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Parry writes: "The one common thread in modern U.S. foreign policy is an insistence on 'free market' solutions to the world's problems."

President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela. (photo: BBC)
President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela. (photo: BBC)

Venezuela Next on Neocon Hit List for Regime Change

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

13 March 15


Venezuela seems to be following Ukraine on the neocon hit list for “regime change” as Washington punishes Caracas for acting against a perceived coup threat. But a broader problem is how the U.S. conflates “free markets” with “democracy,” giving “democracy” a bad name, writes Robert Parry.

he one common thread in modern U.S. foreign policy is an insistence on “free market” solutions to the world’s problems. That is, unless you’re lucky enough to live in a First World ally of the United States or your country is too big to bully.

So, if you’re in France or Canada or – for that matter – China, you can have generous health and educational services and build a modern infrastructure. But if you’re a Third World country or otherwise vulnerable – like, say, Ukraine or Venezuela – Official Washington insists that you shred your social safety net and give free reign to private investors.

If you’re good and accept this “free market” domination, you become, by the U.S. definition, a “democracy” – even if doing so goes against the wishes of most of your citizens. In other words, it doesn’t matter what most voters want; they must accept the “magic of the market” to be deemed a “democracy.”

Thus, in today’s U.S. parlance, “democracy” has come to mean almost the opposite of what it classically meant. Rather than rule by a majority of the people, you have rule by “the market,” which usually translates into rule by local oligarchs, rich foreigners and global banks.

Governments that don’t follow these rules – by instead shaping their societies to address the needs of average citizens – are deemed “not free,” thus making them targets of U.S.-funded “non-governmental organizations,” which train activists, pay journalists and coordinate business groups to organize an opposition to get rid of these “un-democratic” governments.

If a leader seeks to defend his or her nation’s sovereignty by such means as requiring these NGOs to register as “foreign agents,” the offending government is accused of violating “human rights” and becomes a candidate for more aggressive “regime change.”

Currently, one of the big U.S. complaints against Russia is that it requires foreign-funded NGOs that seek to influence policy decisions to register as “foreign agents.” The New York Times and other Western publications have cited this 2012 law as proof that Russia has become a dictatorship, while ignoring the fact that the Russians modeled their legislation after a U.S. law known as the “Foreign Agent Registration Act.”

So, it’s okay for the U.S. to label people who are paid by foreign entities to influence U.S. policies as “foreign agents” – and to imprison people who fail to register – but not for Russia to do the same. A number of these NGOs in Russia and elsewhere also are not “independent” entities but instead are financed by the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

There is even a circular element to this U.S. complaint. Leading the denunciation of Russia and other governments that restrain these U.S.-financed NGOs is Freedom House, which marks down countries on its “freedom index” when they balk at letting in this back-door U.S. influence. However, over the past three decades, Freedom House has become essentially a subsidiary of NED, a bought-and-paid-for NGO itself.

The Hidden CIA Hand

That takeover began in earnest in 1983 when CIA Director William Casey was focused on creating a funding mechanism to support Freedom House and other outside groups that would engage in propaganda and political action that the CIA had historically organized and financed covertly. Casey helped shape the plan for a congressionally funded entity that would serve as a conduit for this U.S. government money.

But Casey recognized the need to hide the CIA’s strings. “Obviously we here [at CIA] should not get out front in the development of such an organization, nor should we appear to be a sponsor or advocate,” Casey said in one undated letter to then-White House counselor Edwin Meese III – as Casey urged creation of a “National Endowment.” [See’s “CIA’s Hidden Hand in ‘Democracy’ Groups.”]

Casey’s planning led to the 1983 creation of NED, which was put under the control of neoconservative Carl Gershman, who remains in charge to this day. Gershman’s NED now distributes more than $100 million a year, which included financing scores of activists, journalists and other groups inside Ukraine before last year’s coup and now pays for dozens of projects in Venezuela, the new emerging target for “regime change.”

But NED’s cash is only a part of how the U.S. government manipulates events in vulnerable countries. In Ukraine, prior to the February 2014 coup, neocon Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland reminded Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations.”

Nuland then handpicked who would be the new leadership, telling U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt that “Yats is the guy,” referring to “free market” politician Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who not surprisingly emerged as the new prime minister after a violent coup ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, 2014.

The coup also started a civil war that has claimed more than 6,000 lives, mostly ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine who had supported Yanukovych and were targeted for a ruthless “anti-terrorist operation” spearheaded by neo-Nazi and other far-right militias dispatched by the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev. But Nuland blames everything on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. [See’s “Nuland’s Mastery of Ukraine Propaganda.”]

On top of Ukraine’s horrific death toll, the country’s economy has largely collapsed, but Nuland, Yatsenyuk and other free-marketeers have devised a solution, in line with the wishes of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund: Austerity for the average Ukrainian.

Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Nuland hailed “reforms” to turn Ukraine into a “free-market state,” including decisions “to reduce and cap pension benefits, increase work requirements and phase in a higher retirement age; … [and] cutting wasteful gas subsidies.”

In other words, these “reforms” are designed to make the hard lives of average Ukrainians even harder – by slashing pensions, removing work protections, forcing people to work into their old age and making them pay more for heat during the winter.

‘Sharing’ the Wealth

In exchange for those “reforms,” the IMF approved $17.5 billion in aid that will be handled by Ukraine’s Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, who until last December was a former U.S. diplomat responsible for a U.S. taxpayer-financed $150 million investment fund for Ukraine that was drained of money as she engaged in lucrative insider deals – deals that she has fought to keep secret. Now, Ms. Jaresko and her cronies will get a chance to be the caretakers of more than 100 times more money. [See’s “Ukraine’s Finance Minister’s American ‘Values.’”]

Other prominent Americans have been circling around Ukraine’s “democratic” opportunities. For instance, Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter was named to the board of directors of Burisma Holdings, Ukraine’s largest private gas firm, a shadowy Cyprus-based company linked to Privat Bank.

Privat Bank is controlled by the thuggish billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoysky, who was appointed by the Kiev regime to be governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, a south-central province of Ukraine. In this tribute to “democracy,” the U.S.-backed Ukrainian authorities gave an oligarch his own province to rule. Kolomoysky also has helped finance paramilitary forces killing ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

Burisma has been lining up well-connected American lobbyists, too, some with ties to Secretary of State John Kerry, including Kerry’s former Senate chief of staff David Leiter, according to lobbying disclosures.

As Time magazine reported, “Leiter’s involvement in the firm rounds out a power-packed team of politically-connected Americans that also includes a second new board member, Devon Archer, a Democratic bundler and former adviser to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Both Archer and Hunter Biden have worked as business partners with Kerry’s son-in-law, Christopher Heinz, the founding partner of Rosemont Capital, a private-equity company.” [See’s “The Whys Behind the Ukraine Crisis.”]

So, it seems even this modern form of “democracy” has some “sharing the wealth” aspects.

Which brings us to the worsening crisis in Venezuela, a South American country which has been ruled over the past decade or so by leftist leaders who – with broad public support – have sought to spread the nation’s oil wealth around more broadly than ever before, including paying for ambitious social programs to address problems of illiteracy, disease and poverty.

While there were surely missteps and mistakes by the late President Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro, the Chavista government has made progress in addressing some of Venezuela’s enduring social ills, which had been coolly ignored by previous U.S.-backed rulers, such as President Carlos Andres Perez, who collaborated with the CIA and hobnobbed with the great and powerful.

I was once told by an Andres Perez assistant that the Venezuelan president shared his villa outside Caracas with the likes of David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger, bringing in beauty pageant contestants for their entertainment.

Chavez and Maduro at least have tried to improve the lot of the average Venezuelan. However, facing a deepening economic crisis made worse by the drop in world oil prices, Maduro has found himself under increasing political pressure, some of it financed or inspired by Washington and supported by the rightist government in neighboring Colombia.

Allegations of a Coup

Maduro has reacted to these moves against his government by accusing some opponents of plotting a coup, a claim that is mocked by the U.S. State Department and by the U.S. mainstream media, which apparently doesn’t believe that the United States would ever think of staging a coup in Latin America.

This week, the White House declared that the evidence of any coup-plotting is either fabricated or implausible, as the New York Times reported. President Barack Obama then cited what he called “an extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States” from Venezuela and froze the American assets of seven Venezuelan police and military officials.

The fact that Obama can deliver that line with a straight face should make any future words out of his mouth not credible. Venezuela has done nothing to threaten the “national security of the United States” extraordinarily or otherwise. Whatever the truth about the coup-plotting, Venezuela has a much greater reason to fear for its national security at the hands of the United States.

But in this up-is-down world of Official Washington, bureaucrats and journalists nod in agreement at such absurdities.

A few weeks ago, I was having brunch with a longtime State Department official who was chortling about the pain that the drop in oil prices was inflicting on Venezuela and some other adversarial states, including Iran and Russia.

I asked why the U.S. government took such pleasure at watching people in these countries suffer. I suggested that it was perhaps more in U.S. interests for these countries and their people to be doing well with money in their pockets so they could shop and do business.

His response was that these countries had caused trouble for U.S. foreign policy in the past and now it was their turn to pay the price. He also called me a “Putin apologist” when I wouldn’t agree with the State Department’s line blaming Russia for all of Ukraine’s ills.

But the broader question is: Why does the United States insist on imposing “free market” rules on these struggling countries when Democrats and even some Republicans agree that an unrestrained “free market” has not worked well for the American people? It was “free market” extremism that led to the Great Depression of the 1930s and to the Great Recession of 2008, the effects of which are only now slowly receding.

Further, real democracy – i.e., the will of the majority to shape societies to serve the many rather than the few – has turned out also to be good economics. American society and economy were arguably strongest when government policy encouraged a growing middle class from the New Deal through the 1970s.

To be sure, there were faults and false starts during those decades, but experiments with an uncontrolled “free market” have proven catastrophic. Yet, that is what the U.S. government seems determined to foist on vulnerable countries whose majorities would prefer to make their societies more equitable, more fair.

And beyond the negative social impact of the “free market,” there is the danger that conflating policies that cause economic inequality with democracy will give democracy a very bad name. your social media marketing partner


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+54 # A P 2015-03-13 11:07
Venezuela's biggest crime? Selling oil in Euros, and doing so to Cuba.

Like Saddam was planning, and Libya, Syria and Iran. And of course Russia.

The US/NATO is trying to derail the BRICS+ multi-currency project by any means possible. This is to protect the corrupted and bankrupt Bretton Woods/IMF/WTO/W orld Bank/US$-reserv e-currency system.

Since colluding with the House of Saud to tank oil prices to cripple these oil producing upstart economies failed adn blewback on North American fracking/tar-sa nds operations, it's back on the "regime change" warmongering track.

Even though the US$ is skyrocketing as the market gamblers look for safe currency haven, the rest of the world is divesting itself of US$ instruments. The Euro is now a vassal currency to the US$, but not so the ruble and the yuan/renminbi. Both China and Russia are making strategic monetary/fiscal moves to protect their countries from the worst to the impending US/NATO economic collapse.
+26 # Radscal 2015-03-13 12:49
This is a fascinating documentary. The film makers just happened to be in Venezuela, documenting both the wealthy class and the common people, when the CIA-fomented coup against Chavez happened in 2002:

And this is Oliver Stone's "South of the Border," which documents the coup in the wider context of CIA operations, and the response of the growing social-democrac y movement in Latin America:
+2 # intheEPZ 2015-03-15 07:45
Both great films, thank you!
+29 # reiverpacific 2015-03-13 13:53
"And beyond the negative social impact of the “free market,” there is the danger that conflating policies that cause economic inequality with democracy will give democracy a very bad name." [Quote from article].

The cause of course, is trumpeting "Democracy" whilst practicing the opposite in promoting, imposing and supporting feudalist Oligarchy.
This practice mocks the very essence of the term Democracy which the industrialized and developed US has yet to achieve and indeed, seems to be retreating from.
It's painfully obvious to anybody who's been around the world a bit and witnessed first hand, the conditions imposed by the IMF and World bank, which en précis, take all rights of governance away from any sovereign nation desperate or naive enough to accept their loan terms from "Development", especially of natural resources.
By default, the already corruptly and wealthy elites benefit from such loans as they squeeze -under the pretense of "necessary austerity" out the populace's every ounce of effort to accomplish the work to satisfy the always punitive loan terms, whilst courting foreign "Consultants" or "Advisors" to take their bites out of what's left.
As ol' Polonius advised his son Laertes on his going out into the world from the bosom of the family, "Neither a Borrower nor a Lender be!".
+5 # bingers 2015-03-14 15:47
Democracy is not free trade and free trade does not exist except in the fevered minds of the empathy disenabled.
+35 # Walter J Smith 2015-03-13 14:16
What better indication of Washington, D. C.'s radical political weaknesses while in possession of the world's largest ammassed military, secret service, commercial, and industrial powers than observing it slapping at the weakest presences in the outer periphery of its orbit?

The US Empire cannot win a war in the Middle East, because it needs war to feed its Government racket's addiction to laundering money taken from taxpayers to give to the most vicious, non-tax-paying corporation "citizens" who are addicted to taking that government racket's laundered money in public welfare to wage war so the racket can continue indefinitely. Unless, of course, you happen to know that no empire sustains its pet rackets forever.

The self-deluded US insider elite, which obviously no longer includes the US Congress and Courts, is likely in a panic because it cannot provoke a war with Russia without risking a nuclear war. And everybody on the planet knows that is what it is trying mightily to do.

Meanwhile, the rabid and completely self-deluded bipartisan war-mongering Congress, having surrendered its warmaking powers half a century ago, daily throws flaming rhetoric about the needs for more war.

The glib media marches lock-step with the propagandists who make the most noise and stir the least considered passions.

Germany, 1934, deja vu all over again.
+27 # fredboy 2015-03-13 14:28
It is as if the vampire Milton Friedman keeps crawling out of his wretched grave.
+18 # jon 2015-03-13 15:35
The neocons would not know "Democracy" if it jumped up and bit them in the ass.
+13 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-03-13 16:37
The whole of Congress would not know democracy if it jumped up and bit their ass---which is what we the people need to do. Talking about 'Regime Change', the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA needs a regime change right now before the corrupt creatures in Congress vote for yet another unending war so their corporate friends can make lots of money. We have to get rid of the psychopaths in Congress now for the sake of our children. In this generation we have seen the near death of any democracy. Not many in Congress who give diddly squat for what their constituents say. Kick them out!!! Dims and Repukes. They are JUST THE SAME!! No lesser evil between these two bunches of corruption.

+12 # LeeBlack 2015-03-13 18:06
Also, the neocons confuse the issue. Democracy does not = Capitalism not does Capitalism = Democracy.
+1 # Kootenay Coyote 2015-03-17 10:12
'The neocons would not know "Democracy" if it jumped up and bit them in the ass.'

Which eventually it will.
+21 # Stilldreamin1 2015-03-13 16:06
Parry deserves a Pulitzer for his hard work over the last year, for helping the public to see beyond US rhetoric to find what's really going on below the surface.
+20 # Helen Marshall 2015-03-13 16:49
Needless to say, AIPAC and its offshoots are not required to register as "Foreign Agents," perhaps recognizing that Israel has in fact taken over the USG and we no longer need to make a distinction between the US and Israel.
+19 # Robbee 2015-03-13 17:52
the so-called "free market" our alphabets are fighting for is monopoly or cartel restraint of trade, unregulated capitalism which shrinks consumer choices, maximizes profits by restricting supply (supply side economics) and thereby concentrates resources and wealth among corporate elites. "free market" means driving down costs by outsourcing production to economies, states, where workers work for less

never confuse "free market" with competition except when it comes to costs of production, like labor and raw materials. "free market", by design, gives consumers higher prices for fewer choices

america did not become a great nation by giving consumers fewer choices at higher prices. america has not and does not export competition, only "free market" whereby our elites extend their control over resources, such as raw materials and labor, abroad. competition is under constant attack here and abroad, sometimes both places at the same time, exhibit A the TPP
+13 # economagic 2015-03-13 19:37
Quite so. And have I overlooked something, or is there not a single mention on this page of another CIA backed 9/11 in Latin America in 1973?
+11 # geraldom 2015-03-13 21:34
If the United States and its ever expanding proxy puppet military in Europe, NATO, feel that they have the right to take over one country at a time in eastern Europe and then have the huevos to threaten Russia as Kennedy did during the Cuban Missile Crisis when he warned Khrushchev that any attack by Cuba and Russia on any Latin American country in the northern hemisphere (and probably the southern one as well) would be considered an attack on the United States.

If the U.S. feels that it has the right to form a military organization on the other side of the world and set up U.S. military bases in each one of them, and claim that its members are inviolate to any aggression by Russia, then Russia should have the right to do the very same in Latin America. If I was president of any of the countries in Latin America that felt that they were under threat from the United States like Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil and many others, then I would propose a similar organization in Latin America with mutual defense pacts and military ties with Russia in which Russia would be allowed to build military bases in their countries and with the same premise in mind, that any attack or attempt to overthrow these regimes covertly or overtly with overpoweing military force would be considered the same as an attack on Russia.

+11 # geraldom 2015-03-13 21:34

I would also include Iran and Syria or any other country in the middle east who feels that the U.S. is breathing down their neck and who wants to force regime change in their country. I don’t understand why Iran and Syria haven’t already signed any mutual defense pacts with Russia or why Russia did not strongly warn the U.S. not to attack Syria when Obama was preparing to do so from aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean several years ago. And, if the U.S. and NATO are openly and overtly sending troops and military equipment into western Ukraine, as they seem to be doing, in an eventual attempt to take control of eastern Ukraine, then, if I were Putin, I would also sign a mutual defense pact with the anti-government forces in eastern Ukraine.

It is unfortunately my belief that unless President Maduro of Venezuela signs some kind of mutual defense pact with Russia soon, that the U.S. will eventually succeed in overthrowing his government.

I don’t believe in double-standard s or hypocrisy.
+4 # pkrumm 2015-03-13 21:54
for the Venezuelan reportage of the "perceived" coup, see
+3 # Douglas Jack 2015-03-14 10:42
pkrumm, Excellent video with English subtitles covering essential aspects of US, Canadian, NATO financed plots to violently overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela & anywhere else we can get our hands on their stuff.
+11 # Rockster 2015-03-14 07:16
"Make the world safe for Democracy" as a slogan made my skin crawl back when it first was trotted out and now I know why, what a brilliant bit of marketing to turn the meaning inside out but keep the feeling warm and fuzzy. It's really all about a very few, very rich individuals and the uber powerful international corporations they control. All the other bombast in the " news" is distraction and entertainment . Talk about coups ! Our brave democratic experiment is on life support.
+5 # bingers 2015-03-14 15:51
Quoting Rockster:
"Make the world safe for Democracy" as a slogan made my skin crawl back when it first was trotted out and now I know why, what a brilliant bit of marketing to turn the meaning inside out but keep the feeling warm and fuzzy. It's really all about a very few, very rich individuals and the uber powerful international corporations they control. All the other bombast in the " news" is distraction and entertainment . Talk about coups ! Our brave democratic experiment is on life support.

The 33% of the top 1% who feel we should lower taxes on the rich detest democracy which is why they always call our democratic republic a republic period.
+6 # Merlin 2015-03-14 21:33
+7 # Rockster 2015-03-14 07:16

Dead on target!
+5 # harleysch 2015-03-14 10:49
Parry has identified the key problem facing humanity today: that the policies of the U.S. and NATO countries are dictated by the accelerating breakdown crisis of the City of London/Wall Street banking cartel. The real targets of this cartel today are Russia and China, along with their other partners in the BRICS. They are building an alternate financial system, which, if allowed to grow, will replace the present IMF system, which serves the swindling speculators who run leading global banks, financial institutions and insurance companies.

Obama has proven to be a loyal puppet of these interests, continuing the tradition of the Bushes. That's why, in the name of the "free market" and "democracy" Venezuela is targeted, along with Argentina and the BRICS nations.

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