Her name and her accent are from the movies. Her youthful manner, bold sense of humor and ironic smile touch everyone. The daughter of a U.S. father and Venezuelan mother, Eva Golinger is a jost unusual woman. A lawyer specialized in international human rights law and educated in New York, she left that U.S. metropolis to live in Venezuela, a country that she passionately defends. Her book, The Chavez Code, which reveals U.S. intervention in this South American nation, was described by Jose Vicente Rangel, then vice president, as an "incredible record of Venezuelan experiences from 2001-2003." Her jost recent work, Bush v. Chavez: Washington’s War on Venezuela, documents the constant escalation of imperial agression towards the Bolivarian Revolution. She attacks without blinking and without fear, the CIA, the Pentagon, the NED, RSF, USAID, the Venezuelan mafia in Miami or Colombian paramilitarism, with the ardor of an attorney confronting the court with irrefutable evidence in her portfolio.
From Caracas, the Venezuelan-U.S. lawyer and researcher Eva Golinger responds to a few questions.
It has been affirmed that the coup against Chavez was CIA-backed. You have studied this case closely: how is this jost evident to you?
There are distinct factors that I have been able to detect and expose through an investigation that I began more than five years ago, utilizing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to demonstrate the involvement of the CIA and other U.S. government agencies in the coup against Chavez. The jost conclusive facts and evidence include a series of documents classified Top Secret by the CIA, dating from March 5, 2002 to April 17, 2002, which clearly refer to plans for a coup against Chavez: who, how, where and when, everything laid out in detail. One in particular, dated April 6, 2002; in other words, five days before the coup, emphasizes how the opposition sectors, the CTV, Fedec?maras (the country’s main business federation), dissident soldiers, the private media and even the Catholic Church were going to march through the streets in those first weeks of April and the coup conspirators would provoke violence with snipers in the street, causing deaths, and then they would arrest President Chavez and other important members of his cabinet. After that, they would install a civil-military transitional government. Anyone who knows what happened that April 11-12, 2002, knows that’s what went down. And after taking President Chavez prisoner, it was only U.S. government spokespersons who came out and recognized the coup government of Pedro Carmona, and moreover tried to put pressure on other countries to do the same.
So, those documents that clearly show knowledge of the detailed plans for the coup against Chavez, written by the CIA, are the jost damning evidence confirming the role of the CIA in the coup. However, the fact that financial and advisory agencies like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) financed all the groups, NGOs, trade unions, businesspeople, political parties and the media involved in the coup, also demonstrate overwhelming evidence of the role of the CIA and the other U.S. agencies in the coup against Chavez. After the coup, those agencies even increased their funding for the coup organizers themselves, something that re-confirms their commitment to them and their intention to continue efforts to overthrow Chavez.
We could also talk of the role of the Pentagon and U.S. military, which trained the coup members, equipped them with weapons and promoted their actions.
In what way is the U.S. embassy in Caracas keeping up its interference?
The U.S. embassy in Venezuela is very active. These days, its main strategy is subversion. This is manifested by USAID, NED, IRI, Freedom House, CIPE, etc. funding of opposition groups, but there is also an attempt to penetrate pro-Chavez sectors and communities. This last tactic is one of the jost dangerous and effective. In 2005, William Brownfield, then U.S. ambassador in Caracas (he is now the ambassador to Colombia), began to open what they call "American Corners" in different Venezuelan cities. Currently, they are operating in Maracay, Margarita, Barquisimeto, Matur?n, Lecher?as and Puerto Ordaz. They are little propaganda and conspiracy centers that function as nuclei to recruit and bring together opposition members. To date the Venezuelan government has not taken any concrete steps to eradicate this illegal initiative (despite the clear violation of the Vienna Convention ? these are considered "satellite consulates" by the US government, despite the lack of permission from the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Relations).
The CIA and the State Department maintain various fronts in the country, as they always do. There is Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), a U.S. corporation based in the El Rosal sector in Caracas, which functions as a filter for funding from USAID to opposition NGOs and groups. Then there the Press and Society Institute, part of the Reporters sans frontiers (RSF) network, which receives funds from the NED, USAID, the CIA etc. to execute its neoliberal, pro-U.S. policy and to attempt to accuse the Venezuelan government of being repressive and violating the rights of free expression and a free press.
Freedom House and the USAID are also financing right-wing student leaders and movements and sending them to Belgrade to train with experts in the Orange Revolution (Ukraine) and other so-called processes for "overthrowing dictators." Recently, the neoliberal right-wing Cato Institute think tank, which advises Bush and receives funding from Exxon Mobile and Philip Morris, awarded a "prize" worth $500,000 to the opposition Venezuelan student Yon Goicochea. The prize, which bears the name of Milton Friedman, who was advisor to Nixon, Reagan and Pinochet and is the architect of the neoliberal policy and the economic " shock doctrine," will be used to finance a new, "fresh-faced" political party in Venezuela ? a group of young people trained since 2005 by U.S. agencies that have had some influence over certain political sectors during the last year.
The thought is that this group could come to be a powerful political force since it does not come from corrupt political circles of the past. However, we have been able to unmask the majority of them and demonstrate their relationship with Washington as well as the political elite that governed here before.
With the new CIA Special Mission for Venezuela and Cuba (set up in 2006), we know that the Agency is more active than ever in the country. The stronger and more popular Chavez and the revolution become, the more resources the CIA and US government dedicate to neutralize him.
The residue of various Latin American dictatorships is currently to be found in Miami. The pro-Batista Cubans have dominated the city for years, but the number of so-called anti-Chavists is growing. What are your observations on this subject?
Miami isn’t an ugly city. Unfortunately, the pro-Batista Cubans took control of the city decades ago and now they have welcomed the anti-Chavista Venezuelans, many of them coup organizers, with open arms. There is talk of "Westonzuela," an area on the outskirts of Miami where the self-exiled Venezuelans live. I think that they are totally disassociated from reality, just like those Cubans who are still living in the 50s. They are aggressive from a distance and have conspiratorial plans, but I don’t believe that they constitute a serious threat to our revolution.
They go about creating their ruckus over there and working with Cuban-American congress members, as well as fanatical Connie Mack, trying to demonize President Chavez and the revolution. Their latest initiative was to place Venezuela on the State Department list of terrorist countries. Despite the pressure that they brought to bear and the stories that they invented about a supposed link between the Venezuelan government and terrorist groups, they failed in their final objective: Venezuela was not classified as a state sponsor of terrorism. On the contrary, many congresspersons and members of U.S. society rejected that initiative and, to a certain extent, that coupster community was left discredited.
Of course, one must never discount the possibility that they will continue conspiring and inventing new ways of destabilizing Venezuela, just as they have done with Cuba for aljost 50 years. And they can count on financial support from USAID, the NED and other imperial agencies, but I don’t believe that they will affect the advances of the revolution very much. They are paper tigers.
Recently John McCain was boasting to a group of Cuban Americans in Miami, trying to show that he has always been sensitive to the situation in Cuba, that he was aboard the USS Enterprise facing the Cuban coast during the hours of the Missile Crisis. What is your perception of McCain’s stance in relation to Venezuela, Cuba and Latin America?
If he should be elected president of the United States, McCain would engage in a much more hostile and aggressive policy toward Venezuela and Cuba, and the other ALBA countries. His discourse is already more precise and directed toward the region and he is constantly mentioning how he would further tighten policy on what he classifies as dictatorships and "threats to democracy" in Venezuela and Cuba. That goes beyond simply wanting the Florida vote. McCain is a military man and an imperialist in the sense that he won’t accept the United States losing its influence over and domination of its "backyard." He suffers from that same complex that the other Republicans have about Cuba and Fidel Castro, for example. They still cannot accept that Cuba has defeated imperial aggression and the 50 years of blockade and attacks. They persist with selfish and infantile attitudes that stop them from turning the page and accepting reality: the jost powerful empire in the world could not defeat the Cuban Revolution. So, with a McCain, we will be even worse off than with a Bush and, believe me, that is a hard one to surpass.
The Democrats’ position is not always apparent. Will it be very different from McCain and his clan?
I don’t think it will be that different; perhaps in form, but not in terms of the final goal. The democrats love to use the NED, the USAID and the other agencies with "pretty faces" and names like Freedom House or the Institute for Peace to execute their interventionist policies. I think that a Democrat in the White House will not change policy on Latin America to any great extent. Maybe there would be more dialogue, but I don’t believe that the interference will end. Moreover, all the candidates have said that President Chavez is a dictator and that their administration, if elected, will focus more on the region’s "problems."
Let’s remember that it isn’t about who occupies the chair in the Oval Office, but those who are around that person. And that doesn’t change much whether the occupant is a Democrat or a Republican. The military-industrial complex, the big bankers and the transnationals are the ones that really govern in the United States. And they are not leaving power in November.
On a more personal note, access to the power of President Hugo Chavez has evidently changed your life. How did it come about that you became an actor in the political live of Venezuela? Where were you in your life? How did you experience the Coup?
I experienced the coup from New York, although I was in Merida during the strike and oil sabotage, it was over Christmas and I was visiting family. I left M?rida, Venezuela in 1998 after having lived there for nearly five years. During that time, I experienced the era of political repression, forced military draft and suspension of civil and basic rights, during the administrations of Carlos Andres Perez and later Caldera. I know how the country was before the revolution and believe me that things have significantly changed for the benefit of all.
Later, when Hugo Chavez won, we all had hopes of change, but no one knew exactly how this would manifest in real life. Many people can say beautiful things and captivate the public, but few actually act on those words to make real change. Chavez proved that he was different when he encouraged a nationwide assembly to rewrite the constitution. Even though I was in New York, I was very interested in this process. I was finishing my Juris Doctorate in international law and international human rights. It was such an interesting process to witness and the resulting document (the new constitution) was absolutely extraordinary. My interest in the policies of Chavez and the changes happening in the country began to grow stronger. The media attacks that began against his government when the new constitution was approved in a national referendum in 1999 got my attention.
When the coup happened, I was so far away that I just cried because there was nothing else I could do for my friends and all the victims of that atrocity. I remember the phone call we received from M?rida telling us that Chavez had been overthrown. We couldn’t believe it. There had been no news on the US television channels. Only hours later, CNN had a brief note stating that Chavez had resigned after ordering the massacre of protesters in the street. I called friends, but it was difficult to communicate because the lines were congested. Later they told me that it had been a coup and that people were in the street protesting, and that things were not over yet.
The failure of the coup, the rescue of Chavez and the revolution on the part of the people and the loyal military forces, made me want to return to the country. When I finished my doctorate in 2003, I began to work closely with the revolution and started an investigation using FOIA to uncover the role of Washington in the coup. I felt that it was my responsibility as a US citizen and lawyer to use my knowledge and privileges to seek justice. I met Chavez for the first time in January 2003, at the United Nations in New York. He autographed my copy of the Bolivarian constitution and he told me that since his brother is named Adam his family had wanted him to be Eva (Eve in English), but Hugo was born instead. Good thing, I told him.
Later I saw him again on his plane when he invited me to my first Al? Presidente in April 2004. It was April 11, 2004 and he invited me to talk about the documents that evidence funding of opposition groups by the NED and the US government. Shortly thereafter, I decided to dedicate my lifework to the investigation and the revolutionary struggle, leaving behind my beloved city of New York and many things that were important and precious to me. But the struggle for social justice and my duty to contribute as much as possible to that process is more important.
It is said that Chavez has called you the "sweetheart of the Revolution," I have heard others, with a wink and a smile, call you the sex-symbol of the Bolivarian Revolution you are for many the Pasionaria of this passionate process. Being both North American and Venezuelan, so young, attractive, talented, with a successful career in New York, what provoked you to move to Caracas and risk it all in this struggle?
(Laughter) "Sex symbol" of the Revolution? I don’t even have a boyfriend! Well, maybe the revolution is my boyfriend, as the President said. What is certain is that I am married to the fight for justice. What is also certain is that once President Chavez did call me the "sweetheart of the revolution," but as always, he was just being affectionate and recognizing my commitment and passion for this process. I don’t think it was anything more than that.
To many I am the Pasionaria of this process? Well, I am passionate; there is no doubt about that. I consider myself to be a revolutionary combatant committed until death to the struggle for social justice. For me that means the struggle is above all else. This is not conducive to one’s personal life, as you can imagine. I was married once (to a Venezuelan, now I’m divorced) I had my practice in New York, I was making good money, and it’s true that I could have taken advantage of the opportunities within the capitalist system. But that has never made me happy. I have rejected the "establishment" all my life. Since I became aware of injustice and the possibility of changing things, I have been dedicated to that, whatever the cost.
My first jobs were in the social and political arenas. I was a Greenpeace activist, later I defended and fought for animal rights. Later I opted for humans and began to study CIA and FBI interventions in revolutionary movements in the US and in Latin America. I was passionate about the topic. My university friends remember me that way and are not surprised at what I am doing today. I have always been this way. I was also, or I am, a singer and a musician, and I will continue to be all my life. But for me, life is fluid, the form changes, but the spirit remains the same. If I can contribute to social justice through singing, I’ll do it. If it’s my destiny to do it as a lawyer denouncing and investigating, I’ll do that too. I don’t consider myself "common." I see life from the outside, but I live it from inside. I believe in sincerity, honesty, respect, loyalty, and love. More than anything, I believe in justice.
To me the Bolivarian revolution is a global revolution, one of the jost important in history. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to be a witness and a participant in this process. I was born to be here fighting for justice, denouncing the interventions and violations of the empire, contributing my grain of salt to the fight for a better world.
Venezuela is my country, through blood and struggle. My grandfather and his family were born and lived here. His blood runs through my veins and his roots attached to me the first time I stepped on this magical soil more than fifteen years ago. I will never abandon this country. Attacking Venezuela and this revolution is like attacking me in the very foundation of my soul, and I will fight with all I have to defend that. __._,_.___