I have a problem. I'm trying to understand the crisis in Venezuela at the moment, and I've seen many videos on Youtube which purport to explain it correctly. Many videos make starkly opposite claims, and they mostly have 100% up-votes, which makes me think that people are accepting whatever information they're hearing. In one video, titled "Explaining the US-led right-wing coup in Venezuela" a commentator, Ben Norton, who sounds very knowledgeable about the history and facts, implies that what many believe to be a coup by the US to oust Nicolas Maduro is comparable to what the US supposedly did in 2002 to support the coup against Hugo Chavez.

I have read the entire Wikipedia article titled 2002 Venezuelan coup d'etat attempt, and it isn't clear to me that the US had a significant role in the events that occurred in 2002. First of all, the calls for Chavez to resign and the reasons for it seem to have been domestic within Venezuela itself. Chavez continuously made decisions under his rule by decree powers which angered the general people, the military, the state-owned oil company, labor unions and media outlets.

Furthermore, Hugo Chavez himself said he didn't believe the US was involved, then after the event said that the US knew about the coup and approved of it. Other Chavez supporters attribute more involvement by the US, specifically the CIA. Also the point is made that the US knew about an attempted coup since late-2001, however talks of an imminent coup were circulating within Venezuela itself for months before it happened (the article isn't clear if the US knew about it before it had already been known within Venezuela).

I know that most (all?) countries meddle in the affairs of other countries, and the United States has a particularly bad track record with regard to the Americas in general, but I get the feeling that there's this instinct to blame the US any time a coup is about to happen. If you want to read about the allegations of US-involvement in the 2002 coup attempt, this is the section in the article that goes over this.
Allegations of US involvement

So here's the quote from the commentator. The second paragraph is there just for context. The substance of the claim I'm asking about is in the first paragraph. And here is the point in the video when he speaks these words.

And also, this is not the first coup. In 2002, when Hugo Chavez was elected the Bush Administration also supported a military coup that briefly ousted Hugo Chavez. But, Hugo Chavez, who preceded Nicolas Maduro, was so popular that the masses of the Venezuelan people went out into the streets and demanded the restoration of Hugo Chavez, and the military rebelled against the coup regime and reinstalled Hugo Chavez after two days. That was back in April 2002. The Bush administration had its hands all over that. Mainstream media outlets have admitted this, the CIA was involved in that plot, as has been the case for decades.

The US and specifically the CIA has supported dozens of military coups, political coups, of, you know, opposition groups throughout Latin America, trying to destabilize every leftist government.

Addition: Here is the same claim made by Abby Martin.

"The US has enacted a policy of regime change since Hugo Chavez got elected in 1999. Not only did the Bush Administration work with the Venezuelan opposition in order to install a bloody coup in 2003 where they kidnapped Hugo Chavez at the barrel of a gun, ..."
Link to video

Addition 2: Here is the same claim made by Ana Kasparian, host of the show The Young Turks:

And remember, the US has been attempting to do a coup against Venezuela since 2002. There was a failed coup back in 2002, and it was US-backed, and that was when Hugo Chavez was the president.
Link to quote in video

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    Ben Norton is a great person to watch if you want to see someone defend left-wing dictators (Maduro) and right-wing dictators (Assad), apparently merely because the US wants them gone.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 16:27
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    The second and third paragraphs here seem to focus a lot on the coup being popular within Venezuela, basically implying "the coup would have happened even without US involvement". Are you looking for answers that contradict that (e.g. "The coup was entirely orchestrated by the US") or just evidence that clearly shows effort by the US to make the coup succeed ("e.g. "The US provided money to the coup")? Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 17:03
  • One thing you can be sure of is that a mob never becomes capable of forming a plan and executing a coup. There is always a government or other source of finance. In other words the wolverines from Red Dawn only exist in Hollywood. Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 18:17
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    @KamilDrakari No, actually the opposite. Since the guy said things like the "Bush Administration also supported a military coup that briefly ousted Hugo Chavez" and "The Bush administration had its hands all over that" and "the CIA was involved in that plot" he seems to suggest that the US played a significant role in making that attempted coup happen, and the evidence I've seen for that doesn't go much further than speculation or that certain people between the two countries had meetings. I think he's making his case against the US too strong, unless there's evidence he's seen that I haven't.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 18:34
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    @FrankCedeno - there are plenty historical examples of your assertion being wrong. The most recent I can think of was Egypt - no foreign involvement at all. A more distant one was the February 1917 revolution in Russia (unlike the Bolshevik October 1917 one, which was supported by Germans). Going with Russia again: A Zhukov coup against Beria after Stalin's death was fully internal. GKChP coup attempt was fully internal. Attempted 1993 coup was internal (President vs. Parlament). FDR's court-packing attempt was fully internal. French revolution had no outside financing. On and on....
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 13:27

1 Answer 1


Declassified CIA documents reported on by The New York Times and pro-Chavez media suggest that the U.S. knew about the coup but told the plotters they wouldn't support them.

The Central Intelligence Agency was aware that dissident military officers and opposition figures in Venezuela were planning a coup against President Hugo Chávez in 2002, newly declassified intelligence documents show. But immediately after the overthrow, the Bush administration blamed Mr. Chávez, a left-leaning populist, for his own downfall and denied knowing about the threats.


In a senior intelligence executive brief dated April 6 -- one of several documents obtained by Jeremy Bigwood, a freelance investigative reporter in Washington and posted on at www.venezuelafoia.info/, a pro- Chávez Web site -- the C.I.A. said that "disgruntled senior officers and a group of radical junior officers are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chávez, possibly as early as this month." Those intelligence briefs are typically read by as many as 200 officials in the Bush administration.

The same brief said the plot would single out Mr. Chávez and 10 senior officials for arrest. It went on to say that the plotters would try to "exploit unrest stemming from opposition demonstrations slated for later this month" or from strikes staged by white-collar workers at the state oil company. Two days later, another brief stated flatly: "Disgruntled officers are planning a coup."

The documents do not show that the United States backed the coup, as Mr. Chávez has charged. Instead, the documents show that American officials issued "repeated warnings that the United States will not support any extraconstitutional moves to oust Chávez."

It's worth noting that even this was an embarrassing admission on its own: the U.S. claimed that they had no knowledge at all of the coup. The documents proved they were lying.

If for some reason the CIA was lying in its internal documentation while unnecessarily implicating itself in another embarrassing admission (and the State Department inspector general is likewise crooked), no one has been able to produce hard evidence showing so. As you note, even Chavez waffled on his claim the U.S. supported the coup.

  • Thank you, this is type of information and answer I wanted. It doesn't settle the question definitively, but definitely discredits the charge that the US had significant involvement in the coup, especially in a way as characterized by Ben Norton. I assume there are those of different opinions, so I'll allow time for anyone else to add their two cents if they want.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 9:51
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    Why exactly do you think it's embarrassing? Why would the US admit to having information if they don't need or want people to know?
    – JJJ
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 10:56
  • @JJJ I'm just guessing here, but it was embarrassing because they technically told a lie about knowing about it? And fuels beliefs about them being involved. Also I've just seen another commentator/journalist make exactly the same claim, the US government created the coup in 2002, I've added the quote and video link in my question. I really don't know what to believe, I know things are complicated, but some people just speak so fervently from their point of view, and I get the feeling too many people are unquestioningly credulous. I sort of don't blame them as we're inundated with info.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 11:07
  • @Zebrafish surely the journalist had some proof to support their claim? If not, I wouldn't trust the info, especially given RT's reputation for being connected to the Kremlin.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 11:19

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