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In Counterpunch, activist author TJ Coles looks at what declassified CIA archives tell us about how the U.S. policymakers have understood–and misunderstood–Venezuelan reality.

The records are publicly available at the CIA online database known as CREST. They illuminate the historical background of the story that the news media too often slight.

Since the 1940s, the CIA has paid close attention to the oil-rich company on the north coast of South America

The CIA and the wealthy business elites of Venezuela shared the conflation of mild state-socialism with “communism”; and  Intelligence analysts held two, contradictory beliefs, that Venezuelans were prosperous under U.S. patronage, but they also acknowledged that half the population lived in poverty.

The CIA was candid about U.S. interests and who Venezuelans thought were terrorists: the government and police, not leftist insurgents. By the mid-1960s, one report noted,

U.S. capital investments in Venezuela totalled $3 billion, “exceeded only by our investments in Canada and in the UK.” In addition to the “strategic importance” of Venezuela “as the world’s largest exporter of oil,” Venezuela “holds great symbolic value for our policy in Latin America.” But the problem was that Venezuela remained “the only Latin American country in which leftist extremists … have been able to sustain an impressive level of insurgency.” Half the population lived in poverty, says the report, adding that the 300,000 slum-dwellers of the capital, Caracas, “regarded the government and the police–not the terrorists–as its main antagonists [sic].”

The relevance of the CIA analysis for today is this, says Coles. The CIA archives

demonstrate that whichever political party controls both the White House and the Congress, the objective of U.S. policymakers is to monitor the activities of foreign nations, particularly resource-rich ones in which U.S. corporations have a great deal of investment.

Source: The CIA’s View of Venezuela: What We Learn From the Archives

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