Posts Tagged ‘Leopoldo Lopez’

What the Wikileaks Cables Say about Leopoldo López

By JAKE JOHNSTON – CEPR, February 22nd 2014

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López has been thrust onto the international stage during the past week of protests in Venezuela and his arrest on February 21. López is mentioned at least 77 times in diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks. Many of the cables focus on internal disputes within the opposition, with Lopez often in conflict with others both within his party and others in the opposition. Given this history, perhaps it isn’t surprising that the current protests that he has been leading, calling for “la salida” – the exit – of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro have also caused internal divisions within the opposition. David Smilde, a Senior Fellow with the Washington Office on Latin America wrote last week:

While Capriles shook hands with Maduro in January, signifying not only a more conciliatory stance but tacitly recognizing Maduro’s legitimacy, Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado have both taken a harder line and are working outside of the Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD).


Without a doubt, in immediate political terms the biggest beneficiary of yesterday’s [Feb.12] violence was López.

This week, Smilde added in a quote to USA Today, “Before this happened, Lopez was playing second fiddle to Capriles… I think his goal is to try and leapfrog over Capriles. The student protests have put him in the spotlight.”

The Wikileaks Cables show an interesting history of Lopez’s rise to leadership and also show some of the divisions within the opposition. Below, one party leader is quoted as saying that “for the opposition parties, Lopez draws ire second only to Chavez, joking that ‘the only difference between the two is that Lopez is a lot better looking.’” And also, “During a party event December 6, Primero Justicia (PJ) Secretary-General Tomas Guanipa called on Lopez to respect the unity table and its agreements and consensus. Guanipa urged Lopez to ‘not continue dividing us, we should not go through life like crashing cars, fighting with the whole world.’”

The U.S. government has been funding the Venezuelan opposition for at least 12 years, including, as the State Department has acknowledged, some of the people and organizations involved in the 2002 military coup. Their goal has always been to get rid of the Chávez government and replace it with something more to their liking. However, their funding is probably not their most important contribution in Venezuela, since the Venezuelan opposition has most of the wealth and income of the country. A more important role is the outside pressure for unity, which, as these cables and the history of the past 15 years show, has been a serious problem for the Venezuelan opposition. The cables also show that this is a serious concern for the U.S. government.

Below are relevant cables, in chronological order:

February 2, 2006: “On January 27, poloff [the U.S. Embassy Political Officer] met with Primero Justicia (PJ) Secretary General Gerardo Blyde to discuss rumors that an ongoing power struggle among PJ leaders–Blyde and Chacao Mayor Leopoldo Lopez against party president and presidential candidate Julio Borges and Baruta Mayor Henrique Caprilles–may lead to a split in the party (refs a and b).”

December 8, 2006: The cable reports on “winners” and “losers” from the 2006 presidential election. One of the “winners” is López. “Thirty-five year-old Leopoldo Lopez, the Primero Justicia Mayor of the Chacao Burrough of Caracas, distinguished himself on the Rosales campaign. He played a big role in organizing Rosales’ three successful mass rallies in Caracas, including the enormous November 25 rally on the Francisco Fajardo highway. Rosales won 76 percent of the vote in Chacao and won big in adjoining upper middle class neighborhoods.” Chacao has been the center of the current protests.

June 8, 2007: During a period of large student demonstrations, the cables states, “Political parties, however, are eager to try to co-opt the [student] movement. The young, dynamic opposition mayor of Chacao Municipality in Caracas, Leopoldo Lopez, addressed students during early demonstrations in his jurisdiction, and he is actively advising them behind-the-scenes (Ref A).

December 6, 2007: From the cable: “Despite Chavez’ continued opposition-bashing, Arreaza [Chief of Staff to former Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel] said the Venezuelan president has asked former VP Rangel to reach out to the opposition. Arreaza said Rangel this week met with Primero Justicia leader Julio Borges, and Un Nuevo Tiempo leaders, including Chacao Mayor Leopoldo Lopez. The government sees Lopez as the best channel to the student movement, added Arreaza.”

March 28, 2008: The cable reports on a meeting between U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D – OR) and López, noting that “The Senator and his staff discussed possible media strategies with Lopez and methods for getting his positive message to audiences in the U.S.”

April 11, 2008: The U.S. embassy met with a legal advisor to López, who outlined his legal strategy in fighting his ban from political office. She noted that she “believes making Lopez a victim of the BRV’s machinations is making him a more popular candidate.”

July 17, 2008: The U.S. agrees with the analysis of the legal advisor, writing, “Interestingly, the disqualifications appear to be turning Leopoldo Lopez into a national opposition figure, rather than just a rising star in Caracas.”

July 18, 2008: “There is widespread concern within the opposition that a growing rivalry between Zulia Governor Manuel Rosales and Chacao Mayor Leopoldo Lopez is futher [sic] undermining opposition unity.”

July 31, 2008: “Increased international interest this week on the ineligibles’ cause suggests that Lopez and other opposition leaders have had some success is rallying support on the international scene, maybe even more so than at home.”

March 28, 2009: “UNT activists report that there was increasing friction between Maracaibo mayor Manuel Rosales and former Chacao mayor Leopoldo Lopez over leadership of the party. She complained that the older politicians in control of UNT — namely Rosales — are only interested in claiming power for themselves, rather than grooming rising stars in the party who may generate broader public appeal.”

June 10, 2009: “Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT) activist Yenny De Freitas told Poloffs June 8 that the party continues to suffer from a major schism between its self-exiled leader, Manuel Rosales, and Leopoldo Lopez. She said that Lopez, who is currently in charge of UNT’s outreach, is scheming to create his own opposition “movement” outside of the current party system — likely taking advantage of the networks he has developed in his current role and his personal popularity within Caracas.” The cable added, “The absence of the more popular younger generation of opposition leaders almost certainly will feed speculation that all is not well within the parties, and that disgruntled figures like Leopoldo Lopez may be preparing to launch their own self-serving “movement” at the expense of whatever cohesion the current opposition parties are able to achieve.”

September 2, 2009: “Lopez announced September 1, however, that he had in fact been ejected from UNT due to “differences” with party officials over how to proceed in advance of National Assembly (AN) and municipal council elections expected in 2010. Conversations with party rank and file indicate that Lopez, who headed UNT’s grassroots “popular networks” outreach initiative, may attract a broad following to his “movement of movements” — likely creating yet another obstacle to the opposition’s limping attempts to achieve electoral unity. Lopez seems to be saying that he has a better idea of what it will take to beat Chavez and is willing to break with his party to get his way.”

September 2, 2009: “Lopez’s much-publicized rebelliousness is likely to complicate the opposition’s efforts to create a unity slate of candidates for elections in 2010. Lopez seems to believe he knows better how to beat Chavez and will not hesitate to break with his opposition colleagues to get his way.”

October 15, 2009: “[Pollster Luis Vicente] Leon emphasized that the opposition lacks a unifying leader who can transmit its message to the Venezuelan people. He assessed that Leopoldo Lopez was probably hoping to catapult himself into that type of leadership role with his “popular networks” (“redes populares”) initiative.”

November 3, 2009: “Former Mayor of Chacao Leopoldo Lopez, who split with UNT over his support for a “unity ticket,” told [the Political Counselor, “Polcouns”] October 16 that the parties are too comfortable with the status quo to take risks. He also rejected the idea that there were “major parties,” arguing that within the opposition, “all the parties are small parties.”

“Former Chacao Mayor Leopoldo Lopez has become a divisive figure within the opposition, particularly since his very public split with UNT in September. He is often described as arrogant, vindictive, and power-hungry — but party officials also concede his enduring popularity, charisma, and talent as an organizer. PJ’s Ponte said she had worked for Lopez when he was mayor and was impressed by his ability to organize his staff and effectively implement programs. Nevertheless, she said he summarily fired her when her husband opposed Lopez during an internal party conflict while he was still a member of PJ. (Note: Lopez co-founded PJ but left the party to join UNT in 2007. End Note.)”

November 3, 2009: “While the parties need Lopez’s following to expand their narrow electoral base, they appear frustrated with his uncompromising approach and do not trust his motives. Ponte said that for the opposition parties, Lopez draws ire second only to Chavez, joking that “the only difference between the two is that Lopez is a lot better looking.” PJ’s Caldera minimized Lopez’s “social networks” as “political proselytizing” and his projects as no different than those often carried out by opposition parties trying to build public support.”

December 22, 2009: “During a party event December 6, Primero Justicia (PJ) Secretary-General Tomas Guanipa called on Lopez to respect the unity table and its agreements and consensus. Guanipa urged Lopez to “not continue dividing us, we should not go through life like crashing cars, fighting with the whole world. It is not good for the country that you are hoping for something different than us.””

Source: CEPR
After a long time off the air with only blogging and social net to vent our outrage and banter, we’ve finally launched ourselves on YouTube!

… yeah, we know, we’re considering calling these long segments: 2 Fat Old Guys and a Dog lol

We did what we used to do on the radio/podcasts and chewed on some current ugly fat for over an hour (no station manager to shut us up).

AUDIO (right click Punkonomics2014-2-23 and “save as” to download):

Topic: The Post-Occupy/Post-Arab Spring Co-opting of Media and Social Media for the Ends of Destroying Democracy and Promoting the Interests of the Upper Class/1%

This is based on a recent blog post: We are STILL being PLAYED! Venezuela and Ukraine in context
Collection of links:

1966695_780730285289579_1013551254_nWhere does one even start to answer the question everybody is asking: What is going on in Venezuela and Ukraine?!? So in the spirit of punk (and French postmodernism), I’ll just stick a bunch of things together (bricolage). I provide a number of good sources at the bottom for you to get a fuller picture.

So is it a bunch of democracy-loving students engaged in non-violent resistance being violently oppressed by totalitarian governments? No it is not. But it is hard to see the big picture without getting into the long history of Venezuela and Ukraine and many other places. Hell, you need to look at the past 500+ years to really get the picture–oh yeah, that is why education is important but a good real-world education is almost impossible to get and requires many years.

I’ve been having lots of arguments with relatively rich and some very rich ex-students and their friends from Venezuela and have been trying very hard to be as civil as I can because I’m honestly trying to be open and understanding. Knowing that the Venezuela has eradicated hunger while here in the US 20% of kids are hungry today, it breaks my heart and makes me both sad and angry to hear a Venezuelan blogger complain about not being able to bake a cake due to milk shortages!? The economic problems in Venezuela are also not what they seem but on that later. I guess I’ll get some hate for this but the truth is ugly and complicated.

Disclaimer: let’s put Ukraine aside for a moment–I know less about it’s internal politics and will make a special post about it soon. Watch this for now.

In attempting to be “fair and balanced” (pun intended), I tried to watch the mainstream media and anti-government Venezuelan rhetoric too to see if perhaps I’m the one being misled… no, it was BS propaganda to anybody aware of the long and medium term facts of economics and politics–sorry.

I watched Jehane Noujaim’s documentary The Square (2013) about the revolutionary struggles in Egypt in order to catch the current romantic feel of heroic youth uprisings that seem to motivate all the Web 2.0 gushing about Venezuela and Ukraine. Well the Egyptians really did have a genuine uprising against a US supported dictator by poor and rich, secular, and religious youth and they lost their heroic battle, were successfully played by the military, and crushed with the continued support of the US. In the film, an exiled father of one of the revolutionary tells him: “The rich don’t need freedom. The rich are already free.” Now stop for a second and ask yourself: how does this fit into the “struggle for freedom” in the streets of Caracas these past days? It doesn’t!

Why? Because it is entirely orchestrated and run by rich Venezuelans. The majority poor aren’t involved in this at all. A significant minority in Venezuela are critical of their democratically elected government and have been exercising their right of expression and political participation but have not been able to gain power by legal means though Henrique Capriles came close in the previous presidential elections. His moderate minority is also overwhelmingly rich and upper middle-class urban people and he deserves credit for NOT supporting the radical right-wing takeover of the opposition by, most notably Leopoldo Lopez, a billionaire from an old power-family who has been taking violent actions against the Chavez government since the previous CIA backed coup against democracy in 2002. He is and continues to be a rich oligarch thug who deeply resents not being able to rule over his domain like his ancestors before him. Despite his wealth, US support, global financial support, and a sophisticated propaganda machine, he only won the hearts of rich people and it looks like all he accomplished is to break up the legitimate opposition. The violent clashes were rather small and mostly located in their rich neighborhoods and private schools and much of the violence came from Lopez’s followers themselves. Oh yeah, and more innocent civilians are murdered by the government of Colombia (a close ally of the US and Lopez and friends) every week than have died in Venezuela’s riots–double standards?

YES Venezuela has some serious economic problems. These are complex issues I’ll try to tackle in a future post but let’s say that at the very least, we should know that over the past decade, Venezuela has accomplished a tremendous feat of poverty-reduction never seen anywhere in recent times. The lives of a vast majority of the poor population have improved dramatically while everywhere else on Earth over the same time, the opposite has happened–even in China. Furthermore, they accomplished this despite aggressively hostile global economic players who have been funding coups and radical groups and even engaging in direct economic sabotage that are, at least in part, responsible for Venezuela’s economic woes. So whatever legitimate problems they have with street violence, food-prices, and inflation, the Bolivarian democratic regimes in South America have been the first good thing to happen to the vast majority of the people there since the European conquest 500+ years ago and would not have been possible without the leadership of the Venezuelan people and Chavismo–something for Venezuelans to be very proud about!

The Postmodern Twist:

People in supposedly free countries not knowing what is being done in their name is not new: Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky should be required reading (here’s a very short intro about their Propaganda Model). BUT I think it has gotten more dominant especially in the current media coverage of Venezuela and Ukraine. Today, there even is a twist within a twist in that people are posting their outrage about how “the media” is not “covering” the situation. They then post blatant propaganda in support of a what is in actuality a well-engineered propaganda campaign by oligarchic elites to undermine democracy (wow! despite my training in postmodern philosophy, my head spins).

But it gets crazier! The power-elites (aka the 1%) and the military-financial-complex (more on this soon–check this out) are using the well-meaning non-violent work of liberals such as Gene Sharp to execute their coups. No need to send death squads (trained at School of the Americas in Georgia), or militarily support nasty dictators and juntas (like in Egypt among numerous examples). Today they can use well-meaning naive and propagandized students to spark the process of post-colonial oppression: it’s colonizing version 3.0!

Question: ok ok we get it, but what IS going on in the Venezuela?

Answer: An attempted “Soft Coup”:

I’ve adapted this from TeleSUR which is funded by the left governments of America including Venezuela and even Cuba! Not disinterested and independent but a good summary of work by the (IMHO well-meaning) philosopher and political scientist Gene Sharp. Also, consider my previous bla bla, history, provided links (see below), history (yes; again), and judge for yourself if this is not a damn good model for the current goings on:

How to overthrow a government through non-violent methods
(in this context, non-violent implies not organizing guerrillas or invading from abroad):

  1. “Softening”

    • creating climate of opinion focusing on deficiencies

    • disseminate discontent

    • promote shortages, criminality, internal fractures, sabotage

  2. “Delegitimization”

    • ethical and political fracture

    • media campaigns accusing government of being totalitarian (and/or communist) and contrasting opposition as fighting for freedom and human rights

  3. “Street heating”

    • promote conflict and street mobilization

    • promote struggle for globalized political and social demands

    • create state reaction and consequently public discontent in order to radicalize the confrontation

  4. Reaction:

    • Armed actions to justify repressive measures and create climate of ungovernability

    • Smear campaign among state forces to demoralize security forces

  5. “Institutional Fracture”

    • Increased street actions

    • Occupation of institutions

    • Force resignation of government (especially figure -head)

In case of failure to overthrow government, rinse and repeat:

  • escalate stage 3, 4, and 5

  • seek international intervention: sanctions and/or military

  • develop prolonged civil war

Tell me this doesn’t sound awfully familiar!?!

Collection of links: