Venezuela destabilization document emerges: real?

Just days ahead of the referendum on President Hugo Chávez’s proposed constitutional reforms, Venezuela has threatened to expel a US diplomat if a document outlining supposed CIA plans to foment unrest proves to be real. The document, entitled “Final Stage of Operation Pliers” (“Plan Tenaza”), is supposedly a memorandum from CIA officer Michael Middleton Steere to the director of the US agency, Gen. Michael Hayden. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro declined to name the diplomat, identifying him only as “a CIA official at the United States Embassy in Venezuela.”

The controversy also comes as Chávez announced he is breaking ties with Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe, Washington’s closest ally in South America. “As long as President Uribe, a President capable of lying shamelessly, of disrespecting other presidents, remains President, I will not have any type of relation with him or with the Colombian government,” said Chávez. Having secured Uribe’s approval to negotiate a resolution of Colombia’s ongoing hostage crisis with the FARC guerillas, Chavez said he was “betrayed” when Bogotá dropped him as a moderator Nov. 21. “I don’t trust anybody in Uribe’s government,” Chávez said in a speech four days later.

Uribe retaliated verbally, accusing Chavez of “talking of imperialism while you want to build an empire based on your budget.” He added that Chávez was not a neutral negotiator: “Your words, your positions, suggest you are not interested in peace in Colombia, but rather in Colombia becoming the victim of a terrorist government of the FARC.”

Uribe charged that Chávez committed a breach of protocol when he telephoned Colombian army commander Gen. Mario Montoya to discuss the hostage situation, despite a request from Uribe to refrain from direct contact with high-ranking military officials

Chávez also said he is now ruling out rejoining the Andean Community of Nations, a trade bloc of which Colombia is a prominent member. Venezuela withdrew from the group last year following its decision to join Mercosur, a trade bloc led by Argentina and Brazil. (, AP, AFP, Nov. 30; NYT, Nov. 23)

Chávez, who is notoriously paranoid about assassination attempts (perhaps with reason), is also miffed at CNN for airing footage of him with the caption “¿Quién lo mató?” (Who killed him?). Chávez threatened to expel CNN correspondents, and said his advisers recommended suing the network. The Spanish-language edition of CNN apparently ran the caption erroneously in a report on the Venezuela-Colombia squabble. CNN said in a statement the caption was supposed to be for a story about a recently slain NFL player found dead in his Florida home. (UPI,, Nov. 28)

An estimated 100,000 marched in downtown Caracas Nov. 29 in opposition to the constitutional changes, packing Avenida Bolivar, waving placards, blowing whistles and shouting slogans. A day earlier, violence erupted in the capital as hundreds of student protesters lobbed stones at police and National Guardsmen, who responded with water cannons and tear gas. (VHeadline, London Times, Nov. 30)

Opposition to the reform is being spearheaded by the Social Democratic PODEMOS alliance, which recently broke with Chávez’s Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), as well as the traditional Christian Democratic party, COPEI, and their longtime populist rival, Accion Democratica (AD). (VHeadline, Nov. 20)

In a rally for the reform package, Nov. 30, Chávez addressed tens of thousands bussed in from across the country. After serenading the crowd with traditional holiday gaitas, Chávez warned that “if the ‘yes’ vote wins on Sunday and the Venezuelan oligarchy, playing the [US] empire’s game, comes with their little stories of fraud,” he will cut off oil to the US. (CNN, Nov. 30)

Our last post on Venezuela.

  1. Well? Is It?
    You ask if the document is authentic or not, but you do not provide any answer. Which is kind of useless. I would really like to know. The only major news organization to mention it today, the NYT, reports denials from State and the CIA, which says it is “a fake.” Anybody have a copy?

    1. I don’t know…
      …why everybody always expects me know everything. Because I’m a blogger, that means I should have pretensions to omniscience? Sorry, I’m an old-school journalist and I think raising questions is far more valuable than pretending to know the unknowable.

      For what it’s worth, Chávez told Venezuelan radio yesterday the security forces had broken up a group of some 50 armed men in the Caracas barrio of Los Caobos who were planning an action at the presidential palace. In that same address, he said tomorrow’s vote was a choice between “Chávez or Bush.” (Prensa Latina, Nov. 30) Three army officers—Lt. Col. José Guerrero, Col. José Francisco Alvarado and Cpt. Carlos Guyón Cellis—have apprently been detained by the Military Intelligence Division (DIM) and charged in the plot. (EFE, Dec. 1)

      In his speech, Chávez also dissed his opponents as “pitiyanquis” (Yankee lovers), and said he could see himself ruling until 2050, when he will turn 96. (NYT, Dec. 1) Turning up the heat in his row with Madrid, Chávez also threatened to nationalize the Spanish banks Santander and BBVA. (EFE, Dec. 1)

  2. Venezuelan toilet paper conspiracy
    Somebody is really pulling out all the stops. From Reuters, Nov. 30:

    Venezuelans have been buying large amounts of toilet paper on rumours it could be the next hard-to-find thing amid shortages of products like milk and meat that businesses attribute to price controls but the government blames on high demand and hoarding.

    “We know there are sectors that are hiding toilet paper,” Finance Minister Rodrigo Cabezas told state television on Friday. “A group of business leaders are playing mean, playing dirty … of course trying to create the sensation of product shortage during the elections.”