, or Hashishanni, were the impetus behind the legends of the Old Man of the Mountain in Crusader lore, as well as possibly being the source for the image of Heaven awaiting those who died in Ismaili service. Their “Heaven” was possibly real; it could have been a certain grotto in one of the many assassin castles in the Middle East where assassins who were about to be sent out on a mission would be drugged with hashish, then set free among a group of dark haired “angels” who would encourage the assassins to complete their missions. The hook was you got to spend time with the “angels” who would be awaiting you, if you were successful in eliminating your target, but only in Heaven.

    Other than that I think your analysis is spot on.

    Posted by Sherman Brennan | March 25, 2011, 1:07 pm
  3. Thank you for referencing my post. Effectively, Hasan al-Banna’s 50-Point Manifesto is a must read to get the picture about the Muslim Brotherhood. As you say yourself, “read or bleed, learn or burn”.

    I just have one observation to add to enrich the analysis on something that is already extremely complex and sometimes messy, as one of your listeners pointed out.

    First, the Arab populations have been ruled by autocrats for thousands of years. They don’t know anything else. So, in order to have a real transition toward democracy, social, communitarian and political structures must be put in place. This process takes years, decades before any attempt to install a viable and working democracy can succeed. And the European leaders know that so there is no reason (at least no progressive or liberal reasons…) to be in such of a hurry to topple Middle East leaders. The local populations are not ready anyway. Just look at the aftermath of the American and French revolutions. Did it change anything for the masses? I don’t think so. In fact, it took more or less two centuries before the real fruits of these revolutions came to ripen. One could argue that now we have much more experience than in the 19th century. It is true. However, those who want humanity to be thrown back into Antiquity have much more power and money than ever before, that is the other side of it. The people have to open their eyes and ears. Masters of deception are at work.

    Have a great day.

    Posted by Claude | March 26, 2011, 12:08 pm
  4. […] countries. The different points he makes present a considerable amount of overlap with Dave Emory‘s assessment of the situation. This interview is certainly a good complement to what Emory […]

    Posted by Pepe Escobar on the Boiling Frogs: more insights about the Middle East uprisings | lys-dor.com | May 23, 2011, 4:17 pm
  5. The CIA is letting us know that there are intelligence officers in Turkey secretly working with the arm-trafficking networks that are funneling weapons to the Syrian rebels. Part of their job appears to be helping to funnel the weapons to the non-super-scary groups operating in Syria:

    C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition
    By ERIC SCHMITT
    Published: June 21, 2012

    WASHINGTON – A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.

    The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.

    The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said. The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.

    So the weapons are being shipped into Syria via a shadowy network that includes the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood with the goal of keeping the weapons out of the hands of al Qaeda. Good luck with that!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 21, 2012, 8:15 pm
  6. Here’s a major development with a tie in to history of Gene Sharp’s regime-change strategies:

    The situation in Venezuela took a turn for the worse after opposition leader Juan Guaido called for a military coup against the Maduro government. It appears to be a regime change operation conducted in coordination with the US government and some yet-to-be-revealed faction of the Venezuelan government. US National Security Adviser John Bolton is publicly claiming that three key Venezuelan officials, including Maduro’s defense minister and head of the supreme court, have private pledged to remove Maduro who allegedly pledged to US. And yet, as of the latest reports, the military backing for this coup appears to be limited.

    Another interesting aspect of this call for regime change is that it coincided with the release of Leopoldo Lopez from house arrest. Lopez is Guaido’s political mentor and a key right-wing opposition activist. Lopez was standing beside Guaido when he made the calls for regime change today. So a key opposition leader was released from house arrest on the same day of this coordinated move for regime change, which would appear to indicate at least some degree of backing for the coup by the security forces, and yet there doesn’t actually appear to be very much support for this coup in the military so far, which is an interesting mix of signals:

    Associated Press

    Clashes rock Venezuela as Guaido urges opposition uprising

    By SCOTT SMITH and CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
    04/30/2019

    CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Opposition leader Juan Guaidó took a bold step to revive his movement to seize power in Venezuela, taking to the streets Tuesday to call for a military uprising that drew quick support from the Trump administration but also fierce resistance from forces loyal to embattled socialist Nicolas Maduro.

    Violent street battles erupted in parts of Caracas in what was the most serious challenge yet to Maduro’s rule — kicked off with a video shot at dawn of Guaidó, flanked by several heavily armed national guardsmen, urging a final push to topple Maduro.

    In one dramatic incident during a chaotic day, several armored vehicles plowed into a group of anti-government demonstrators trying to storm the capital’s air base, hitting at least two protesters.

    Still, the rebellion, dubbed “Operation Freedom,” seemed to have garnered only limited military support.

    Meanwhile, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said the Trump administration was waiting for three key officials, including Maduro’s defense minister and head of the supreme court, to act on what he said were private pledges to remove Maduro. He did not provide details.

    The dramatic events began early Tuesday when Guaidó, flanked by a few dozen national guardsmen and some armored crowd-control vehicles, released the three-minute video shot near the Carlota air base.

    In a surprise, Leopoldo Lopez, Guaido’s political mentor and the nation’s most-prominent opposition activist, stood alongside him. Detained in 2014 for leading a previous round of anti-government unrest, Lopez said he had been released from house arrest by security forces adhering to an order from Guaidó.

    “I want to tell the Venezuelan people: This is the moment to take to the streets and accompany these patriotic soldiers,” Lopez declared.

    As the two opposition leaders coordinated actions from a highway overpass, troops loyal to Maduro fired tear gas from inside the adjacent air base.

    A crowd that quickly swelled to a few thousand scurried for cover, reappearing later with Guaidó at a plaza a few blocks from the disturbances. A smaller group of masked youths stayed behind on the highway, lobbing rocks and Molotov cocktails toward the air base and setting a government bus on fire.

    Amid the mayhem, several armored utility vehicles careened over a berm and drove at full speed into the crowd. Two demonstrators, lying on the ground with their heads and legs bloodied, were rushed away on a motorcycle as the vehicles sped away dodging fireballs thrown by the demonstrators.

    “It’s now or never,” said one of the young rebellious soldiers, his face covered in the blue bandanna worn by the few dozen insurgent soldiers.

    The head of a medical center near the site of the street battles said doctors were treating 50 people, about half of them with injuries suffered from rubber bullets. At least one person had been shot with live ammunition.

    Later Tuesday, Lopez and his family sought refuge in the Chilean ambassador’s residence in Caracas, where another political ally has been holed up for over a year. There were also reports that 25 troops who had been with Guaidó fled to Brazil’s diplomatic mission.

    Amid the confusion, Maduro tried to project an image of strength, saying he had spoken to several regional military commanders who reaffirmed their loyalty.

    “Nerves of steel!” he said in a message posted on Twitter.

    Flanked by top military commanders, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López condemned Guaido’s move as a “terrorist” act and “coup attempt” that was bound to fail like past uprisings.

    “Those who try to take Miraflores with violence will be met with violence,” he said on national television, referring to the presidential palace where hundreds of government supporters, some of them brandishing firearms, had gathered in response to a call to defend Maduro.

    Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the “right-wing extremists” would not succeed in fracturing the armed forces, which have largely stood with the socialist leader throughout the months of turmoil.

    “Since 2002, we’ve seen the same pattern,” Arreaza told The Associated Press. “They call for violence, a coup, and send people into the streets so that there are confrontations and deaths. And then from the blood they try to construct a narrative.”

    Protesters erected barricades of debris at several downtown intersections about 10 blocks from the presidential palace, but police in riot gear moved in quickly to clear the roads. Most shops and businesses were closed and the streets of the capital unusually quiet, as people huddled at home to await the outcome of the day’s drama.

    Guaidó said he called for the uprising to restore Venezuela’s constitutional order, broken when Maduro was sworn in earlier this year for a second term following elections boycotted by the opposition and considered illegitimate by dozens of countries.

    He said that in the coming hours he would release a list of top commanders supporting the uprising. There were unconfirmed reports that Gen. Manuel Christopher Figuera, who heads the feared intelligence agency responsible for keeping Lopez in state custody, was among members of the security forces who had decided to flip.

    “The armed forces have taken the right decision,” said Guaidó. “With the support of the Venezuelan people and the backing of our constitution they are on the right side of history.”

    Anti-government demonstrators gathered in several other cities, although there were no reports that Guaidó’s supporters had taken control of any military installations.

    As events unfolded, governments from around the world expressed support for Guaidó while reiterating calls to avoid violent confrontation.

    Bolton declined to discuss possible actions — military or otherwise — but reiterated that “all options” are on the table as President Donald J. Trump monitors developments “minute by minute.”

    He said he was waiting for key power brokers including Padrino, Supreme Court chief justice Maikel Moreno and head of the presidential guard to make good on their commitments to achieve the peaceful transfer of power to Guiado.

    “All agreed that Maduro had to go. They need to be able to act this afternoon, or this evening, to help bring other military forces to the side of the interim president,” Bolton said. “If this effort fails, (Venezuela) will sink into a dictatorship from which there are very few possible alternatives.”

    ———-

    “Clashes rock Venezuela as Guaido urges opposition uprising” by SCOTT SMITH and CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA; Associated Press; 04/30/2019

    “Violent street battles erupted in parts of Caracas in what was the most serious challenge yet to Maduro’s rule — kicked off with a video shot at dawn of Guaidó, flanked by several heavily armed national guardsmen, urging a final push to topple Maduro.

    Juan Guaido is finally get his coup. Or at least a coup attempt. And it all happened after the surprise release of Leopoldo Lopez from house arrest:


    In a surprise, Leopoldo Lopez, Guaido’s political mentor and the nation’s most-prominent opposition activist, stood alongside him. Detained in 2014 for leading a previous round of anti-government unrest, Lopez said he had been released from house arrest by security forces adhering to an order from Guaidó.

    Later Tuesday, Lopez and his family sought refuge in the Chilean ambassador’s residence in Caracas, where another political ally has been holed up for over a year. There were also reports that 25 troops who had been with Guaidó fled to Brazil’s diplomatic mission.

    Guaido is even promising to release a list of top military commanders supporting the coup:


    Guaidó said he called for the uprising to restore Venezuela’s constitutional order, broken when Maduro was sworn in earlier this year for a second term following elections boycotted by the opposition and considered illegitimate by dozens of countries.

    He said that in the coming hours he would release a list of top commanders supporting the uprising. There were unconfirmed reports that Gen. Manuel Christopher Figuera, who heads the feared intelligence agency responsible for keeping Lopez in state custody, was among members of the security forces who had decided to flip.

    John Bolton also dangled the promise of high-level coup backers. More ominously, Bolton warned that “all options” are on the table:


    Meanwhile, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said the Trump administration was waiting for three key officials, including Maduro’s defense minister and head of the supreme court, to act on what he said were private pledges to remove Maduro. He did not provide details.

    Bolton declined to discuss possible actions — military or otherwise — but reiterated that “all options” are on the table as President Donald J. Trump monitors developments “minute by minute.”

    He said he was waiting for key power brokers including Padrino, Supreme Court chief justice Maikel Moreno and head of the presidential guard to make good on their commitments to achieve the peaceful transfer of power to Guiado.

    And his this military support for Guaido doesn’t appear to actually be materializing, making Bolton’s warnings of “all options” all the more ominous:


    In one dramatic incident during a chaotic day, several armored vehicles plowed into a group of anti-government demonstrators trying to storm the capital’s air base, hitting at least two protesters.

    Still, the rebellion, dubbed “Operation Freedom,” seemed to have garnered only limited military support.

    Flanked by top military commanders, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López condemned Guaido’s move as a “terrorist” act and “coup attempt” that was bound to fail like past uprisings.

    “Those who try to take Miraflores with violence will be met with violence,” he said on national television, referring to the presidential palace where hundreds of government supporters, some of them brandishing firearms, had gathered in response to a call to defend Maduro.

    Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the “right-wing extremists” would not succeed in fracturing the armed forces, which have largely stood with the socialist leader throughout the months of turmoil.

    So we’ll see how this plays out, but given that a coup led by Guaido and Lopez is actually underway, here’s a fascinating look at the rise of Juan Guaido published by Max Blumenthal back in January of this year. As Blumenthal lays out, while Guaido and his right-wing forces may not be very popular in Venezuela (they only have about 20 percent of public support), they are wildly popular in Washington DC. And that’s in part because Gauido is basically a product of US-backed regime-change groups.

    As the article lays out, the US regime change plans against Venezuela really got underway in 2005 when five Venezuelan “student leaders” traveled to Belgrade, Serbia, where they received training from Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies, or CANVAS. CANVAS is largely funded through the National Endowment for Democracy and is a spinoff of Otpor, a Serbian protest group that mobilized the protests that eventually toppled Slobodan Milosevic. As Blumenthal describes it, Otpor is basically a small cell of regime change specialists operating according to the theories of Gene Sharp. It was in 2005 when CANVAS turned its regime-change sites on Venezuela.

    In 2007, Guaido graduated from a university in Caracas and moved to Washington DC to enroll in the Governance and Political Management Program at George Washington University and studied under Luis Enrique Berrizbeitia, a top Latin American neoliberal economist. Guaido helped lead anti-government rallies that year and one of his allies, a street organizer named Yon Goicoechea, was identified by CANVAS as a “key factor” in the protests. The next year, Goicochea was rewarded with the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty and a $500,000 prize.

    In 2009, Guaido founded the political party Popular Will, which was led by Lepoldo Lopez. As Blumenthal describes it, Lopez is a Princeton-educated right-wing firebrand heavily involved in National Endowment for Democracy programs. He was elected as mayor of a district in Caracas that was one of the wealthiest in the country. Lopez was directly descended from Venezuela’s first president.

    In 2010, Popular Will schemed with CANVAS and Stratfor to foment opposition to the Venezuelan government by exploiting the worst drought in decades leading to a collapse in hydroelectric energy. The scheme involved somehow collapsing the electricity supplies in the country by 70% and directing public anger at the government. In November 2010, Guaido, Goicoechea, and several other student activists attended a secret five-day training session in Mexico City run by Otpor. While the plan was never executed, it was a stepping stone down the path towards violent revolution.

    In 2014, student demonstrators in a series of protests against the government. Evidence points towards Popular Will leading these protests. Protests that became violent and resulted in dozens of deaths. Guaido directly participated in these protests, and even tweeted video showing himself wearing a helmet and gas mask and surrounded by masked armed people who had shut down a highway. As a result of these violent protests that government cracked down on Popular Will, leading to Lopez’s house arrest.

    In December 2018, Guaido sneaked across the Venezuelan border and traveled to Washington, Colombia and Brazil to coordinate the plan to hold mass demonstrations during the inauguration of President Maduro, generating extensive support from US politicians in the process. Within a week Trump agreed that if Guaido declared himself president, Trump would back him.

    On January 21 of this year, Guaido’s wife delivered a video address calling on the military to rise up against Maduro.

    So that’s some of the background a Juan Gauido: a man who appears to be tailor made for this kind of regime change because he was tailor made for it thanks to the training of groups like CANVAS and Otpor and the teachings of Gene Sharp:

    The Grayzone

    The Making of Juan Guaidó: How the US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader

    Juan Guaidó is the product of a decade-long project overseen by Washington’s elite regime change trainers. While posing as a champion of democracy, he has spent years at the forefront of a violent campaign of destabilization.

    By Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal
    January 29, 2019

    Before the fateful day of January 22, fewer than one in five Venezuelans had heard of Juan Guaidó. Only a few months ago, the 35-year-old was an obscure character in a politically marginal far-right group closely associated with gruesome acts of street violence. Even in his own party, Guaidó had been a mid-level figure in the opposition-dominated National Assembly, which is now held under contempt according to Venezuela’s constitution.

    But after a single phone call from from US Vice President Mike Pence, Guaidó proclaimed himself president of Venezuela. Anointed as the leader of his country by Washington, a previously unknown political bottom-dweller was vaulted onto the international stage as the US-selected leader of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.

    Echoing the Washington consensus, the New York Times editorial board hailed Guaidó as a “credible rival” to Maduro with a “refreshing style and vision of taking the country forward.” The Bloomberg News editorial board applauded him for seeking “restoration of democracy” and the Wall Street Journal declared him “a new democratic leader.” Meanwhile, Canada, numerous European nations, Israel, and the bloc of right-wing Latin American governments known as the Lima Group recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.

    While Guaidó seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, he was, in fact, the product of more than a decade of assiduous grooming by the US government’s elite regime change factories. Alongside a cadre of right-wing student activists, Guaidó was cultivated to undermine Venezuela’s socialist-oriented government, destabilize the country, and one day seize power. Though he has been a minor figure in Venezuelan politics, he had spent years quietly demonstrated his worthiness in Washington’s halls of power.

    “Juan Guaidó is a character that has been created for this circumstance,” Marco Teruggi, an Argentinian sociologist and leading chronicler of Venezuelan politics, told The Grayzone. “It’s the logic of a laboratory – Guaidó is like a mixture of several elements that create a character who, in all honesty, oscillates between laughable and worrying.”

    Diego Sequera, a Venezuelan journalist and writer for the investigative outlet Misión Verdad, agreed: “Guaidó is more popular outside Venezuela than inside, especially in the elite Ivy League and Washington circles,” Sequera remarked to The Grayzone, “He’s a known character there, is predictably right-wing, and is considered loyal to the program.”

    While Guaidó is today sold as the face of democratic restoration, he spent his career in the most violent faction of Venezuela’s most radical opposition party, positioning himself at the forefront of one destabilization campaign after another. His party has been widely discredited inside Venezuela, and is held partly responsible for fragmenting a badly weakened opposition.

    “‘These radical leaders have no more than 20 percent in opinion polls,” wrote Luis Vicente León, Venezuela’s leading pollster. According to León, Guaidó’s party remains isolated because the majority of the population “does not want war. ‘What they want is a solution.’”

    But this is precisely why he Guaidó was selected by Washington: He is not expected to lead Venezuela toward democracy, but to collapse a country that for the past two decades has been a bulwark of resistance to US hegemony. His unlikely rise signals the culmination of a two decades-long project to destroy a robust socialist experiment.

    Targeting the “troika of tyranny”

    Since the 1998 election of Hugo Chávez, the United States has fought to restore control over Venezuela and is vast oil reserves. Chávez’s socialist programs may have redistributed the country’s wealth and helped lift millions out of poverty, but they also earned him a target on his back.

    In 2002, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition briefly ousted Chávez with US support and recognition, before the military restored his presidency following a mass popular mobilization. Throughout the administrations of US Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Chávez survived numerous assassination plots, before succumbing to cancer in 2013. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has three attempts on his life.

    The Trump administration immediately elevated Venezuela to the top of Washington’s regime change target list, branding it the leader of a “troika of tyranny.” Last year, Trump’s national security team attempted to recruit members of the military brass to mount a military junta, but that effort failed.

    According to the Venezuelan government, the US was also involved in a plot, codenamed Operation Constitution, to capture Maduro at the Miraflores presidential palace; and another, called Operation Armageddon, to assassinate him at a military parade in July 2017. Just over a year later, exiled opposition leaders tried and failed to kill Maduro with drone bombs during a military parade in Caracas.

    More than a decade before these intrigues, a group of right-wing opposition students were hand-selected and groomed by an elite US-funded regime change training academy to topple Venezuela’s government and restore the neoliberal order.

    Training from the “‘export-a-revolution’ group that sowed the seeds for a NUMBER of color revolutions”

    On October 5, 2005, with Chávez’s popularity at its peak and his government planning sweeping socialist programs, five Venezuelan “student leaders” arrived in Belgrade, Serbia to begin training for an insurrection.

    The students had arrived from Venezuela courtesy of the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies, or CANVAS. This group is funded largely through the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA cut-out that functions as the US government’s main arm of promoting regime change
    ; and offshoots like the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. According to leaked internal emails from Stratfor, an intelligence firm known as the “shadow CIA,” CANVAS “may have also received CIA funding and training during the 1999/2000 anti-Milosevic struggle.”

    CANVAS is a spinoff of Otpor, a Serbian protest group founded by Srdja Popovic in 1998 at the University of Belgrade. Otpor, which means “resistance” in Serbian, was the student group that gained international fame — and Hollywood-level promotion — by mobilizing the protests that eventually toppled Slobodan Milosevic.

    This small cell of regime change specialists was operating according to the theories of the late Gene Sharp, the so-called “Clausewitz of non-violent struggle.” Sharp had worked with a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, Col. Robert Helvey, to conceive a strategic blueprint that weaponized protest as a form of hybrid warfare, aiming it at states that resisted Washington’s unipolar domination.

    Otpor was supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, and Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institute. Sinisa Sikman, one of Otpor’s main trainers, once said the group even received direct CIA funding.

    According to a leaked email from a Stratfor staffer, after running Milosevic out of power, “the kids who ran OTPOR grew up, got suits and designed CANVAS… or in other words a ‘export-a-revolution’ group that sowed the seeds for a NUMBER of color revolutions. They are still hooked into U.S. funding and basically go around the world trying to topple dictators and autocratic governments (ones that U.S. does not like ;).”

    Stratfor revealed that CANVAS “turned its attention to Venezuela” in 2005, after training opposition movements that led pro-NATO regime change operations across Eastern Europe.

    While monitoring the CANVAS training program, Stratfor outlined its insurrectionist agenda in strikingly blunt language: “Success is by no means guaranteed, and student movements are only at the beginning of what could be a years-long effort to trigger a revolution in Venezuela, but the trainers themselves are the people who cut their teeth on the ‘Butcher of the Balkans.’ They’ve got mad skills. When you see students at five Venezuelan universities hold simultaneous demonstrations, you will know that the training is over and the real work has begun.”

    Birthing the “Generation 2007” regime change cadre

    The “real work” began two years later, in 2007, when Guaidó graduated from Andrés Bello Catholic University of Caracas. He moved to Washington, DC to enroll in the Governance and Political Management Program at George Washington University, under the tutelage of Venezuelan economist Luis Enrique Berrizbeitia, one of the top Latin American neoliberal economists. Berrizbeitia is a former executive director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who spent more than a decade working in the Venezuelan energy sector, under the old oligarchic regime that was ousted by Chávez.

    That year, Guaidó helped lead anti-government rallies after the Venezuelan government declined to to renew the license of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV). This privately owned station played a leading role in the 2002 coup against Hugo Chávez. RCTV helped mobilize anti-government demonstrators, falsified information blaming government supporters for acts of violence carried out by opposition members, and banned pro-government reporting amid the coup. The role of RCTV and other oligarch-owned stations in driving the failed coup attempt was chronicled in the acclaimed documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

    That same year, the students claimed credit for stymying Chavez’s constitutional referendum for a “21st century socialism” that promised “to set the legal framework for the political and social reorganization of the country, giving direct power to organized communities as a prerequisite for the development of a new economic system.”

    From the protests around RCTV and the referendum, a specialized cadre of US-backed class of regime change activists was born. They called themselves “Generation 2007.”

    The Stratfor and CANVAS trainers of this cell identified Guaidó’s ally – a street organizer named Yon Goicoechea – as a “key factor” in defeating the constitutional referendum. The following year, Goicochea was rewarded for his efforts with the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, along with a $500,000 prize, which he promptly invested into building his own Liberty First (Primero Justicia) political network.

    Friedman, of course, was the godfather of the notorious neoliberal Chicago Boys who were imported into Chile by dictatorial junta leader Augusto Pinochet to implement policies of radical “shock doctrine”-style fiscal austerity. And the Cato Institute is the libertarian Washington DC-based think tank founded by the Koch Brothers, two top Republican Party donors who have become aggressive supporters of the right-wing across Latin America.

    Wikileaks published a 2007 email from American ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield sent to the State Department, National Security Council and Department of Defense Southern Command praising “Generation of ’07” for having “forced the Venezuelan president, accustomed to setting the political agenda, to (over)react.” Among the “emerging leaders” Brownfield identified were Freddy Guevara and Yon Goicoechea. He applauded the latter figure as “one of the students’ most articulate defenders of civil liberties.”

    Flush with cash from libertarian oligarchs and US government soft power outfits, the radical Venezuelan cadre took their Otpor tactics to the streets, along with a version of the group’s logo, as seen below:
    [see image]

    “Galvanizing public unrest…to take advantage of the situation and spin it against Chavez”

    In 2009, the Generation 2007 youth activists staged their most provocative demonstration yet, dropping their pants on public roads and aping the outrageous guerrilla theater tactics outlined by Gene Sharp in his regime change manuals. The protesters had mobilized against the arrest of an ally from another newfangled youth group called JAVU. This far-right group “gathered funds from a variety of US government sources, which allowed it to gain notoriety quickly as the hardline wing of opposition street movements,” according to academic George Ciccariello-Maher’s book, “Building the Commune.”

    While video of the protest is not available, many Venezuelans have identified Guaidó as one of its key participants. While the allegation is unconfirmed, it is certainly plausible; the bare-buttocks protesters were members of the Generation 2007 inner core that Guaidó belonged to, and were clad in their trademark Resistencia! Venezuela t-shirts, as seen below:
    [see image]

    That year, Guaidó exposed himself to the public in another way, founding a political party to capture the anti-Chavez energy his Generation 2007 had cultivated. Called Popular Will, it was led by Leopoldo López, a Princeton-educated right-wing firebrand heavily involved in National Endowment for Democracy programs and elected as the mayor of a district in Caracas that was one of the wealthiest in the country. Lopez was a portrait of Venezuelan aristocracy, directly descended from his country’s first president. He was also the first cousin of Thor Halvorssen, founder of the US-based Human Rights Foundation that functions as a de facto publicity shop for US-backed anti-government activists in countries targeted by Washington for regime change.

    Though Lopez’s interests aligned neatly with Washington’s, US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks highlighted the fanatical tendencies that would ultimately lead to Popular Will’s marginalization. One cable identified Lopez as “a divisive figure within the opposition… often described as arrogant, vindictive, and power-hungry.” Others highlighted his obsession with street confrontations and his “uncompromising approach” as a source of tension with other opposition leaders who prioritized unity and participation in the country’s democratic institutions.

    By 2010, Popular Will and its foreign backers moved to exploit the worst drought to hit Venezuela in decades. Massive electricity shortages had struck the country due the dearth of water, which was needed to power hydroelectric plants. A global economic recession and declining oil prices compounded the crisis, driving public discontentment.

    Stratfor and CANVAS – key advisors of Guaidó and his anti-government cadre – devised a shockingly cynical plan to drive a dagger through the heart of the Bolivarian revolution. The scheme hinged on a 70% collapse of the country’s electrical system by as early as April 2010.

    “This could be the watershed event, as there is little that Chavez can do to protect the poor from the failure of that system,” the Stratfor internal memo declared. “This would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate. At that point in time, an opposition group would be best served to take advantage of the situation and spin it against Chavez and towards their needs.”

    By this point, the Venezuelan opposition was receiving a staggering $40-50 million a year from US government organizations like USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, according to a report by the Spanish think tank, the FRIDE Institute. It also had massive wealth to draw on from its own accounts, which were mostly outside the country.

    While the scenario envisioned by Statfor did not come to fruition, the Popular Will party activists and their allies cast aside any pretense of non-violence and joined a radical plan to destabilize the country.

    Towards violent destabilization

    In November, 2010, according to emails obtained by Venezuelan security services and presented by former Justice Minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres, Guaidó, Goicoechea, and several other student activists attended a secret five-day training at the Fiesta Mexicana hotel in Mexico City. The sessions were run by Otpor, the Belgrade-based regime change trainers backed by the US government. The meeting had reportedly received the blessing of Otto Reich, a fanatically anti-Castro Cuban exile working in George W. Bush’s Department of State, and the right-wing former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

    At the Fiesta Mexicana hotel, the emails stated, Guaidó and his fellow activists hatched a plan to overthrow President Hugo Chavez by generating chaos through protracted spasms of street violence.

    The alleged Fiesta Mexicana plot flowed into another destabilization plan revealed in a series of documents produced by the Venezuelan government. In May 2014, Caracas released documents detailing an assassination plot against President Nicolás Maduro. The leaks identified the Miami-based Maria Corina Machado as a leader of the scheme. A hardliner with a penchant for extreme rhetoric, Machado has functioned as an international liaison for the opposition, visiting President George W. Bush in 2005.

    “I think it is time to gather efforts; make the necessary calls, and obtain financing to annihilate Maduro and the rest will fall apart,” Machado wrote in an email to former Venezuelan diplomat Diego Arria in 2014.

    In another email, Machado claimed that the violent plot had the blessing of US Ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker. “I have already made up my mind and this fight will continue until this regime is overthrown and we deliver to our friends in the world. If I went to San Cristobal and exposed myself before the OAS, I fear nothing. Kevin Whitaker has already reconfirmed his support and he pointed out the new steps. We have a checkbook stronger than the regime’s to break the international security ring.”

    Guaidó heads to the barricades

    That February, student demonstrators acting as shock troops for the exiled oligarchy erected violent barricades across the country, turning opposition-controlled quarters into violent fortresses known as guarimbas. While international media portrayed the upheaval as a spontaneous protest against Maduro’s iron-fisted rule, there was ample evidence that Popular Will was orchestrating the show.

    “None of the protesters at the universities wore their university t-shirts, they all wore Popular Will or Justice First t-shirts,” a guarimba participant said at the time. “They might have been student groups, but the student councils are affiliated to the political opposition parties and they are accountable to them.”

    Asked who the ringleaders were, the guarimba participant said, “Well if I am totally honest, those guys are legislators now.”

    Around 43 were killed during the 2014 guarimbas. Three years later, they erupted again, causing mass destruction of public infrastructure, the murder of government supporters, and the deaths of 126 people, many of whom were Chavistas. In several cases, supporters of the government were burned alive by armed gangs.

    Guaidó was directly involved in the 2014 guarimbas. In fact, he tweeted video showing himself clad in a helmet and gas mask, surrounded by masked and armed elements that had shut down a highway that were engaging in a violent clash with the police. Alluding to his participation in Generation 2007, he proclaimed, “I remember in 2007, we proclaimed, ‘Students!’ Now, we shout, ‘Resistance! Resistance!’”

    Guaidó has deleted the tweet, demonstrating apparent concern for his image as a champion of democracy.

    On February 12, 2014, during the height of that year’s guarimbas, Guaidó joined Lopez on stage at a rally of Popular Will and Justice First. During a lengthy diatribe against the government, Lopez urged the crowd to march to the office of Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz. Soon after, Diaz’s office came under attack by armed gangs who attempted to burn it to the ground. She denounced what she called “planned and premeditated violence.”

    In an televised appearance in 2016, Guaidó dismissed deaths resulting from guayas – a guarimba tactic involving stretching steel wire across a roadway in order to injure or kill motorcyclists – as a “myth.” His comments whitewashed a deadly tactic that had killed unarmed civilians like Santiago Pedroza and decapitated a man named Elvis Durán, among many others.

    Cracking down on Popular Will

    As violence and political polarization escalated across the country, the government began to act against the Popular Will leaders who helped stoke it.

    Freddy Guevara, the National Assembly Vice-President and second in command of Popular Will, was a principal leader in the 2017 street riots. Facing a trial for his role in the violence, Guevara took shelter in the Chilean embassy, where he remains.

    Lester Toledo, a Popular Will legislator from the state of Zulia, was wanted by Venezuelan government in September 2016 on charges of financing terrorism and plotting assassinations. The plans were said to be made with former Colombian President Álavaro Uribe. Toledo escaped Venezuela and went on several speaking tours with Human Rights Watch, the US government-backed Freedom House, the Spanish Congress and European Parliament.

    Carlos Graffe, another Otpor-trained Generation 2007 member who led Popular Will, was arrested in July 2017. According to police, he was in possession of a bag filled with nails, C4 explosives and a detonator. He was released on December 27, 2017.

    Leopoldo Lopez, the longtime Popular Will leader, is today under house arrest, accused of a key role in deaths of 13 people during the guarimbas in 2014. Amnesty International lauded Lopez as a “prisoner of conscience” and slammed his transfer from prison to house as “not good enough.” Meanwhile, family members of guarimba victims introduced a petition for more charges against Lopez.

    Yon Goicoechea, the Koch Brothers posterboy and US-backed founder of Justice First, was arrested in 2016 by security forces who claimed they found found a kilo of explosives in his vehicle. In a New York Times op-ed, Goicoechea protested the charges as “trumped-up” and claimed he had been imprisoned simply for his “dream of a democratic society, free of Communism.” He was freed in November 2017.

    David Smolansky, also a member of the original Otpor-trained Generation 2007, became Venezuela’s youngest-ever mayor when he was elected in 2013 in the affluent suburb of El Hatillo. But he was stripped of his position and sentenced to 15 months in prison by the Supreme Court after it found him culpable of stirring the violent guarimbas.

    Facing arrest, Smolansky shaved his beard, donned sunglasses and slipped into Brazil disguised as a priest with a bible in hand and rosary around his neck. He now lives in Washington, DC, where he was hand picked by Secretary of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro to lead the working group on the Venezuelan migrant and refugee crisis.

    This July 26, Smolansky held what he called a “cordial reunion” with Elliot Abrams, the convicted Iran-Contra felon installed by Trump as special US envoy to Venezuela. Abrams is notorious for overseeing the US covert policy of arming right-wing death squads during the 1980’s in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. His lead role in the Venezuelan coup has stoked fears that another blood-drenched proxy war might be on the way.

    Four days earlier, Machado rumbled another violent threat against Maduro, declaring that if he “wants to save his life, he should understand that his time is up.”

    A pawn in their game

    The collapse of Popular Will under the weight of the violent campaign of destabilization it ran alienated large sectors of the public and wound much of its leadership up in exile or in custody. Guaidó had remained a relatively minor figure, having spent most of his nine-year career in the National Assembly as an alternate deputy. Hailing from one of Venezuela’s least populous states, Guaidó came in second place during the 2015 parliamentary elections, winning just 26% of votes cast in order to secure his place in the National Assembly. Indeed, his bottom may have been better known than his face.

    Guaidó is known as the president of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, but he was never elected to the position. The four opposition parties that comprised the Assembly’s Democratic Unity Table had decided to establish a rotating presidency. Popular Will’s turn was on the way, but its founder, Lopez, was under house arrest. Meanwhile, his second-in-charge, Guevara, had taken refuge in the Chilean embassy. A figure named Juan Andrés Mejía would have been next in line but reasons that are only now clear, Juan Guaido was selected.

    “There is a class reasoning that explains Guaidó’s rise,” Sequera, the Venezuelan analyst, observed. “Mejía is high class, studied at one of the most expensive private universities in Venezuela, and could not be easily marketed to the public the way Guaidó could. For one, Guaidó has common mestizo features like most Venezuelans do, and seems like more like a man of the people. Also, he had not been overexposed in the media, so he could be built up into pretty much anything.”

    In December 2018, Guaidó sneaked across the border and junketed to Washington, Colombia and Brazil to coordinate the plan to hold mass demonstrations during the inauguration of President Maduro. The night before Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony, both Vice President Mike Pence and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called Guaidó to affirm their support.

    A week later, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rick Scott and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart – all lawmakers from the Florida base of the right-wing Cuban exile lobby – joined President Trump and Vice President Pence at the White House. At their request, Trump agreed that if Guaidó declared himself president, he would back him.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met personally withGuaidó on January 10, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, Pompeo could not pronounce Guaidó’s name when he mentioned him in a press briefing on January 25, referring to him as “Juan Guido.”

    By January 11, Guaidó’s Wikipedia page had been edited 37 times, highlighting the struggle to shape the image of a previously anonymous figure who was now a tableau for Washington’s regime change ambitions. In the end, editorial oversight of his page was handed over to Wikipedia’s elite council of “librarians,” who pronounced him the “contested” president of Venezuela.

    Guaidó might have been an obscure figure, but his combination of radicalism and opportunism satisfied Washington’s needs. “That internal piece was missing,” a Trump administration said of Guaidó. “He was the piece we needed for our strategy to be coherent and complete.”

    “For the first time,” Brownfield, the former American ambassador to Venezuela, gushed to the New York Times, “you have an opposition leader who is clearly signaling to the armed forces and to law enforcement that he wants to keep them on the side of the angels and with the good guys.”

    But Guaidó’s Popular Will party formed the shock troops of the guarimbas that caused the deaths of police officers and common citizens alike. He had even boasted of his own participation in street riots. And now, to win the hearts and minds of the military and police, Guaido had to erase this blood-soaked history.

    On January 21, a day before the coup began in earnest, Guaidó’s wife delivered a video address calling on the military to rise up against Maduro. Her performance was wooden and uninspiring, underscoring the her husband’s limited political prospects.

    At a press conference before supporters four days later, Guaidó announced his solution to the crisis: “Authorize a humanitarian intervention!”

    ———–

    “The Making of Juan Guaidó: How the US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader” by Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal; The Grayzone; 01/29/2019

    While Guaidó seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, he was, in fact, the product of more than a decade of assiduous grooming by the US government’s elite regime change factories. Alongside a cadre of right-wing student activists, Guaidó was cultivated to undermine Venezuela’s socialist-oriented government, destabilize the country, and one day seize power. Though he has been a minor figure in Venezuelan politics, he had spent years quietly demonstrated his worthiness in Washington’s halls of power.”

    A product of more than a decade of grooming at a US-based regime change factory. It’s a helluva resume. And the kind of resume that’s going to make Guaido a lot more popular in places like Washington DC than his own country:


    “Juan Guaidó is a character that has been created for this circumstance,” Marco Teruggi, an Argentinian sociologist and leading chronicler of Venezuelan politics, told The Grayzone. “It’s the logic of a laboratory – Guaidó is like a mixture of several elements that create a character who, in all honesty, oscillates between laughable and worrying.”

    Diego Sequera, a Venezuelan journalist and writer for the investigative outlet Misión Verdad, agreed: “Guaidó is more popular outside Venezuela than inside, especially in the elite Ivy League and Washington circles,” Sequera remarked to The Grayzone, “He’s a known character there, is predictably right-wing, and is considered loyal to the program.”

    While Guaidó is today sold as the face of democratic restoration, he spent his career in the most violent faction of Venezuela’s most radical opposition party, positioning himself at the forefront of one destabilization campaign after another. His party has been widely discredited inside Venezuela, and is held partly responsible for fragmenting a badly weakened opposition.

    “‘These radical leaders have no more than 20 percent in opinion polls,” wrote Luis Vicente León, Venezuela’s leading pollster. According to León, Guaidó’s party remains isolated because the majority of the population “does not want war. ‘What they want is a solution.’”

    But this is precisely why he Guaidó was selected by Washington: He is not expected to lead Venezuela toward democracy, but to collapse a country that for the past two decades has been a bulwark of resistance to US hegemony. His unlikely rise signals the culmination of a two decades-long project to destroy a robust socialist experiment.

    And much of that training comes from CANVAS, itself a spinoff of Otpor, the Serbian group that helped take down Slobodan Milosevic using the training of Gene Sharp:


    On October 5, 2005, with Chávez’s popularity at its peak and his government planning sweeping socialist programs, five Venezuelan “student leaders” arrived in Belgrade, Serbia to begin training for an insurrection.

    The students had arrived from Venezuela courtesy of the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies, or CANVAS. This group is funded largely through the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA cut-out that functions as the US government’s main arm of promoting regime change; and offshoots like the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. According to leaked internal emails from Stratfor, an intelligence firm known as the “shadow CIA,” CANVAS “may have also received CIA funding and training during the 1999/2000 anti-Milosevic struggle.”

    CANVAS is a spinoff of Otpor, a Serbian protest group founded by Srdja Popovic in 1998 at the University of Belgrade. Otpor, which means “resistance” in Serbian, was the student group that gained international fame — and Hollywood-level promotion — by mobilizing the protests that eventually toppled Slobodan Milosevic.

    This small cell of regime change specialists was operating according to the theories of the late Gene Sharp, the so-called “Clausewitz of non-violent struggle.” Sharp had worked with a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, Col. Robert Helvey, to conceive a strategic blueprint that weaponized protest as a form of hybrid warfare, aiming it at states that resisted Washington’s unipolar domination.

    Otpor was supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, and Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institute. Sinisa Sikman, one of Otpor’s main trainers, once said the group even received direct CIA funding.

    According to a leaked email from a Stratfor staffer, after running Milosevic out of power, “the kids who ran OTPOR grew up, got suits and designed CANVAS… or in other words a ‘export-a-revolution’ group that sowed the seeds for a NUMBER of color revolutions. They are still hooked into U.S. funding and basically go around the world trying to topple dictators and autocratic governments (ones that U.S. does not like ;).”

    Stratfor revealed that CANVAS “turned its attention to Venezuela” in 2005, after training opposition movements that led pro-NATO regime change operations across Eastern Europe.

    In was 2007 when Guaido first traveled to study in Washington DC under Luis Enrique Berrizbeitia, one of the top neoliberal economists in Latin America:


    Birthing the “Generation 2007” regime change cadre

    The “real work” began two years later, in 2007, when Guaidó graduated from Andrés Bello Catholic University of Caracas. He moved to Washington, DC to enroll in the Governance and Political Management Program at George Washington University, under the tutelage of Venezuelan economist Luis Enrique Berrizbeitia, one of the top Latin American neoliberal economists. Berrizbeitia is a former executive director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who spent more than a decade working in the Venezuelan energy sector, under the old oligarchic regime that was ousted by Chávez.

    Then, in 2009, Guaido helps start the Popular Will party along with Leopoldo Lopez, the Princeton-educated right-wing firebrand heavily involved in National Endowment for Democracy programs:


    In 2009, the Generation 2007 youth activists staged their most provocative demonstration yet, dropping their pants on public roads and aping the outrageous guerrilla theater tactics outlined by Gene Sharp in his regime change manuals. The protesters had mobilized against the arrest of an ally from another newfangled youth group called JAVU. This far-right group “gathered funds from a variety of US government sources, which allowed it to gain notoriety quickly as the hardline wing of opposition street movements,” according to academic George Ciccariello-Maher’s book, “Building the Commune.”

    That year, Guaidó exposed himself to the public in another way, founding a political party to capture the anti-Chavez energy his Generation 2007 had cultivated. Called Popular Will, it was led by Leopoldo López, a Princeton-educated right-wing firebrand heavily involved in National Endowment for Democracy programs and elected as the mayor of a district in Caracas that was one of the wealthiest in the country. Lopez was a portrait of Venezuelan aristocracy, directly descended from his country’s first president. He was also the first cousin of Thor Halvorssen, founder of the US-based Human Rights Foundation that functions as a de facto publicity shop for US-backed anti-government activists in countries targeted by Washington for regime change.

    Leopoldo Lopez, the longtime Popular Will leader, is today under house arrest, accused of a key role in deaths of 13 people during the guarimbas in 2014. Amnesty International lauded Lopez as a “prisoner of conscience” and slammed his transfer from prison to house as “not good enough.” Meanwhile, family members of guarimba victims introduced a petition for more charges against Lopez.

    But Popular Will could never really generate much Popular Will, thanks, in part, to the violent protests of 2014 that resulted in a crackdown on Popular Will and Lopez’s house arrest. Flash forward to December 2018, and we find Guaido sneaking out to DC where he gets assurances from the Trump campaign that he’ll have the US’s backing if he declares himself president:


    A pawn in their game

    The collapse of Popular Will under the weight of the violent campaign of destabilization it ran alienated large sectors of the public and wound much of its leadership up in exile or in custody. Guaidó had remained a relatively minor figure, having spent most of his nine-year career in the National Assembly as an alternate deputy. Hailing from one of Venezuela’s least populous states, Guaidó came in second place during the 2015 parliamentary elections, winning just 26% of votes cast in order to secure his place in the National Assembly. Indeed, his bottom may have been better known than his face.

    In December 2018, Guaidó sneaked across the border and junketed to Washington, Colombia and Brazil to coordinate the plan to hold mass demonstrations during the inauguration of President Maduro. The night before Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony, both Vice President Mike Pence and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called Guaidó to affirm their support.

    A week later, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rick Scott and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart – all lawmakers from the Florida base of the right-wing Cuban exile lobby – joined President Trump and Vice President Pence at the White House. At their request, Trump agreed that if Guaidó declared himself president, he would back him.

    Then, on January 21, we have Guaido’s wife issuing an earlier call for a coup:


    On January 21, a day before the coup began in earnest, Guaidó’s wife delivered a video address calling on the military to rise up against Maduro. Her performance was wooden and uninspiring, underscoring the her husband’s limited political prospects.

    At a press conference before supporters four days later, Guaidó announced his solution to the crisis: “Authorize a humanitarian intervention!”

    That earlier call for a coup obviously didn’t succeed. Will this latest call work for Guaido and his Popular Will movement? Only time will tell, but if it does succeed it’s pretty clear that it won’t happen as a result of genuine popular support. At least not in Venezuela. And if the latest coup attempt doesn’t work it will presumably be back to the Gene Sharp regime-change drawing board.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 30, 2019, 5:08 pm
  7. @Pterrafractyl–

    One wonders how much blood will flow from this “Venezuelan Spring?”

    Also: it won’t be surprising to see Maduro, Chavez et al linked in GOP campaign propaganda to St. Bernard and AOC, the “socialists” in the Democratic Party’s left.

    Note also: Saikat Chakrabarti and his “Justice Democrats” were on fire to have Al Franken resign and be replaced by Keith Ellison, who has one foot in the Muslim Brotherhood and the other in the Nation of Islam.

    https://alphanewsmn.com/progressive-group-calls-franken-replaced-ellison/

    Of course, Ellison is now facing his own #MeToo allegations.

    Biden’s first #MeToo accuser Lucy Flores is a Bernie Bot.

    https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/437116-ex-sanders-staffer-calls-biden-accuser-lucy-flores-a-fraud-and-racist-on

    Keep up the great work!

    Dave Emory

    Posted by Dave Emory | April 30, 2019, 5:56 pm
  8. The question of whether or not a military intervention in Venezuela is in the works as a ‘Plan B’ following the failed right-wing coup attempt of April 30th was already a pretty urgent question. But now that the Trump administration has once again ramped up the threat of a military confrontation with Iran less than two weeks after the failed coup attempt in Venezuela, the question of a ‘Plan B’ military option has suddenly become an become an even more urgent question. So it’s worth noting that, as the following article points out, it appears that President Trump has grown frustrated with John Bolton’s optimism that the coup attempt would work and now Trump apparently fears that Bolton has boxed him into a corner on Venezuela. But as the article also notes, the Trump administration is still officially leaving “all options on the table”:

    The Washington Post

    A frustrated Trump questions his administration’s Venezuela strategy

    By Anne Gearan, Josh Dawsey, John Hudson and Seung Min Kim
    May 8, 2019

    President Trump is questioning his administration’s aggressive strategy in Venezuela following the failure of a U.S.-backed effort to oust President Nicolás Maduro, complaining he was misled about how easy it would be to replace the socialist strongman with a young opposition figure, according to administration officials and White House advisers.

    The president’s dissatisfaction has crystallized around national security adviser John Bolton and what Trump has groused is an interventionist stance at odds with his view that the United States should stay out of foreign quagmires.

    Trump has said in recent days that Bolton wants to get him “into a war” — a comment that he has made in jest in the past but that now betrays his more serious concerns, one senior administration official said.

    The administration’s policy is officially unchanged in the wake of a fizzled power play last week by U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó. But U.S. officials have since been more cautious in their predictions of Maduro’s swift exit, while reassessing what one official described as the likelihood of a diplomatic “long haul.”

    U.S. officials point to the president’s sustained commitment to the Venezuela issue, from the first weeks of his presidency as evidence that he holds a realistic view of the challenges there and does not think there is a quick fix.

    But Trump has nonetheless complained over the past week that Bolton and others underestimated Maduro, according to three senior administration officials who like others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

    Trump has said that Maduro is a “tough cookie” and that aides should not have led him to believe that the Venezuelan leader could be ousted last week, when Guaidó led mass street protests that turned deadly.

    Instead, Maduro rejected an offer to leave the country and two key figures in his government backed out of what Bolton said had been a plan to defect. Maduro publicly mocked Trump in response and said he wasn’t going anywhere, saying the United States had attempted a “foolish” coup.

    Late Wednesday, masked Venezuelan intelligence police detained National Assembly Vice President Edgar Zambrano in a dramatic operation in Caracas, marking the first senior opposition official taken into custody by the socialist government in retaliation for the failed effort to incite a military uprising. Zambrano is one of 10 opposition officials charged with treason, conspiracy and rebellion by the pro-Maduro Supreme Court in connection to the plot.

    Bolton publicly revealed the defection plan to apply pressure to Maduro, which U.S. officials said has worked. They claim Maduro is sleeping in a bunker, paranoid that close aides will turn on him.

    But Trump has expressed concern that Bolton has boxed him into a corner and gone beyond where he is comfortable, said a U.S. official familiar with U.S.-Venezuela policy.

    Bolton’s tweets egging on Maduro to begin an “early retirement” on a “nice beach” and calling for mass defections have been widely viewed as cavalier, raising unrealistic expectation for how quickly his ouster can be engineered, the U.S. official said.

    Despite Trump’s grumbling that Bolton had gotten him out on a limb on Venezuela, Bolton’s job is safe, two senior administration officials said, and Trump has told his national security adviser to keep focusing on Venezuela.

    Garrett Marquis, spokesman for the National Security Council, said in a statement that Bolton “has repeatedly stated the President’s desire for a peaceful transition to democracy in Venezuela, while also ensuring that all options are on the table.”

    “America stands with the GREAT PEOPLE of Venezuela for however long it takes!” Trump tweeted Wednesday as he returned from a campaign rally in Florida, where some Venezuelans fleeing Maduro have settled.

    The open threat of U.S. military involvement in Venezuela has grown alongside the administration’s increasingly confrontational approach to Iran, with Bolton announcing last weekend that a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group would be deployed to counter Iranian plots to harm U.S. forces in the Middle East.

    In both cases, the administration has adopted a get-tough policy that appeals to Trump’s instincts to project American power abroad but that also echoes the kind of military adventurism he has long ridiculed.

    Trump appears to be more comfortable with the Iran policy, which is grounded in his own strong belief that President Barack Obama miscalculated in striking a nuclear bargain with Tehran. He is less comfortable with the escalating rhetoric on Venezuela, which does not pose a direct military threat to the United States. Any U.S. military involvement there risks a proxy fight with Russia, which backs Maduro and has sold him arms.

    The famously hawkish Bolton has been the loudest voice within the administration in support of a potential military response to the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, where escalating U.S. sanctions have not forced Maduro to cede power. He was not the first, however. Trump mused about invading or bombing Venezuela in 2017, comments that were at first dismissed as fanciful.

    Trump is now not inclined to order any sort of military intervention in Venezuela, two officials and an outside adviser said.

    U.S. defense leaders regard any military scenario involving boots on the ground in Venezuela as a quagmire and warn that standoff weapons such as Tomahawk missiles run a major risk of killing civilians. The White House has repeatedly asked for military planning short of an invasion, however.

    Officials said the options under discussion while Maduro is still in power include sending additional military assets to the region, increasing aid to neighboring countries such as Colombia and other steps to provide humanitarian assistance to displaced Venezuelans outside of Venezuela. More forward-leaning options include sending Navy ships to waters off Venezuela as a show of force.

    Other steps under discussion are intended for after Maduro is gone, when U.S. military personnel might be permitted inside Venezuela to help with humanitarian responses.

    John D. Feeley, a former U.S. ambassador and Univision political analyst, said there is another reason that military intervention is unlikely.

    “It runs counter to Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection narrative,” Feeley said. “At a time when you’re pulling people back from Syria, back from Iraq, back from Afghanistan, how do you say we’re going to commit 50-, 100-, 150,000 of our blood and treasure to a country where you can’t tell the bad guys from the good guys?”

    ———-

    “A frustrated Trump questions his administration’s Venezuela strategy” by Anne Gearan, Josh Dawsey, John Hudson and Seung Min Kim; The Washington Post; 05/08/2019

    “Trump has said in recent days that Bolton wants to get him “into a war” — a comment that he has made in jest in the past but that now betrays his more serious concerns, one senior administration official said.”

    LOL! Trump apparently just found out that Bolton wants to get him “into a war.” The guy’s entire resume is trying to get the US into wars, sometimes successfully, but Trump is only figuring this out now. At least that’s the spin.

    And yet, we are told that Bolton’s job is safe and officially all options are on the table. In addition, we’re also informed that the White House has repeatedly asked for military planning short of an invasion, including sending in US military personnel ostensibly for humanitarian responses:


    Despite Trump’s grumbling that Bolton had gotten him out on a limb on Venezuela, Bolton’s job is safe, two senior administration officials said, and Trump has told his national security adviser to keep focusing on Venezuela.

    Garrett Marquis, spokesman for the National Security Council, said in a statement that Bolton “has repeatedly stated the President’s desire for a peaceful transition to democracy in Venezuela, while also ensuring that all options are on the table.”

    U.S. defense leaders regard any military scenario involving boots on the ground in Venezuela as a quagmire and warn that standoff weapons such as Tomahawk missiles run a major risk of killing civilians. The White House has repeatedly asked for military planning short of an invasion, however.

    Officials said the options under discussion while Maduro is still in power include sending additional military assets to the region, increasing aid to neighboring countries such as Colombia and other steps to provide humanitarian assistance to displaced Venezuelans outside of Venezuela. More forward-leaning options include sending Navy ships to waters off Venezuela as a show of force.

    Other steps under discussion are intended for after Maduro is gone, when U.S. military personnel might be permitted inside Venezuela to help with humanitarian responses.

    That sure sounds like the Trump administration has been planning on some sort of US military activity in Venezuela, if only as a post-regime change security force for the new US-backed government. And as the article reminds us, Trump mused about a military invasion of Venezuela in 2017 (he publicly tweeted about it in August of 2017):


    The famously hawkish Bolton has been the loudest voice within the administration in support of a potential military response to the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, where escalating U.S. sanctions have not forced Maduro to cede power. He was not the first, however. Trump mused about invading or bombing Venezuela in 2017, comments that were at first dismissed as fanciful.

    Trump is now not inclined to order any sort of military intervention in Venezuela, two officials and an outside adviser said.

    So it’s rather hard to see Trump’s complaints about Bolton trying to get him into a war in Venezuela as anything other than spin and frustration that the April 30th US-coordinated coup attempt failed so spectacularly.

    But what about the Venezuelan opposition’s views on military intervention? Are they are in favor of US forces being involved in a regime-change operation or providing some other form of military support? Well, as the following article from just a few days after the failed coup in forms us, the Venezuelan opposition’s answer to the question of whether or not they would support US military assistance in overthrowing the Venezuelan government is a strong “maybe, if it’s deemed necessary”:

    The Washington Post

    Guaidó says opposition overestimated military support for uprising

    By Anthony Faiola
    May 4, 2019

    CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó on Saturday acknowledged errors made in attempting to stir a military uprising, Guaidó says opposition overestimated military support for uprising — saying he would take any such offer from Washington to a vote in the country’s National Assembly.

    After a dramatic week that saw a clandestine plan to oust President Nicolás Maduro fall apart on Tuesday, Guaidó conceded that the opposition had miscalculated its support within the military.

    In an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, Guaidó suggested that he expected Maduro to step down amid a groundswell of defectors within the military. Instead, Guaidó’s call for the rank and file and senior brass to abandon Maduro did not produce mass defections. Maduro’s security forces then quelled street protests and left Guaidó’s U.S.-backed opposition on its heels.

    “Maybe because we still need more soldiers, and maybe we need more officials of the regime to be willing to support it, to back the constitution,” Guaidó said. “I think the variables are obvious at this point.”

    Guaidó — the head of the National Assembly who in January declared Maduro a usurper and claimed the legitimate mantle of national leadership — did not back unilateral U.S. military intervention. He made clear that any American military support must be alongside Venezuelan forces who have turned against Maduro, but gave no further specifics on what would be acceptable.

    The Trump administration has said all options are on the table, and its hawks have pressed the Pentagon for possible military involvement. But the administration has not clearly signaled whether it would favor intervention against Maduro.

    Asked what he would do if national security adviser John Bolton called him up with an offer of U.S. intervention, Guaidó said he would reply: “Dear friend, ambassador John Bolton, thank you for all the help you have given to the just cause here. Thank you for the option, we will evaluate it, and will probably consider it in parliament to solve this crisis. If it’s necessary, maybe we will approve it.”

    The remarks were among the strongest Guaidó has issued yet on the delicate subject of U.S. military assistance — an option that remains largely unpopular even among Venezuelans opposed to Maduro.

    Guaidó said he welcomed recent deliberations on military options in Washington, calling them “great news.”

    “That’s great news to Venezuela because we are evaluating all options. It’s good to know that important allies like the U.S. are also evaluating the option. That gives us the possibility that if we need cooperation, we know we can get it.”

    He added: “I think today there are many Venezuelan soldiers that want to put an end to [leftist guerrillas], and help humanitarian aid get in, who would be happy to receive cooperation to end usurpation. And if that includes the cooperation of honorable countries like the United States, I think that would be an option.”

    Yet after Tuesday’s failed uprising, Guaidó may now be fighting a two-front battle: both to oust Maduro and keep the opposition united.

    Guaidó, a 35-year-old industrial engineer and former student leader from Venezuela’s Caribbean coast, has ignited new hope in the opposition’s ranks since he emerged as the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly — a body stripped of its powers by Maduro in 2017 but widely recognized internationally as the country’s only democratic institution.

    Guaidó’s claim to be Venezuela’s rightful interim president has been recognized by more than 50 nations and strongly backed by the Trump administration. Guaidó said he had been in contact with U.S. officials during the week.

    Yet the unraveling of a carefully laid plan to oust Maduro, including negotiations with his senior loyalists, has generated rifts within the opposition. Some of its senior leaders have issued recriminations over what went wrong. The sniping risks robbing the opposition of what became its single strongest asset in recent months: unity.

    Some frustrated opposition members are blaming Leopoldo Lopez, Guaidó’s mentor, who escaped house arrest and appeared with Guaidó on Tuesday morning, for upending the plan.

    Lopez was one of the key architects of secret negotiations with government loyalists who were supposed to turn against Maduro on Tuesday. But his triumphant public appearance after escaping a military base, insiders say, was not expected. Some argue that it may have disrupted a carefully laid plan in which some of Maduro’s senior loyalists were poised to force him out.

    What actually persuaded Maduro’s inner circle to close ranks instead remains a mystery. And Guaidó would not discuss the negotiations nor the specifics of the opposition’s plan. But the internal sniping poses a new challenge for an opposition that before Guaidó’s rise in January was largely seen as ineffectual and divided.

    “The event shook Venezuelan politics,” said Carlos Romero, a Venezuelan political analyst. “People are confused, wounded, unmotivated.”

    “I have heard some politicians call it a “Leopoldada,” he continued, using a word that in Spanish suggests a maverick act by one person. “And the most affected one is Guaidó, who has been selling himself as a unitary leader. To appear with Leopoldo in a position like that one may have reduced some leaders’ trust in him.”

    Guaidó offered a brief and lukewarm defense of the actions of Lopez, his political mentor.

    “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t have information of that.”

    Guaidó sought to downplay internal divisions in the opposition, however, saying “there’s absolute unity. As always there are some differences in specific things. But I think a single cause unites us, not only as opposition but civil society too.”

    Asked if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had damaged opposition negotiations by mentioning the names of the alleged conspirators who were willing to turn against Maduro — including his defense minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez — Guaidó said Pompeo had not. Rather, he called Pompeo’s move a demonstration of “important support.”

    The plan moving forward, he said, remains a combination of international pressure, attempts to woo Maduro loyalists, and street action. But Guaidó is confronting the additional challenge of exhaustion and frustration in the Venezuelan street.

    Corruption, mismanagement and failed policies have brought Venezuela to its knees, sparking hunger, a mass exodus of migrants and the collapse of the public health system, as well as the electricity and water grids. In addition, anti-government protesters have confronted violent repression from Maduro’s security forces — including four deaths during the past week.

    A march on Wednesday — immediately after the failed uprising — drew many thousands. But by Saturday, a march called by Guaidó to military installations largely fizzled, drawing nowhere near the crowds of previous protests.

    “We have been doing this for 20 years,” Guaidó said, referring to the rise of the leftist firebrand Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013 after naming Maduro as his anointed successor. “Getting frustrated and tired is part of it, but Venezuelans have demonstrated that they always take the fight again when they have to.”

    He tacitly acknowledged that the plan put in place by the opposition did not work, and said that his camp was seeking to do outreach with Maduro’s military and senior civilian backers. But he did not suggest that the opposition was close to another breakthrough.

    “Because the fact that we did what we did and it didn’t succeed on the first time, doesn’t mean it’s not valid,” he said. “We are confronting a wall that is an absolute dictatorship. … We have recognized our mistakes — what we didn’t do, and [what] we did too much of.”

    International calls are rising for the opposition to sit down in official talks with Maduro’s camp. But Guaidó reiterated his opposition to talks without the precondition of negotiating Maduro’s departure.

    “Sitting down with Maduro is not an option,” he said. “That happened in 2014, in 2016, in 2017. … The end of usurpation is a precondition to any possible dialogue.”

    ———-

    “Guaidó says opposition overestimated military support for uprising” by Anthony Faiola; The Washington Post; 05/04/2019

    “Asked what he would do if national security adviser John Bolton called him up with an offer of U.S. intervention, Guaidó said he would reply: “Dear friend, ambassador John Bolton, thank you for all the help you have given to the just cause here. Thank you for the option, we will evaluate it, and will probably consider it in parliament to solve this crisis. If it’s necessary, maybe we will approve it.”

    Yep, Juan Guaido is very frank about his views on a US military backing of regime change: definitely maybe…if it’s deemed necessary:


    The remarks were among the strongest Guaidó has issued yet on the delicate subject of U.S. military assistance — an option that remains largely unpopular even among Venezuelans opposed to Maduro.

    Guaidó said he welcomed recent deliberations on military options in Washington, calling them “great news.”

    “That’s great news to Venezuela because we are evaluating all options. It’s good to know that important allies like the U.S. are also evaluating the option. That gives us the possibility that if we need cooperation, we know we can get it.”

    He added: “I think today there are many Venezuelan soldiers that want to put an end to [leftist guerrillas], and help humanitarian aid get in, who would be happy to receive cooperation to end usurpation. And if that includes the cooperation of honorable countries like the United States, I think that would be an option.”

    So what are the odds that the Venezuelan opposition is going to determine that, yes, US military backing is a necessity? Well, that appears to be largely hinge on whether or the opposition can get adequate backing from the Venezuelan military. And as we saw, they failed spectacularly. Beyond that, they don’t appear to have a coherent explanation for why they failed so spectacularly. For example, we’re learning that the coup attempt from preceded by secret negotiations with Maduro loyalists. And Leopoldo Lopez, the hard right neoliberal economist and mentor of Juan Guaido, was apparently one of the key architects of these secret negotiations. Lopez also notably was released from house arrest on the day of the coup attempt and publicly met with Guaido on the streets. This appearance by Lopez is apparently being blamed by some in the opposition for the lack of support for the coup within the Venezuelan military. Which seems like a highly questionable excuse given that Lopez has long been closely associatd with Guaido. It’s not like it was a secret that the two are allies. But those are the kinds of recriminations that are taking place within the Venezuelan opposition at this point. The fact that the lack of support in the military might have something to do with Guiado and Lopez representing the interests of wealth right-wing oligarchs and international backers and not the interests of average Venezuelans is never mentioned. And when those the kind of people who are leading the opposition it’s hard to see what exactly is going to bring about support for regime change within the Venezuelan military:


    Yet after Tuesday’s failed uprising, Guaidó may now be fighting a two-front battle: both to oust Maduro and keep the opposition united.

    Guaidó, a 35-year-old industrial engineer and former student leader from Venezuela’s Caribbean coast, has ignited new hope in the opposition’s ranks since he emerged as the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly — a body stripped of its powers by Maduro in 2017 but widely recognized internationally as the country’s only democratic institution.

    Guaidó’s claim to be Venezuela’s rightful interim president has been recognized by more than 50 nations and strongly backed by the Trump administration. Guaidó said he had been in contact with U.S. officials during the week.

    Yet the unraveling of a carefully laid plan to oust Maduro, including negotiations with his senior loyalists, has generated rifts within the opposition. Some of its senior leaders have issued recriminations over what went wrong. The sniping risks robbing the opposition of what became its single strongest asset in recent months: unity.

    Some frustrated opposition members are blaming Leopoldo Lopez, Guaidó’s mentor, who escaped house arrest and appeared with Guaidó on Tuesday morning, for upending the plan.

    Lopez was one of the key architects of secret negotiations with government loyalists who were supposed to turn against Maduro on Tuesday. But his triumphant public appearance after escaping a military base, insiders say, was not expected. Some argue that it may have disrupted a carefully laid plan in which some of Maduro’s senior loyalists were poised to force him out.

    What actually persuaded Maduro’s inner circle to close ranks instead remains a mystery. And Guaidó would not discuss the negotiations nor the specifics of the opposition’s plan. But the internal sniping poses a new challenge for an opposition that before Guaidó’s rise in January was largely seen as ineffectual and divided.

    “The event shook Venezuelan politics,” said Carlos Romero, a Venezuelan political analyst. “People are confused, wounded, unmotivated.”

    “I have heard some politicians call it a “Leopoldada,” he continued, using a word that in Spanish suggests a maverick act by one person. “And the most affected one is Guaidó, who has been selling himself as a unitary leader. To appear with Leopoldo in a position like that one may have reduced some leaders’ trust in him.”

    So it’s looking like the Venezuelan opposition is likely to remain relatively unpopular within Venezuela and with the military, and that means we should probably expect that opposition to determine US military back a necessity sooner or later. But will the Trump administration actually back the use of US military forces for the purposes of overthrowing the Maduro regime, which is what the opposition clearly needs? That remains to be seen. But as the following article that was remarkably published on April 30th, the same day of the failed coup attempt, informs us, there’s another option for outside military forces. An alarmingly familiar option at this point: Erik Prince wants to send in a mercenary military force to overthrow Maduro and he’s been lobbying the Trump administration for months:

    Reuters

    Exclusive – Blackwater founder’s latest sales pitch: mercenaries for Venezuela

    Aram Roston, Matt Spetalnick
    April 30, 2019 / 12:04 AM

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Erik Prince – the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater and a prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump – has been pushing a plan to deploy a private army to help topple Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, four sources with knowledge of the effort told Reuters.

    Over the last several months, the sources said, Prince has sought investment and political support for such an operation from influential Trump supporters and wealthy Venezuelan exiles. In private meetings in the United States and Europe, Prince sketched out a plan to field up to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire on behalf of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, according to two sources with direct knowledge of Prince’s pitch.

    One source said Prince has conducted meetings about the issue as recently as mid-April.

    White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis declined to comment when asked whether Prince had proposed his plan to the government and whether it would be considered. A person familiar with the administration’s thinking said the White House would not support such a plan.

    Venezuela opposition officials have not discussed security operations with Prince, said Guaido spokesman Edward Rodriguez, who did not answer additional questions from Reuters. The Maduro government did not respond to a request for comment.

    Some U.S. and Venezuelan security experts, told of the plan by Reuters, called it politically far-fetched and potentially dangerous because it could set off a civil war. A Venezuelan exile close to the opposition agreed but said private contractors might prove useful, in the event Maduro’s government collapses, by providing security for a new administration in the aftermath.

    A spokesman for Prince, Marc Cohen, said this month that Prince “has no plans to operate or implement an operation in Venezuela” and declined to answer further questions.

    Lital Leshem – the director of investor relations at Prince’s private equity firm, Frontier Resource Group – earlier confirmed Prince’s interest in Venezuela security operations.

    “He does have a solution for Venezuela, just as he has a solution for many other places,” she said, declining to elaborate on his proposal.

    The two sources with direct knowledge of Prince’s pitch said it calls for starting with intelligence operations and later deploying 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire from Colombia and other Latin American nations to conduct combat and stabilization operations.

    ‘DYNAMIC EVENT’

    For Prince, the unlikely gambit represents the latest effort in a long campaign to privatize warfare. The wealthy son of an auto-parts tycoon has fielded private security contractors in conflict zones from Central Asia to Africa to the Middle East.

    One of Prince’s key arguments, one source said, is that Venezuela needs what Prince calls a “dynamic event” to break the stalemate that has existed since January, when Guaido – the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly – declared Maduro’s 2018 re-election illegitimate and invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency.

    CLOSE TIES TO TRUMP

    Prince was a pioneer in private military contracting during the Iraq war, when the U.S. government hired Blackwater primarily to provide security for State Department operations there.

    In 2007, Blackwater employees shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians at Nisour Square in Baghdad, sparking international outrage. One of the Blackwater employees involved was convicted of murder in December and three others have been convicted of manslaughter.

    Prince renamed the Blackwater security company and sold it in 2010, but he recently opened a company called Blackwater USA, which sells ammunition, silencers and knives. Over the past two years, he has led an unsuccessful campaign to convince the Trump administration to replace U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan with security contractors.

    Since 2014, Prince has run the Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group, which has close ties to the state-owned Chinese investment company CITIC and helps Chinese firms operating in Africa with security, aviation and logistics services.

    Prince donated $100,000 to a political action committee that supported Trump’s election. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is the administration’s education secretary.

    Prince’s role in Trump’s campaign was highlighted in the report by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, released this month, on alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

    The report outlined how Prince financed an effort to authenticate purported Hillary Clinton emails and how in 2016 he met in the Seychelles islands, off east Africa, with a wealthy Russian financial official on behalf of Trump’s presidential transition team.

    Prince spokesman Cohen declined to comment on the Mueller report.

    TARGETING FROZEN ASSETS

    The two sources with direct knowledge of Prince’s Venezuela plan said he is seeking $40 million from private investors. He also aims to get funding from the billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets that have been seized by governments around the world imposing sanctions on the OPEC nation, a major oil exporter.

    It’s unclear, however, how the Venezuelan opposition could legally access those assets. Prince told people in pitch meetings, the sources said, that he believes that Guaido has the authority to form his own military force because he has been recognized internationally as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

    Prince envisions a force made up of “Peruvians, Ecuadoreans, Colombians, Spanish speakers,” one of the sources said, adding that Prince argued that such soldiers would be more politically palatable than American contractors.

    ———-

    “Exclusive – Blackwater founder’s latest sales pitch: mercenaries for Venezuela” by Aram Roston, Matt Spetalnick; Reuters; 04/30/2019

    “Over the last several months, the sources said, Prince has sought investment and political support for such an operation from influential Trump supporters and wealthy Venezuelan exiles. In private meetings in the United States and Europe, Prince sketched out a plan to field up to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire on behalf of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, according to two sources with direct knowledge of Prince’s pitch.”

    Will 5,000 mercenaries provide the Venezuelan opposition the military might it needs to overthrow Maduro? In terms of raw numbers for actually fighting and defeating the Venezuelan military it doesn’t seem like that would be remotely enough. But note Prince’s plan is for starting the regime change plan with intelligence operations and creation some sort of “dynamic event”. In other words, asymmetric warfare:


    The two sources with direct knowledge of Prince’s pitch said it calls for starting with intelligence operations and later deploying 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire from Colombia and other Latin American nations to conduct combat and stabilization operations.

    ‘DYNAMIC EVENT’

    For Prince, the unlikely gambit represents the latest effort in a long campaign to privatize warfare. The wealthy son of an auto-parts tycoon has fielded private security contractors in conflict zones from Central Asia to Africa to the Middle East.

    One of Prince’s key arguments, one source said, is that Venezuela needs what Prince calls a “dynamic event” to break the stalemate that has existed since January, when Guaido – the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly – declared Maduro’s 2018 re-election illegitimate and invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency.

    And as we should expect at this point, it sounds like the Venezuelan opposition is quite open to Prince’s proposal:


    Venezuela opposition officials have not discussed security operations with Prince, said Guaido spokesman Edward Rodriguez, who did not answer additional questions from Reuters. The Maduro government did not respond to a request for comment.

    Some U.S. and Venezuelan security experts, told of the plan by Reuters, called it politically far-fetched and potentially dangerous because it could set off a civil war. A Venezuelan exile close to the opposition agreed but said private contractors might prove useful, in the event Maduro’s government collapses, by providing security for a new administration in the aftermath.

    And while the source close to the Trump administration is claiming that the Trump administration wouldn’t support such a plan, note that Prince was apparently holding these meetings as recently as mid-April, just two weeks before the failed coup attempt. Recall that this article was published the day of the failed coup, so that source was reporting the administration’s thinking before the coup failed. Did that thinking change?


    One source said Prince has conducted meetings about the issue as recently as mid-April.

    White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis declined to comment when asked whether Prince had proposed his plan to the government and whether it would be considered. A person familiar with the administration’s thinking said the White House would not support such a plan.

    Also note how Prince’s plans are for the Venezuelan opposition to pay for this mercenary force using $40 million from private investors and the Venezuelan assets seized by foreign governments and private investors. So financial cost may not be an issue, assuming governments allow the opposition to access those funds:


    TARGETING FROZEN ASSETS

    The two sources with direct knowledge of Prince’s Venezuela plan said he is seeking $40 million from private investors. He also aims to get funding from the billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets that have been seized by governments around the world imposing sanctions on the OPEC nation, a major oil exporter.

    It’s unclear, however, how the Venezuelan opposition could legally access those assets. Prince told people in pitch meetings, the sources said, that he believes that Guaido has the authority to form his own military force because he has been recognized internationally as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

    Prince envisions a force made up of “Peruvians, Ecuadoreans, Colombians, Spanish speakers,” one of the sources said, adding that Prince argued that such soldiers would be more politically palatable than American contractors.

    It’s also worth recalling that while Prince does indeed have extensive ties to the Trump administration and was one of the key figures in the Mueller investigation into the 2016 campaign, that investigation didn’t just reveal Prince’s ties to the Trump team. Prince was also acting as a representative of the Saudi and UAE governments in a bid to support Trump’s campaign. So it’s important to keep in mind that Prince has very close ties to two major oil exporters who happen to be key competitors with Venezuela in the global oil markets:


    CLOSE TIES TO TRUMP

    Prince donated $100,000 to a political action committee that supported Trump’s election. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is the administration’s education secretary.

    Prince’s role in Trump’s campaign was highlighted in the report by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, released this month, on alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

    The report outlined how Prince financed an effort to authenticate purported Hillary Clinton emails and how in 2016 he met in the Seychelles islands, off east Africa, with a wealthy Russian financial official on behalf of Trump’s presidential transition team.

    Prince spokesman Cohen declined to comment on the Mueller report.

    Might the Saudi and UAE governments have an interest in seeing Venezuela collapse into a protracted civil war? It’s a question we have to ask now that the master or mercenaries has set his sights on the country. Don’t forget that Prince literally relocated to the UAE in 2010. Also don’t forget that a protracted civil war just means more contracts for Erik Prince.

    So as we can see, there are a lot more people than just John Bolton trying to push the US into a war in Venezuela.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 11, 2019, 4:28 pm
  9. One of the more remarkable aspects of the spectacular failure of the Venezuelan coup attempt from several weeks ago was the fact that US figures like John Bolton were openly naming the apparent co-conspirators in the Venezuelan government. In what appeared to be a kind of ‘name and shame’ tactic to coax them into backing the regime change push, figures like Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, Supreme Court chief judge Maikel Moreno and presidential guard commander Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala were openly called upon by Bolton to get behind the regime change effort. Bolton also claimed these figures had previously voiced their support for removing the Maduro government.

    So why were potential co-conspirator openly called out by the US in this highly risky manner? Well, as we’re going to see, it’s a reflection of how high risk this coup attempt ultimately was in the end. Because it turns out that, yes, these figures were indeed in conversations with the Venezuelan opposition and the US in the weeks before the coup attempt and were indeed supportive of removing Maduro from power. But they were not on board with the entire plan.

    At least that was the case with Supreme Court chief judge Maikel Moreno, who was seen as a crucial figure for the coup attempt to work because it was Moreno who could give the military legal legitimacy to move against Maduro, making the coup technically not a coup. As we’ll see, Moreno was in extensive talks with the opposition and claimed to be behind removing Maduro, but he had a different idea for who should replace Maduro: himself. Moreno felt that power should temporarily be transferred to the courts, instead of the National Assembly, and that would make Moreno the temporary head of the government.

    So while Moreno agreed Maduro had to go, he never actually go on board with the opposition’s plan and did not agree that Guaido should replace Maduro. This was the case as of April 28th, just two days before the coup attempt. The plan was for a May 1st uprising, but then Maduro’s spy chief, Maj. Gen. Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, one of the other government insiders who was part of the scheme, got word that the Maduro government was planning on replacing him and also planning on some sort of unspecified crackdown on Guaido and the other opposition leaders. Figuera also learned that the Leopoldo Lopez (the neoliberal economist who was Juan Guaido’s mentor) was about to be transferred from house arrest back to jail. These pressures force the opposition to move up the planned coup date one day to April 30th.

    And that’s how haphazard the coup attempt was: three days before the planned coup, they learn that Moreno, a key figure needed for it to work, isn’t on board with the plan. Then they learn that the Maduro government was planning on an imminent crackdown. So they decided to just roll the dice and go with the coup plan a day early and hoped they could pressure Moreno into going along with it. That’s the backstory of why you had John Bolton publicly naming and shaming potential coup co-conspirators:

    Reuters

    Bolton presses key aides to Venezuela’s Maduro to abandon him

    April 30, 2019 / 2:17 PM

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday singled out three senior aides to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro who he said must make good on commitments they purportedly made to the opposition for a peaceful transition away from Maduro’s rule.

    Speaking at the White House during a day of anti-government protests in Venezuela, Bolton named Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, Supreme Court chief judge Maikel Moreno and presidential guard commander Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala as having told the opposition that Maduro needed to give up power to opposition leader Juan Guaido.

    Bolton offered no evidence that three of Maduro’s top loyalists had expressed a willingness to turn against the socialist president, except to say the opposition had kept the Trump administration well informed about their discussions.

    “It’s still very important for three figures in the Maduro regime who have been talking to the opposition over these last three months to make good on their commitment to achieve the peaceful transition of power from the Maduro clique to interim president Juan Guaido,” Bolton told reporters.

    “All agreed that Maduro had to go,” Bolton said. “They need to be able to act this afternoon and this evening to be able to bring other military forces to the side of the interim president.”

    ———

    “Bolton presses key aides to Venezuela’s Maduro to abandon him”; Reuters; 04/30/2019

    ““It’s still very important for three figures in the Maduro regime who have been talking to the opposition over these last three months to make good on their commitment to achieve the peaceful transition of power from the Maduro clique to interim president Juan Guaido,” Bolton told reporters.”

    Behold! It’s John Bolton’s version of diplomacy: outing his fellow coup co-conspirators who got cold feet. It was one of the surreal aspects to a coup attempt where pretty much everything went wrong.

    Now here’s a article from last week with the backstory on why Bolton was naming and shaming figure like Maikel Moreno: Bolton needed to do name and shame because his fellow coup plotters went ahead with coup plans without the backing of all the key plotters (which seems like a really bad plan):

    The Washington Post

    Inside the secret plot to turn senior Venezuelan officials against Maduro

    By Anthony Faiola
    May 13, 2019

    Late one night in April, a week before Venezuela’s opposition launched its abortive uprising, four men sat on the terrace of the hillside compound in Caracas belonging to the chief justice of the country’s Supreme Court. The dim lights of the capital twinkling below them, they sipped Fiji bottled water as they plotted the ouster of President Nicolás Maduro.

    Maduro’s spy chief, Maj. Gen. Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, and Cesar Omaña, a 39-year-old Venezuelan businessman based in Miami, were trying to seal a deal hashed out over weeks with Maikel Moreno, the chief justice, according to one of the participants in the meeting. Figuera and Omaña were part of the plan to force Maduro out, but they needed Moreno’s help.

    Moreno, sitting before an ashtray laden with the stubs of Cuban cigars, appeared to be having doubts. The 53-year-old jurist voiced concerns about Juan Guaidó, the U.S.-backed opposition leader who would become the nation’s interim president if the plot succeeded.

    Then, according to the participant, Moreno offered another candidate to “temporarily” lead the broken country — himself.

    “In the end, he was trying to safeguard his own power play,” one senior opposition figure said.

    The three people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal tactics, said Moreno’s hesitant pledge to cooperate — and then his reversal — played a crucial role in the plan’s collapse.

    The failure of the uprising has cast new uncertainty on the opposition’s months-long effort to oust Maduro. Guaidó made a surprise appearance with a handful of troops at a military base in Caracas at dawn on April 30 to announce that he had the support of key military units and to call on others to join in the “final phase” of the campaign against the strongman. But the broader military support never materialized, and Maduro’s forces moved against opposition protesters, killing at least four and wounding scores.

    While U.S. officials still want Maduro out and say they remain engaged, they now say it probably will take longer than they initially believed. President Trump, meanwhile, has expressed frustration at his administration’s aggressive strategy, complaining that he was misled about how easy it would be to replace Maduro with Guaidó, according to administration officials and White House advisers.

    Moreno’s backing alone, opposition officials concede, might not have forced Maduro out on April 30. But the plotters were counting on Moreno to provide a vital lever to sway the military to their cause: a legal ruling that would have effectively acknowledged Guaidó as interim president and led to new elections. The fact that it never emerged, they believe, scared off key military and other loyalists.

    They portray the chief justice, a former intelligence officer turned lawyer, as an angler with his own ambitions of power. The senior U.S. official confirmed that the version of events described here concurred with descriptions offered to the Americans by the Venezuelan opposition, which had been updating them on the progress of the talks. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has publicly named Moreno as one of the top loyalists in talks to turn on Maduro.

    Moreno, through a spokesman, did not respond to a request for comment. He has publicly condemned the plot against Maduro, and in the days since, the court he leads has issued charges, including treason, against opposition figures involved in the attempted ouster.

    “I express my strong rejection of the illegal intention of a very small group of military and civilians who have sought to take political power with force, going against the constitution and the laws,” Moreno said in a call to state television 90 minutes after the uprising began.

    Maduro hasn’t openly moved against Moreno or any other senior loyalists that U.S. and opposition officials claim were plotting against him. Analysts see two possible reasons: Either the loyalists were feigning interest in ousting Maduro to learn more about the plot or expose it, or Maduro is too weak to act against other senior officials.

    Opposition officials, while disappointed that the plan did not work, remain convinced that it has shown a critical lack of loyalty, and believe senior officials and justices might still be willing to turn.

    Figuera, Omaña and Moreno met around 11 p.m. on April 23 at Moreno’s mansion in the Alto Hatillo neighborhood of Caracas, outfitted with an impressive wine cellar, the participant recalled.

    Figuera and Omaña — a chemicals trader and medical doctor who was working to defuse the crisis by liaising with contacts in loyalist circles, the U.S. government and the opposition — promised Moreno that senior government officials and top military brass were poised to stand up and denounce Maduro. But they needed a legal lever to help provide legitimacy, and one that only Moreno could provide.

    For weeks, they had gone back and forth on the language of a ruling to be issued by the Supreme Court, and which was expected on the night of April 29. Under the ruling, according to a draft reviewed by The Washington Post, the Supreme Court would withdraw legal recognition of Maduro’s Constituent Assembly, one of the key sources of his power, and the status of political prisoners would be “revised.”

    Most important, the Supreme Court would reinstate the National Assembly, headed by Guaidó but stripped of its powers by the court in 2017 under Moreno’s leadership. It also would call for the backing of the armed forces, and free and fair elections.

    “The magnitude of the social damage caused to Venezuelan society given the violation of [democratic guarantees] and constitutional principles, is incommensurable,” the never-issued draft declared.

    The National Assembly, widely recognized internationally as Venezuela’s only democratic institution, had already declared Maduro an “usurper” and named Guaidó the nation’s interim president. The Supreme Court ruling would have effectively backed that declaration, providing the armed forces with the constitutional cover they needed to turn against Maudro.

    In return for the legal ruling, the Supreme Court justices, including Moreno, would get to keep their posts.

    As described by opposition officials, the operation wasn’t meant to be a textbook “coup,” but a tightly sequenced chain of official statements meant to force Maduro to step down without a single bullet being fired.

    The Supreme Court ruling “was essential, because it gave the military as an institution a reason to step forward in an honorable way,” said a person present at the meeting. “It made it so their actions were legal, and would not be considered a coup.”

    On that evening of April 23, Moreno, while sympathetic to the opposition’s goal, sounded anxious and dubious, the participant said. He had been in communication with a U.S. contact and senior opposition figures living in exile. Yet that evening, he complained that if the plan failed, he might be compelled to leave the country for the United States and “end up carrying my wife’s bags at Walmart.”

    Then he raised the issue of who would lead the country if Maduro was pushed aside.

    “Why Guaidó? Why him?” Moreno asked, according to the participant.

    Moreno suggested he delay the restitution of the National Assembly’s powers, and therefore the placement of Guaidó as interim president. He presented the Supreme Court — a 32-member body largely seen as pro-Maduro, but with at least two dissenting voices — as the logical interim power. Such a move would have made Moreno, as the court’s chief justice, the nation’s temporary ruler ahead of any new elections.

    The participants balked. They envisioned a transition like the one in South Africa, albeit based on social ideology instead of race. But the transition needed a broker with international stature, constitutional legitimacy and popular support. That person, they told Moreno, was Guaidó.

    By the end of the night, Moreno appeared to have come around, the participant said. But in two meetings later that week — the most recent on April 28 with Figuera — he began to have doubts. He insisted the opposition show it had support from the military before the Supreme Court issued its ruling. He also demanded from Figuera a pledge of forces to protect himself and his family after the ruling was issued.

    None of it would come to pass.

    Opposition officials say the move was originally scheduled for May 1 but had to be moved up a day when Figuera sent a text at 1 a.m. April 30 saying he had learned he was about to be replaced as head of SEBIN, Maduro’s feared intelligence police.

    Figuera also said Leopoldo López — under house arrest as the nation’s most famous political prisoner, and a key player in the effort to oust Maduro — was about to be transferred back to a prison cell.

    Opposition officials were also told that the government was preparing to take unspecified action against Guaidó and other senior opposition leaders.

    “The message was: We had to act,” one opposition leader said.

    The conspirators made desperate attempts to reach Moreno that day, but their calls went unanswered. Gradually, many of the military men initially backing Guaidó at the La Carlota military base began to drift away. Others who had pledged their support never showed up.

    Said one opposition official: If Moreno had acted, “the cracks [in Maduro’s inner circle] would have been deeper, and probably definitive.”

    ———-

    “Inside the secret plot to turn senior Venezuelan officials against Maduro” by Anthony Faiola; The Washington Post; 05/13/2019

    “Maduro’s spy chief, Maj. Gen. Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, and Cesar Omaña, a 39-year-old Venezuelan businessman based in Miami, were trying to seal a deal hashed out over weeks with Maikel Moreno, the chief justice, according to one of the participants in the meeting. Figuera and Omaña were part of the plan to force Maduro out, but they needed Moreno’s help.

    Chief Justice Moreno was the linchpin of the plan. It was Moreno who would give the planned military’s move against Maduro legal legitimacy:


    Figuera, Omaña and Moreno met around 11 p.m. on April 23 at Moreno’s mansion in the Alto Hatillo neighborhood of Caracas, outfitted with an impressive wine cellar, the participant recalled.

    Figuera and Omaña — a chemicals trader and medical doctor who was working to defuse the crisis by liaising with contacts in loyalist circles, the U.S. government and the opposition — promised Moreno that senior government officials and top military brass were poised to stand up and denounce Maduro. But they needed a legal lever to help provide legitimacy, and one that only Moreno could provide.

    For weeks, they had gone back and forth on the language of a ruling to be issued by the Supreme Court, and which was expected on the night of April 29. Under the ruling, according to a draft reviewed by The Washington Post, the Supreme Court would withdraw legal recognition of Maduro’s Constituent Assembly, one of the key sources of his power, and the status of political prisoners would be “revised.”

    Most important, the Supreme Court would reinstate the National Assembly, headed by Guaidó but stripped of its powers by the court in 2017 under Moreno’s leadership. It also would call for the backing of the armed forces, and free and fair elections.

    The National Assembly, widely recognized internationally as Venezuela’s only democratic institution, had already declared Maduro an “usurper” and named Guaidó the nation’s interim president. The Supreme Court ruling would have effectively backed that declaration, providing the armed forces with the constitutional cover they needed to turn against Maudro.

    In return for the legal ruling, the Supreme Court justices, including Moreno, would get to keep their posts.

    As described by opposition officials, the operation wasn’t meant to be a textbook “coup,” but a tightly sequenced chain of official statements meant to force Maduro to step down without a single bullet being fired.

    The Supreme Court ruling “was essential, because it gave the military as an institution a reason to step forward in an honorable way,” said a person present at the meeting. “It made it so their actions were legal, and would not be considered a coup.”

    But on April 23, a week before the planned coup, Moreno was voicing doubts about plan. Specifically, doubts about putting Juan Guaido in power and the National Assembly directly in power. Moreno wanted the courts to temporarily rule ahead of new elections. It appeared that his concerns were placated but then, on April 28th, Moreno once again expressed doubts and insisted that the support from the military had to be demonstrated before the Supreme Court could issue its ruling. This was a rather big complication because it was the Supreme Court that was supposed to open the way for the military to back new government. So Moreno threw a big wrench in the plans just a few days before it was set to go:


    On that evening of April 23, Moreno, while sympathetic to the opposition’s goal, sounded anxious and dubious, the participant said. He had been in communication with a U.S. contact and senior opposition figures living in exile. Yet that evening, he complained that if the plan failed, he might be compelled to leave the country for the United States and “end up carrying my wife’s bags at Walmart.”

    Then he raised the issue of who would lead the country if Maduro was pushed aside.

    “Why Guaidó? Why him?” Moreno asked, according to the participant.

    Moreno suggested he delay the restitution of the National Assembly’s powers, and therefore the placement of Guaidó as interim president. He presented the Supreme Court — a 32-member body largely seen as pro-Maduro, but with at least two dissenting voices — as the logical interim power. Such a move would have made Moreno, as the court’s chief justice, the nation’s temporary ruler ahead of any new elections.

    The participants balked. They envisioned a transition like the one in South Africa, albeit based on social ideology instead of race. But the transition needed a broker with international stature, constitutional legitimacy and popular support. That person, they told Moreno, was Guaidó.

    By the end of the night, Moreno appeared to have come around, the participant said. But in two meetings later that week — the most recent on April 28 with Figuera — he began to have doubts. He insisted the opposition show it had support from the military before the Supreme Court issued its ruling. He also demanded from Figuera a pledge of forces to protect himself and his family after the ruling was issued.

    None of it would come to pass.

    Then, at 1 am on April 30th, General Figuera informed the opposition that he learned he was about to be replaced and there was going to be a move against the opposition figures. So they decided to move the coup plans to that day, without knowing whether or not chief justice Moreno would be on board:


    Opposition officials say the move was originally scheduled for May 1 but had to be moved up a day when Figuera sent a text at 1 a.m. April 30 saying he had learned he was about to be replaced as head of SEBIN, Maduro’s feared intelligence police.

    Figuera also said Leopoldo López — under house arrest as the nation’s most famous political prisoner, and a key player in the effort to oust Maduro — was about to be transferred back to a prison cell.

    Opposition officials were also told that the government was preparing to take unspecified action against Guaidó and other senior opposition leaders.

    “The message was: We had to act,” one opposition leader said.

    The conspirators made desperate attempts to reach Moreno that day, but their calls went unanswered. Gradually, many of the military men initially backing Guaidó at the La Carlota military base began to drift away. Others who had pledged their support never showed up.

    Said one opposition official: If Moreno had acted, “the cracks [in Maduro’s inner circle] would have been deeper, and probably definitive.”

    As we should expect, opposition figures are spinning their debacle as a sign that Maduro lacks loyalty:


    Opposition officials, while disappointed that the plan did not work, remain convinced that it has shown a critical lack of loyalty, and believe senior officials and justices might still be willing to turn.

    So was that just really bad luck for the opposition that a disloyal Maduro official backed out at the last minute for personal ambitions? Well, the fact that the Maduro government hasn’t actually move against figures like Moreno after the failed coup attempt raises one particularly embarrassing possibility: that the Maduro loyalists like Moreno who were just feigning interest the entire time in order to expose the plot. Don’t forget that Bolton was publicly naming and shaming more figures than just Moreno that day. There were multiple high-level figures who apparently pledged to back a coup but backed off at the last minute. Was that all because of Moreno’s decision not to give it the Supreme Court’s stamp of approval or were they playing the opposition the whole time?


    Moreno, through a spokesman, did not respond to a request for comment. He has publicly condemned the plot against Maduro, and in the days since, the court he leads has issued charges, including treason, against opposition figures involved in the attempted ouster.

    “I express my strong rejection of the illegal intention of a very small group of military and civilians who have sought to take political power with force, going against the constitution and the laws,” Moreno said in a call to state television 90 minutes after the uprising began.

    Maduro hasn’t openly moved against Moreno or any other senior loyalists that U.S. and opposition officials claim were plotting against him. Analysts see two possible reasons: Either the loyalists were feigning interest in ousting Maduro to learn more about the plot or expose it, or Maduro is too weak to act against other senior officials.

    But whether or not Moreno was misleading the opposition the whole time, there’s one figure who clearly feels misled: President Trump, who is reportedly quite upset over being misled by Bolton about how easy it would be to overthrow Maduro:


    While U.S. officials still want Maduro out and say they remain engaged, they now say it probably will take longer than they initially believed. President Trump, meanwhile, has expressed frustration at his administration’s aggressive strategy, complaining that he was misled about how easy it would be to replace Maduro with Guaidó, according to administration officials and White House advisers.

    So that’s all something to keep in mind regarding both future Trump administration regime change schemes, whether it’s another attempt in Venezuela or ongoing threats of war with Iran: the Trump administration and its co-conspirators were willing to engage in an high risk regime-change gambit that didn’t even have all of the key co-conspirators on board. That’s quite an itchy trigger finger.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 20, 2019, 3:17 pm

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