Colombian paramilitaries arrested in Venezuela - Washington and the opposition are behind the terrorist plot against Chavez

The arrests near Caracas on Sunday of up to 80 Colombian paramilitaries linked to the political opposition confirm suspicions that the counterrevolution is resorting to ever more desperate and violent measures to overthrow the government of Hugo Chavez. It is quite clear that the captured men were being trained by the opposition to stage a coup.

The arrests near Caracas on Sunday of up to 80 Colombian paramilitaries linked to the political opposition confirm suspicions that the counterrevolution is resorting to ever more desperate and violent measures to overthrow the government of Hugo Chavez. Reports from Caracas state that the Colombians had been arrested in a dawn raid on a farm, on the outskirts of the capital, Caracas, belonging to a Cuban exile.

During his weekly radio and TV broadcast, Hello President, Mr Chavez said that 53 paramilitary fighters were arrested at the farm early on Sunday and another 24 were picked up after fleeing into the countryside. Officials say that 90 people have been detained altogether, although some arrests may have been made later. Another 40 people are still being sought.

The country's security forces were uncovering additional clues and searching for more suspects, he said, adding that the arrests were proof of a conspiracy against his government involving Cuban and Venezuelan exiles in Florida and neighbouring Colombia. President Chavez stated that the plot was backed by Venezuela's mostly pro-opposition news media and said that the raids had "eliminated the seed of a terrorist group".

"Now they are importing terrorists," Chavez said of his opponents, adding that the farm - in the municipality of El Hatillo - was owned by Roberto Alonso, a Cuban exile with links to Venezuelan and Cuban exiles.

For some time there has been evidence that Colombian death squads were active on Venezuelan soil. Now this is proved beyond all doubt. There can be no question that these paramilitary thugs were plotting to strike against the government in Caracas.

Opposition leaders tried to dismiss the claim, calling the raids on a farm less than 10 miles from the capital a manoeuvre to divert attention from their efforts to oust Chavez in a recall vote. They immediately attempted to play down the significance of the arrests, after it was revealed that the only weapon found in the raid was a single handgun.

"They didn't even have a nail clipper, their boots were all polished and their uniforms were ironed," opposition leader Antonia Ledezma told the Associated Press news agency.

The fact that the paramilitaries were not found in possession of more serious weaponry does not prove that they were not on a serious mission. It only indicates that we are in the presence of a very well organised conspiracy with a wide network of support and a military infrastructure inside Venezuela itself. The arms for the paramilitaries will be situated elsewhere – probably in some safe house in Caracas. This would make it safer for them to move around the country without the risk of arrest for the illegal possession of arms.

It is public knowledge that the right wing opposition has continuously conspired to overthrow his government with US backing. In April 2002 they organised a military coup to establish a "democratic dictatorship". That coup was defeated by the movement of the masses. Later they organised a so-called "strike" – really a bosses’ lockout that did serious damage to the economy but was defeated by a movement of the workers.

The latest attempt to provoke a coup was the so-called referendum campaign, when the opposition resorted to massive fraud, including the signatures of dead people, children and people who deny ever having signed. It is their complete failure to win a majority in Venezuela that has impelled them onto the road of terrorist acts.

The heated denials of the opposition do not carry the least weight. They offer no explanation for the presence of Colombian paramilitaries on Venezuelan soil. What were they doing there? Evidently, these individuals were on holiday, or for the good of their health! However, whether this little visit would have been healthy for other people is another matter!

The truth is self-evident: The captured men were being trained by the opposition to stage a coup. Daniel Fonseca, a neighbour living near the farm where the paramilitaries were caught, said the men had been at the farm for about 15 days.

"I saw them twice when riding [my] horses," Mr Fonseca told the Associated Press. "They were dressed as civilians and I saw some of them with 9mm pistols."

The farm was equipped with abundant quantities of food, provisions, clothes and about a hundred mattresses. Venezuelan Defence Minister Jorge Garcia told Reuters news agency there was clear evidence of a conspiracy. "You don't think these are killers?" he said. "Whatever they came here for, it wasn't to play marbles or to plant yucca."

Venezuela's defence minister, General Jorge Garcia Carneiro, said investigators believe the alleged conspiracy was led by former General Felipe Rodriguez, who led the 2002 rebellion against President Chavez in 2002. General Rodriguez's whereabouts are not known.

The Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, praised Venezuela for the arrests and the Colombian government has promised full support in the investigation. "It is unacceptable for any Colombian to be committing crimes in that country," Foreign Minister Carolina Barco was quoted as saying.

But nobody will be fooled by this. Uribe cannot publicly admit the involvement of his government or armed forces in such a blatant act of interference in a neighbouring state. But the relations between the Colombian armed forces and the CIA with the fascist paramilitaries is an open secret.

Salvatore Mancuso, a senior commander in the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), an umbrella group for the country's paramilitary factions, denied his forces were involved. "We deny the accusations against us by Venezuelan leaders," Mr Mancuso told Colombia's RCN television, countering that Chávez was working with Colombia's two largest rebel groups.

For its part, Washington also denies any involvement – of course. US state department spokesman Richard Boucher rejected accusations of US involvement as "baseless and irresponsible".

So there we have it. Nobody is responsible. A gang of professional assassins and right wing terrorists turns up in the vicinity of Caracas, but nobody knows anything about it. Such an operation requires serious organisation and generous funding. But nobody is responsible.

The facts speak for themselves. The hand of Washington is clearly behind the latest plot – and all the others. "There are people in the United States who keep thinking how to start a war in Venezuela so that they can justify an invasion," Chavez said.

This assertion is confirmed by the facts. Washington has been systematically building up the Colombian armed forces under the pretext of the infamous Colombia Plan. The USA has poured in money, arms and men and this has completely transformed the regional balance of forces.

As we have already pointed out, before he was ejected by the Spanish people, Aznar sent a large shipment of tanks to Colombia. This was supposed to be part of the anti-drugs, anti-guerrilla war, but tanks are of no use in jungles and mountains. They are only of use in a conventional war against another state. And that state is called Venezuela.

Both the government of Bogota and Washington are involved up to their necks in conspiracies and armed provocations against Venezuela. The abject failure of all the CIA’s plots to overthrow Chavez by relying on internal forces obliges them to look towards external intervention. That means war. Recently the Colombian Senate passed a resolution calling on the Organisation of American States (OAS) to intervene against Venezuela.

A few weeks ago an American general stated publicly that Venezuela was now a threat to the interests of the USA in South America. It is quite extraordinary that such a statement should be made by a military figure at all. But if we bear in mind that the general in question, General James Hill, is the head of the US army Southern Command, we immediately see the seriousness of the implications.

The attitude of Washington towards the Venezuelan Revolution is well known and extensively documented. Therefore its denials are worthless. US imperialism wants to get its hands on Venezuela’s oil. But there is an even more pressing reason for its desire to overthrow Chavez.

The Venezuelan Revolution is acting as a beacon and a point of reference to the poor and downtrodden millions throughout Latin America. Washington cannot afford this. Bush has said publicly that he will not rest until Chavez is removed from power. The US military intervention in Haiti was a preparation for an intervention against Venezuela. And if US imperialism succeeds in Venezuela, the way will be open for further merciless pressure on Cuba.

Everything points to a systematic preparation for armed intervention against the Venezuelan Revolution. But there is one small problem here. US imperialism is embroiled in a military quagmire in Iraq that is draining its resources and causing growing unrest at home. Bush cannot afford to involve the US army in another military adventure in the immediate future.

This, however, does not mean that there will be no military action against Venezuela. The CIA is infinitely resourceful and has many irons in many fires. It will not use US military personnel (except as "advisers" and for logistical support – that is to plan the operations, and to arm and finance them). But it will make use of foreign mercenaries – hired cutthroats and fascists who have unofficially been on the CIA’s payroll for years – to do the dirty work.

These gangsters are conveniently located in Colombia. They can cross the border with Venezuela at any time, slipping in and out to do their murderous work. They are dressed in civilian clothes and speak Spanish with a local accent. They receive support, hiding places and finance from the Venezuelan oligarchy and the right wing opposition. Best of all, they do not officially work for the Colombian government or anyone else. If they are found they will deny everything. Nobody is responsible for them. What more can one ask?

Venezuelan state television has been showing pictures of armed police guarding groups of young men dressed in green camouflage. The farm has been turned into a camp complete with sleeping quarters and cooking facilities. The men were using the camp to plan an attack on a military installation in Caracas. This is connected with a broader plan to destabilise Venezuela and create the conditions for a provocation that could drag it into a war with Colombia. This is textbook CIA procedure.

The studied denials from Washington, Bogota and the Venezuelan opposition will fool nobody. In a murder inquiry the first question that must be asked is: who gains? In this case, the question answers itself. The people who ardently desire the elimination of Hugo Chavez and the overthrow of his progressive government are George Bush and the Venezuelan oligarchy.

The CIA and the Venezuelan opposition have collaborated on three occasions to overthrow the legally elected government and have failed. They have not abandoned their plans but only modified them to take account of the unfavourable balance of forces inside Venezuela. The present events could have been foreseen, and they were foreseen. It was never a question of "if", but only "when and how."

The recent events confirm what we have said many times: the Venezuelan Revolution is in danger. The immediate task of the Marxists is to denounce the plans of the US imperialists, to expose them before the public opinion of the world and to mobilise the international labour movement in defence of the Venezuelan Revolution.

A really pernicious role is being played by the mass media in the West. The newspapers and television companies are in the hands of the millionaires and the enemies of socialism and the working class. Masquerading under the false banner of "press freedom" they spread the most disgraceful lies and slanders about what is happening in Venezuela.

Incredibly, some elements in the labour movement have allowed themselves to be deceived by this black propaganda and are playing a despicable role, repeating the lies and slanders put in circulation by the CIA and the right wing Venezuelan opposition in order to confuse and disorient public opinion. They try to hide behind the right wing leaders of the CTV, whose links with the CIA are public knowledge, and who actively backed the coup of 2002.

In addition to launching a campaign of systematic disinformation, the millionaire press has organised a conspiracy of silence so that the working people of Europe and the USA do not know what is happening. It is vital that this curtain of silence is torn down and that the international labour movement is made aware of the intrigues of US imperialism against Venezuela.

The imperialists always act like thieves in the night, under the cover of darkness. It is necessary to shine a bright light on their secretive and murderous activities. It is time to organise a massive protest movement to denounce the counterrevolutionary intrigues of Washington and its agents in Venezuela, and also the despicable role of the hired press that is a willing servant and an active accomplice of imperialism.

There is no time to lose! Organise protests and pickets outside the US and Colombian embassies. Send letters of protest to the governments of both countries. Pass resolutions of support for Venezuela in every trade union branch and other labour movement organisation. Let them know that the eyes of the world are on them and that they will not escape condemnation but stand exposed as the common criminals they are.

Down with imperialism!

Defend the Venezuelan Revolution!

Hands off Venezuela!

London, May 12, 2004