VenEconomy reviews for the benefit of its readers the new “chavista” best seller titled “The Chávez Code.” The book was written by Eva Golinger, a U.S.-Venezuelan dual national whom President Hugo Chávez has personally baptized, “The Bride of the Bolivarian Revolution.”
Why be subtle? The Spanish-language version of “The Chávez Code,” launched officially in Havana before it arrived in Caracas recently, is 355 pages of organic fertilizer dedicated to the memory of Danilo Anderson, the prosecutor killed by a car bomb in November 2004. Anderson was buried in a grand ceremony where President Chávez praised him as a hero of the revolution. Then police investigators posthumously exposed Anderson as the presumed leader of a gang of extortionists working out of the Attorney General’s office. Golinger should dedicate a book of lies and distortions to the memory of a public prosecutor who has been pointed out to be crooked instead of heroic. Golinger reportedly is living in the Caracas Hilton as an official guest of the Chávez government.
A recent interview in Exceso magazine, and anecdotal reports of her travels throughout Venezuela on book-signing tours, confirm that Golinger is delighted with her 15 minutes of fame. The Chávez government is certainly delighted with Golinger, whose meteoric rise to Bolivarian fame started when she was interviewed on television in the United States while protesting in support of Chávez in New York City. Now she is the author of the Bolivarian Revolution’s “true” account of the forces and events surrounding the violence of April 11-14, 2002, in which Chávez left the presidency and returned to power less than 48 hours later. The official Bolivarian truth recounted by Golinger is that the government of the United States conspired to oust Chávez from power by working through the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to finance, organize and train a civilian-military coup against Chávez. Golinger bases this claim on documents she obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with the help of a U.S. photojournalist named Jeremy Bigwood (if readers wish to know more about Bigwood, do a Google search and click on his web page).
VenEconomy read the book from cover to cover. This included double-checking what Golinger claims in the principal text of the book with the official U.S. documents that she obtained under the FOIA and cited in the book’s footnotes. In every case involving a specific quote linked by footnote to a specific U.S. official document in the book’s appendix, VenEconomy found that none of the statements she attributes to various U.S. diplomats in the main text of the book are found there. She cites the U.S. documents included at the back of the book in English as the source of these statements. This is odd, considering that Golinger claims that her many professional skills – besides immigration and entertainment industry lawyer, jazz singer and nouveau glitterati of the Bolivarian Revolution – also includes certified translations. VenEconomy did not count all of the factual mistakes, distortions and lies in the book. However, following is a small sample of Eva’s deceits. First, Golinger claims in her biographical description that she obtained “ultra-secret” CIA documents through the FOIA. This is untrue. The CIA documents in question were never even designated as classified documents. They consisted of intra-government security briefings the CIA provides daily to a restricted number of U.S. government officials. The reports are confidential, but they are not secret.
Golinger claims that she obtained her trove of official U.S. documents through FOIA requests that Bigwood assisted her with. She claims in a recent interview in Exceso magazine that no one helped her financially. However, this is untrue. The U.S. government charges fees for providing documents sought under FOIA requests. Depending on how many documents are sought, the costs climb quickly to thousands of dollars. Nevertheless, Golinger promises her readers the investigation will “continue for decades.” Who will finance it?
On page 49 of her book, Golinger claims that NED and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have spent “more than $20 million” in Venezuela since 2001 to “foment conflict and instability.” Elsewhere in the book, Golinger says the sum spent by NED and USIAD was $2 million. This could be a typographical mistake, of course.
In Chapter 3, which starts on page 59, Golinger discusses the natural tragedy that destroyed Vargas state on December 15, 1999. She states that the torrential rains started on Dec. 14, one day before the Avila Mountain slid downhill into the sea. This is mistaken. It rained almost ceaselessly for over a week before Dec. 15, and civil defense officials reportedly warned Chávez on repeated occasions that a natural disaster was imminent. However, Chávez was more interested in campaigning for his new Constitution than in flooding rivers or landslides. He ignored all warnings, and did not react publicly until at least three days after hundreds died and tens of thousands were left homeless. Golinger also claims on page 60 that the U.S. unilaterally sent military warships and Marines towards Venezuela without being invited in the aftermath of the Vargas tragedy. She goes on to say that, when Chávez learned of the U.S. action, he issued orders that the uninvited Yankees be turned away. This is also false. The U.S. government officially offered humanitarian assistance, which the then-Venezuelan Minister of Defense Raúl Salazar accepted. The President subsequently overruled him when the boats were already on their way.
In Chapter 4, Golinger discusses the International Republican Institute (IRI), a Republican offshoot of the NED. The Democratic Party has the National Democratic Institute (NDI). She describes Georges Fauriol as the head of the IRI’s Latin America program on page 70. This is incorrect. Fauriol is the IRI’s director of global strategic planning. He is the former director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. His expertise almost exclusively centers on Haiti. Fauriol was taken to the IRI by its president, George A. Folsom, who has good Republican connections through Brent Scowcroft but is not regarded as the brightest bulb in the Republican- Latin American policymaking circles of Washington, D.C. Golinger does a fast shuffle on page 74, where she refers to U.S. laws that supposedly prohibit the NED and its offshoots financing political parties outside the U.S. She cites Title 2, Section 441e of the U.S. Federal Criminal Code, as reportedly barring the U.S. from interfering in any foreign local, state or national elections. In fact, the statute she cites refers to foreign financiers of U.S. political campaigns. NED and similar entities are regulated by other U.S. legislation. In any case, NED, the IRI and NDI do not finance the political campaigns of foreign politicians.
In Chapter 5, Golinger cites documents that purportedly show the U.S. Embassy knew a coup against Chávez was being planned as early as September 2001. The documents she includes in the book, and which are found on her web site, do not substantiate that assertion even remotely. Golinger also claims in this chapter that other documents, which she included in the book’s appendix, prove the U.S. government shared and encouraged the political opposition’s desires to throw Chávez out of power.
VenEconomy read the documents in the appendix, and then consulted other documents at her web site, and none of the documents substantiate her claim. VenEconomy wants to make it clear that the criticism here centers on apparently sloppy research and unsubstantiated claims not supported by any of the alleged evidence cited by Golinger. In VenEconomy’s view, the book overall is disorganized and poorly written, and its supportive documentation doesn’t validate any of the claims the author makes about alleged U.S. encouragement and advance knowledge of a coup against Chávez.
That said, in the weeks before the violence of April 11-14, 2002, the persons who most frequently claimed that a military coup was imminent were Chávez and then-Defense Minister (now Vice President) Jose Vicente Rangel. This is a matter of public record.
In Chapter 6, Golinger claims that former U.S. Ambassador Charles Shapiro, who arrived in Caracas in February 2002, had been a military adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Chile when President Salvador Allende was overthrown in a military coup. This is incorrect. Shapiro is a career foreign service officer, a diplomat, not a military official. He certainly did have an image as a tough guy because he spent time in El Salvador in the 1980s and was the senior Cuban Affairs officer at the State Department before arriving in Venezuela.
However, Shapiro wasn’t sent to Caracas because the Bush administration wanted to take a tougher stance with Chávez. In the State Department’s ambassadorial seniority list, Shapiro was next in line for an ambassadorship, and then-Ambassador Donna Hrinak’s term in Caracas was nearly over. U.S. ambassadors rarely stay in one post more than two or three years. In any case, Ambassador Shapiro soon earned the nickname of “Goofy” among opposition leaders, which definitely is not a nickname appropriate to the tough guy image that preceded his arrival in Venezuela.
When she discusses Otto Reich, Golinger claims the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee blocked his appointment as Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. Actually, the culprit was Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), who has a personal feud with Reich dating back 20 years. Golinger claims on page 103 that the CIA had “detailed knowledge” about the coup against Chávez that could only mean the CIA was in close direct contact with the conspirators. However, the CIA documents she cites are not any different in content than the reports that were being published and broadcast daily during those tense days in April 2002 by the Venezuelan news media. The CIA reports not claim to know more about the alleged coup against Chávez than what was in the news media locally at the time. They do, however, contain analytical judgments that lean towards predicting that some kind of move against Chávez was imminent.
Golinger cites former CNN correspondent Otto Neustadt’s alleged claim that on April 10, one day before the march against Chávez ended in death by gunfire in downtown Caracas, he was approached by a group of generals and admirals that wanted to pre-tape a message to be shown on April 11 after people had been killed and injured. Neustadt lost credibility. He was sacked by CNN soon after the events of April 2002 because unedited videotape he transmitted to CNN’s world broadcast center in Atlanta contained outtakes that showed the CNN reporter had a close personal relationship with then-Vice President Diosdado Cabello. CNN’s management concluded that Neustadt was compromised professionally and they terminated his employment contract.
The timelines Golinger cites for the violence that occurred in downtown Caracas do not match the known facts. She claims video of rooftop snipers was destroyed by the private television channels, which is also false. There hasn’t been proof that there ever were any rooftop snipers. Forensic analysis and photographic evidence from April 11, 2002, presently consigned before an international court proves conclusively that the descending trajectory of the bullets that killed 19 persons resulted from the fact that “chavista” shooters were firing at anti-government protesters from higher elevations and at a long distance. On page 111, Golinger attributes to Shapiro a written statement in quotes that she footnotes to an embassy cable in the book’s appendix of documents. The document does not contain the statement. This is a recurring problem with Golinger’s footnoted citations throughout the book.
“The Chávez Code” doesn’t stop at the events of April 2002. It includes chapters on the oil strike of December 2002-January 2003, and the August 2004 presidential recall referendum. VenEconomy found many more inaccuracies in these chapters, but did not want to deprive others of the chance to make their own discoveries as they read this Bolivarian best seller. Besides, this book review is already too long.