By: Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal
Juan Guaidó is the product of a decade-long project supervised by Washington’s elite coaches for government changes. While posing as a champion of democracy, he has spent years at the forefront of a violent campaign of destabilization.
Before the fateful day of January 22, less than one in five Venezuelans had heard of Juan Guaidó. Just a few months ago, this 35-year-old man was a dark character in a politically marginalized far-right group, closely associated with horrific acts of street violence. Even in his own party, Guaidó had been a mid-level figure in the National Assembly, dominated by the opposition, which is now under contempt under the Constitution of Venezuela.
But after a single telephone call from the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, Guaidó proclaimed himself president of Venezuela. Anointed as the leader of his country by Washington, a previously unknown politician was transferred to the international stage as the United States-selected leader for the nation with the largest oil reserves in the world.
Echoing the Washington Consensus, the editorial committee of the New York Times described Guaidó as a “credible rival” for Maduro with a “refreshing style and a vision to advance the country.” The Bloomberg News editorial committee applauded him for seeking the “restoration of democracy” and the Wall Street Journal declared him “a new democratic leader.” Meanwhile, Canada, numerous European nations, Israel and the block of Latin American right-wing governments known as the Lima Group recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.
Although Guaidó seemed to have materialized from nothing, he was, in fact, the product of more than a decade of assiduous preparation by the elite factories dedicated to changing regimes of the United States Government. Along with a group of right-wing student activists, Guaidó was trained to undermine the socialist-oriented government of Venezuela, to destabilize the country and, someday, to seize power. Although he has been a minor figure in Venezuelan politics, he had spent years quietly demonstrating his worth in the corridors of Washington’s power.
“Juan Guaidó is a character that has been created for this circumstance,” Marco Teruggi, an Argentine sociologist and main chronicler of Venezuelan politics, told Grayzone. “It’s the logic of a laboratory: Guaidó is like a mixture of several elements that create a character that, in all honesty, provokes between laughter and concern.”
Diego Sequera, Venezuelan journalist and writer of the research agency, Misión Verdad, agreed: “Guaidó is more popular outside Venezuela than in the interior, especially in the elite circles of the Ivy League and Washington,” Sequera commented. Grayzone: “He’s a well-known character there, he’s predictably right-wing and he’s considered loyal to the program.”
While Guaidó is sold today as the face of democratic restoration, he spent his career in the most violent faction of the most radical opposition party in Venezuela, positioning himself at the forefront of one destabilization campaign after another. His party has been widely discredited within Venezuela and is partly responsible for fragmenting a very weak opposition.
“These radical leaders have no more than 20 percent in opinion polls,” wrote Luis Vicente León, Venezuela’s top pollster. According to Leon, the party of Guaidó remains isolated because the majority of the population “does not want war.” “What they want is a solution.”
But this is precisely the reason why Guaidó was selected by Washington: he is not expected to lead Venezuela towards democracy, but to collapse a country that has been a bastion of resistance to US hegemony for the past two decades. His unlikely rise marks the culmination of a two-decade project to destroy a robust socialist experiment.
Pointing to the “troika of tyranny”
Since the election of Hugo Chávez in 1998, the United States has fought to reestablish control over Venezuela and its vast oil reserves. Chávez’s socialist programs may have redistributed the country’s wealth and helped lift millions of people out of poverty, but they also placed a goal on his back. In 2002, the Venezuelan right-wing opposition briefly overthrew him with the support and recognition of the United States before the Army reestablished its presidency after a massive popular mobilization. Throughout the administrations of the presidents of the United States, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Chávez survived numerous assassination plans before succumbing to cancer in 2013. His successor, Nicolás Maduro, survived three attempts on his life.
The Trump government immediately elevated Venezuela to the top of Washington’s list of regime change goals, calling it the leader of a “troika of tyranny.” Last year, Trump’s national security team tried to recruit members of the military to set up a military junta, but that effort failed. According to the Venezuelan government, the United States also participated in a plot with the code name “Operation Constitution” to capture Maduro in the Miraflores presidential palace, and another called “Operation Armageddon” to assassinate him in the July 2017 military parade. A little more than a year later, the exiled opposition leaders tried to kill Maduro with drones during a military parade in Caracas.
More than a decade before these intrigues, a group of students of the right-wing opposition was personally selected and prepared by an academy to train the elites in the change of regimes financed by the United States to overthrow the government of Venezuela and restore the neoliberal order .
Training provided by “the group ‘export a revolution’ that sowed the seeds for several revolutions of color”
On October 5, 2005, with the popularity of Chávez at its height and his government planning 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 Action and Non-Violent Applied Strategies (CANVAS). This group is financed in large part through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an appendix of the CIA that functions as the main arm of the United States government to promote changes in governments; and by affiliates such as the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. According to internal leaked emails from Stratfor, an intelligence firm known as “the CIA in the shadows,” “[CANVAS] may also have received financing and training from the CIA during the fight against Milosevic during 1999/2000 “
CANVAS is a split of Otpor, a Serbian opposition 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 promotion at the Hollywood level, by propitiating the protests that eventually overthrew Slobodan Milosevic. This small cell of regime change specialists operated according to the theories of the late Gene Sharp, the so-called “Clausewitz of nonviolent struggle”. Sharp had worked with Colonel Robert Helvey, a former analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, to devise the strategic plan for a form of hybrid war, gave weapons to the protest and aimed at states that resisted unipolar domination from Washington.
Otpor received support from the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID and the Albert Einstein Institute of Sharp. Sinisa Sikman, one of Otpor’s main trainers, once said that the group even received direct funding from the CIA. According to a leaked email from a Stratfor employee, after taking Milosevic out of power, “the children who ran OTPOR grew up, bought suits and designed CANVAS … or, in other words, a group” export a revolution “” that sowed the seeds for several revolutions of color, they are still dependent on US funding and, basically, they go around the world trying to overthrow dictators and autocratic governments (those who do not like the United States). “
Stratfor revealed that CANVAS “turned its attention to Venezuela” in 2005 after training opposition movements that led the regime change operations in favor of NATO in Eastern Europe.
By monitoring the CANVAS training program, Stratfor described his insurrectionary agenda in strikingly forceful language: “Success is not guaranteed, and student movements are just the beginning of what could be a multi-year effort to unleash a revolution in Venezuela. , but the coaches themselves are the people who make fun of the “Butcher of the Balkans.” They have insane skills When you see students in five Venezuelan universities perform simultaneous demonstrations, you will know that the training is over and that the real work has begun. “
The birth of the “Generation 2007” cadres for the change of regimes.
The “real work” began two years later, in 2007, when Guaidó graduated from the Andrés Bello Catholic University in 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 leading neoliberal economists in Latin America. Berrizbeitia is a former executive director of the International Monetary Fund and spent more than a decade working in the Venezuelan energy sector at the time of the old oligarchic regime that Chávez eliminated.
That year, Guaidó helped lead anti-government rallies after the Venezuelan government refused to renew the license of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV). This private station played an important role in the 2002 coup against Hugo Chávez. RCTV helped mobilize anti-government protesters, falsified information that blamed government supporters for acts of violence carried out by members of the opposition, and banned pro-government reports in the midst of the coup. The role of RCTV and other stations owned by the oligarchs in the conduct of the failed coup attempt was described in the acclaimed documentary, “The revolution will not be televised.”
That same year, the students claimed the credit for obstructing Chávez’s constitutional referendum for a “socialism of the 21st century” that promised “to establish the legal framework for the political and social reorganization of the country, granting direct power to the organized communities as a requirement prior to the development of a new economic system. “
From the protests around RCTV and the referendum, a specialized cadre of activists was born to change regimes backed by the United States. They called themselves “Generación 2007.”
The Stratfor and CANVAS trainers of this cell identified Guaidó’s ally, a street organizer called Yon Goicoechea, as a “key factor” in defeating the constitutional referendum. The following year, Goicochea was rewarded for his efforts with the Milton Friedman Prize for Promoting the Freedom of the Cato Institute, along with a prize of US $ 500,000, which quickly invested in the promotion of his own political network “Primero Justicia”.
Friedman, of course, was the godfather of the notorious Chicago Boys neoliberals who were imported into Chile by the dictatorial junta leader Augusto Pinochet to implement radical policies of fiscal austerity type “shock doctrine”. And the Cato Institute is the group of libertarian experts based in Washington DC founded by the Koch brothers, two of the main donors of the Republican Party who have become aggressive advocates of the right throughout Latin America.
Wikileaks published a 2007 email from the US ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, sent to the State Department, the National Security Council and the Southern Command Defense Department, praising “2007 Generation” for having “forced the Venezuelan president , accustomed to setting the political agenda, to (over) reacting. “Among the” emerging leaders “that Brownfield identified were Freddy Guevara and Yon Goicoechea, the latter was applauded as” one of the most articulate defenders of civil liberties among the students”.
With a large amount of money from the libertarian oligarchs and the soft power teams of the United States government, the radical Venezuelan cadre took Otpor’s tactics to the streets, along with a version of the group’s logo, as seen below. :
“Galvanizing public unrest … to take advantage of the situation and turn it against Chavez”
In 2009, the young activists of the Generation 2007 organized their most provocative demonstration so far, removed their pants on public roads and used the scandalous theater guerrilla tactics described by Gene Sharp in the regime change manuals. The demonstrators had mobilized against the arrest of an ally of another youth group called JAVU. This far-right group “raised funds from various sources in the US government, which allowed it to gain notoriety quickly as the hard-line wing of the opposition street movements,” according to the book by academic George Ciccariello-Maher , “Building the commune”.
While the protest video is not available, many Venezuelans have identified Guaidó as one of its key participants. While the accusation is not confirmed, it is certainly plausible; the naked buttocks protesters were members of the inner core of the 2007 Generation to which Guaidó belonged, and they were dressed in their trademark, the Resistance Venezuela T-shirts, as seen below:
Is this the ass that Trump wants to install in the seat of power in Venezuela?
That year, Guaidó was exposed to the public in another way, founding a political party to capture the anti-Chávez energy that his 2007 Generation had cultivated. The so-called “Popular Will” was led by Leopoldo López, a rightist educated in Princeton, who actively participated in the programs of the National Endowment for Democracy, who was elected mayor of a district in Caracas and who was one of the richest in the country. López was a portrait of the Venezuelan aristocracy, directly descended from the first president of his country. He is also the first cousin of Thor Halvorssen, founder of the Human Rights Foundation, based in the United States, which operates as a de facto advertising store for anti-government activists backed by the United States in countries selected by Washington for the change of government.
While Lopez’s interests aligned perfectly with those of Washington, the diplomatic cables of the United States published by Wikileaks highlighted the fanatical tendencies of Popular Will that would ultimately lead to their marginalization. A cable identified Lopez as “a divisive figure within the opposition … often described as arrogant, vindictive and hungry for power.” Others highlighted their obsession with street confrontations and their “inflexible approach” as a source of tension with other opposition leaders who gave priority to unity and participation in the democratic institutions of the country.
By 2010, Voluntad Popular and its foreign supporters moved to exploit the worst drought that hit Venezuela in decades. The great shortage of electricity had hit the country due to the shortage of water, which was necessary to power hydroelectric plants. A global economic recession and the decline in oil prices aggravated the crisis, which caused public discontent.
Stratfor and CANVAS, key advisers to Guaidó and his anti-government team, devised a surprisingly cynical plan to introduce a dagger through the heart of the Bolivarian revolution. The scheme depended on a collapse of 70% of the country’s electricity system in April 2010.
“This could be the decisive event, since Chávez can not do much to protect the poor from the failure of that system,” said the internal memo of Stratfor. “This would probably have the impact of galvanizing public instability in a way that no opposition group could generate, at which point an opposition group would be the best to take advantage of the situation according to their needs and turn it against Chávez.”
At this point, the Venezuelan opposition received US $ 40-50 million a year from government organizations such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, according to a report by the Spanish think tank, the FRIDE Institute. He also had a wealth of wealth in his own accounts, which were mostly outside the country.
Although the scenario foreseen by Stratfor did not come to fruition, the activists of the Popular Will Party and its allies discarded any pretension of nonviolence and joined a radical plan to destabilize the country.
Towards violent destabilization
In November 2010, according to emails obtained by the Venezuelan security services and presented by former Justice Minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres, Guaidó, Goicoechea and several other student activists attended a five-day secret training at the Fiesta Mexicana hotel in Mexico City. Mexico City. The sessions were led by Otpor, the trainers for changes of governments based in Belgrade backed by the government of the United States. Reportedly, the meeting received the blessing of Otto Reich, an exiled anti-Castro fanatic who works in the State Department of George W. Bush, and former Colombian right-wing President Álvaro Uribe.
At the Fiesta Mexicana hotel, according to e-mails, Guaidó and his fellow activists devised a plan to overthrow President Hugo Chávez, generating chaos through prolonged spasms of street violence.
Three figures from the oil industry – Gustavo Torrar, Eligio Cedeño and Pedro Burelli – allegedly paid the US $ 52,000 bill required to hold the meeting. Torrar is a self-styled “human rights activist” and “intellectual” whose younger brother, Reynaldo Tovar Arroyo, is the representative in Venezuela of “Petroquímica del Golfo”, a private Mexican oil and gas company that has a contract with the Venezuelan State. .
Cedeño, on the other hand, is a fugitive Venezuelan businessman who applied for asylum in the United States, and Pedro Burelli, former JP Morgan executive and former director of Venezuela’s national oil company (PDVSA). He left PDVSA in 1998 when Hugo Chávez took power and is on the advisory committee of the Leadership Program for Latin America at Georgetown University.
Burelli insisted that the emails detailing his participation had been fabricated and even hired a private investigator to prove it. The researcher stated that Google records showed that the emails that were allegedly his were never transmitted.
However, today Burelli does not hide his desire to see the current president of Venezuela, Nicolás. Mature, deposed and even dragged through the streets and sodomized with a bayonet, as happened with the Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi in the hands of NATO-backed militiamen.
The alleged plot of Fiesta Mexicana flowed into another plan of destabilization revealed in a series of documents produced by the Venezuelan government. In May 2014, Caracas published documents detailing a murder plan against President Nicolás Maduro. The leaks identified María Corina Machado, based in Miami, as the leader of the plan. Hard-liner and with a penchant for extreme rhetoric, Machado visited President George W. Bush in 2005, functioning as well as an international liaison for the opposition.
“I think it’s time to gather efforts; make the necessary calls and obtain financing to annihilate Maduro and the rest will collapse, “Machado wrote in an email to former Venezuelan diplomat Diego Arria in 2014.
In another email, Machado affirmed that the violent plan was blessed by the United States Ambassador in Colombia, Kevin Whitaker. “I have already decided and this struggle will continue until this regime is overthrown and we meet our friends in the world, if I went to San Cristóbal and I went to the OAS, I do not fear anything.” Kevin Whitaker has already reconfirmed his support and pointed out the new We have a stronger checkbook than the regime to break the circle of international security. “
Guaidó goes to the barricades
In February, student protesters, acting as shock troops of the exiled oligarchy, erected violent barricades across the country, turning the opposition-controlled barracks into violent forts known as guarimbas. While the international media described the agitation as a spontaneous protest against the Maduro government, there was ample evidence that the Partido Voluntad Popular was orchestrating the program.
“None of the protesters in the universities wore their university shirts, everyone wore t-shirts of Popular Will or Justice First,” said one participant of the guarimba at that time. “They could have been student groups, but the student councils are affiliated with the opposition political parties and are accountable to them.”
When asked who the leaders were, a Guarimba participant said, “Well, if I’m totally honest, those guys are now legislators.”
Around 43 died during the 2014 guarimbas. Three years later, they burst again, causing the massive destruction of public infrastructure, the assassination of government supporters and the death of 126 people, many of whom were Chavistas. In several cases, government supporters were burned alive by armed gangs.
Guaidó was directly involved in the 2014 guarimbas. In fact, he tweeted a video in which he showed himself wearing a helmet and a gas mask, surrounded by masked and armed elements that had closed a road that was involved in a violent confrontation with the police. Alluding to his participation in the 2007 Generation, he proclaimed: “I remember that in 2007, we proclaimed: ‘Students!’ Now, we shout, ‘Resistance! Resistance!’ “
Guaidó eliminated the tweet, demonstrating an apparent concern for his image as a defender of democracy.
On February 12, 2014, during the apogee of the guarimbas of that year, Guaidó joined López on stage at a rally of Voluntad Popular and Primero Justicia. During a long tirade against the government, Lopez urged the crowd to march to the office of attorney general Luisa Ortega Díaz. Soon after, Díaz’s office was attacked by armed gangs who tried to set it on fire. She denounced what she called “planned and premeditated violence.”
In a television appearance in 2016, Guaidó described as a myth the deaths caused by the guayas, a tactic of the guarimba that involves stretching a steel cable across a road to injure or kill motorcyclists. His comments bleached a deadly tactic that had killed unarmed civilians like Santiago Pedroza and beheaded a man named Elvis Durán, among many others.
This insensitive disregard for human life defines his Popular Will Party in the eyes of much of the public, including many opponents of Maduro.
Ending the popular will
As violence and political polarization intensified throughout the country, the government began to act against the leaders of Voluntad Popular who helped nurture it.
Freddy Guevara, the Vice President of the National Assembly and the second in command of Voluntad Popular, was the main leader in the street riots of 2017. Since he faces a trial for his role in the violence, Guevara took refuge in the Chilean embassy, where remains still.
Lester Toledo, a legislator of Popular Will of the State of Zulia, was wanted by the Venezuelan government in September 2016 on charges of financing terrorism and planning murders. It was said that the plans were made with the former Colombian president, Álvaro Uribe. Toledo escaped from Venezuela and made several tours with Human Rights Watch, Freedom House (an organization backed by the US government), the Congress of Spain and the European Parliament.
Carlos Graffe, another member of the 2007 Generation trained in Otpor and who directed Voluntad Popular, was arrested in July 2017. According to the police, he was in possession of a bag full of nails, C4 explosives and a detonator. He was released on December 27, 2017.
Leopoldo López, the popular leader of Voluntad Popular, is currently under house arrest, accused of having a key role in the deaths of 13 people during the guarimbas in 2014. Amnesty International praised López as a “prisoner of conscience” and criticized his transfer from prison to home as “not good enough”. Meanwhile, the relatives of the guarimba victims filed a lawsuit with more charges against López.
Yon Goicoechea, the posterboy of the Koch brothers and founder of Primero Justicia, an organization backed by the United States, was arrested in 2016 by security forces who claimed to have found a kilo of explosives in their vehicle. In a New York Times opinion piece, Goicoechea protested the charges he said were “falsified” and claimed that he had been imprisoned simply for his “dream of a democratic society, free of communism.” He was released in November 2017.
David Smolansky, another member of the 2007 Generation trained by Otpor 2007, became the youngest mayor of Venezuela when he was elected in 2013 in the affluent suburb of El Hatillo. But he was stripped of his job and sentenced to 15 months in prison by the Supreme Court after he was found guilty of shaking the violent guarimbas.
When facing the possibility of being arrested, Smolansky shaved his beard, put on sunglasses and slipped into Brazil disguised as a priest with a bible in his hand and a rosary around his neck. He now lives in Washington DC, where he was elected by the Secretary of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, to lead the working group on the crisis of Venezuelan migrants and refugees.
On July 26, Smolansky held what he called a “cordial meeting” with Elliot Abrams, the condemned convict of the Iran-Contras case who was named by Trump as the special envoy of the United States to Venezuela. Abrams is known for overseeing the covert US policy related to arming death squads and right-wing during the 1980s in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. His leading role in the Venezuelan coup has stoked fears that another bloody war might be brewing.
Four days earlier, Machado resounded another violent threat against Maduro, declaring that if he “wants to save his life, he must understand that his time is over”.
A pawn in his game
The collapse of Voluntad Popular, caused by the weight of the violent campaign of destabilization that it executed, alienated it from large sectors of the public and ended up with a large part of its leadership in exile or in custody. Guaidó remained a relatively minor figure, having spent most of his nine-year career in the National Assembly as an alternate deputy. Coming from one of the least populated states in Venezuela, Guaidó took second place during the 2015 parliamentary elections, obtaining only 26% of the required votes to secure him a place in the National Assembly. In fact, your buttocks may have been better known than your face.
Guaidó is known as the president of the National Assembly dominated by the opposition, but was never elected to the post. The four opposition parties that made up the Democratic Unity Table of the Assembly had decided to establish a rotating presidency. The turn of Popular Will was on the way, but its founder, Lopez, was under house arrest. Meanwhile, his second in command, Guevara, had taken refuge in the Chilean embassy. A character named Juan Andrés Mejía would have been next on the line but, for reasons that are only now clear, Juan Guaidó was selected.
“There is a class reasoning that explains the rise of Guaidó,” observed Sequera, the Venezuelan analyst. “Mejía is from the upper class, he studied at one of the most expensive private universities in Venezuela and could not easily be sold to the public in the way he could do with Guaidó. On the one hand, Guaidó has common mestizo characteristics like most Venezuelans and seems more like a man of the people. Also, I had not been overexposed in the media, so it could become almost anything. “
In December 2018, Guaidó crossed the border and traveled to Washington, Colombia and Brazil to coordinate the plan to hold mass demonstrations during President Maduro’s inauguration. The night before Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony, Vice President Mike Pence and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called on Guaidó to affirm their support.
A week later, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Rick Scott and Representative Mario Díaz-Balart, all legislators from the lobby of exiled Cuban right-wingers in Florida, joined President Trump and Vice President Pence in 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 with Guaidó on January 10, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, Pompeo could not pronounce the name of Guaidó when he mentioned it at a press conference 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 an anonymous figure that was now a picture for Washington’s ambitions related to a change of government. In the end, the editorial supervision of his page was delivered to the elite of the “librarians” council of Wikipedia, who declared him president of Venezuela “in dispute”.
Guaidó may have been a dark figure, but his combination of radicalism and opportunism met Washington’s needs. “That internal piece was missing,” a member of Trump’s government said of Guaidó. “It was the piece we needed to make our strategy coherent and complete.”
“For the first time,” Brownfield, the former US ambassador to Venezuela, addressed the New York Times, “You have an opposition leader who is clearly pointing out that he wants to keep the armed forces and the police on the side of the angels and the good guys. “
But Guaidó´s Popular Will Party formed the shock troops of the guarimbas that caused the death of policemen and ordinary citizens alike. He had even boasted of his own participation in street riots. And now, to conquer the hearts and minds of the military and the police, Guaidó had to erase this history soaked with blood.
On January 21, a day before the coup began, Guaidó’s wife sent a video address asking the military to rise up against Maduro. Her performance lacked enthusiasm and inspiration, underscoring her husband’s limited political perspectives.
Four days later, at a press conference with supporters, Guaidó announced his solution to the crisis: “Authorize humanitarian intervention!”
While waiting for direct assistance, Guaidó remains what it has always been: the favorite project of external cynical forces. “It does not matter if he crashes and burns after all these misadventures,” Sequera said of the figure of the coup, “for the Americans, it is dispensable.”
This article was originally published on grayzoneproject.com