April 11, 2002 – Why we’re taking a hiatus

Just before the start of Holy Week, a time of forgiveness and healing in Venezuela’s Catholic culture, a political court presided by a “Judge” who answers to President Hugo Chavez, but certainly not to the Rule of Law, sentenced eight former Metropolitan Police and citizen security officials to prison terms ranging from 17 years to 30 years. This terrible injustice sickened this blogger.

Why were these men singled out for such harsh punishment for alleged crimes which they never committed?

In a word: revenge.

More than anyone else, these men and other PM officers who were deployed in downtown Caracas on 11 April, 2002 deserve to be recognized and honored for preventing President Chavez from executing a plan to slaughter and maim hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of innocent civilians guilty of nothing more than protesting against a democratically elected president who turned his back on democracy and the rule of law from his first day in the presidency of Venezuela.

Did the PM know of the president’s plan in advance? No, they did not. Outside a small group of perhaps two-dozen individuals in the government, no one else knew that Chavez had spent over six months prior to 11 April, 2002 preparing to deliberately provoke a mass slaughter.

These eight PM officials and dozens more were only doing their duty as cops sworn to maintain order and protect the general public when they placed themselves between a huge march by 800,000 to 1 million anti-Chavez protesters on one side, and on the other side about 2,000 heavily armed National Guard and Presidential Honor Guard (Army) troops, plus thousands of chavistas – hundreds of which were armed with semi-automatic pistols which had been distributed over the previous months by the government of then-Libertador Municipal Mayor Freddy Bernal.

As a result, only 19 people were killed on that day, and over 100 more suffered mostly gunshot wounds. This was a major setback for Chavez, who wanted to perpetrate the Bolivarian equivalent of a Tiananmen Square massacre in order to justify declaring martial law and suspending the constitution’s guarantees indefinitely. However, the PM forces deployed in downtown Caracas on 11 April, 2002 prevented that from happening.

Much has been written, broadcast and said about the political violence that rocked Venezuela from 11-14 April, 2002. Some of it is interesting and very readable, but the material promoted or endorsed by the Chavez regime is garbage.

Much of the material we have reviewed over the past seven years is slanted to reinforce the claim of President Chavez that he was the victim of a military coup attempt hatched by right-wing Venezuelan conspirators and the government of US President George W. Bush.

Some authors have tried to present what they believe is a balanced or objective history in which responsibilities are more or less apportioned between the Chavez government and the opposition.

Our investigative reading list has included excellent reporting like, for example, “El Acertijo de Abril,” which tried early on to unravel what happened from 11-14 April, 2002. Our investigation started originally with this book.

However, nothing we have seen in the past seven years, in terms of factual content, scratches more than a few millimeters beneath the surface of the history of those black days in Venezuelan history.

Moreover, the authors who do try to present a balanced account always wind up piling more blame on the opposition than on President Chavez, which is understandable.

After all, Fedecamaras President Pedro Carmona Estanga, or “Pedro el Breve” as he is remembered derisively by many, did commit the greatest stupidity in the history of the Venezuelan Republic.

Carmona self-decreed himself President of Venezuela and dissolved all the country’s elected and institutional powers on 12 April, 2002, although he had absolutely no constitutional or legal authority to take such action.

Carmona did participate in a coup, fronting for members of the inner circle of a former president’s family – individuals who, like many others who share criminal liability for the tragedy of 11 April have escaped unscathed.

Even a cursory review of the literature and blogs discussing 11 April, 2002 over the past seven years confirms that most people who consider themselves informed about what really happened have very strong and rigid opinions about the issue. However, the complete truth about what happened remains unknown to this day.

Think of the glass as being, perhaps, 15% full in terms of what is known publicly so far. Moreover, the complete truth may never be known.

There has never been an impartial truth commission tasked with investigating what happened, and identifying everyone who was responsible for the violence.

President Chavez promised on 14 April 2002 that he would appoint such a commission, as part of a short-lived presidential proffer of conciliation with the political opposition. But Chavez never honored his pledge.

In the international news media no one has ever undertaken a serious independent investigation either. During a seven-year period in which the mainstream US news media left no stone or pebble unturned in a relentless quest for evidence of the Bush administration’s alleged crimes, no one bothered to give 11 April, 2002 a second glance.

Meanwhile, instead of seeking the truth as Chavez pledged, the Bolivarian government has relentlessly disseminated an official version of the history of 11-14 April, 2002 which buries its own criminal responsibility for the lethal violence that killed 19 persons and wounded over 100 more on 11 April.

Like all effective propaganda schemes, the president’s official history contains some factual, truthful elements on which the grand lie is based, and it is repeated endlessly around the world at every opportunity by individuals directly (e.g. Ambassadors, political attaches, etc .) and indirectly (e.g. Venezuelan Information Office, etc.) associated with the Chavez regime. But the official version is basically a lie.

However, critics who claim President Chavez and his armed followers were the real intellectual and material authors of the carnage on 11 April, 2002 are ignored, or ridiculed dismissively as mad fools blindly beating a dead horse while the truth surrounds them.

As we remarked at the start of this post, the injustice that was done in the name of President Chavez against eight innocent men the Friday before Holy Week was sickening.

However, even more sickening was the behavior of President Chavez and other senior chavistas who claim justice was done while publicly celebrating the regime’s cruel lynching of these innocent men.

This judicial injustice is one of the things which motivated us to take a hiatus of approximately two months to complete a narrative based on our own ongoing investigation of this vitally important event in the history of Venezuelan democracy. Also, several longtime friends familiar with some elements of our work have been urging its publication.

At the very least, we promise you that our true history of 11 April, 2002 will be an interesting read.

So, Caracas Gringo is going offline for the next couple of months, which hopefully will be enough time to get a final draft in publishable shape for posting on this blog. God willing, we’ll be back soon.

Remembering 7 April, 2002

President Hugo Chavez convened a high-level meeting at Miraflores, exactly seven years ago today on 7 April, 2002, to discuss final details of his plan to crush the political opposition.

Chavez knew that an immense opposition protest march was likely to occur within days. In fact, Chavez was counting on it, and was doing everything he could to stoke a confrontation he expected to win easily.

The president called his plan “Operation Knockout.”

Its objective was to decapitate and demoralize the political opposition in one crushing blow that very likely would result in the death and maiming of hundreds of Venezuelan civilians in downtown Caracas.

This plan had several components – military, civilian and communications.

Only a handful of the president’s closest associates, including then Vice President Diosdado Cabello, then-Defense Minister Jose Vicente Rangel and then-Interior & Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, were fully aware of all the plan’s elements and details. All three were present at this 7 April meeting.

Then-Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez, then-Pdvsa President Gastón Parra, and then-Education Minister Aristobulo Isturiz also were present at the entire meeting.

Chavez chaired the meeting, which was held in two parts.

The first half of the president’s meeting on 7 April, 2002 was with the armed forces high command, a group which included then-Army Commander, Division General Efraín Vásquez Velazco and then-Unified Armed Forces (Cufan) Commander, Division General Manuel Rosendo.

Vice Admiral Bernabé Carrero Cubero, then-commander of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the FAN, presented to President Chavez the military’s plans to prevent massive protest marches by the opposition from erupting into potetially destabilizing violence.

Carrero Cubero’s presentation outlined an aggressive FAN response to maintain public order, which not all of the generals present at the meeting– including Vasquez Velasco and Rosendo – were in agreement with.

However, Chavez approved the military’s plan, which included the deployment of light tanks from fort Tiuna into downtown Caracas to restore public order if protests started to escalate out of control.

Carrero Cubero and other senior officers at the meeting were still discussing details of their security plan with President Chavez when a group of civilians arrived.

The civilians included then-National Assembly Deputy Nicolás Maduro (currently Foreign Minister), National Assembly Deputy Cilia Flores (now President of the National Assembly), then-Táchira Governor Ronald Blanco La Cruz, then-Sucre Governor Ramón Martínez, and National Assembly Deputy Ismael García of Podemos.

Today García is a disaffected chavista who says Chavez is making himself a dictator-for-life, but on 7 April 2002 García was deeply involved in the civilian component of Chavez’s “Operation Knockout.” In fact, García made the official presentation of the civilian component of Chavez’s grand plan to snuff out his opponents.

Chavez urged his generals to continue discussing their security plans, but even the most obeisant officers clammed up in front of the civilians because some aspects of the military’s plans were classified.

However, Chavez had no qualms about discussing the civilian component of Operation Knockout in front of his generals and admirals, and what the president said horrified officers like Vasquez Velazco and Rosendo.

Vásquez Velazco has testified publicly under oath that on 7 April at the meeting in Miraflores, the civilians who formed part of a so-called ‘Comité Político de la Revolución’ (CPR) were assigned the following tasks:

*The CPR would control all Bolivarian Circles and unions. However, the direct execution of the CPR’s explicitly assigned tasks would be the responsibility of a Political Joint Staff Chiefs group which President Chavez indicated would include Vice President Cabello, then-Libertador Mayor Freddy Bernal, and the then-Governors of Vargas and Aragua states.

*The Bolivarian Unions were ordered to surround Miraflores presidential palace and Pdvsa’s headquarters with thousands of members, many of which would be armed and prepared to “defend” the revolution.

*Regional committees of the CPR would supply vehicles to transport Bolivarian Circle members to their assigned objectives.

*Regional committees of the CPR also were ordered to conduct psychological warfare actions like spilling motor oil and nails in the streets at strategic locations which Chavez felt the opposition could use to move protesters quickly into downtown Caracas.

*The CPR also was ordered to deploy passenger vehicles and trucks massively between 6-9 a.m. on the day of the expected confrontation between the opposition and President Chavez.

Moreover, the president reaffirmed several times at the 7 April 2002 meeting that the anticipated clash with the opposition would occur within days.

“They’re going to launch a coup attempt against me, but we know their plans and are ready to stop them.” Chavez reportedly said, according to several sources who were present that day.

During the meeting, Vasquez Velasco also testified, Maduro made a brief presentation revealing that he had negotiated the payment of Bs. 10 billion to Pdvsa’s workers to keep them from going on strike.

General Rosendo, also testifying under sworn oath before the kangaroo National Assembly Commission created to whitewash what really happened on 11-14 April, 2002, confirmed everything said by General Vasquez Velasco.

For example, Rosendo testified that Chavez approved a proposal by then-Education Minister Isturiz, who urged the president to deploy armed members of the Bolivarian Circles to take control of the streets and hold the streets at all costs, including the use of lethal force to halt opposition protesters.

Chavez confirmed at the meeting that National Guard units would be deployed alongside armed Bolivarian Circle members, to confront opposition protesters.

The FAN commanders were alarmed, but none of them dared to challenge the president’s decision to deploy thousands of armed civilian chavistas to attack opposition protesters.

Attorney General Rodriguez also said nothing.

However, it was painfully obvious to the generals and admirals that the strategies and tactics Chavez had ordered his civilian supporters to execute were patently unconstitutional, illegal and criminal.

The core elements of “Operation Knockout,” as described to the military and civilian groups by President Chavez on 7 April 2002, consisted of the following tactical phases:

*Several hundreds of National Guard troops from CORE 5 in Caracas would be deployed around Miraflores palace.

*Armed Bolivarian Circle members also would be deployed at Miraflores, but behind the National Guard picket lines.

*The National Guard troops would be used as buffers between the anti-Chavez protesters and the Bolivarian Circles. However, the National Guard troops would be under explicit orders to confront only the opposition protesters that were expected to march towards Miraflores.

*Armed Bolivarian Circle members also would be deployed at strategic intersections to harass opposition protesters and contain any march into downtown Caracas within narrow corridors which Chavez felt could be defended easily.

*Violent clashes certainly would happen. In fact, the Bolivarian Circles were under orders to attack the opposition physically with an array of weapons including rocks, clubs and firearms. President Chavez fully expected the presence of armed opposition groups. He was certain of this because for months Chavez had clandestinely fostered opposition conspiracies against himself.

*At the height of the anticipated violence in downtown Caracas, President Chavez would give General Rosendo orders to deploy the FAN’s security plan, deploying at least three army infantry battalions and some two- to three-dozen light tanks into downtown Caracas to crush the “coup” which Chavez would announce was under way.

*Chavez then would decree a state of exception/martial law, suspending economic and individual constitutional guarantees, which would allow the Chavez regime to arrest anyone it wished on suspicion of conspiring to overthrow the democratically elected president.

Had this plan succeeded, the slaughter likely would have been horrendous. However, President Chavez expected to defend himself against international criticism by insisting that his regime has countered a violent anti-democratic right-wing military coup.

“Operation Knockout” might have succeeded if not for the separate efforts of Rosendo and Vasquez Velasco to prevent a massacre, and if not for Chavez’s own pathological cowardice, which compelled him to start seeking his surrender before the sun set on 11 April, 2002.

All this is public record, but of course it doesn’t form part of the official Bolivarian “history” of 11 April, 2002.

Mexico or Venezuela: Which is the greater threat to US security?

Lately the blogosphere that specializes in terrorism, drug trafficking, security, 4GW, Mexico, etc. has been focusing more than it usually does on the Mexican government’s war against increasingly violent drug cartels.

Gringo think tanks and dead tree news media also have been beating the drums about Mexico, predicting or refuting that it’s a failing state, parsing blame between the Mexicans and Gringos, and warning about the spillover of violence into the United States.

Oh My God! Almost 6,000 killed in Mexico’s drug wars last year! President Barack Obama had better deploy US troops immediately to seal the border with Mexico!

Some of the excitement is understandable, given that Mexico and the US are forever fused together by geography, demography, trade, etc. Some of the interest is being stoked by companies that make a living selling specialized security and intelligence analysis. More power to them.

But all the noise about Mexico’s drug wars is a bit analogous to shutting the barn door after the livestock has escaped. Mexico’s drug cartels have been at war with the Mexican state since at least the 1980s, thanks to US drug policy.

Some critics argue that it’s never been worse than today. In some respects that’s an accurate assessment. But for intelligence and security analysts operating way south of Mexico, like Caracas, all the noise about Mexico resonating north of the Rio Bravo seems a a bit off the mark.

A much greater threat to US national security has been evolving for the past decade in Venezuela, where the increasingly dictatorial-minded regime of President Hugo Chavez is the hemispheric hub for the rapid expansion regionally of new state and non-state actors which share a common desire to weaken the United States, liberal democracy and western capitalism.

The strategic alliance between Chavez and Fidel Castro, initiated in December 1994 when Chavez visited Havana for the first time and formally constituted in 2000, Chavez’s second year as president of Venezuela, has facilitated the entry into Latin America of the People’s Republic of China, Iran, and more recently Russia.

North Korea, aka the hermit kingdom, also has expanded its presence in Latin America quietly through a strategic alliance with the Chavez regime which has been deepening since Pyongyang established an embassy in Caracas in 2006.

During the decade Chavez has been in power, non-state actors like the FARC and ELN of Colombia, European militant groups like the IRA and ETA, and Islamic militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, among others, also have established a presence in Venezuela.

IRA and ETA, which have longtime links with the Cuban regime in Havana, travel in/out of Venezuela via Cuba. Islamic militants – like Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. – use commercial air routes between Caracas, Tehran and Damascus.

Some local independent intelligence analysts also believe that radical Islamic activists loosely associated with militant groups possibly tied to al Qaeda have established a presence in Venezuelan territory over the past six or seven years.

International ethnic organized crime groups also known to be operating in Venezuelan include several Chinese triads, Russian mafiya, Neapolitan ‘camorristas,’ and Spanish, Brazilian, Mexican and several West African crime groups. Their core “business” in Venezuela is narcotics smuggling, the illegal arms trade, and money laundering.

President Chavez routinely reaffirms that the United States is the greatest enemy of Venezuela, and the greatest evil in the world. He is on record, literally hundreds of times in the past decade, as saying that he wants to destroy the US Empire, destroy US capitalism, bring the US to its knees, etc.

Chavez and Cuba: Since 2000, Chavez has been supplying Cuba with up to 100,000 b/d of oil, practically free, plus other economic support which by some estimates currently totals over $5 billion annually. Fidel Castro said before the 15 February referendum that it was “absolutely vital” for the Cuban revolution that Chavez be the winner.

In June 2005 Venezuela’s defense ministry and armed forces officially adopted Cuba’s core national security doctrine as Venezuela’s new security doctrine. Caracas and Havana have a mutual defense pact in place against any “external aggression,” and officially Venezuela’s top external security threats are the Us and Colombia.

Today there are about 50,000 Cubans in Venezuela on official missions, and many more are coming soon if Chavez is serious about importing Cuban “peasants” to farm the undeveloped lands of the Orinoco River basin. Cuban military and security advisers are working in the Defense Ministry, armed forces, National Guard, military intelligence (DIM) and the Interior & Justice Ministry’s political police (Disip).

There are also Cuban advisers working out of the public eye at Onidex (passports, identity cards, migration); the Registro Nacional (where all property ownership documents, corporate statutes of all companies, etc. must be registered); at the Education, Communications, Planning, and Economic & Finance Ministries; and CANTV. Joint state-owned Venezuelan-Cuban companies soon will be operating in the seaports which the regime seized practically at gunpoint in March.

Venezuelan and Cuban political and security advisers are also known to be working in Bolivia to support the government of President Evo Morales. Chavez also has donated hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to Morales for payments to his civilian and military supporters in that country.

Venezuelan/Cuban advisers also are working with Bolivian indigenous activists to fan the flames of future revolution in Peru’s indigenous highlands bordering Bolivia, overtly through the Casas del Alba, and covertly by training Peruvian indigenous militants in Bolivian territory, according to reports from intelligence sources in Lima.

Chavez and China: On 24 December 2004 president Chavez announced from Beijing that Venezuela’s oil reserves were completely at the service of China’s economic development needs for generations to come. Chavez also said he would reduce Venezuelan oil exports to US, if possible completely breaking Venezuela’s “supply dependency” on the Gringo Empire, and would redirect those exports to China.

Since 2005, Chavez has signed dozens of energy, trade, communications and security agreements with China worth close to $50 billion through 2013, at least on paper. These agreements include promised joint ventures between Pdvsa-CNPC and other Chinese state-owned oil companies to develop up to 1.2 million b/d of extra-heavy crude production capacity in the Orinoco oil belt, build new upgrading capacity totaling at least 600,000 b/d, building three or four refineries in China with a combined capacity of up to 1 million b/d, creating an international oil shipping company, and forming joint ventures to manufacture oil equipment and provide oil services.

Venezuela and China also have a $12 billion joint infrastructure fund originally created in 2007 with an initial capitalization of $6 billion, of which $2 billion came from Fonden, and $4 billion was a loan from China payable over three years with oil. Last September Chavez reached an agreement with Beijing to double the fund’s capitalization to $12 billion, with China lending $8 billion overall, payable in oil.

But oil is just the iceberg’s tip. Chavez also has offered Chinese companies preferred access to other Venezuelan resources including natural gas, iron/steel, bauxite/alumina, coal, gold and diamonds, and rare earths mining. And now that Chavez has seized control of all the ports, it’s possible that in the coming socialist “reorganization” of these ports, Chinese companies like Hutchison Whampoa, which has ties to the PLA, could win Bolivarian contracts.

Chavez also is starting to buy weapons from China, which already was a substantial supplier of military-grade equipment to Venezuela (uniforms, boots, etc.). Items on order include 18 K-8 trainer jets, which Sudan’s genocidal leader Omar al Bashir has used as ground attack aircraft in Darfur with devastating impact.

While Chavez has not publicly offered China’s military the possibility of using Venezuelan seaports and airports, his strategic alliance with Beijing is facilitating China’s global security strategy of responding to what it perceives as US encirclement of China in Asia with a Chinese “counter-encirclement” of the US in the Americas.

Chavez and Iran: Good diplomatic relations existed between Venezuela and Iran back in the 1970s/early 80s, long before Chavez and Ahmadinejad were elected presidents of their respective countries. Oil was always the core shared interest of the Venezuela-Iranian diplomatic relationship. But under Chavez-Ahmadinejad, the strategic alliance is virulently anti-US and anti-Israel. Chavez defends the Iranian nuclear development program, Tehran’s official position on Israel, and has even warned in the past that he would deploy Venezuelan troops to Iran to help defend against any external (ie US) aggression.

Last week Chavez visited Tehran to announce a new “ten-year strategic alliance” with Iran. Chavez-Ahmadinejad also jointly announced that “US capitalism” must be erased permanently and replaced by a new world order – which of course would be fascism since fascism is the quasi-religion which binds the Socialist Bolivarian and the Iranian Islamic revolutions.

Venezuela’s state-owned Conviasa airlines helps Tehran circumvent UN bans on the sale of missile-related technologies via Conviasa’s commercial air routes between Caracas-Tehran-Damascus. The Caracas-Tehran alliance also has facilitated the movement to Venezuela of Hezbollah militants.

Chavez and Russia: Since 2005 Venezuela has purchased and ordered over $6 billion worth of weapons including 100,000 AK-103/104 assault rifles plus a license to produce in Venezuela another 50,000 AF-103/104 assault rifles per year, transport and attack helicopters, fixed wing transport aircraft, and Sukhoi-30 fighters. Chavez also wants to buy Russian-made submarines, TOR M-1 air defense missile systems, shore-fired anti-ship missiles, armored fighting vehicles, battle tanks, and more attack helicopters and Sukhoi aircraft. But for now, low oil prices have crimped his shopping plans, and the Medvedev/Putin regime can’t afford to extend any credit to Chavez. So new weapons buys are on hold.

However, Chavez also has invited Russia’s regime, repeatedly, to use Venezuelan air bases and seaports for Russia’s global military operations. Last September Russian news media also reported Chavez had invited Medvedev/Putin to base Russian troops in Venezuela, but Chavez immediately denied the reports. But it’s a fact that the Russian military presence has increased, particularly since 2008 when Chavez steadfastly defended Moscow’s separatist military adventurism in Georgia. The Russian military presence in Venezuela is increasing, which is only natural given the Chavez regime’s security and energy policies. Dozens of mechanics, avionics, computer and weapons systems technicians are working in Venezuela to maintain the helicopters and aircraft Chavez has acquired, and train Venezuelan personnel in these areas. Increasingly, Venezuelan military personnel, particularly officers and elite special troops of all branches of the armed forces, also are training in Russia.

Commerce is one of Moscow’s chief motivations in deepening strategic ties with the Chavez regime. Chavez has been one of the top buyers of Russian weapons worldwide in recent years. And Russian oil companies have been guaranteed preferred access to oil and gas projects in Venezuela. Russian companies reportedly also are looking at major Venezuelan investment ventures in gold, diamonds, aluminum, transportation, and tourism, among other sectors.

But the Medvedev/Putin regime also wants to build a robust military/security alliance with the Chavez regime, and revive Russian-Cuban relations.

A brief digression: China has fostered strong security, economic and political relations with Cuba since the end of the Cold War. When Moscow pulled out, Beijing seized the opportunity – slowly at first by western standards, but very quickly from a Chinese perspective. It’s a given, among intelligence analysts in Brazil and Mexico, that after the Soviet Union collapsed, China’s intelligence services inherited the KGB’s clandestine networks in Latin America, including Venezuela and Mexico.

Medvedev also has explicitly agreed to help the chavez build a native nuclear research and development program. Chavez also is believed to have agreements nuclear development assistance agreements in place with Tehran.

Strategically, Moscow is pursuing its own “counter-encirclement” of the US in the Americas (and Middle East – Central Asia), as part of a broader global effort to push back against the eastward expansion of NATO towards Russia, and thwart US plans to deploy an anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Almost nothing is known about the Hermit Kingdom’s activities in Venezuela, but North Korea’s main exports are missile technology and illegal drugs like heroin and methamphetamine.

Whenever a reporter asks a Pentagon spokesman about the expanding Russian (or Chinese) presence in Latin America, the response is usually dismissive. Officially, the Pentagon doesn’t appear to perceive any threats to US national security in Latin America, except of course the endless drug war.

But viewed from Caracas, the trend is worrisome. The Chavez regime openly supports – and protects in Venezuela – narco-Marxist militant groups like the FARC and ELN. Illegal narcotics are flowing massively from Colombia to Venezuela, which is a distribution hub for drug shipments to Mexico, the US, Canada, the Caribbean (via Haiti/Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico), the Eurozone (via Spain, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands), and increasingly to West Africa.

Interior & Justice Minister Tarek al Assaimi, of Iraqi Baathist ascendancy, says no country is doing more to fight drug trafficking than Venezuela, where over 11 metric tons of illegal narcotics have been seized in recent months. But international agencies which monitor the illegal narcotics trade say at least 250 metric tons per year of cocaine were being transported via Venezuela as recently as 2007, up from 50 metric tons per year in 2002.

Many of the international drug distribution networks running drugs through Venezuela also can be used to move weapons and people. To what extent might this be happening? US sources tell Caracas Gringo there’s no way of knowing for sure, because US intelligence on the Chavez regime’s various overt/covert political, terrorist and criminal alliances is not very good (which, for longtime Caracas-based observers, comes as no surprise).

But a lot of the cocaine (and heroin) manufactured in Colombia is being exported to the US via Venezuela to Mexico, where the drug cartel wars killed close to 6,000 people last year. The Chavez regime’s tacit and/or implicit strategic alliances with the FARC and other non-state actors which profit from illegal narcotics undoubtedly facilitate the drug shipments that eventually transit through Mexico to the US, regardless of what officials like al Assaimi claim with respect to the Bolivarian revolution’s homegrown war on drugs.

Call this the indirect covert component of the Bolivarian revolution’s regional spread, and an effective if not necessarily deliberate (though we wonder) 4GW tactic to destabilize the US via Mexico, a process which also benefits the long-term strategic interests of new state actors in the region like China and Russia.

Meanwhile, Chavez is overtly focused on undermining US interests everywhere in the Americas (and the world). In fairness, though, the US has clumsily helped Chavez a great deal. Chavez’s performance at the hastily scheduled ALBA summit of 14-15 April in Venezuela will provide some indication of how Chavez likely will behave at the 17-18 April Summit of the Americas in Trinidad & Tobago, where he expects to cross paths for the first time with US President Barack Obama.

Chavez said this week during his tour of Tehran, Tokyo and Beijing that he wants to “re-set” relations with the Obama administration and be friends. But friendship isn’t Chavez’s style, especially not with the Gringo Empire. A pillar of Chavez’s foreign policy is permanent hostility and confrontation with the US. Where Chavez’s hatred of the US will lead him and Venezuela eventually cannot be foretold, but clearly he will continue working to weaken and undermine US interests at every opportunity. Is Mexico such an opportunity?

The satisfaction of a killer president

President Hugo Chavez says he is pleased with the 30-year prison terms imposed on Ivan Simonovis and former Metropolitan Police chiefs Henry Vivas and Lázaro Forero, after a court found all three guilty of murder and attempted murder on 11 April, 2002. Eight other former PM officials convicted on similar charges were sentenced to up to 17 years.

Chavez said the prison terms handed down by the court in Aragua mark the “end of impunity” in Venezuela.

But he also said other “traitors” have yet to be tried, convicted and imprisoned for their alleged involvement in the alleged coup against Chavez.

Chavez is right. Others do deserve to be arrested, tried and imprisoned, starting with President Hugo Chavez, the intellectual author of the violence of 11 April, 2002.

Others who deserve lengthy prison terms include, for starters, Diosdado Cabello (Vice President on 11 April), Jose Vicente Rangel (Defense Minister on 11 april), and Ramon Rodriguez Chacin (Interior & Justice Minister on 11 April).

There are many more chavistas who participated in the plotting to commit the violence of 11 April. But Chavez and the aforementioned trio of thugs top the list.

Chavez is pleased with the political lynching of Simonovis, Vivas and Forero because it provides him, or so he thinks, with the legal legitimacy to claim he was indeed, the innocent victim of a coup attempt.

Chavez has spent the past six years and tens of millions of dollars globally on marketing the fiction that 11 April, 2002 was a coup attempt hatched by his opponents in the military and civilian establishments.

BBC has cooperated shamelessly and despicably with the Chavez regime’s official lies, and so have many other international news media.

But the truth won’t be buried forever, as Chavez hopes.

The crime of murder has no statute of limitations anywhere in the free world. And the Nuremberg trials discredited the “I was only following orders” defense of Adolf Hitler’s civilian cronies and generals/admirals of the Nazi Wermacht.

This is why Chavez embraces mass murderers like Sudan’s Omar al Bashir so enthusiastically. Chavez defends al Bashir aggressively in an attempt to bury the possible future legal consequences of his own murderous actions on 11 April, 2002.

Psalm 52: A Message for Chavez

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
Your tongue plots destruction,
like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah
You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.
But God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous shall see and fear,
and shall laugh at him, saying,
“See the man who would not make
God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!”

Bolivarian killing fields

During first quarter 2009 a total of 4,659 homicides were recorded by crime statisticians at the Interior and Justice Ministry, compared with 3,562 homicides recorded during the first three months of 2008 by the ministry, an increase of 1,097 homicides (30.7%).

During the same period, the ministry recorded 844 homicides in “Caracas” compared with 654 homicides recorded in first quarter 2008, an increase of 190 homicides (29%).

However, the official data for Caracas is misleading, since it does not include homicides committed in the states of Miranda and Vargas, which territorially account for at least half of the Greater Caracas Metropolitan Area including the Petare mega-slum, Guarenas-Guatire, the Tuy Valleys and La Guaira, among other substantial concentrations of mostly poor Venezuelans.

At this pace, Venezuela easily will record over 15,000 homicides in 2009 compared with 14,400 in 2008, and around 5,000 in 1998, before Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela.

These are horrifying numbers, but they don’t provide readers a “feel” for what it’s like to live in Caracas nowadays.

Following are some very personal experiences of Caracas Gringo, his family and neighbors, on what used to be a quiet street in the upper area of Los Palos Grandes near the Cota Mil, described from most recent to oldest:

*Two nights ago, our upstairs neighbor’s youngest daughter, 24 years old, was being driven home by a friend at approximately midnight when the car she was riding in was intercepted, on the 9th Transversal of Los Palos Grandes, about two blocks from her home, by a black Ford Fiesta which cut in front and forced her friend to stop abruptly. A hooded man stepped out of the passenger’s side of the Fiesta with a pistol in hand. This is the tactic used by express kidnappers.

Fortunately, the person driving our neighbor’s daughter home had the presence of mind to shift into reverse immediately and back away at high speed about 100 meters to an intersection which allowed a fast turn and getaway. Fortunately, the would-be kidnappers did not pursue them.

*Eight nights ago at approximately 8 p.m., a pair of armed robbers on motorcycles roared down the 11th Transversal of los Palos at high speed, pursued by three Chacao police officers on motorcycles. As the criminals being pursued sped past the building where this blogger lives, they started firing semi-automatic pistols at the cops behind them. The gunfire continued past the Eduplin day care center, a total of nine shots fired in as many seconds over a distance of 75-100 meters.

Fortunately, the Chacao cops had the training and presence of mind to not return fire, which would have sprayed more bullets around the neighborhood. The criminals were captured at a police roadblock at the intersection of the 5th avenue of los Palos Grandes and the 9th Transversal.

*Ten days ago, another neighbor shared this tragic story: Her friend, a woman, was driving an SUV with her seven-year-old son in the back seat, when she was stopped by two armed carjackers on a motorcycle. The woman made the mistake of telling the carjackers that losing her SUV was not an irrecoverable loss. One of the carjackers replied, “It’s not a loss? How about this?” And he shot her seven-year-old son. We don’t know where this happened in the city, but our neighbor said she went to the boy’s funeral, so we know the story is not hearsay.

*Just over two weeks ago, our upstairs neighbor, who is Jewish, was warned by the Chacao police that since the beginning of 2009 a gang of express kidnappers has been targeting Jewish residents of Los Palos Grandes. He was advised to take immediate security precautions for himself and his family.

*Also some three weeks ago, Chacao police officials who patrol the street where this blogger resides confirmed that since the start of this year, express kidnappers have snatched unwary victims in the Santa Eduvigis area. The abductors, wearing police uniforms, set up fake checkpoints in Santa Eduvigis late at night near the home of former President Luis Herrera Campins. This area is right on the jurisdictional border between the municipalities of Chacao and Sucre.

*On 11 March, a Venezuelan-French resident of Caracas was kidnapped outside the Catalan Club at the corner of the 3rd Avenue of Los Palos Grandes and the 11th Transversal. He was held over 24 hours, until his wife paid the kidnappers a ransom of approximately $28,000.

The area where all of the above happened, except for the young boy’s murder, covers a linear distance of perhaps 1 to 1.5 kilometers, and proportionally is an infinitesimally small slice of Caracas in what is still considered one of the safest areas of Venezuela’s capital city.

However, recently it was reported that dozens of express kidnappings also have occurred since the start of this year in Santa Fe, Lomas de Valle Arriba and Colinas de Bello Monte – an area literally within 20 minutes’ easy walking distance from the US Embassy.

The barrios – Petare, El Valle, Catia and points west – are literal killing fields compared to what we have experienced in our tiny patch of Caracas. The Interior and Justice Ministry’s data says it all: 4,659 homicides in the first 90 days of this year nationally, or 51.76 homicides per day (2.15 homicides per hour).

Caracas Gringo knows a lot of Caracas cops. All the good ones have full-time gigs with private employees, guarding daycare centers and homes, chauffeuring businessmen and their wives/children, etc.

But there’s also a very substantial criminal element in forces like PoliCaracas and the Metropolitan Police. Our ex-Army intel colleagues in the private security sector say that many express kidnappings involve corrupt cops.