Rumors: Vennie Offensive Tomorrow
July 16, 2009

Rumors are flying among the expat Venezuelan (anti-Chavez) community and Hondurans that a Venezuelan offensive is in process, possibly for as early as tonite or tomorrow. Details of the rumors include:

1) Venezuelan agents are infilitrating tonite through neighboring countries to prepare for (a) attacking Micheletti and the presidential administration directly and (b) taking principal roads and bridges along with trade union supporters (which demonstrations have already been announced publicly).

2) Payments are being made to military officers to switch sides and to execute a “counter-coup”. Payments are also being made to politicians to switch sides.

3) Violence is to be instigated, and chaos, creating the opportunity for some military units to take over an airport and a border region to facilitate different options for Zelaya’s return to the ground. Such violence also is intended to undermine the legitimacy of the interim regime, which to date has created unexpected local unity of response.

Update: Variations on these email rumors hit the Honduran press  last night.

As discussed in our previous posts, these rumors are consistent with what we would expect given Chavez’s tactical and strategic goals (Chavez Chess, Queening his Pawn, Smoking Gun). First, as a tactical matter right now Zelaya is precariously close to becoming a joke, and his physical presence outside the country only emphasizes his cozy relationship with Chavez. Therefore Chavez must get him back on the ground, and a violent encounter turns him into a serious figure again. It also provides cover for the “international community” to send in more reinforcements; to date, Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan citizens (or agents, if you will) have been sent out of the country in numbers — getting Zelaya back will allow for a reversal of this trend.

Chavez has calculated that the US is sidelined militarily under Obama; it is expected that the barest pretense of legitimacy for his offensive operation will neuter the possibility of defensive aid from Palmerola. Obama’s stance has become an invitation for aggressive behavior.

As we have pointed out in previous posts, Chavez oil revenues are such that it is trivial for him to flood the Honduran economy with bribes. He has already broadcast his intention to turn junior officers to his side, and of course he was a junior coup-ster himself in 1992.

Moreover, apart from his expansionist desires, it is now important to Chavez for defensive reasons that Honduras falls. The counter-example of a small country that can successfully push back is a serious threat both to ALBA and to his domestic flank (Castro has discussed the risk of more regional “coups” against leftists). Chaos is important for these reasons now; it will undercut the “success” of the Honduran push-back against Chavez even if Zelaya is not ultimately reinstated. Chaos also supports his general goal of weakening the American strongpoint in Palmerola. Last, it potentially derails the election process. For all these reasons, he is incentivized to be more aggressive rather than less.

Apart from the rumors, there are other indications that action is pending. Zelaya has publicly hinted that there will be unspecified “activities” by this weekend, and he has stated that insurrection is justified. Chile’s Bachelet has stated fears of a bloodbath. The curfew has been renewed. Costa Rican legislators have called for Micheletti’s arrest (further delegitimizing his status) if he re-visits Costa Rica. Most of all, the clock is working against Chavez and Zelaya as negotiations move forward; they have to reset the game and do it quickly.

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VenImperialism: Divide and Conquer
July 10, 2009

The Chavez offensive against Honduras continues. Today he is employing divide and conquer tactics along two dimensions: the Honduran Military and the US Administration.

The first move, astonishingly brazen, is to call for junior officers to rise up against their senior officers. Recall that Chavez himself originally attempted a coup as a junior officer. He effectively admits to fomenting rebellion in another sovereign country (via El Heraldo):

Vamos a ver cuánto tiempo dura la obediencia ciega de los coronelos y tropas de Honduras ante la locura que estamos viviendo”, dijo Chávez, quien aseguro conocer “hasta cierto nivel” las fuerzas militares de Honduras “y es relativamente pequeña, unos diez mil hombres”, dijo Chávez.

“La mayoría formados a imagen y semejanza del imperio norteamericano”, acotó.

Translation:  “‘We will see how long the blind obedience of Colonels and troops of Honduras continues in the face of the craziness we are living,’ said Chavez, who claimed to know ‘up to a certain level’ the military forces of Honduras ‘and it is relatively small, about 10,000 men,’ said Chavez. ‘The majority formed in the image of the north american imperium.'”

Despite the bluster, Chavez cannot hope to conduct an effective military operation against this small but well trained force. But that is not his goal. His goal is buy off a group of them. He will bribe them to ally with Zelaya just as he first bribed Zelaya.

The second divide and conquer tactic he uses today (in the same article) is to try to drive a wedge between Obama and Hillary. He realizes that Hillary, in moving for mediation in Costa Rica, effectively took the pressure off of the US.  He calls the mediation effort a “crass error,” “an abortion,” and a “trap” that Zelaya is wisely avoiding (I guess the mediation is over). Now Chavez tries to get the US to reverse course somehow, and he knows that the only way to do it is to exploit the tension that exists between White House and State.  Also, he probably feels Obama will be easier to manipulate in this regard. He calls for Obama to “put things in their place” upon his return.

His appeal to the military would be completely off the table if there were more leadership emanating from Washington.  But Hondurans honestly do not know what support they will receive from their historic ally, or from the US troops stationed outside of Tegucigalpa. So a junior officer will consider “Maybe this actually will work; maybe the US would run.” Obama’s passive stance in siding with Chavez is encouraging his efforts to pry apart Honduran civil society.

Obama should call for continued talks and mediation, with an eye to the November elections as a final solution. He would simultaneously support his flank at the State Department, reassure Hondurans that are worried about Chavez, support a legal process to resolution, and, finally, counter the perception that he is simply dancing to Chavez’s every tune.

Smoking Gun of Vennie Imperialism
July 8, 2009

Evidence continues to mount that events in Honduras have all been the result of a coordinated Venezuelan offensive.

The Honduran newspaper El Heraldo finds additional signs of direct Venezuelan interference in Honduras. Chavez’s Telesur coverage of Zelaya’s attempted landing in Tegucigalpa shows Chavez next to a whiteboard with the following text:

“051345JUL09 Enjambre de abejas africanas, Tribuna Presidencial, heridos por picadas y desesperación de las personas”

Translation: “051345JUL09 Swarm of african bees, Presidential Gallery, wounded by stings and desperation/confusion of the people”

El Heraldo notes the military notation for time and date (1:45pm on July 5) that corresponds to the demonstration in favor of Zelaya that resulted in one death after the mob tried to break through the fence surrounding the airport. This appears to be direct evidence that Chavez coordinated the mob with the intent of creating bloodshed.

Blogger Hunter Smith has been investigating whether the gun shot(s) that killed a protestor may have also been coordinated.

It may be time for Hondurans to appeal directly to the people of Venezuela.