Hugo’s Grima Wormtongue

“The wise speak only of what they know, Grima son of Galmod. A witless worm have you become. Therefore be silent, and keep your forked tongue behind your teeth.”
From Tolkien’s “The Two Towers”

“… some people just want to see the world burn.”
Alfred (Michael Caine) speaking of the Joker, in The Dark Knight

Jose Vicente Rangel, now in his mid- to late-70s, has worn many disguises during his lifetime, none of them noble or democratic though he always has justified many of his public (and secret) actions as being in defense of true democracy.

Rangel was a clandestine communist conspirator against the dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez during the late 1950’s, and then he was a pro-Castro conspirator against democratically-elected President Romulo Betancourt during the early 1960s. However, unlike other socialist revolutionaries of that era such as Douglas Bravo and Ali Rodriguez Araque, Rangel never joined the armed revolutionary groups that battled Betancourt’s armed forces. That long-ago failure to “make his bones” as a true, gun-toting Marxist guerrilla willing to sacrifice his life in combat with Betancourt’s army may explain, at least partly, why Rangel was the fiercest proponent of battling the opposition to the “last bullet and last man” in Miraflores palace on April 11, 2002, while President Hugo Chavez desperately sought to assure his own physical survival by starting to negotiate his surrender before the sun set on that bloody day

Rangel was a three-time losing presidential candidate for the Movement to Socialism (MAS) party during the 1970’s and 1980s, never winning much over 10% of the vote. Rangel and MAS parted ways for good after his third failed presidential bid. He never cared for MAS, while most of the party’s leaders and members cared even less for Rangel. Anyway, Rangel had much bigger fish to fry in the 1980s.

Rangel was a close political and (reputedly business) associate of certain wealthy Venezuelan bankers (Union, Latino, Progreso) who were amassing immense fortunes during the 1980s thanks to their corrupt political connections, though he always managed to keep his alliances with bankers out of the public eye. He was also associated with some media owners famous for currying favor at the highest levels of government during the two presidencies of Carlos Andres Perez (1974-78 and 1989-93), and ran a prosperous side business as an arms merchant to Venezuela’s armed forces through longtime associate Vinicio “El Principe” De Sola (no relation to the very respectable De Sola family of attorneys and jurists). De Sola fronted the military sales, but Rangel profited from the business and used his newspaper columns and weekly TV talk show to twist arms inside the armed forces procurement systems.

Procurement officers reluctant or refusing to do business with De Sola frequently were fingered for alleged corruption by “Ciceron,” a legendary “deep throat” who supplied detailed intelligence about alleged wrongdoings only to Rangel. Any corruption charge, no matter how inconsequential or doubtful, immediately triggered an official Defense Ministry investigation of the accused officer, and even if that officer was found to be completely clean the fact an investigation was conducted usually was a career killer in the armed forces. “Ciceron” very likely is not a person, but a fabrication of Rangel’s imagination, a useful confidential informant whose identity was guaranteed by the journalist’s “secreto profesional” or ethical obligation by professional journalists to never reveal one’s sources to the state or the courts.

However, Venezuela’s best investigative reporters never tried to turn over any stones to discover the truth. Journalists as a rule do not investigate each other. It’s considered bad form to rat out one of your own, which is why journalists, physicians and police in Venezuela and everywhere else in the world are among the professions which usually are reluctant to rat on their colleagues for professional malfeasance or malpractice. But perhaps more importantly, Rangel was, and remains, too dangerous and potentially lethal for anyone in Venezuela who steps on his toes too hard. In a country filled with countless dangerous men, Rangel stands out in the crowd.

“El Principe” would surface anew in Rangel’s world during October 2001 to April 2002, when he actively organized and orchestrated one of three coup conspiracies to topple President Hugo Chavez. The group in which De Sola was a leading strategist, proponent and planner included several former military officers who had served under Chavez but later turned against him (at least officially), and also succeeded in engaging the direct participation of then-Fedecamaras President Pedro Carmona and then-CTV President Carlos Ortega. Of course, Carmona and Ortega also were in separate contact with other political and military factions, the former aligned with Rafael Caldera and the Social Christian Copei party and the latter with with Social Democrat party Accion Democratica, as Copeyanos and Adecos struggled against each other behind the scenes of an emerging people’s power civil society movement to replace Chavez  in the presidency with Caldera’s faction or the AD faction led by Ortega. Ultimately Carmona and the Caldera faction betrayed all the other opposition groups trying to oust Chavez democratically. 

However, “El Principe” De Sola never was investigated after the violence of April 11-14, 2002. Public prosecutors conducting official investigations never contacted De Sola, the former chief prosecutor in that investigation tells us. Investigative reporters also ignored De Sola’s involvement in the alleged conspiratorial activities in which Carmona, Ortega and many dozens of opposition political and military figures were implicated. The reason is that De Sola operated as a double agent, deliberately instigating a coup conspiracy against Chavez in which the active participants never figured out they were being made patsies in a process Chavez controlled through Rangel and De Sola – a self-coup attempt in which the coupsters didn’t realize they were being set up for a lethal fall that would justify Chavez’s seizing all power and declaring martial law to legalize the mass arrest and imprisonment of all his enemies, real and imaginary.

Rangel has served President Chavez faithfully as foreign minister, defense minister and executive vice president of Venezuela over the past decade. His loyalty to Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution is unquestionable, yes? But perhaps not; Rangel is one of a handful of very senior “chavistas” who over the past decade have been the president’s fiercest supporters while successfully preserving their independence and individual power base. Others in this group include Ali Rodriguez Araque, Diosdado Cabello and Ramon Rodriguez Chacin. Rangel has warred diplomatically on behalf of Chavez with the US and Colombian governments, and has defended Chavez’s strategic alliances with terrorist groups like the FARC and rogue regimes like Iran and Iraq (during Saddam Hussein’s rule). While he was defense Minister, Rangel also built strong ties with bankers and former KGB officials now in government and business in Moscow.

Rangel left the Chavez government over a year ago, and now is back to his old haunts in print and broadcast “journalism.” He writes columns under pseudonyms like “Marciano” for rabidly pro-Chavez newspapers like Vea, and uses his weekly political “analysis” program on TV broadcaster Televen to promote the idea that the US, Colombian and other foreign governments are working secretly with opposition groups in Venezuela to destabilize the revolution and oust Chavez from power, or assassinmate Chavez, or sabotage the country’s vital oil and electricity assets.

Rangel is the Grima Wormtongue of the Chavez regime, forever flogging misinformation and making unsubstantiated charges which are never investigated by anyone. It’s enough, simply, to stoke “friction and fog” in the conflict that Chavez perpetuates against his adversaries. A veteran political intelligence official who has known Rangel for over 40 years, in and out of government, says Rangel is motivated chiefly by a relentless thirst for power, a sociopathic drive to foster turmoil and conflict, and the desire to profit personally from the resulting chaos.


About Caracas Gringo

Representing less than 0.00000000001515152% of the world population as of 31 December 2011.
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