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Meet Elliott Abrams, the war criminal enlisted to ‘steer US Venezuela policy’

The US has appointed a convicted war criminal who presided over the 1980s 'dirty war' era, when US-backed death squads murdered hundreds of thousands in Latin America, warns FRANCISCO DOMINGUEZ

THE WORLD was stunned when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reported that Elliott Abrams, retired US State Department veteran, was to be appointed Special Envoy to assist himself, John Bolton, and the Trump administration’s efforts at regime change in Venezuela.

The appointment takes place in a context of fierce resistance by the Bolivarian government and people to defend the nation’s sovereignty in the face of thus far the nastiest US assault yet on Venezuela.

The Chavista movement remains strongly united and highly mobilised; the armed forces, despite repeated appeals by Marco Rubio, Rex Tillerson, et al, continue to be staunchly loyal to the president and the constitution; the extreme right mobilisations to support Juan Guaido, the self-proclaimed “interim president,” have been unimpressive; and, more importantly, Pompeo’s efforts to obtain resolutions recognising Guaido at both the Organisation of American States and the UN security council were soundly defeated. Even the Lima Group of right-wing governments has issued a statement against US military attack on Venezuela.

Thus Pompeo’s decision, apart from showing the team of neocons in Washington’s inability to inflict the lethal blow to Maduro’s government, confirms the worst fears about US intentions towards Venezuela. Examining Abrams’s background and some of his deeds we can see why.

Abrams was a member of George W Bush’s National Security Council staff and, therefore, was centrally involved in the US-orchestrated coup against Hugo Chavez in April 2002. At the time The Observer reported that “specialists in the ‘dirty wars’ of the eighties encouraged the plotters who tried to topple President Chavez.” 

For the newspaper, however, the “crucial figure around the coup was Abrams, who operates in the White House as senior director of the National Security Council for ‘democracy, human rights and international operations.’ He was a leading theoretician of the school known as ‘Hemispherism’, which put a priority on combatting Marxism in the Americas.”

The very mention of his name sends shivers down the spine. Business Insider’s report on his appointment says it all: “Trump’s man to handle the Venezuela crisis was convicted in the Iran-Contra affair and fought to cover-up the worst massacre in recent Latin American history.” The massacre referred to was the murder of nearly 1,000 people in the village of El Mozote in El Salvador perpetrated by forces trained and equipped by – guess who? – the US.

This was during the Reagan administration when US policy went into financing, training and equipping death squads, including the Contra mercenaries against Sandinista Nicaragua. Such a policy between 1980 and 1990 led to the murder of at least 50,000 in Nicaragua, 80,000 in El Salvador and 120,000 in Guatemala.

Elliott Abrams played a central role in these atrocities in his capacity as US State Dept assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs (1981-85) and assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs (1985-1989).

The dates neatly coincide with US policy, “steered by Abrams,” that led US-organised mercenary troops to murder over 250,000 people in only three countries in Central America. Many consider these to be conservative figures. The victims were overwhelmingly unarmed and poor civilians as well as teachers, doctors, peasants, workers, students, women, nuns and priests, including bishops such as El Salvador’s martyr Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who was assassinated while saying mass in the cathedral. This wave of murderous repression was always “supplemented” by widespread rape.

Many of the murders in Guatemala took place under the dictatorship of Efrain Rios Montt (1982-83) when hundreds of indigenous villages disappeared, destroyed by the military, leading to a global outcry. At the time Montt was carrying out these atrocities against the Mayan indigenous communities, Abrams came out and mounted a sturdy defence of Montt claiming he had “brought considerable progress” on human rights and he went as far as to stress that “the amount of killing of innocent civilians is being reduced step by step” before demanding that Congress provide the regime with advanced arms because its alleged “progress need[ed] to be rewarded and encouraged.”

Abrams was also central to the Iran-Contra Affair which involved the secret and illegal selling of arms to Iran (subject to a US arms embargo) with the proceeds used to finance the murderous activities of the Contras in Nicaragua. Elliott Abrams was convicted of withholding evidence but was pardoned by George HW Bush. This, though it may sound insubstantial, conceals the monstrous atrocities that had been perpetrated under Abrams’s watch.

The congressional committees that investigated the affair concluded in 1989 that: “The common ingredients of the Iran and Contra policies were secrecy, deception, and disdain for the law…the United States simultaneously pursued two contradictory foreign policies — a public one and a secret one”. In 2013 Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to 80 years in prison. Abrams was fined US$50 and given 100 hours of community service.

Thus, the appointment by Pompeo of Elliott Abrams to assist with this pesky Venezuelan government, that no matter how hard the US hit the country’s economy and no matter how many destabilisation plans are carried out continues to survive and seems to draw strength from every attack, is indeed very ominous.

It would indicate that the US having systematically failed to oust the democratically elected government of President Maduro, seems to be preparing a “dirty war” and probably the full raft of nasty and dirty tricks, probably including selective assassinations, the bringing in of paramilitaries, the use of bombs, brutal attacks and other tactics the US is accustomed to adopt when in “regime change” mood against this beleaguered South American nation.

Let me paraphrase Henry Kissinger: We, the good people of the UK and of the world, cannot stand idly by and watch the destruction of the national economy, sovereignty and right to self determination of Venezuela by the murderous activities of US neocons. What is at stake is the national sovereignty of all Latin American nations, since if the US gets away with “regime change” in Venezuela, no nation will be safe. Venezuela needs all the solidarity of the good people of the UK in this hour of dire need. No pasaran!

Francisco Dominguez is secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign


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