Washington and The New York Times keep changing their stories about the role the US played in last week’s coup in Venezuela. On Monday, the Times reported that senior administration officials acknowledged meeting several times with coup leaders and were briefed of the situation in advance. A defense department official said: “We were not discouraging people. We were sending informal, subtle signals that we don’t like [Chavez].” On Tuesday, the Times reported that Otto Reich, a senior State Department official, phoned Venezuelan coup leader Pedro Carmona the very day he took over as interim president. The Times wrote that the State Department had admitted that Reich placed the call to plead with Carmona not to dissolve the National Assembly. He said it would be “a stupid thing to do,” and would provoke an outcry.
But now the Times is saying that the administration has changed its story. As reported today, the State Department has announced that it was not Reich that placed the call to Carmona but the US ambassador to Venezuela, Charles Shapiro. Reich, apparently, merely asked the ambassador to speak with the incoming president.
Otto Reich is the assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs and was a key player in the Iran-Contra scandal. He is a hard-line anti-Castro Cuban immigrant with a long history of covert activity. The theory is spreading that he–along with other veteran cold warriors–helped stage-manage the Venezuelan coup.
- Greg Palast, reporter for BBC Televisions 'News Night,' author of ??The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and writer for the London Guardian.
- Bob Parry, former correspondent for the Associated Press and Newsweek. He reported on the Iran-Contra scandal. His latest book is ??Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press and Project Truth.