Friday, May 12, 2017

The Nutella plot



#Nutella has been the Twitter top trending topic for Venezuela all morning today.

Yesterday Venezuela government media reported that the pro-government “Fundación para Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes de Caracas” handed the public prosecutor’s office a document with more than “one hundred individual and collective complains” about minors being used by the opposition in “terrorist actions” in the context of this month’s protests.

In one of the testimonial videos shown by Telesur, a woman tells of her son being “involuntarily induced” to participate in the protests. The woman directly accuses Lilian Tintori, wife of imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo López, of offering the popular hazelnut spread Nutella to the child if he was willing to “cause terrorism in the country.”


“Tintori asked my son what he liked the most. He answered Nutella. She told him that if he hit the guard [National Guard] with a bottle she was handing him, which was full of fuel and had a piece of cloth, she would give him Nutella,” says the woman in the video.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

News according to public media

Here is a selection of “infographics” produced by Venezuelan news outlet Telesur this week and posted in social networks.


In this image Telesur explains how “fake news” is fabricated against the Venezuelan government. The objective of these fabrications is “To reach a climatic point, as planned in manuals prepared by the Pentagon: in order to induce the turning of the population against its own government.” Possible discontent of the populations with its own government is, of course, out of the question.


Comparisons of the Venezuelan case with Chile’s 1973 coup have been part of the official rhetoric for a long time. Here is Telesur’s version. It includes the opposition funded by the US, economic attacks, and a “psychological warfare” by the media.


Finally here is Telesur explaining OAS meddling (injerencista) agenda against Venezuela, in cahoots with the local opposition. 


False positives and intervention

Minister of Foreign Relations, Delcy Rodríguez, met yesterday the international press correspondents in Venezuela to tell them that “media corporations have a historic responsibility in the configuration of facts that have justified interventions, such as in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and this is also a manual they are trying to impose in Venezuela.”

“All imperial wars, in the history of humanity, have always been preceded by media campaigns validating their actions,” further explained Rodríguez. She also asked the international press to verify their sources and to truthfully inform what is happening in Venezuela.

The prime example of this international media disinformation campaign against Venezuela, presented by Rodríguez and the government’s media apparatus, is the death of the young opposition protester Juan Pernalete on April 26.

Witnesses and media have alleged that Pernalete died of wounds caused by a teargas bomb directly fired at close range to his chest by the security forces.
Rodríguez says however, that “the elements shown today totally undermine that version and this is why we are calling for news to be presented in the most objective way possible.”

Those elements undermining the media version were presented by Communication and Information Minister, Ernesto Villegas. He showed a video taken during the confusing seconds after Pernalete went down and other protestors were carrying him away.


Villegas explained that this video is part of “a police approximation that shows with a high degree of certainty the possibility that this young man was murdered with a weapon called captive bolt gun [pistola de perno], a type of gun used in livestock farming, to finish off cattle, and we have found elements of criminalistics and news worthy interest that point to this direction.”

The video shown by Villegas had been originally posted by pro-opposition newspaper El Nacional. The Information Minister however invited the international press to more closely watch the video for “criminalistics elements.”

For example, said the Minister, one of the protestors in the video screams “Was he hit?” to which the answer from another from a second is “No!” A close up of the moment two protestors are aiding Pernalete out of the protest line seems to show, according to Villegas, one of them pulling his hand from out under Pernalete’s t-shirt. This is a “suspicious attitude” which has led police investigators to conclude that the captive bolt gun could have been used to kill Pernalete.

“It’s all part of a strategy of a construction of false positives. The similarities in the construction of facts that do not exist and that justify violations of international rights, this is our concern,” concluded Delcy Rodríguez.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Videos, torture, and peace

Easter week has been a triumph for peace, according to President Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro showed videos last night of what he said are detained opposition militants confessing to being paid by opposition party Primero Justicia to commit “terrorist acts.” Maduro called the videos “testimonials” and said that he has been authorized to show the “confessions” on television by the “Citizens Power and the Judicial Power.”

Maduro also said that such videos, the product of an “impeccable criminal investigation,” are irrefutable evidence that the opposition is engaged in terrorists and destabilizing activities.

“Here are the testimonies, the proofs, and we are about to capture those directly responsible for all this destruction in the country. We are following several investigation lines. I want to congratulate the officers of the CICPC (criminal investigations police) and the SEBIN (political police), the Interior, Peace, and Justice Minister, prosecution authorities all over the country, and the Judicial Power for this meticulous work done according to our laws,” commended Maduro.

The Secretary General of the Primero Justicia party, Tomás Guanipa, claimed that members of his party detained during this last week’s opposition protests had been “physically and psychologically tortured” and forced to confess to participating in acts of terrorism. Guanipa, and other opposition deputies, were mentioned in the confessions as the “master minds” of the plot. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Miguel Rodríguez Torres: From conspiracy theorist to conspiracy theory victim

General Rodríguez Torres was Maduro’s Popular Power Minister of Interior Relations, Peace and Justice, from 2013 to October 2014. He was part of Chavez’s 1992 failed coup, but is best known for being the public face of Maduro´s government during the 2014 opposition protests.

In 2013 a group a Venezuelan human rights organizations published a press release expressing concern for Rodriguez Torres’ public claim that the president of the NGO Control Ciudadano, Rocío San Miguel, was a CIA agent. Rodríguez Torres never provided evidence of his claim.
  
During the violent first months of 2014, Rodríguez Torres often gave news conferences claiming that the opposition protests were no more than part of a plot to overthought Maduro’s government. The conspiracy was, according to Rodríguez Torres, led by the Department of State of the United States, and also included Colombian ex-president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, and a long list of opposition leaders. Short of evidence to back his conspiracy claims, Rodríguez Torres often illustrated his press conferences with screen graphics linking pictures of opposition leaders and their foreign puppet masters.

But since January 2015, after his dismissal as Interior Minister, Rodríguez Torres has become increasingly critical of the government, making statements about the government’s food program CLAP, for example, and claiming that “Venezuela needs a spiritual revival.”

Now, according to the Venezuelan news portal El Estímulo, the military intelligence agency DIGCIM could be about to accuse Rodríguez Torres of being part of a conspiracy to oust Maduro. El Estímulo claims that the General will be presented as the head of a “great military conspiracy movement” operating in Venezuela.

This comes a day after PSUV leader Diosdado Cabello announced on his TV Show Con el Mazo Dando, that the government has discovered an ongoing conspiracy which the international reaction to the coup against the National Assembly, and street opposition protests in Venezuela. Cabello implicated opposition party COPEI leader Roberto Enríquez among other opposition leaders in the plan, but said that unnamed “members of the armed forces” are also part of the plot.

“Don’t be surprise if we come knocking your door, tun, tun, tun… we are working for peace,” said Cabello referring of possible night raids to come.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Kamikaze dogs and radiation weapons: A Jesuit priest reveals how Chávez was murdered

Venezuelan Government officials, top chavista conspiracy theorist, pro-government journalists and intellectuals, have often claimed that president Chávez was assassinated by his enemies. The theories usually argue that Chávez’s cancer was “inoculated”, that is, he was somehow poisoned using a secret weapon developed by imperial intelligence services.

Now the pro-government Jesuit priest Numa Molina says he has interviewed the former Italian intelligence agent and author of a book Ennegrecido con rabia, Mary Pace (Internet searches of the name and the book title only provide links to Molina’s own article.)

According to Molina, Pace claims Chávez was the victim of two CIA plotted assassination attempts, the second of which, involving a “radiation weapon” developed by the agency since 1948, was probably successful in inoculating Chávez with a fatal cancer.

But it is the first, unsuccessful plot, which is interesting because it has not been mentioned in any of the previous theories about Chavez´s death. The plan involved the use of CIA trained, explosives loaded, “kamikaze dogs” to attack Chávez in a public space. The plot reached an advanced stage but was fortunately discovered and revealed to the Venezuelan embassy in Italy by Pace herself. The CIA was forced to dismantle the whole operation.

Molina finishes his report of the interview: “I believe that Mary Pace’s contributions continue to be very valuable for this and future research on the subject. Her last book and our personal meeting produced so much interesting data. I finish this by saying that for me this was one of those journalism adventures in which I felt the struggle for justice and peace becoming the force that gives strength to research, regardless of the media impact of the news.”

Note: In his novel El Otoño del Patriarca, Gabriel García Márquez tells of a very similar plot. Dogs are trained to attack the wife and the son of the dictator in a public market. No explosives in this plot, the dogs trained to attack and devour their victims.

(Thanks to Luis Gómez Calcaño for the link to Molina’s article.)

Here is the original piece as published in Aporrea:
Dos atentados y muerte provocada al Presidente Chávez

 - www.aporrea.org/actualidad/a242687.html

Después de una travesía un tanto larga llegué a un pequeño pueblo de la región del Lazio, al sur de Roma allí me encontré con Mary Pace quien fuera agente de la inteligencia italiana por 45 años.
Mary es periodista con trece libros publicados y una vastísima experiencia en temas de seguridad a nivel internacional. Sostiene haber sido la persona que dio a la CIA las coordenadas donde se encontraba Osama bin Laden por el que el gobierno de los Estados Unidos ofrecía una alta suma de dinero como recompensa, la cual nunca le fue entregada.
La experta en inteligencia tiene en su haber una investigación sobre dos de los atentados contra "el Comandante Eterno, Hugo Chávez" como textualmente lo llama en su último libro al que titula Ennegrecida de Rabia. En esa obra explica cómo el cáncer que le causó la muerte al presidente fue provocado. Pace incursiona también en la vida de otros políticos ya fallecidos, entre ellos Muamar Gadafi y otros personajes importantes que han sido desaparecidos por el terrorismo norteamericano.
Tratándose de la vida del presidente Chávez narra lo siguiente: "En aquella específica ocasión, la Inteligencia americana predispuso un atentado muy particular.
La operación preveía el empleo de algunos perros. El gobierno de USA había optado por retomar las mismas técnicas bélicas ya conducidas en su tiempo por el contraespionaje alemán, las cuales, a las órdenes del General Reinhard Gehlen, habían operado sobre el Frente Oriental durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. En cuanto a la operación específica con el Presidente de Venezuela, la CIA estaba entrenando algunos perros de gran tamaño. Estos animales los ponían al cuidado amoroso de unos entrenadores quienes desarrollaban su tarea dándoles todo el afecto posible. Pero cada día se presentaba a la caseta donde vivían los perros un hombre corpulento cuyo físico era similar al de Chávez a tal punto que parecía un doble. Llevaba la ropa que usaba de costumbre el Presidente venezolano. Un elemento decisivo era que la ropa que llevaba era impregnada del verdadero olor personal de Chávez. Este doble no pronunciaba una sola palabra, permanecía completamente mudo mientras se transmitía la voz grabada del verbo de Chávez. El tal doble de Chávez se divertía golpeando y torturando atrozmente a los cachorros.
El suplicio se repetía sistemáticamente cada día mientras que los entrenadores eran muy amorosos en el trato a los perros. No obstante esta seráfica situación, los perros eran obligados a duros sufrimientos físicos y a violencia psicológica.
Esta operación pasó después a una fase sucesiva. Ya no era necesaria la presencia del doble de Chávez. Se inició entonces a transmitir la voz del Presidente venezolano o bien a oler una ropa que emanara el olor de éste. Los animales de dulces y alegres se transformaban inesperadamente en feroces y rabiosos. Cuando ya eran adultos, ellos habían aprendido a alimentar un odio profundo adverso a los tales elementos auditivos y olfativos que habían experimentado.
Para ese momento todo estaba ya a punto y la operación podía efectuarse en cualquier momento. Los perros serían llevados a una plaza pública donde Chávez tuviera un acto. Los animales llevarían sacos adosados a sus cuerpos contentivos de un potente explosivo. A los Servicios de Seguridad presidencial no les llamaría la atención estos animales, si tomamos en cuenta que ya resulta difícil la protección de un personaje monitoreando sólo las personas que lo rodean. A ninguno de la seguridad de Chávez le hubiese pasado por la cabeza una operación de este género la cual requería poquísimos instantes para ejecutarla.
Los perros "kamikaze" una vez que los dejaran libres para correr por la plaza se abalanzarían directamente contra Chávez y cuando estuvieran lo suficientemente cerca los agresores activarían a control remoto la carga de explosivos que llevaban.
Aquella operación fue preparada al más mínimo detalle. Se caracterizaba por su mortal eficacia"
Mary señala que si no hubiese sido porque la embajada de Venezuela ante el estado Italiano escuchó su denuncia, la que permitió neutralizar el atentado, con seguridad la CIA hubiese logrado concluir positivamente la misión.
Mary señala que luego armaron una operación ulterior también con perros, para que en el momento del despegue del avión presidencial salieran de los alrededores y atacaran el avión también portando explosivos. Ciertamente que las explosiones pretendían afectar el tren de aterrizaje, aunque, si no alcanzaban a dañar el avión, sí comprometerían seriamente su posterior aterrizaje.
El probable atentado que produjo la muerte al presidente Chávez
Señala nuestra entrevistada que inmediatamente después de la desclasificación por parte del Ejercito de los Estados Unidos de algunos documentos, para que pudieran ser consultados gracias a la ley de Freedom of Information Act, fue difundido un estudio hecho por el Pentágono ya para el 1948 el cual tenía como objeto la creación de un arma de radiación y en 1969 después de varias investigaciones se llega a la conclusión de que un sistema de tal naturaleza al aplicarlo era capaz de producir graves patologías o directamente la muerte de la persona. Según Pace se trata de un instrumento que emite radiaciones continuas de alta frecuencia entre 1 y 2 GHz llamado "CTX 4000" y dispone de una potencia de un kilovatio. Cuando se apunta con él sobre un objetivo humano por un determinado período de tiempo es capaz de ocasionar "serios e irreparables daños a la salud" y agrega que a esto "se une la circunstancia de que la Embajada de Los Estados Unidos en Venezuela fue en verdad el cuartel general de la Inteligencia. Ella fungía de base de apoyo para un copioso número de agentes los cuales desarrollaban constantemente sobre el territorio venezolano ilícitas actividades clandestinas" y basada en esta información que la ex agente italiana maneja afirma que es "altamente probable que tal instrumento fue empleado incesantemente por los estadounidenses, con el fin de provocar la letal forma tumoral al Presidente Chávez".
La ex agente Pace también deja claro en su libro que según algunos dossier de la estadounidense National Security Agency, NSA, Chávez estaba dentro de los seis objetivos principales de la inteligencia americana ya desde el 2007. La patología que golpeó la salud de Chávez era sumamente rara y extremadamente insidiosa a decir del actual presidente Nicolás Maduro. En el historial médico de la familia Chávez nunca se habían manifestado casos de cáncer por lo que su enfermedad no tenía que ver ni siquiera con una predisposición genética.
Creo que los aportes de Mary Pace siguen siendo muy valiosos a esta y otras investigaciones por venir. Son tantos y tan interesantes los datos que arroja su último libro y el encuentro personal con ella. Concluyo que fue una de esas aventuras periodísticas en las que sentí cómo la lucha por la justicia y la verdad se convierten en la fuerza que dinamiza cualquier investigación y no el espacio mediático que la noticia pueda o no alcanzar.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Counter-revolutionary traitors and reformists tendencies

This past week president Maduro has been constantly warning his followers to be on the lookout for “internal critics” with “reformist tendencies” within the revolution, backed by the CIA, who will soon attack his government.

On Tuesday 14, Maduro said that “there is a group of traitors, who were once part of the Bolivarian Revolution, some reside today in the United States, but others are right here, sowing division inside the revolutionary movement. Soon I will show the evidence of this group of traitor and how they have been working for the CIA.”

He explicitly named Rafael Isea, ex-governor of Aragua who defected in 2013 and is said to be cooperating with the DEA in the United States, as one of the “open traitors”. “Everyone knows that he (Isea) works in Washington for the CIA, which is something I’m very sorry for, because I once was his friend,” lamented Maduro.

On Saturday 18 he insisted in his warning to be on the lookout for these reformist traitors who plan to stab him in the back:  “Rightists-reformist tendencies have emerged around here, some of these tendencies are being spearheaded by open traitors backed by market advisors, and a lot of money is behind this. Be on the alert! Be on the alert chavistas! Be on the alert bolivariano, new-style traitors want to stab Maduro in the back in order to push for a reformist project and to hand over the Bolivarian Revolution to international capitalism. Don’t let them do it… I won’t let them do it. We will unmask them, we will go forward in our revolutionary path, the path Comandante Chávez left for us. Be on the alert! Alert with the traitors.”

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Understanding Latin American Politics Podcast

Many thanks to Prof. Greg Weeks for inviting me to his podcast to talk about conspiracy theories in Venezuela. Follow the link to his blog, Two Weeks Notice: A Latin American Politics Blog.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Women’s March conspiracy against Trump

The “elective affinities” between the Venezuelan government’s official conspiracy rhetoric and President Trump’s claims of a media and financial conspiracy against him are hard to miss. President Maduro has said he opposes “the hate campaign against Donald Trump we are seeing around the world. (…) I ask myself, why [this campaign], because that’s something we know a lot about, dirty wars.” Maduro also says that he hopes that Venezuela-US relation will improve under Trump.

Venezuela’s official media is still very critical about Trump, but some articles are being published hinting at how he may also be the victim of the same types of conspiracies by the media and the “financial elites” the Venezuelan government constantly claims as common enemies. Opinion articles in the critical chavista portal Aporrea have however been overwhelmingly critical of a possible rapprochement between Maduro and Trump under the naïve assumption that they may both be the victims of the same conspiracy. (Read examples here and here.)

But the pro-chavista web page Misión Verdad has published an article titled “Who funded the women’s march against Trump.” The piece accuses Philanthropist George Soros of being behind this attempt to “undermine Trump’s presidency.” Wider conspiracy links are also mentioned as part of a plot against Trump.
    
“George Soros is known around the world for his economic power and for his links with the United States [gringa] politics. He is also known for funding –through his NGOs- the 2014 violent revolts in Ukraine, which led to a coup d’état. Precisely because of this, and because of the links between George Soros and the Democratic Party, President Vladimir Putin has warned Trump that [Soros] is preparing an Ukrainian style coup d’état [in the United States].”

Hillary Clinton is of course part of this conspiracy. The evidence is that she twitted in favor of the event:

“Hillary Clinton politically capitalized from the event via Twitter, thus showing that George Soros, and the political and financial elite that act against Trump, are betting on all those initiatives, in all fronts, that could undermine his presidency.”

(Thanks to Francisco Toro for the link to this article.)  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Court rules on the “Blue Coup” case

Eight suspects of having participated in the so called “Blue Coup” plot have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 5 to 8 years by a military court. The condemned are three civilians and five Air Forces officers.

In February 13, 2015, President Maduro announced he had “dismantled” a coup attempt against his government. He first referred to the plan as “Jericho Operation,” but the name later changed to “Blue Coup” in government media.

The conspiracy, according to Maduro, included opposition leaders and active Air Force officers. The plan was to bomb the presidential Miraflores palace, the Ministry of the Defense, and the offices of the news channel Telesur using Air Force Tucano type planes. 

PSUV leader Disodado Cabello accused opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma and Julio Borges of being behind the plot. The government also accused most leaders of opposition parties, including Capriles Radonski, of having at least knowledge of the plot. Ledezma was arrested on February 19 and is still under house arrest.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Anti-coup Command defuses its first coup attempt

On January 8 President Maduro announced the creation of a new Anti-coup Special Command for Peace and Sovereignty –the name later changed to Anti-coup National Command. According to Maduro this new body will “take preventive, legal, and corrective measures against the coupist sectors.”

The Command is coordinated by the new Vice-president Tareck El Aissami and includes the Vice-president for Peace and Security, Carmen Meléndez, Defense Minister, Vladimir Padrino López, PSUV deputy Diosdado Cabello, Interior Minister Néstor Reverol, and political police SEBIN director Gustavo González López.

On January 11, El Aissami announced the arrest of an opposition deputy, Gilbert Caro, on charges of planning “terrorist actions in the country.” According to the Vice-president, Caro carried inside his car an AK47 rifle and plastic explosives. Aissami explained that Caro had plans to assassinate opposition leaders and then blame the government.

Caro is a deputy of the National Assembly for the Voluntad Popular party. He served a 10 year prison sentence for drug trafficking crimes he claims he didn’t commit. Diosdado Cabello declared that “Caro seems to miss prison, he was obviously not re-educated [while in prison].” 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Post-Truth and Conspiracy Theories

In a surprising rhetorical move, Ignacio Ramonet, a Spanish journalist close to chavismo and former editor-in-chief of Le Monde diplomatique, argues that a sign that we live in a “post-truth” era is that some people do not accept the obvious fact that the Venezuelan government is the victim of a conspiracy.

Conspiracy theorists commonly refute their critics by accusing them of also being part of the conspiracy or of being “official conspiracy theorists,” but this must be one of the first times the new term “post-truth” is used by a conspiracy theorist to characterize the sceptics’ “post-factual relativism.”

Here are the key paragraphs from his end of the year article for Telesur:

All this in the context of a long duration media war against Caracas which began with Hugo Chávez arrival to power in 1999, and which has intensified since April 2013. It reached unheard of levels of violence after the election of President Nicolás Maduro.

This atmosphere of permanent and aggressive media harassment, of insidious misinformation about Venezuela, has confused even many of the friends of the Bolivarian Revolution. Especially because, in this “post-truth” era, the practice of lying, the intellectual fraud, and shameless deception is not punished by any negative consequence, not in terms of credibility or loss of image. Anything goes, everything is useful in this “era of post-factual relativism,” and not even the most objective facts are taken into consideration. Not even the arguments of plots and conspiracies –which are so obvious in the Venezuelan case, - are accepted. Beforehand, the dominant media discourse characterizes and denounces the “supposed plots” as the unacceptable arguments of an “old narrative”…

Ramonet devotes the rest of his piece to praising President Maduro for his “audacity”, “firm hand”, “creativity”, and “courage”, and for through “a sequence of masterful chess plays nobody could foretell,” defeating at least ten conspiracies during 2016. All post-factually true…