Brazil’s extreme Bolsonaro government backed an attack on Venezuela in a plot to overthrow its elected president. The shocking terror operation has received no coverage in mainstream US media.
By Ben Norton
Brazil’s far-right government helped support military attacks on Venezuela in hopes of inciting a coup and violently overthrowing the country’s leftist government.
This plan was revealed by a major pro-government newspaper in Brazil. And yet the shocking story was not covered by any mainstream paper in the US or Europe. Outside a lone report by Venezuela’s state-backed teleSUR — which Washington-backed coup plotters are now trying to usurp – the story was completely ignored in Anglophone media.
The United States has supported a series of coup attempts against Venezuela’s elected government since 2002, which accelerated in 2019. But the details of Brazil’s role in the latest plot is a novel revelation.
On December 31, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo disclosed the putsch plans in an article titled “Attack on barracks by soldiers who took refuge in Brazil was part of larger plan against Maduro.” The subtitle added, “Deserters intended to initiate large-scale military uprising, but failed.”
O Globo is one of Brazil’s most widely circulated outlets. It has a staunch right-wing editorial line and is infamous for supporting Brazil’s fascist military dictatorship between the 1960s and ’80s.
The paper maintains close ties to Brazil’s political and military establishment. And it consulted with numerous sources to reconstruct the plans for the latest attacks on Venezuela.
Trilogy: 3 planned attacks on Venezuela, with help from foreign countries
With the support of neighboring right-wing countries, Venezuelan military defectors planned to launch three military uprisings against the Venezuelan government on or around Christmas Eve, according to O Globo.
The official name of the operation was Trilogia (Trilogy). One attack targeted Venezuela’s Bolívar state on the southeastern border with Brazil; a second attack was planned as an amphibious invasion; and a third was to take place near Colombia’s border.
Two of these three planned attacks failed, as only one of the groups carried out the orders as planned.
Brazil-backed insurgents crossed into Venezuelan territory and, on December 22, attacked the 513 Selva Mariano Montilla infantry battalion in Venezuela’s Bolívar state, located roughly 230 kilometers from Brazil’s northern-most state Roraima, near the border of the two countries.
A total of 16 Venezuelan military deserters participated in the attack on the Mariano Montilla barracks, killing a Venezuelan soldier and wounding another.
They stole weapons, including 112 rifles, 120 grenades, three rocket launchers, three machine guns, 10, bazookas, and 10 ammunition boxes, according to another O Globo report.
In a parallel operation, Brazil-backed insurgents also attacked soldiers in the Venezuelan city of Santa Elena, near the border. But this operation ultimately failed.
Unnamed sources told O Globo the ultimate goal of the operation was to build a more heavily armed “superior force” to carry out larger and larger attacks against Venezuela’s government, kicking off a protracted violent insurgency in southern Venezuela, on the border area with Brazil.
Brazil’s, and Guaidó’s, complicity in the attacks
These attacks on Venezuela had the backing of Brazil’s far-right government, led by President Jair Bolsonaro, a fascistic demagogue who came to power following a US-backed parliamentary and legal coup that forced Brazil’s center-left Workers’ Party from power.
Bolsonaro has pledged to purge, imprison, and exile leftists, and has staunchly defended his country’s previous military dictatorship, while heaping praise on the murderous junta of US-backed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Before and after the attacks on Venezuela, according to O Globo, there were “high-level communications” between Brazil’s Foreign Ministry and the coup regime of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
Guaidó, who the United States has been trying to forcibly install as the head of state of Venezuela, had been recognized by Bolsonaro as the supposed “president” of the country although he was never elected to the position.
Guaidó and Bolsonaro have met and publicly demanded the ouster of Venezuela’s elected, UN-recognized President Nicolás Maduro.
Nos reunimos con el Presidente @jairbolsonaro para continuar fortaleciendo la ayuda humanitaria, evaluar la situación en nuestra frontera común y establecer compromisos como parte de los próximos pasos para lograr la libertad de Venezuela. pic.twitter.com/b06GcRJfaw
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 1, 2019
According to O Globo, most of the coup-plotters who participated in the botched military uprising hid in Venezuela. Many were subsequently arrested.
Yet five of the insurgents crossed back over into Brazil and hid for several days among the Taurepang indigenous community in Roraima state. Members of this community informed the Brazilian government, which then decided to rescue and officially grant refuge to the Venezuelan defectors on December 26.
O Globo noted that Venezuela’s foreign-backed right-wing opposition expressed “relief” at Bolsonaro’s decision to protect the Venezuelan soldiers who had carried out a violent attack on their homeland.
Venezuela’s actual government, on the other hand, harshly condemned the Bolsonaro administration for its decision to legally protect the coup-plotters, stating that it was “setting a dangerous precedent of protection for people who committed flagrant offenses against peace and the stability of another state.”
Venezuela has formally requested the extradition of the five defectors protected by Brazil, but the far-right Bolsonaro administration has dismissed Caracas’ requests on the grounds that it does not recognize Maduro’s legitimacy.
Brazilian media confirms what Venezuelan government said
The O Globo report confirms public statements by Venezuelan government officials after the December 22 attack.
Venezuela’s communication minister, Jorge Rodríguez, declared that the defectors not only had support from the government of Bolsonaro, but were also trained in paramilitary camps in Colombia.
Estos criminales fueron entrenados en campamentos paramilitares plenamente identificados en Colombia, y recibieron la colaboración artera del Gob de Jair Bolsonaro
— Jorge Rodríguez (@jorgerpsuv) December 22, 2019
The Venezuelan intelligence services tracked the infiltrators’ movements from Brazil, through Peru, and into the Colombian city of Cali, where they received training.
Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, wrote, “From Peru they enter Colombia and they receive support also from Brazil. This is a coup-mongering strategy of triangulation by the governments of the Lima Cartel to produce violence, death, and destabilization in Venezuela.”
Denunciamos que el grupo de mercenarios que ha pretendido generar violencia y que hoy asaltó la unidad militar en Gran Sabana, tiene su base de operaciones en Perú. Las autoridades peruanas son al menos cómplices, al permitir que estos terroristas se organicen impunemente.
— Jorge Arreaza M (@jaarreaza) December 23, 2019
The coup plotters also entangled local indigenous communities in their violent operations, recruiting accomplices from the native groups on the border area between Venezuela and Brazil.
Nine members of the local Venezuelan indigenous community were involved in the attacks, according to O Globo, and all were arrested for their role in the botched coup attempt.
Tensions between Venezuela and Brazil remain at a boiling point. However, Maduro has hesitated to sever all ties with the powerful neighbor in order to preserve trade between the countries.
Unilateral US sanctions on Venezuela have already killed tens of thousands of civilians and made it difficult to import food into the country. Venezuela still relies on food from Brazil’s massive agricultural sector to help feed communities near the border. The imports are especially important as Washington attempts to sanction Caracas’ CLAP food distribution program, which feeds seven million families.
Venezuela’s government has managed to fend off the violent infiltration and subterfuge by its powerful neighbor. But thanks to a media blackout, the plot remains unknown to almost everyone in the US, except perhaps to those who helped hatch it.
Benjamin Norton is the founder and editor of the independent news website Multipolarista, where he does original reporting in both English and Spanish. Benjamin has reported from numerous countries, including Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Colombia, and more. His journalistic work has been published in dozens of media outlets, and he has done interviews on Sky News, Al Jazeera, Democracy Now, El Financiero Bloomberg, Al Mayadeen teleSUR, RT, TRT World, CGTN, Press TV, HispanTV, Sin Censura, and various TV channels in Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Benjamin writes a regular column for Al Mayadeen (in English and Spanish). He was formerly a reporter with the investigative journalism website The Grayzone, and previously produced the political podcast and video show Moderate Rebels. His personal website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.