d'État In Venezuela:
Made In The USA
By Chris Carlson
25 November, 2006
1999, when the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Serbia didn't get rid of
Slobodan Milosovic, Washington changed its strategy. U.S. intelligence
organized a $77 million effort to oust Milosovic through the ballot
box. They sent in CIA front organizations funded by the National Endowment
for Democracy (NED), and the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID). Instead of guns and bombs, these U.S. forces were armed with
fax machines, computers, and perhaps most importantly, sophisticated
surveys done by the Washington-based polling firm Penn, Schoen &
Berland.(1) Their mission: to take down Milosovic by strengthening opposition
Milosovic is now long gone,
as the U.S. effort to mobilize the opposition and produce mass protests
was successful in unseating him in the 2000 elections. This victory
was a landmark for U.S. intelligence agencies. They had developed a
new way to overthrow unfriendly regimes, and it was much easier than
a violent overthrow, or a messy invasion. Penn, Schoen & Berland
had played an important role; so important that the U.S. Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright commended them, saying "This may be one
of the first instances where polling has played such an important role
in setting and securing foreign policy objectives."(2) They did,
indeed, secure their foreign policy objectives. Milosovic was out, and
the U.S.-backed opposition took power.
Since 2000, this smooth new
strategy to influence elections and topple regimes has been implemented
in many other countries. Dubbed as the "post-modern coup"
by Jonathan Mowat, the same brilliant techniques were used in Belarus
in 2001, in Georgia in 2003, and in the Ukraine in 2004, to name a few.
Although it ultimately failed in Belarus, in Georgia the U.S. effort
produced the "Rose Revolution" which overthrew President Eduard
Shevardnadze. In the Ukraine it was the "Orange Revolution"
that installed Victor Yushchenko in 2004.(3) Each time, groups financed
by the NED, and USAID worked inside the country to build popular support
for the opposition candidate. Each time they constructed an appealing
campaign image using the modern marketing tactics that they have perfected
along the way. And each time, they used Penn, Schoen & Berland election
"polls" to shape the public's perception.
In his article, "Coup
D'etat in Disguise," Jonathan Mowat described how these "polls"
"Penn, Schoen and Berland
(PSB) has played a pioneering role in the use of polling operations,
especially "exit polls," in facilitating coups. Its primary
mission is to shape the perception that the group installed into power
in a targeted country has broad popular support. ""...the
deployment of polling agencies' "exit polls" broadcast on
international television...give the false impression of massive vote-fraud
by the ruling party, to put targeted states on the defensive."(4)
That is, the goal is to either
get enough support to sway the election in their favor, or, if that
isn't possible, to give the impression that the elections were fraudulent
and encourage the population to overturn them. The strategy has been
so successful in overthrowing regimes, or installing the regimes that
the U.S. prefers, that the operation has evolved into a blueprint to
be used in countries around the world. Ian Traynor described it in the
Guardian in November 2004 as follows:
"[T]he campaign is an
American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise
in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four
years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavory
regimes...The operation - engineering democracy through the ballot box
and civil disobedience - is now so slick that the methods have matured
into a template for winning other people's elections"(5)
Manufacturing a "Ukrainian"
These days the U.S. has a
new arch nemesis; Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Surely Washington
would be delighted to get rid of him in the same fashion as all the
rest. But there is one small problem; Hugo Chavez is no Slobodan Milosovic.
He is immensely popular among the masses in Venezuela and throughout
Latin America. Pro-Chavez parties have continued to win democratic elections
over the last 8 years, and will most certainly win again in the December
3rd presidential contest. This time U.S. forces have their work cut
out for them. They know that it is basically impossible to beat Chavez
at the ballot box; he's too popular. It looks like they will have to
go to plan B: a coup d'etat.
The U.S. has already set
up camp in Venezuela, and all the original cast members are here. We've
got NED, USAID, and yes, once again, Penn, Schoen & Berland. Just
like in Serbia, or Ukraine, the objective of the U.S. forces is to remove
Chavez from power. Therefore they have teamed up with major opposition
groups to map out and implement their strategy. The strategy in Venezuela
takes from many of the important lessons that they first learned in
Serbia, and have since been carried to many other nations. The goal
is to create a situation like in Ukraine in 2004: huge protests against
the elections and against the government in order to cause chaos and
instability. Basically, it comes in three parts.
First, they need to build
up popular support for the opposition candidate, Manuel Rosales, by
designing an attractive campaign. This has already been accomplished,
in part, but according to most polls Rosales only has about 20 to 30
percent voter intention, compared to Chavez who hovers between 50 and
60 percent.(6) However, it appears support for Rosales has grown a few
percentage points in the latest polls as the candidate has crossed the
country giving speeches and making promises over the last few months.
The major media, of course, gives his campaign nightly coverage, and
repeats all of his campaign messages.
The campaign is U.S.-designed
and uses modern marketing techniques, and catchy slogans. As shown in
the 2005 documentary movie "Our Brand Is Crisis", about a
U.S. team who designed the campaign of their favored candidate in Bolivia,
these brilliant campaigns use sophisticated methods to create exactly
the image they need for their candidate. They tend to target youth,
and often include youth movements as they have with Primero Justica
(Justice First) in Venezuela. The branding of the campaign with a color,
and a one-word slogan is an important part of the U.S.-designed campaigns.
In Serbia is the slogan was "Otpor", meaning resistance. In
Georgia is was "Kmara" (Enough!). In Ukraine, "Pora",
means "It's Time!", and now, in Venezuela, the brand is "Atrevete,"
roughly translated as "Be bold!"
The second step has been
to use the mass media to create the perception that the elections are
fraudulent. They have done this in a variety of ways. The NED has funded
an organization, Sumate (one-word slogan that means "join up"),
with the expressed goal of "achieving a high level of citizen participation
in Venezuelan elections. "(7) Founded in 2002, Sumate organized
the campaign for the recall referendum to revoke Chavez's presidential
term. They lost the recall vote in August 2004 by a large margin, but
went on to claim, with the help of Penn, Schoen, and Berland's "exit
polls," that the election was fraudulent. Five other polls showed
exactly the opposite and concurred with the official voting results
in which Chavez won by a wide margin. PSB and Sumate, however, maintained
that the opposition had won and that Chavez had committed "massive
fraud" in spite of the fact that 5 of the 6 polls concurred with
the official results, and that the voting process was certified by both
the Carter Center and the Organization of American States.(8) Consequently,
Chavez's image as a democratically elected leader was damaged both nationally
and internationally. The fraud claim resonated through the major media,
and planted doubts about Chavez's legitimacy.
Since the recall referendum,
the campaign has been non-stop. Sumate and other opposition groups continue
to attack the electoral process in Venezuela, claiming it is not transparent
and unfairly controlled by the Chavez government. The major media in
Venezuela have wholeheartedly supported this campaign giving coverage
to Sumate, and their constant press releases denouncing problems with
the electoral process. The idea is to decieve enough people into believing
that the Chavez regime is not popularly supported, but is holding on
to power through fraudulent elections. They have already been fairly
successful in convincing a percentage of the population.
Finally, they must get enough
people out into the streets in order to create a situation in which
a transition of power could take place. Here is where Penn, Schoen &
Berland comes in. In the recent months in the lead up to the December
2006 elections, Penn, Schoen & Berland has been instrumental in
shaping public perception. In a series of election polls widely covered
in the private media, the polling firm has consistently shown that Chavez's
lead is shrinking, and the opposition is gaining momentum, while all
of the other surveys done over the last few months show that Chavez
maintains a wide lead of between 20 and 30 percent.(9)
Last week, Mr. Schoen, of
Penn, Schoen & Berland, released the findings of his latest survey
on the Venezuelan evening news. As expected, Penn's survey showed that
Chavez's opposition, Manuel Rosales, was nearly tied in the polls with
Chavez. Chavez, it showed, had only 48% support, and his opponent Manuel
Rosales had gained significantly up to 42%. This poll is now being reported
across all the major Venezuelan media, to a huge audience, showing that
Rosales was gaining more and more everyday, and could possibly win.
Mr. Schoen added his personal opinion, "The momentum is clearly
With the help of the mainstream
media, almost all of which is vehemently opposed to the popular president,
these fake polls have reached a wide audience. All the newspapers, the
major television channels, and internet news sites report the poll results
as if they were true, valid, findings. They don't mention the fact that
these findings are not supported by any other polling agency. Again,
although the reality is that Rosales has almost no chance of winning
in the December elections, much of the population now believes he will.
The reality doesn't seem to matter, all that really matters is what
the population believes. When their candidate loses by a large margin,
it will be a difficult reality to deal with. If the opposition strategy
works, it might be possible to produce large protests and even riots.
Two weeks ago, on Globovision,
one of the major private channels in Venezuela, opposition leader Rafael
Poleo called on Venezuelans to do the "Ukrainian" on the day
after the elections.(11) Claiming the elections will be fraudulent,
Poleo, who was involved in the 2002 coup attempt, described in detail
a "plan" to remove Chavez from power after the elections.
Comparing it to the "Orange Revolution", the plan calls for
Venezuelans to come out en masse to protest against the Chavez government
and what they call "fraudulent elections." Poleo then made
a call to the high military command to back this "movement",
in what basically amounts to a call to overthrow the government.
Two weeks from now, we'll
see how all of this plays out. Will the popular Chavez continue to rule
as the president of the masses? Or, will the U.S.-trained opposition
be able to pull off a "Ukrainian" in Venezuela? The opposition's
claims of fraud are totally baseless, and even from the most superficial
observation, it is clear that Chavez maintains overwhelming support.
But, the U.S.-organized strategy seeks to produce mass protests and
perhaps military rebellion to unseat their popular enemy. With the help
of Penn, Schoen & Berland, they just might get enough people in
the streets to cause some trouble. For the coup planners, that's exactly
what they need.
(1) John Lancaster, "U.S.
Funds Help Milosevic's Foes in Election Fight," Washington Post,
September 19, 2000.
(2) Jonathan Mowat, 'Coup
d'Ã‰tat in Disguise: Washington's New World Order "Democratization"
Template', Center for Research on Globalization, 9 February 2005, http://globalresearch.ca/articles/MOW502A.html
(3) Michael Barker, "Regulating
revolutions in Eastern Europe; Polyarchy and the National Endowment
(4) Jonathan Mowat, 'Coup
d'Ã‰tat in Disguise: Washington's New World Order "Democratization"
Template', Center for Research on Globalization, February 9, 2005, http://globalresearch.ca/articles/MOW502A.html
(5) Ian Traynor, "US
campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev" The Guardian, November 2004
(10) "Venezuela Presidential
Race Tightens, Thursday, November 16
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