African Venezuelans fear new U.S. coup against President Chavez
- San Francisco BayView
September 25, 2002
African Venezuelans fear new U.S. coup against President Chavez
By Professor Alejandro Correa and Professor Emeritus Willie Thompson
This month, for the first time in history, Venezuelan people of African
descent have total control of their historic Black university, the
Universitario Barlovento. They are already planning a university
hotel and a restaurant for students, faculty and the community. This is
achievement of a lifetime, and the people of Barlovento gather around
their seat of higher learning to reflect on their success.
Another topic on their minds and hearts is the fate of President Hugo
He is Venezuela's first multiracial president and is called Negro"
by his detractors because of his African-Indigenous features. Behind the
enemies of Venezuela and Hugo Chavez are very large sums of money being
to destroy the dreams of the people who historically have been
against because of race, economic ideas, etc.
These dreams of the African Venezuelan people may be deferred if the
States replaces Chavez with a rightwing businessman as president.
three Blacks are state governors elected by the people; the secretary of
education is black; two Indigenous Venezuelans are congresspersons
directly by the people; Indigenous Venezuelans have the complete right
to claim their historic lands; land is protected and available to Black
Indigenous Venezuelan farmers so that they can now engage in farming for
first time in generations; and Venezuelans of African descent are
participating in conferences against racism around the world and
strategic relationships with international organizations. They have
Congressional Black Caucus conferences in 2000, 2001 and 2002; the
pre-conference against racism in Chile in 2000; and the United Nations
Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The African
Venezuelan community in Barlovento also hosted the Second International
Reunion of the African Latin Family in 1999.
Sixty percent of the population of Venezuela are people of African
The others are Mestizos of Indigenous and European descent and
The support of the people of African descent in the United States is one
the most strategic factors in helping the people of African descent
and prosper in Venezuela.
President Hugo Chavez was elected in a democratic election with more
percent of the 11 million votes cast. One of his first actions was to
for an election of a National Constituency Assembly whose mission was to
reform the 1969 national Constitution. During 40 years of democracy this
Constitution was used to avoid empowering the people. The election of
National Constituency Assembly allowed the participation of students,
business related organizations, community representatives and parties
to the president in the Assembly.
The entire society had its opportunity in the Assembly.
The National Constituency Assembly designed a new national constitution,
which was widely discussed all around the country. Then a national
was called to consider the acceptance of the new constitution. The
people, in direct election, said, We do accept the new constitution" in
New national elections were called at all levels of government to test
acceptance of the new constitution and renegotiate the public powers.
President Hugo Chavez, again, won the election with over one million
more than his closest opponent. The party supporting Chavez also won, as
several state governors who belonged to the party.
During his three years in place - the complete term is six years -
Chavez has been an advocate for the education of the poor. After 50
being eliminated, schools were created with full schedules from 8 a.m.
p.m., allowing children to stay longer in recreational programs and
Never before have small businesses flourished with the full support of
government at the local and national levels. Chavez has opened the doors
the participation of those who have long been excluded.
When President Chavez came to power, 80 percent of the population lived
poverty. Overcoming this difficult obstacle requires a joint effort at
levels of society. Unfortunately, the support has not echoed in the
economic brackets of Venezuelan society.
What have they done? Organizing a coup is not the way to support the
Venezuela is the fourth largest oil producer in the world and the second
largest oil exporter to the United States. President Chavez has never
threatened the export of oil to the U.S. He has visited the U.S. about
times, holding meetings with businesspersons, seeking to stimulate
investment in Venezuela in order to raise the level of employment and
mitigate the conditions of the poor.
Unfortunately, the sectors of society wanting to reverse these important
advances decided to violate Venezuelan democracy. A group of renegade
military generals formed a coalition with businessmen" - land owners
ancestors stole it from Indigenous Venezuelans and used enslaved African
labor to build the Venezuelan economy and society.
Some members of the press also belong to the business establishment.
main private TV stations led a campaign against the evolution of
change in the same style Hitler used against the Jews: Say a lie a
times and everybody will believe it as a truth."
These forces formed a coup to destroy freedom in Venezuela. For three
they controlled the government and instituted practices not seen in
since the '50s, during the days of the military rulers. Venezuelans in
60s were astonished to see such violations of civil rights.
Leaders of the coup imprisoned President Chavez, isolating him from any
public contact, lying about a presidential resignation, dissolving all
legitimate national powers at all levels. Then they started hunting down
legitimate member of Congress and of the president's cabinet.
Even the Supreme Court was forced to resign. They did all that in a
three days. Further, they derogated the 1999 constitution.
In response, however, people of all races and backgrounds took to the
streets, the military bases and public buildings to liberate President
Chavez. He is in control again.
Venezuelans watched with deep concern how Ari Fleisher, Bush's press
secretary, and Condoleezza Rice, Bush's defense advisor - a black woman
avoided calling the coup against President Chavez what it really was: a
vulgar, right wing coup against a democratic government. Both have used
rhetoric to criticize Chavez's administration rather than condemn the
The Bush administration in general looked with sympathy at the coup and
declaration condemning it.
The New York Times also has presented the facts in a less than objective
Rather than going into the countryside to talk with the people, Times
reporters appear to have visited only the Caracas suburbs to assess
opinion. Furthermore, the local media consider only the opinions of
people. All other opinions are considered unworthy. So, if you are poor
you are not in agreement with the media, then you are not considered a
of the public opinion.
U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd has expressed dismay over the Bush
administration's behavior regarding the situation in Venezuela. His
is an example of goodwill and is appreciated by Venezuelans.
There's an international effort to destroy the public image of President
Chavez. Let us briefly analyze it.
1) Hugo Chavez has visited Iraq, Iran and Libya. Because he is a friend
those nations, he is branded an enemy of the United States. Venezuela
countries visited by President Chavez are members of the Organization of
Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Together with these countries,
Venezuela regulates oil prices and must agree with them on strategies
maintaining profitability while at the same time making prices
the oil importing countries such as the U.S. With 60 percent of its
budget based on oil income, clearly Venezuela must talk with members of
This doesn't make Venezuela a partner in terrorism as has been
the U.S. and the media.
2) Hugo Chavez is a friend of Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro. It is
insinuated that he is therefore an enemy of the U.S. Venezuela is a free
self-determining nation in its business relations with Cuba. It has a
to have business relations with China or any other country.
3) It is said that Hugo Chavez didn't condemn the attacks on the World
Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and is therefore an enemy of the U.S. But
Chavez most certainly did condemn the Sept. 11 attacks and said, just as
France and Russia and the Pope did, that he doesn't support a heavy and
indiscriminate attack against Afghanistan which might cause civilian
casualties. The Bush administration considers neither the presidents of
France and Russia nor the Pope as enemies of the U.S. and is not willing
to plan and finance a coup
against those leaders because they express humanitarian points of view.
4) President Chavez is said to be a supporter of the Colombian
is therefore involved in terrorism. The truth is that President Chavez
condemned terrorism in Colombia.
Furthermore, the Venezuelan government under his administration has been
mediator in peace talks between the guerrillas and the Colombian
5) The people of the U.S. should think deeply about U.S. support of the
failed coup and its leaders and its plans to change the regime in
The result of President Chavez's trip to oil exporting countries was
agreement on a solid oil price. In Venezuela, the price of oil is
important for education, health care and public services generally. The
declaration of the leaders of the failed coup was the abandonment of the
quota system, which caused oil prices to drop.
Writer's note: Africans and people of African descent are beginning to
our own story. Most other people have no vested interest in telling the
about us. Professor Correa of Barloyento University is an African
and he tells the story of the achievements of African Venezuelans, the
States's participation in the failed attempt to overthrow President
and the certain reversal of the social, economic, cultural and
gains to African Venezuelans if President Chavez is overthrown. He
with us to 1) discuss in open forums, churches and community
the U.S. attacks on Venezuela and the conditions there, and 2) write
to the U.S. Congress asking that the U.S. respect the Venezuelan
and follow the rule of law and international treaties in dealing with
Venezuela. You can trust his advice and act on it.
I can be reached at Willliemackthompson_22335@ msn.com
Will the U.S. reap what it has sown? Byrd asks
Friday September 27, 2002
By Paul J. Nyden
Will Saddam Hussein unleash botulinum toxin, perhaps natures deadliest
and other viruses and chemicals if the United States attacks Iraq?
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., posed this question to the Senate on
based on documents obtained from different federal agencies.
We have a paper trail, Byrd said. We not only know that Iraq has
weapons, we know the type, the strain, and the batch number of the germs
may have been used to fashion those weapons. We know the dates they were
shipped and the addresses to which they were shipped.
We have in our hands the equivalent of a Betty Crocker cookbook of
that the U.S. allowed Iraq to obtain and that may well have been used to
Those shipments included:
Between 1985 and 1988, the nonprofit American Type Culture Collection
11 shipments to Iraq that included a witches brew of pathogens,
anthrax, botulinum toxin and gangrene. All shipments were
Between January 1980 and October 1993, the federal Centers for Disease
shipped a variety of toxic specimens to Iraq, including West Nile virus
The U.S. Commerce Department and CDC provided lists of these shipments.
Defense Department ought to have the same lists, so that the
know exactly what types of biological agents American soldiers may face
field, Byrd said.
At last weeks Armed Services Committee hearing, Secretary [Donald]
said he had no knowledge of any such shipments and doubted that they
occurred. He seemed to be affronted at the very idea that the United
ever countenance entering into such a deal with the devil.
Secretary Rumsfeld should not shy away from this information. On the
he should seek it out, Byrd said.
In its Sept. 23 edition, Newsweek magazine published an article
viruses, poisons and gases that the U.S. sent to Saddam Hussein in the
At that time, the U.S. regarded Iraq as a potential ally against Irans
Byrd criticized Rumsfeld for failing to answer questions he asked last
these shipments to Iraq during an Armed Services Committee hearing.
I repeat today what I said to him then, Byrd said. In the event of a
Iraq, might the United States be facing the possibility of reaping what
it has sown?
Calls to the White House press office on Thursday afternoon were
referred to the
Department of Defense, where no one returned a call. One woman at the
House asked, How do you spell Byrd?
Federal documents and a United Nations Security Council report document
connection between periods when Iraq received toxins and viruses from
and the periods when Iraq developed biological weapons.
Byrd closed his speech by asking what the future holds.
The role that the U.S. may have played in helping Iraq to pursue
warfare in the 1980s should serve as a strong warning to the president
decisions regarding Iraq today could have far reaching ramifications on
East and on the United States in the future.
In the 1980s, the Ayatollah Khomeni was Americas sworn enemy, and the
government courted Saddam Hussein in an effort to undermine the
Iran. Today, Saddam Hussein is Americas biggest enemy, and the U.S. is
be making overtures to Iran.
The Bush administration is also discussing whether to arm groups of
dissidents, such as the Kurds, in Iraq.
Could the U.S. be laying the groundwork for a brutal civil war in Iraq?
proposed policy change precipitate a deadly border conflict between the
Turkey? Byrd asked.
He again urged caution. Decisions involving war and peace, he said,
never be rushed or muscled through in haste. Our founding fathers
and wisely vested in the Congress, not the president, the power to
Byrd said Congress must consider Bushs requests for new war powers
thoroughly, and on our own timetable ... and avoid the pressure to rush
on such an important matter.
To contact staff writer Paul J. Nyden, use e-mail or call 348-5164.