Part II: OPUS DEI & THE CIA, THE DEATH OF HUGO CHAVEZ
Moving on from the matter of the migration of the papal miter (the migrating-miter matter), I’ll nonetheless remain on the subject of the Catholic Church, particularly its less than immaculate record in Latin America. The Church has long been a major cultural/political force in Latin America, and over the last several decades it has basically opted to use its considerable influence to support the U.S. government’s unrelenting campaign to thwart/hinder/reverse democratic political movements and the liberation of poor peoples in the Southern Hemisphere… mostly under the auspices of “fighting communism” (which does little to explain the Washington-supported/facilitated coups/attempted coups in the years following the Cold War).
First, let’s (very briefly) tour some of the Central Intelligence Agency’s history in the global south. In a fascinating article about Latin America’s outright REFUSAL to participate in George W. Bush’s (GWoT-predicated) international torture gulag, author/New York University history professor Greg Grandin devotes a few paragraphs to shedding some light on the CIA’s extensive history in the region (ellipses show where I’ve condensed the excerpt):
“Even before the 1959 Cuban Revolution… Washington had already set about establishing two, three, many centralized intelligence agencies in Latin America. As Michael McClintock shows in his indispensable book Instruments of Statecraft, in late 1954, a few months after the CIA’s infamous coup in Guatemala that overthrew a democratically elected government, the National Security Council first recommended strengthening ‘the internal security forces of friendly foreign countries’…
“…The result was state terror on a nearly continent-wide scale. In the 1970s and 1980s, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s Operation Condor, which linked together the intelligence services of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile, was the most infamous of Latin America’s transnational terror consortiums, reaching out to commit mayhem as far away as Washington D.C., Paris, and Rome.”
And that “mayhem,” as I noted in the previous entry in this series, included the killing, disappearing, and trial-free jailing of hundreds of thousands of freedom-fighters (political dissidents, students, journalists, liberation theologians, communists, and socialists) deemed “SUBVERSIVES” by covert Washington and its thuggish proxies.
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Returning to the complicity of the Catholic Church in these crimes, I recently heard an interesting report on Amy Goodman’s DemocracyNow! that further illuminates this history, touching on the special relationship between the CIA and Opus Dei. For the uninitiated, Opus Dei is the secretive, hierarchical and ultra-conservative, elite order (prelature, technically) within the Catholic Church, with ties to authoritarian figures (Franco, Pinochet, etc.) and Washington spooks, alike. Here is DN!’s 2/28/13 guest, author and theologian (ex-priest, defrocked for his progressive views by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), Matthew Fox, discussing Opus Dei and the agenda it shares with the CIA:
“The CIA has been involved in, especially with Pope John Paul II, the decimation of liberation theology all over South America, the replacing of these heroic leaders, including bishops and cardinals, with Opus Dei cardinals and bishops, who are — well, frankly, it’s a fascist organization, Opus Dei is. It’s all about obedience. It’s not about ideas or theology. They haven’t produced one theologian in 40 years. They produce canon lawyers and people who infiltrate where the power is…”
Fox goes on to describe the threat that liberation theology (founded on social justice) posed to both the Vatican and Washington, DC:
“…this non-hierarchical, this far more horizontal and circular approach to Christianity and to worship was a big threat, of course, to certain people in Rome, but it was even a bigger threat to the CIA. When Reagan was elected, two months later there was a meeting of his National Security Council in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to discuss one thing: How can we destroy liberation theology in Latin America?”
Goodman’s interview with Matthew Fox adds valuable perspective to other accounts that describe the Church’s cozy relationship with various dictators, but which don’t necessarily explain its motives. The common factor that I see: both Opus Dei and America’s leaders in Washington (and Wall Street) insist on a certain kind of order: hierarchical, strict, secretive, authoritarian, and intolerant of dissent. Theirs is an order of elites: it loathes and demonizes genuine populists…
“We have lowered unemployment… created more than 450,000 new jobs… Venezuela has moved up four places on the Human Development Index. The number of children in school has risen 25 percent. More than 1.5 million children who didn’t go to school are now in school, and they receive clothing, breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks. We have carried out massive immunization campaigns in the marginalized sectors of the population. Infant mortality has declined. We are building more than 135,000 housing units for poor families. We are distributing land to landless campesinos. We have created a Women’s Bank that provides micro-credit loans. In the year 2001, Venezuela was one of the countries with the highest growth rates on the continent, nearly 3 percent… We are delivering the country from prostration and backwardness.”
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…which brings us to Venezuela and THE DEATH of HUGO CHAVEZ (including some discussion of the failed 2002 Washington coup against his popular democratic government).
To further elaborate on the motives of the Washington plotters, I’ll now make use of William Blum’s April 14, 2002 piece mulling over the mere possibility of CIA involvement in the coup attempt against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (which had taken place just three days earlier). After offering some circumstantial evidence supporting the notion of a Washington-sponsored coup — referencing the many meetings between coup leaders and Bush officials (including convicted Iran-Contra figures and other shady characters) — Blum lists several reasons that the U.S. and CIA would want Chavez out of the picture, regardless (Chavez’s “crimes,” Blum facetiously calls them). This (condensed) list is instructive of the U.S. government’s posture toward Latin America and the world in general; this is what EMPIRE is all about:
“Consider Chavez’s crimes:
“His defense minister asking the permanent US military mission in Venezuela to vacate its offices in the military headquarters in Caracas, saying its presence was an anachronism from the Cold War.
“Not cooperating to Washington’s satisfaction with the US war against the Colombian guerrillas.
“Denying Venezuelan airspace to US counter-drug flights.
“Refusing to provide US intelligence agencies with information on Venezuela’s large Arab community.
“Questioning the sanctity of globalization.
“Promoting a regional free-trade bloc and united Latin American petroleum operations as a way to break free from US economic dominance.”
Sounds like all Chavez wanted for Venezuela was a little sovereignty and the right to self-determination…
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Lastly (and this time I’ve saved the best for last), I will recommend you to an excellent installment of C-Span’s Book TV, featuring author Bart Jones in September of 2007, discussing his book: Hugo! The Hugo Chavez Story from Mud Hut to Perpetual Revolution. The author is energetic, knowledgeable, and engaging; the portion where he reads from his book is fascinating; and the question and answer session is also lively. It clarifies that Mr. Jones does not put Chavez on a pedestal. The author enumerates his (2007-vintage) criticisms of Venezuela’s popular president (paraphrased): a) Chavez is a bit too interested in perpetuating his time in office (albeit, democratically); b) although Chavez has delivered healthcare, education, services, and land to the poor, he has failed to crack down on corruption; and c) Chavez has not done enough to control street crime.
Jones’ reading (14min. into the program) dramatically depicts a moment early in the coup, when Venezuela’s president was a prisoner and Venezuelans were simply trying to figure out what had happened:
“Outside Chavez’s office, his ministers had not seen him for nearly two hours. They wanted to know what was going on. They were confused by General Rincón‘s announcement. They started banging on the door to be let in. A guard finally opened it. Chavez was sitting in a chair when they walked in. He seemed serene. He explained the situation: he said he wasn’t going to resign. He said he was going to surrender himself as a ‘president prisoner.’ He had no choice. The rebels were going to start bombing at any moment (the rebels had actually threatened to bomb the palace if he did not resign immediately). He had followed the advice of his vice president, who urged him not to sign any resignation letter: ‘Don’t sign, so it’s a coup,’ he said.
“Ana Osorio, the environmental minister, came out of the president’s office to inform the crowd what was happening: ‘Politically, it’s clear, this is a coup,’ she said, ‘it’s not that the president resigned. He didn’t resign! He’s being taken a prisoner, because it’s a coup!’ Then, her voice rising, and tears welling in her eyes, she said, ‘Let the world know: IT’S A COUP!’ The crowd started clapping and yelling in defense of Chavez. ‘It’s a coup!’ Osorio shouted. ‘It’s a coup against the people — against the people of Venezuela, who love him!’ She wiped a tear that was coming down her cheek. The crowd began to shout: ‘HUGO, HUGO, HUGO!’”
Jones’s book then recounts how Chavez allowed himself to be taken away, after making his final goodbyes to his cabinet members and loyalists, among them a few officers in the military (including the elderly general who promised Chavez “This isn’t ending here!”). In Jones’s telling, Chavez clearly did NOT expect to survive the night. He’d heard his captors discussing whether or not they would simply kill him, noting the difficulty of killing the president, plus his cabinet — how does a coup plotter make that look like an accident… a group suicide?
Revisiting this subject, I can’t help but reflect on articles I was reading at the time (in April 2002, just as the coup was happening), and I remember thinking that everything I was reading pointed to only one conclusion: Washington DC had its fingerprints ALL OVER that anti-democratic mess! (And nothing I’ve learned in the years since has shaken that conclusion in the least.) The usual suspects — Otto Reich, Dick Cheney, Eliott Abrams, and a president named Bush — had proven once again that imperialism never dies.
I’ll give the last, last word to the late Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter (his ELOQUENT 2005 acceptance speech, parts one and two, wherein the famous playwright blisteringly condemned the United States for its anti-democratic and murderous history in Latin America… and beyond).
Next — Part III: THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR AND WHISTLEBLOWERS