Lawfare and Asymmetric Warfare vs. Venezuela
At the juncture of the so-called “epidemic of the century”, the United States’ war diplomacy has decided to deepen its unconventional, asymmetric war against Venezuela. With a series of successive actions intended to generate fear and awe in “enemy” ranks, the Trump administration activated last March 26 the miserable plan designed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the special representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, whose final objective is to try to produce “regime change” in the country that has the largest proven hydrocarbon reserves in the world.
That day, in what seems to mark a new point of no return now under the judicial screen of coup d’état (Lawfare), US Attorney General William Barr announced criminal charges of narco-terrorism, cocaine trafficking, money laundering and corruption against the constitutional and legitimate president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro; a dozen high-ranking civilian and military officials as well as leaders of the Bolivarian process – and even a couple of generals on the run from Venezuelan justice – under the grotesque argument of “having participated in a criminal association” that involved an “extremely violent terrorist organization” – the extinct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC – as well as “conspiring” to use drug sales as a “weapon” against the United States.
On 31 March, in another unacceptable intrusion – which violates international law and the principles of the United Nations, including the principle of non-intervention, the self-determination of peoples and the outlawing of the threat or use of force in international relations, Pompeo and Abrams made public their “plan” euphemistically called the “Framework for Democratic Transition in Venezuela” (whose sole purpose is the overthrow of Maduro), which was followed, on April 1, by Donald Trump’s announcement of the launch of a new anti-drug military naval operation in Caribbean and Pacific waters.
Trump, who appeared flanked in the Oval Office by Defense Secretary Mike Esper and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, said the maritime counter-narcotics operations will be directed against what he said is a “growing threat” from “drug traffickers and terrorists” who will seek to “take advantage” of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic to introduce drugs into the U.S. and affect citizens.
In turn, Secretary Esper identified Venezuela as a particular threat, accusing the “illegitimate Maduro regime” of depending on the profits of drug trafficking to stay in power. This would fulfill the covert purposes denounced in mid-March by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, that in the framework of a new phase of unilateral US aggressions against his country, the Pentagon and the head of the Southern Command, Craig Faller, were contemplating a “naval blockade” of Venezuela, an action recognized by the UN as a “use of force; A measure that could be reinforced in the situation with coercive actions under the umbrella of the Organization of American States (OAS), via the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), both old instruments of the cold war at the service of Washington.
Pino Arlacchi and the CIA and Pentagon hoaxes
In the framework of the new phase of the US hybrid war against the Bolivarian process in Venezuela, it is worth remembering that on April 15, 2019, during a question and answer session at the University of Texas, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated, amidst laughter and applause: “I was the director of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). We lied, cheated and stole. We even had training courses.
Although the official State Department transcript did not include these statements, they were recorded on video.
Pompeo’s confession came to confirm what is public and notorious and is recorded in hundreds of official documents and CIA literature from the last 60 years. But it is not without significance that the head of U.S. diplomacy refers to himself as a liar and thief. Especially at the present time, when communications experts from the Pentagon and the CIA have launched a new stage of the unconventional war against Venezuela, designed on the basis of psychological warfare operations, covert propaganda and indirect messages through the mass media (radio, television, written press, Internet), aimed at gaining control and manipulating so-called public opinion through informational distortions (intoxicated news).
In this regard, the accusations of Attorney General William Barr against President Maduro, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno, Interior Minister Néstor Reverol and the President of the National Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello, among others, of undertaking with the FARC a “narco-terrorist conspiracy” to flood the U.S. with cocaine, do not support the acid test. The theory of a “narco-state” in Venezuela is pure fiction and U.S. agencies know it.
After learning of the unusual plot, former UN deputy secretary Pino Arlacchi, former executive director of the world organization’s anti-drug program (UNODC), wrote in his facebook account: “The accusation against ‘Nicolas Maduro’ for drug trafficking is political garbage. In 40 years of anti-drug experience and as Vice Secretary of the UN, I never came across #Venezuela, always far from the circuits: USA first consumer, Colombia producer.”
Later, in a signed article published by Telesur, Arlacchi said that upon learning of the news of the accusation against Maduro and members of his government for drug trafficking, he was “speechless. He wrote that in observing the persecution against Venezuela he has seen many things, “but I honestly did not think that the criminal association in power in the United States would go so far. He added: “After stealing $5 billion of Venezuela’s financial resources deposited in banks in 15 countries. After establishing a blockade of the entire economy of the country through atrocious sanctions, with the aim of hitting the civilian population to push them to rebel (unsuccessfully) against their government. And after a couple of failed coup attempts, here is the final shot, the most infamous slander.
After considering it an “episode of asymmetric warfare,” Arlacchi, who served as executive director of the UNODC from 1997 to 2002, argued that “the coup is so out of proportion” that he does not believe it will have relevant consequences in the United Nations or the European Union. “There is not the slightest evidence” to support this “slander” that “only exists in the sick fantasy of Trump and his associates.
He added that it would be enough to consult the two most important sources on the subject: the UNODC World Drug Report 2019 and the latest DEA document, National Drug Threat Assessment 2019, to verify their statements. According to the latter, 90% of the cocaine introduced into the US comes from Colombia, 6% from Peru and the rest from unknown origins. But according to Arlacchi, it is the UN report that provides the most detailed picture, mentioning Mexico, Guatemala and Ecuador as the places of drug transit to the United States. And the DEA assessment cites the famous Mexican narcos as the major suppliers to the U.S. market.
“There is no trace of Venezuela on either page of the two documents. And in no other material from U.S. anti-crime agencies in the last 15 years (I know the subject very well) are there any mention of facts that could indirectly lead to the accusations made against the legitimate president of Venezuela and his government. Therefore, it is exclusively political garbage, which I hope will be treated as such outside of the U.S. political media system,” Arlacchi said.
A report by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, released on March 5, states that coca crops in Colombia increased by 4,000 hectares to 212,000 hectares, while cocaine production grew by 8 percent from 879 tons to 951 tons, a record high.
From the three sources cited and Arlachi’s statements, it appears that if the US really wanted to combat drug trafficking the target would be Colombia, not Venezuela. Another target would be to pursue the cartels that distribute the drugs in the U.S., which keep most of the profit and launder it there.
To complement the above, a recent report by The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), considered the role of Venezuela in the transnational drug trade to be “exaggerated”. According to the U.S. government’s Consolidated Interagency Drug Control Database (CCDB), cited by WOLA, 210 metric tons of cocaine passed through Venezuela in 2018 and in the same period approximately ten times more cocaine (2,370 metric tons) passed through Colombia and seven times more (1,400 metric tons) through Guatemala.
Speaking to BBC World, WOLA director Geoff Ramsey said the claim that Maduro is deliberately “flooding” the US with cocaine is “absurd”. And like Arlacchi, he referred to the DEA’s own data. According to Ramsey, the U.S. Department of Justice has been under intense pressure to make these accusations by hard-line sectors of the Venezuelan opposition and the exile community in Miami, using the same script used by the George H.W. government in Panama in 1989 in the context of the Cold War.
The judicialization (lawfare) of the Trump administration’s policy of regime change will now focus on law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and DEA, with support from military units deployed in the Caribbean and Pacific and so-called “private security contractors. It should be recalled that the current U.S. Attorney General, William Barr, was responsible in 1989 for drafting the legal justification for the invasion of Panama and for the FBI to enter foreign land without the consent of the host government. Likewise, Barr was the one who managed the pardon of the genocide Elliott Abrams, accused of the Irangate case.
On the DEA and the defector Alcala
When, on March 26, prosecutor Barr accused Nicolás Maduro and eleven other high-ranking officials (in addition to two military defectors) of being part of a “narco-terrorist conspiracy” and put a price on their heads, he claimed that they were all part of a so-called Sunshine Cartel.
By then, the dirty war factories in the basements of the Pentagon and the CIA had been manufacturing the conspiracy plot for years, which was sown intermittently – with greater profusion in 2015 – in the hegemonic Western media attached to the also called fourth generation war.
Among the posters spread in the manner of the Far West by the Department of Justice and the DEA on March 26th, with their logos and a legend that said “REWARD OF UP TO $ 10,000,000.00 U$S” (Reward of up to 10 million dollars), and which included photos of those wanted for belonging to the Suns Cartel, were those of two former generals who had fled from Venezuelan justice: Hugo Carvajal Barrios and Cliver Alcalá.
A day earlier (March 25), in Caracas, the Venezuelan vice president of Communication and Information, Jorge Rodriguez, had unveiled a new terrorist plan to selectively assassinate senior government officials, including President Maduro. The revelation was based on information from the Colombian press on March 23, regarding the seizure of a war arsenal composed of 26 AR-15 assault rifles and other war supplies in the town of La Ciénaga, Barranquilla, which were to be introduced into Venezuela through the border of Paraguachón, in the state of Zulia.
In this context, the first to react hours after Prosecutor Barr’s announcement in Washington was Cliver Alcalá, a military deserter and fugitive from Venezuelan justice, accused on August 31, 2019 – together with Julio Borges and former Venezuelan prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz – of having participated in a plan to place explosive devices in the Palace of Justice and headquarters of the National Police and the Military Intelligence Directorate, and linked to the attempted coup d’état on April 30 of that year.
Based in Barranquilla, Colombia, and interviewed by announcers of the Colombian radio station W Radio, Alcalá confessed to being part of the plot to commit terrorist acts in Venezuela with the advice of US experts, and claimed ownership of the weapons seized in La Cienaga on March 23rd, 2009. He stated that this arsenal had been financed with money provided by Venezuelan Congressman Juan Guaidó and that the government of Iván Duque was aware of these plans and had provided the means for logistics. In the audio Alcalá literally said: “The weapons seized in Colombia belong to the Venezuelan people, within the framework of a pact, or agreement, signed by President Guaidó, Mr. J. J. Rendón, Mr. Vergara and U.S. advisors. For many months I have been working on the formation of a unit called Libertad para Venezuela (Freedom for Venezuela). Mr. Juan Guaidó sent me to the meeting with the U.S. advisors and we contributed there, together with Venezuelan military personnel (…) to make a military unit”.
In another part of the radio interview, Alcalá said: “I am at home, I am not running away, I was informed of the possibility of a false positive”. In other words, he was afraid he was going to be murdered. On March 27, he was arrested and flown to New York on a DEA plane.
A day later, Reuters agency, from Washington, broadcast a cable according to which the former head of Venezuela’s military intelligence, Hugo Carvajal, another key man of the alleged Suns’ Cartel and whose whereabouts are unknown in Spain, where he had gone into exile, was also in the process of surrendering to US authorities.
Carvajal, the Suns’ Cartel and the trained press
Along with those of Cliver Alcalá and Diosdado Cabello, Hugo Carvajal’s name had been part of the hard core of the alleged Cartel de los Soles, according to the plot fabricated by the DEA and the CIA to implicate former President Hugo Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, in an alleged criminal conspiracy with the Colombian FARC guerrillas to “flood” the United States with cocaine.
The plot, which peaked in 2015, was part of the first phase of Operation Venezuela Freedom, outlined in the 2012 “Venezuela Report” by U.S. National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper, which emphasized the propagandistic agitation of issues such as the programmed shortage of food and medicine, the unusual increase in prices, the generalized electricity blackouts, crime and criminal violence as part of a process of political-social decomposition and induced ungovernability that used then the action of criminal gangs (bacrim), drug traffickers, paramilitary groups and prans with their armies of thugs.
In this context, and as part of the irregular war to destabilize Maduro’s new government, the scriptwriters of the US intelligence services began to plant their new invention in Western media: the Suns’ Cartel.
The first newspaper chosen to unleash the media circus was Spain’s ABC, which, starting with its Washington correspondent Emili J. Blasco, in January 2015 began to broadcast “scoops” based on “sources close” to an investigation opened by New York’s Southern District Attorney’s Office. “The number two Chavista’s security chief defected to the U.S. and accused him of drug trafficking,” the headline read. The target of the dispatch was the then president of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, who was accused of being the “leader” of the Suns’ Cartel and the “operator” of the Venezuelan “narco-state”. And it was aimed at dividing the pro-Chávez camp in the transition generated by the death of the leader of the Bolivarian process, Hugo Chávez, in 2013. But already there were several military personnel and the then governor of Aragua, Tareck Al Aissami, involved.
Without a single shred of evidence and based on the dubious testimony of a disaffected escort, Blasco used the cold war formula of “close sources” to cover up the leaks of the CIA, the DEA and the Justice Department. Likewise, to construct his arguments, he used on a couple of occasions the verb “speculate”, enemy of investigative journalism.
On May 19, 2015, as reported in an investigation by Fernando Casado (“The New Invention to Attack Venezuela: The Sunshine Cartel”, June 1, 2015), a new leak reached the pages of The New York Times: “The US focuses its extensive cocaine investigation on top Venezuelan officials”. With a less yellowish tone than that of ABC, the influential New York newspaper gave the DEA as its source, but the lack of evidence was still present.
Three days later, it was The Wall Street Journal, which, with leaks from DEA agents and federal prosecutors in New York and Miami, reinforced the story about the Sunshine Cartel: “Venezuelan officials suspected of turning the country into an international cocaine distribution center. Like the previous ones, the lack of evidence persisted.
On May 24, Jackson Diehl, one of the star editorialists of The Washington Post, was coming to join the Anglo-Saxon media cacophony. Diehl titled his op-ed “A drug cartel in power in Venezuela” and treated the “information” he published as factual. His source, which he used as evidence, was allegedly emails taken from the computer of FARC chief Raul Reyes, which not even the Colombian Supreme Court had validated. In other words, there was still no solid evidence.
As is often the case with the planting of “rotten meat” in the media, and in this case based on the statement of a defector, Diehl of the Washington Post took as a reference the notes published in ABC and The Wall Street Journal. In other words, based on unverified information, the press was used as proof of what the press is saying, in order to fabricate a “news”, which, by dint of repetition, becomes “truth”.
In the framework of the ongoing asymmetric unconventional warfare, the objectives of the psychological operations and (dis)information intoxication of the Pentagon, the CIA and the DEA had been exposed by General John Kelly, head of the Southern Command, on 12 March 2015 before the Senate Armed Services Committee of the United States Congress. Kelly said that the actions were aimed at generating a situation of chaos and political destabilization in Venezuela, combined with street actions and the measured use of armed violence, a stage that included the guarimbas with their almost fifty deaths, selective assassinations, sabotage against strategic installations and paramilitary actions from the Colombian-Venezuelan border.
Within this framework of the news as a show to cover up war propaganda, on May 20, the intrigue about the Suns’ Cartel would be taken up again by the Spanish newspaper El País, in a report entitled “New light on the mysterious Suns’ Cartel”. But beyond the enigmatic nature of the headline, it brought nothing new and was an ode to speculation.
Five days later, Newsweek magazine in Spanish reproduced on its cover the face of Diosdado Cabello with a headline that read: “The most wanted”. The U.S. publication reproduced an interview with Juan Forero, the Wall Street Journal reporter who had released a “scoop” on the Sunshine Cartel. As Newsweek put it, “What was an open secret to many was now assured by a newspaper with the prestige of The Wall Street Journal.
The mechanism for planting a conspiracy in public opinion without solid evidence had worked in the manner of a laundering of information, where the original source of the leak, in this case the DEA – and covertly the CIA – was more often than not hidden.
However, as Fernando Casado mentioned in the aforementioned investigation, the origin of the network had been the Spanish daily ABC, which reproduced a “scoop” by its Washington correspondent, Emili J. Blasco, famous for another “exclusive” from 2012 due to the illness of President Hugo Chávez, which then became trending topics and went around the world: “Chávez has one year to live unless he accepts intensive treatment”. Blasco used as sources “confidential reports prepared by informants with access to Chávez’s medical team, managed by intelligence services” (sic). Blasco concealed that his source was the CIA, because then his credibility would have been nil. But months later, the former director of the newspaper ABC, Angel Esposito, interviewed by Casado, admitted: “ABC has access to a CIA information, ABC publishes the CIA information, ABC does not say ‘ABC considers that Chávez has one year left’. ABC publishes a CIA report, from its correspondent in Washington”.
However, ABC and Blasco, the author of the book commissioned by Boomerang Chavez, had concealed that their source was the CIA and handled the information as their own with subterfuges such as “confidential reports” handled by “intelligence services. That is to say, anonymous and diffuse sources, without journalistic legitimacy.
Three years later, Blasco and the ABC had returned to the same old ways, now with the “scoop” on the myth of the Sunshine Cartel. Only this time, the new director of the Madrid newspaper, Bieito Rubido, acknowledged that there was a relationship between his medium and the US intelligence services: “What we publish is always true. In this case the sources are very serious: from Spanish intelligence, to the CIA and the DEA” (See “Denunciation of Diosdado Cabello for drug trafficking ‘is more than proven’: Director of the newspaper ABC”, NTN24, January 27, 2015).
Invention of the dirty war laboratories, without a single piece of evidence and without the seizure of a single panela of cocaine in the United States or any other part of the continent with its logo, soon, the generals’ cartel file and the Venezuelan narco-state’s fabrication would be eclipsed in the framework of the second phase of the Southern Command’s Operation Libertad Venezuela, which required the media positioning of a “humanitarian crisis” (due to lack of food, medicine, water and electricity) and an opinion matrix to manage at international level the scenario that the South American nation was “close to collapse” and “implosion”, as a resource to facilitate a “humanitarian intervention” at the “request” of the UN or the OAS.
The Pentagon’s conspiracy and psychological warfare plan then contemplated a “terminal phase” of the Venezuelan process by July-August 2016. To this end, Washington intensified its policy of “encirclement and suffocation” against the government of Nicolás Maduro, which, in the framework of the Full Spectrum War drawn up in June 2000 by the US Army’s Directorate of Strategic Policies and Plans (see document Joint Vision 2020), intensified the use of diplomatic resources, information, military, economic, financial, intelligence, and legal sectors, and made use of large corporations and business lobbies, international right-wing political operators and their organic intellectuals, non-state actors (NGOs), Catholic Church leaders, and student groups.
The Carvajal case and the DEA’s novelized story
After four years of remaining in the shadows, the fictitious construction of the Cartel de los Soles would reappear in Spain after the arrest by the National Police, on April 12, 2019, of the former head of Venezuela’s military intelligence and counter-intelligence services between 2000 and 2011, Hugo Carvajal.
In February of that year, after the fabrication in the USA of Congressman Juan Guaidó as the “president in charge” of Venezuela, and on the eve of 23/F – the umpteenth “D-Day” to overthrow Maduro, who had the Colombian city of Cúcuta as his cover in the failed attempt to introduce “humanitarian aid” to Venezuela, Hugo Carvajal, a disciple of Chavez at the military academy, defected, called his former peers to rebellion and supported the “self-proclaimed” trio of John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Elliott Abrams.
In the midst of threats and preparations for the invasion and when the Pentagon’s military siege of Venezuela was being tightened, Carvajal, as his wife Angelica Flores told the newspaper El Pais, fled to Madrid the following March with the help of agents from the Spanish National Intelligence Center (CNI), who even waited for him at Barajas airport. In April, when he was on his way to meet with CNI agents and offer information, Carvajal was captured by an extradition order from the United States, and his case was heard in the third criminal chamber of the Audiencia Nacional.
On September 13, 2019, during Carvajal’s appearance before the Audiencia Nacional, the front page headline of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo read: “Hugo Chávez ordered ‘US flooding with FARC cocaine. The headline highlighted: “El Mundo accedes to secret US DEA report on Venezuela”. Inside, the newspaper claimed to have had “exclusive” access to the DEA report that the day before the US Department of Justice had sent to the National Court.
The “secret report” added nothing new to the plot disclosed in 2015 by the Western mercenary press, nor to the compilation published in May 2018 by the US foundation InSight Crime, under the title “Venezuela: A Mafia State? The investigation of that Open Democracy sponsored research center on organized crime -of tycoon George Soros, linked to the Carlyle Group of the Bush clan-, which again assumed the existence of the Sunshine Cartel, suffered from the same defects of the journalistic hoaxes mentioned above: It was based on assumptions and beliefs and did not present solid evidence, but was clearly designed to justify, a posteriori, the practices of lawfare that had been used by Washington and its allies against countries considered enemies under the guise of legality.
Carvajal rejected the accusations of the American justice system as false, and his lawyers described Washington’s request as “political persecution”; they emphasized that the accusation was based on the testimony of a dozen “confessed criminals” who did not know the former military man; They denounced the “lightness” with which the U.S. linked Carvajal to the Sunshine Cartel – they said they could have linked him anyway “to the Ku Klux Klan or the National Rifle Association” – and asked for the refusal of extradition for not complying with the basic formal and not informal requirements and principles.
It was evident that the leak of the US justice system to the newspaper El Mundo sought to put pressure on the magistrates of the Audiencia Nacional. However, on September 16, the collegiate court denied the extradition because it considered that the US claim was based on “a political motivation” and had been conceived “within the US political strategy with respect to Venezuela”.
The judges highlighted “the lack of a true account of the facts as they relate to the person of the defendant” and argued that the “conduct” that the US authorities attributed to Hugo Carvajal “undoubtedly refers to the exercise of military intelligence service”. They also reported that the U.S. justice system had based its claim on crimes of illicit association to engage in narco-terrorism and to import cocaine controlled within the United States from a place outside the country, in addition to a crime of use or possession of firearms.
However, the court cautioned that this request “is accompanied only by an affidavit from a DEA agent in charge of the investigation” and “does not specify what specific criminal acts” Carvajal performed. Therefore, the court considered the description of the facts “orphan of determination”, and noted that the DEA agent’s statement “cannot be used to integrate the necessary factual account required to attribute to Carvajal the crimes of which he is accused. Furthermore, the court reproached the US that his accusations were directed at “open, abstract and inconcrete conduct in time, place and acts that were part of the crime charged.
Hugo Carvajal was released on bail, forbidden to leave Spain, and had to appear in court every 15 days. On 8th November the Public Prosecutor’s Office appealed against the Audiencia Nacional’s decision and the Supreme Court authorised his extradition to the USA. Several judges did not agree with the majority decision and, furthermore, denounced pressure from the legal advisor of the Spanish embassy in Washington, Jorge Carrera Domenech. One of the judges expressed his disagreement by saving his vote and considered that the drug trafficking investigation against Carvajal responded “much more to what would be a kind of narrative or novelized account of a conspiratorial attack” against the United States “by an enemy of that State, than to a legal description of concrete criminal acts.
When a journalist who wanted to interview him found out about the situation, Carvajal ran away and Elliott Abrams called the escape a “disgrace” for the Spanish government. Since then, the issue had disappeared from the media circus, until last March 26 when prosecutor William Barr revived the case of Hugo Carvajal and the fiction about the Suns’ Cartel.
In a US election year, the new White House offensive, which includes a renewed naval siege of Venezuela in the Caribbean, is aimed at boycotting the Maduro government’s negotiations with opposition parties, and comes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that plunged the Trump administration into a serious health crisis, The decline of the shale industry (gas/shale oil) based on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has been evidenced with the bankruptcy on April 1 of the Whiting Petroleum Corporation (with projects in North Dakota and Colorado), the first victim of the war on oil prices, which in the coming days could drag down another 50 companies in the sector. So Venezuela, with the largest hydrocarbon reserves in the world, is once again Washington’s main objective in its geopolitical struggle with the powers that dispute the hegemony of the capitalist system.