What Wikileaks Hasn't Told Us (Yet): Coup Edition


The trove of Wikileaks material seems to have, so far, confirmed many things long presumed—the material about drone strikes in Yemen and the Iranian nuke problem, or the rather predictable revelation that Russia is a "mafia state" that supplied separatists in Georgia with weapons, for example. While there haven't been any earth-shattering disclosures just yet, a good number of cables have provided interesting context and detail relating to recent American foreign policy decisions. Here, for instance, is a fascinating (and, I think, often misguided) dispatch from the American embassy in Honduras, outlining its strident opposition to the ouster of former President Manuela Zelaya.

According to various news reports, the governments of Ecuador and Venezuela—partners in empty-headed Chavismo—have offered Assange safe haven if required (though the Ecuadorians have since back tracked on their offer). Chavez's reaction to the Wikileaks revelations is in marked contrast of his ally Vladimir Putin, who fears that the site is in possession of embarrassing material about the Russian government. The material on Venezuela, though, has been pretty thin thus far. French diplomat Jean-David Levitte calls Chavez "crazy"; an American official reports that "Unfortunately, Chavez is taking one of the richest countries in Latin America and turning it into another Zimbabwe"; another writes that Chavez "has no friends." A 2006 cable from the U.S. ambassador in Venezuela notes that Cuban intelligence agents are very active in Caracas, a fact long understood and lamented by opponents of Chavismo. Ho-hum.

So what about the coup? The Venezuelan government and its American sycophants long ago determined that Washington was behind the 2002 military coup that briefly overthrew Chavez. But American academic Brian Nelson's excellent book The Silence and the Scorpions (published, incidentally, by Nation Books) presents, in painstaking detail, the series of events leading up to the coup, concluding that the American embassy did not guide the military in its toppling of Chavez. So what will the cables tell us about April 2002? If no evidence of United States involvement in the 2002 turns up in this batch, it certainly doesn't prove that Washington wasn't meddling in Caracas's affairs. But an absence of any incrimination material would lend further support to the Nelson thesis—that the United States was certainly not neutral (the Bush administration was clearly pleased with events in Venezuela), but that it didn't have a hand in the coup.