Breitbart in Venezuela

Latest claim from Chavez’s successor ready to be picked up by

Looks as if Chavez’s handpicked successor has been reading He says he has “a very good source” for a completely cuckoo conspiracy tale about Roger Noriega, Otto Reich, “the Pentagon,” and “the CIA” plotting to kill his rival in the forthcoming presidential election and blame it on Chavismo. Of course, since the story wasn’t on Breitbart, Republican pols won’t pretend it’s true.

Reuters reports it fairly straight, leaving it to the reader to figure out it’s crazy talk. I’m not sure that’s the right approach, as opposed to saying that there’s no evidence for it and that Maduro refused to name his source. On the other hand, I also think the story is deficient in not mentioning that Roger Noriega has published equally lunatic claims about Venezuela and that he and Otto Reich did in fact support the abortive coup against Chavez in 2002, and managed to get George Bush and Condi Rice to go along with them.

Footnote I just hope this doesn’t mean that Maduro’s friends are actually planning to kill Capriles themselves.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

23 thoughts on “Breitbart in Venezuela”

  1. Mr. Klieman means Capriles not Cabriles, unless I am missing something. At this point, though predicted to be behind in political numbers, Henrique R. Capriles is too important a force for a name mispelling in any press.

    1. As I recall, when Mark was on Bill O’Reilly’s program (or is it O’Rielly?), O’Reilly pronounced his name as Klieman — notwithstanding the fact that I believe O’Reilly was a student of Mark’s back in the day.

  2. It’s completely cuckoo because the angelic US regime would never, ever secretly kill a foreigner to destabilise a country targetted for regime change. That would be murder!

    It’s as ridiculous as the notion that a US President would run death squads to assassinate hundreds of designated enemies of the state, including US citizens and innocent bystanders. As ridiculous as the notion that the US would kidnap opponents from allied states to other client regimes where they could be tortured, and then pervert the course of justice to ensure the perpetrators were not punished. Ha! You might as well believe that the US regime would run secret prisons or make torture and impunity for torturers its official policy!

    1. No, it’s completely cuckoo because the Reich-Noriega faction is out of power, and what they want has zero effect on U.S. policy. If there were a plot, those two clowns wouldn’t be part of it.

      But note the Breitbartian logic of the Firebaggers: since evil things have sometimes been done, any accusation, no matter how absurd and baseless, of evil activity ought to receive respectful attention.

      1. The accusation is that “officials at the Pentagon and the CIA” were involved in the plot, working with Noriega and Reich.

        Those CIA and Pentagon officials are never “out of power.” Plotting covert political interference in foreign countries targetted for regime change is nothing out of the ordinary for them, and nor are they constrained in such conspiracies to work only with thugs employed as officials by the current administration, especially when other elements of the US elite have suitable contacts for the job and would be strongly motivated to co-operate with covert action against the Venezuelan government. Despite your smug certainty, you really do NOT know that the US regime under Obama would never make use of Bush-era thugs like Reich or Noriega in an anti-Venezuelan murder plot and your prejudice that it would not is frankly naive in view of the kinds of elements the US regime actually has worked with before in such plots, e.g. the Mafia.

        By the way, your hostile parody of my argument imports YOUR smug certainty of the baselessness of the plot allegation (“no matter how absurd and baseless”) into MY argument, an intellectual dishonesty which does you no credit and which produces a “Breitbartian logical” absurdity which is all your own.

        I wrongly took your certainty in the absurdity of the accusation, for which you advanced neither argument nor evidence, to be based on the apologetic chauvinism common in US circles, in which the possibility of US official wrongdoing is not entertained until that wrongdoing is proven (and sometimes not even then) although obviously in your case that apologetic chauvinism would take its Democratic form in which the trust in the US regime’s virtue is not necessarily extended to Republican administrations. That’s why I made the point that allegations of US regime wrongdoing can’t be dismissed simply because they allege wrongdoing, i.e. that the US regime would indeed commit murder if that was convenient — and under President Obama too.

        I now accept that your blanket dismissal of the allegation is actually based on the other consideration you now advance, i.e. that Reich and Noriega are Republicans, but that argument when you did reveal it turned out to be nearly as weak and fatuous.

        N.B. I’m not saying that the allegations of a plot are true, but they are not absurd, crazy or completely cuckoo. They are just unproven.

  3. Crazy stuff, alright. But consider two words: Oliver North. Thanks to the Republicans it’s a lot harder to just dismiss the crazy stuff out of hand. The Reagan and Bush administrations were an unimaginable boon to the enemies of this country.

    1. Yes, but Oliver North doesn’t work in this White House. (Nor do Reich and Noriega; see above.) Yes, that history makes it easier for Maduro to sell this garbage to his base; it doesn’t make the garbage smell any better.

      1. No, but there are a lot of Bush administration holdovers in the American “deep state” and a lot of people who did terrible things, including bombing civilian airplanes, in Latin America who were given shelter by previous administrations and by President Obama, too. Both of the men Obama has appointed to head the CIA, for example, have been linked to the use of secret prisons where torture and murder took place. Obama has also continued to shelter domestic and Latin American terrorists and human rights violators, so there’s a certain continuity between the crazy stuff and the current administration.

        1. Good points, and it’s correct to stress the elements of continuity in the US state apparatus throughout the alternations in office between the two entrenched ruling factions. There are big domestic policy differences between the Optimates and the Populares and between Bush II and Obama, but the unity of the imperial regime is bigger even than that. Very different emperors, but it’s the same old empire.

          Just consider this telling historical fact: President Obama publicly admitted that under the Cheney-Bush gang the US regime made the crime of torture its official policy. He even explicitly called it “torture.” Yet he also stated publicly that none of the torturers will be brought to justice under his administration, even though torture is universally recognised as a crime against humanity and is specifically outlawed by an international convention to which the US is a party. In effect Obama boasted of his own crime of protecting from justice those guilty of a crime against humanity … and yet Obama is not an evil man. The point is that he couldn’t change this policy even if he wanted to, for such is the imperial consensus: any crime committed by US regime officials in pursuit of imperial policy is acceptable and the perpetrators must enjoy permanent impunity. That can’t change because it’s the same old Pentagon/CIA as under Bush and Obama needs that war/terrorism machine just as much as Bush ever did.

          In short, a world empire has its own foreign policy momentum and is always ruthless in pursuit of imperial interests no matter who is on the throne as Imperator-in-Chief. In particular, US overt and covert efforts to impose regime change on socialist Venezuela didn’t end when Obama was elected. There is nothing absurd about the notion that the policy continuity in that regime change effort between the Bush II and Obama administrations might also extend to some continuity of covert personnel, even to the odious clowns Reich and Noriega.

          1. Even if I accepted the Marxist frame on this, which I don’t, why would the US want to kill Capriles, who favors much more market-oriented policies in Venezuela, as opposed to Maduro, who is much more likely to continue Chavez’s pattern of excluding foreign companies, including US companies?

  4. Follow the money trail of the recent allocation of funds to fight the drug war in Latin America. A list of questionable recipients would quickly substantiate claims of CIA envolvement.

  5. prognostication,

    Marxist? How did you arrive there? Also, I’m not passing judgment on the merits. I agree with you and Mark that the charge seem silly on its face and, besides, Chavez and his gang have said so many crazy things that I no longer take anything from that camp seriously.

    Nevertheless, politics does make strange bedfellows and given the tortuous history of American “deep state” involvement in Latin America it’s impossible to dismiss any claim out of hand as you and Mark have done. Moreover, as Richard Cheeseman has pointed out, Reich and Noriega may be Republicans but they and their allies/friends/patrons in the American “deep state” are far from being out of power. Indeed, as his continuation of the national security policies of the Bush administration suggests, they are far closer to Obama than any liberal elements in our society.

    1. In the academic sense of the term, an analysis in which the premise is that the United States is an imperial power whose geopolitical actions are primarily driven by its desire to control the resources of other, less powerful states is… pretty straightforwardly Marxist.

      1. I’ll let everybody else speak for themselves but I don’t see how you got to “Marxism” from what I wrote here or, using Google, elsewhere.

  6. The original comment was a reply to Richard, though, rather than a reply to you — apologies for the misunderstanding. I would argue that his analysis is Marxist in exactly the sense I described, in that it strongly implies that US imperial-economic motivations are the primary drivers of its foreign policy. However, the label is not really important to me, and wasn’t intended as a slur — in several social sciences that line of argumentation is very much associated with Marxist thinking. If someone doesn’t want it to be called that, fine.

    That said, I’m still not sure how your reply answers the question I posed — namely, if one accepts the idea Richard poses in his post, that the US might do anything in Latin America to advance its imperialist agenda (which, presumably, is primarily driven by economic interests), wouldn’t they want the neoliberal leaning candidate to win? And if that is what they would want, wouldn’t Maduro be the one in danger?

    1. Why kill Capriles? It’s a fair question.

      The obvious answer, in broad terms, is as a classic false-flag operation, i.e. so as to pin the murder on the Venezuelan government and thereby destabilise the succession of Maduro.

      Such an assassination would have (had) the effect of disrupting and discrediting the upcoming election and Venezuelan democracy in general, painting the government as murderous and dictatorial, and turning Capriles from a loser (and soon to be double loser) into a martyr for democracy.

      That analysis is based on the (pretty much universally accepted) premise that Capriles’ chances of winning the election are negligible. If a right wing electoral victory were at all likely the US would undoubtedly prefer that, but as it is Capriles would be more useful as a martyr than as a candidate. Not that it matters now: if the plot ever existed at all it would surely have been aborted after Maduro’s public accusation.

    2. By the way, the argument I made — that the possibility of such a murder plot was not (as Mark Kleiman asserted) absurd — does not rely on acceptance of any larger analysis of US imperialism, whether Marxist or otherwise. All it requires is the recognition that the US state establishment wants regime change in Venezuela and is actively working to that end (an empirical fact amply confirmed by Wikileaked diplomatic cables) and that the US might be prepared to attempt a covert murder in pursuit of this kind of regime change agenda … as it has done before.

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