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Hugo Chavez

Although she has a 27-year professional experience, she is still a young woman that answered our questions with dynamism and precision. Before we ended our interview, she gave us several documents that were very useful for our investigation and which are irrefutable evidence of the links between the US secret services and the Venezuelan DISIP, who were interested, since the beginning, in neutralizing the relationship of the Bolivarian Commander with his people. As part of the evidence, there are several certificates of the courses she received from CIA officials and organized by the US Embassy in Caracas. For security reasons, we will not reveal the name of our interviewee.

- What did you study?

- International Relations and then Law.

- Do you have any military rank?

- No, I am a civilian, an analyst of foreign security.

- What was your area of analysis in 1992?

- I was in charge of the Cuba case. I worked in the DISIP. In February 4th, the team in charge of the international area, to which I belonged, began a new stage. There was a lot of pressure during the coup d’état and there was a reorganization of work. By the way, it was my birthday and I remember we were joking and we said: “somebody decided to immortalize the day of my birthday”. When the uprising began we did not know what was happening and I even wonder if I should go to my office. I was taking a course of the US Embassy...

- What was the course about?

- Intelligence Analysis and Reports and. I have the certificate they gave me. I took several courses with the Americans and also, following instructions from my superiors, I gave workshops for US intelligence officers about the results of my work. The topic I was working on was particularly important for them.

- Please, let us clarify what you are saying: did the US intelligence services train you for all that work?

- Yes. As I said, I have the certificates and even a letter from a CIA official who makes an evaluation of my work during one of those courses. It was no secret in the DISIP that US services trained officers and specialists in this kind of techniques and that they had profiles about us all. They permanently evaluated us as officials and, at the same time, we provided them with sensitive information related to our work.

For example, this is a certificate that accredits that between January 27th to February 4th, 1992, I participated in a training course organized by the US Embassy. The following year, I took another. It was very normal and something I had to do because I was in charge of the Cuba case. As a matter of fact, people even came from the United States as they were interested in what we had about the island. They came not only from the United States but also from other “friendly” countries like Germany, for instance.

Letter that the specialist received for her good performance during the workshop given by CIA agents in Caracas.

- The contacts between the DISIP and the Israeli services were also famous. Did you meet with them too?

- Yes, that is true but I never met with them.

- Do you remember the names of the US officials who gave you the instructions?

- Their names are in the diplomas but they did not use their real names.

- Where did the training courses take place?

- In hotels in Caracas. They never did it in the embassy but the certificates came from there as it appears in the letterhead.

- What was the objective of your work?

- To analyze the Cuban process after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I had to make evaluations and predictions. It was taken for granted that, after what happened in Europe, Cuba would not survive the failure of European socialism or the US economic siege. All studies indicated that the Castro government would fall. They expected the implosion of the government.

- What kind of special analysis did you make about Cuba and Fidel?

- In my specific case, I was in charge of the political area. We met on several occasions with dissidents who arrived in Venezuela and asked for asylum. We listened to them. I participated in their meetings and in the interviews with them. Obviously, they said they came from a terrible world, that everything there was bad. I tried to take distance from those positions and to analyze them from a simple reflection: if I wanted to leave my country and take advantage from that, I would say the same.

As I was studying Law in those years, I tried to find information about the Cuban reality in the university; it was a topic that was very discussed in the sector. Of course, I realized that the Cuban process was far more complex than what I could find in US reports and in the opinions of émigrés. That the Berlin Wall had fallen did not mean that Cuba would fall.

I tried to get rid of the prejudices and I tried to look at the issue with a more academic approach and not as an intelligence officer would do it. I wanted to get to its roots, to have an idea of what was really going on to have the necessary knowledge when the time came for me to express my opinion. I read everything I could, although the information at that time was very biased. Of course, I attended the meetings of the anti-Castro elements in Venezuela and, in one of them, I met Mas Canosa. I particularly remember a lady who always organized the meetings.

- What is her name?

- Silvia, but I don’t remember her last name. She was a tall elder elegant woman. She lived in Caracas. I had no direct contacts with her because, due to the peculiarities of my intelligence work, I never openly mixed with those people. At certain moment, they asked me to evaluate Chávez.

- When and why?

- After the military crisis of 1992, immediately, the attention to the Cuban process began to decrease and the internal situation gain interest. Venezuela was the priority. Clearly, there had to be an internal reorganization of the DISIP as more than 100 officers of certain rank were in jail. It caused national shock. We began to assess what the people said in the streets, what they said in the university. When he was released from prison in 1994, they began to follow him closely: who visited him, with whom he met, how was his life. I began a process to know who the man was. Then, I was in charge of two issues: Cuba and Chávez.

- Why were you assigned the analysis of Chávez if you were in charge of an international issue?

- It started exactly when he began an international tour in 1994, before he went to the island. I followed his visit to Colombia, then to other countries and finally to Cuba. I could say that it was my duty. For one reason or another, he was always in my working desk as he was becoming a figure of international renown.

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Caracas

- What was the assessment of his trip to Cuba?

- The decision was to make him look like a criminal because, at that time, it was not clear what Chávez’s political position was. He was making contacts with many forces. He had relations with people from the right and from the left although the government of Caldera had it clear that he was a political enemy, a threat, because he refused to agree with the government and could not be manipulated. However, his trip to Cuba set off the alarms.

- What does that mean?

- It was a clear signal. I was ordered to evaluate his projection. I still have the video of his speech in Havana and other materials they gave me to study his way of thinking, his proposals, and his way to act in public. It was then that I began to look beyond his words to find out who he was, from where he came and how he appeared. I tried to figure out what his plan and his strategy was.

During the two years that he was in jail it was practically impossible to evaluate his way of thinking with accuracy because he hardly had any public expression. People went to see him, wrote to him, admired him, but he did not looked like an immediate danger being in jail. As soon as he left prison he was received as a hero all across Venezuela and he began to appear in the media explaining his political program. He became a serious concern for the government. Then, there was his international tour that included trips to Colombia, Panama, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile... However, it was after his return from Cuba that they decided to study him carefully and to obtain information not only through operating methods but also by carrying out professional analysis of his personality and his thinking.

Let us say that from that moment on, what he calls Bolivarianism began to take shape as an ideology and they found out that Hugo Chávez was not only saying things at random, that he was not just another prophet who appeared there, a John Baptist in the desert. Until then, he had been ignored intellectually. After this meeting with Fidel Castro, everything changed.

- You spoke of Chávez’s international tour that also included Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile... Was there any contact with those countries’ intelligence services?

- Of course. Do not forget that at that time, because of his relationship with Chávez, they expelled Norberto Ceresole from Venezuela. It was made in coordination with the Argentinean government, the country of residence of that Uruguayan theoretician who was a very controversial man. I did not have access to classified reports that could show the collaboration between the intelligence services but clearly, in this case and in others, there should have been an exchange of information and conciliation of actions. My superiors in the DISIP were only interested in what I produced and they did not give me access to secret information. I was there to provide them with ideas on how and where to act. Nothing more.

- Did you recommend actions?

- No. My work was to make analysis from generally public sources. That is, I analyzed what he said, who could be influenced, the effect of his ideas, etc.

- In order to analyze his visit to Cuba, what sources did you consult?

- News notes and the video with the details of the visit, including the speeches he gave there.

- What was your diagnosis?

- In Havana, Chávez ratified something that I have been saying: he was a great communicator. He used with extraordinary efficiency the mass psychology. He was not an insane man as the press and some DISIP officials contemptuously called him. I wonder, for example, why does he sing the National Anthem? Because in the mass psychology it works as an element of unity. When he sang the anthem or a popular song it had an effect on the people around him who joined and followed him due to his great communicative skills. This kind of element was underestimated. “But he speaks a lot,” they used to say. “Listen to him,” I replied.

What actually happens is that Chávez is able to transmit a message in different levels of the collective conscious and subconscious. He begins to create a certain rapport and then he knows how to insert his political message. And the people accepted it and identified themselves with him. He managed to incorporate these communication techniques to his personal contacts with the people. He began to tour the country. He created a symbolic body that he later brilliantly included in his speeches. Until Chávez’s appearance in the Venezuelan public scene, no other politician had been able to reach those levels of communication with the people.

- How did they assess your evaluations?

- They were underestimated as much as they underestimated Chávez. They thought that with time his program would deteriorate and that the measures taken to terrify him and to harass him would have an effect. I think they betted more on force than on intelligence. I am sure that it would have been more effective to face him in his own ground after having figured him out.

It was a mistake not to give importance to his ability as a leader. It was not overnight that Hugo Chávez became a “phenomenon” and grew in the people’s minds. Simply, the only thing he showed was that it was possible to do in Venezuela what he was saying since he left prison. His strategy was the same since the beginning and the people immediately realized that it was not more of the same.

- Do you remember exactly what your evaluation of his trip to Cuba was?

- We worked in two categories: situation and appreciation. At that time there was a big academic vacuum as to what his path was, not only for the region but also for the world. They were telling us very old ideas: that it was the end of civilization; that the world was coming to an end. What I saw was that Chávez was approaching Fidel Castro’s main ideas, who proposed to follow a path in front of this theoretical confusion: “We have to look inwards; we have to go to the essence and to the history of our countries”.

- And is that the way you informed it?

- Yes. I said: they both have realized of the potential of Latin America and the need to build a leadership. They believe that everyone looks anywhere else for a reference, a model and common formulas when the strategy must go the opposite way: to look for the most suitable model for each place.

- Even Chávez was surprised because of the fact that Fidel met with him. Did you assess the reasons why the Cuban president welcomed him with honors?

- The moment was seen as a tit-for-tat against the government of Rafael Caldera. That was what the press was saying and what the Venezuelan president himself and his advisors believed but I never thought it was that simple. Taking into account the similarities between the political positions of Castro and Chávez, the continuous concern of the Cuban president for the leadership in the region and the extraordinary communication of them both with the people, it is not difficult to imagine that Fidel Castro saw Chávez’s political potential that was not being perceived within Venezuela.

- Considering that you were an analyst of the DISIP, didn’t they consider this analysis as benevolent toward Chávez and Fidel?

- Look, this analysis was underestimated and when they started to take it into account it was too late. I was not dazzled. I did not have a subjective position but my appreciations were based in the analysis of the behavior of both leaders. Fidel Castro saw in Hugo Chávez a developing alternative leadership. The Venezuelan military man was still not fully prepared; he did not have the vision that he has now because he has been like a muscle that has improving with time. But the Cuban president realized who he was and, particularly, what he could do. That is, he did not underestimate him.

- When did they put you in charge only of the “Chávez case?”

- In 1996.

- Why?

- Because an adjustment process against Caldera was starting to take place. The Bolivarian Movement as a concept, as an ideology, was gaining strength within the society. In that year, their intentions to participate in the elections were already known after a period in which they had called for the people’s abstention. Although this force was invisible in the media, it could be felt in the streets; it was there.

The choice of the oligarchy had produced the expected results but the contrary. Chávez continued to say things that the people cared about. At that time, the middle class of the country was very close to him and saw a hope of political change in his leadership. The polls indicated that national tendency toward a government with a strong popular foundation and he embodied that force.

In the meantime, he had not theorized about the future program of the government and he did not attend intellectual gatherings in Caracas. He was outside Caracas, which was not a territory frequented by politicians, and he met in squares with two or three people, explaining what the Constituent was and living what he called the “revolutionary hurricane”. He started to be a serious concern. That is why I was ordered to focus all my work exclusively on him and, from that moment on, they started to give me materials so that I could make an evaluation.

- Recordings, reports...?

- Intelligence works. They used to tell me: “This is of Commander Chávez in Chuluaca”. I listened to it and wrote my report.

- How many people in your area were in charge of the Chávez case?

- As analysts, we were two. My former superior, who handle all kinds of information, and I, in charge of the public political part.

- Did you have any idea about the number of people that the DISIP had infiltrated near the Commander?

- I do not know the exact number but I know there were a lot of people. They even proposed it to me.

- What do you mean?

- That I had to join the Armed Forces and later I would infiltrate through the loyal military people. I began the process of assimilation to the Armed Forces but when the time for certain test came, I falsified the psychological exams. That happened in March 1996. I could not refuse a job openly because they could take reprisals against me. I say it openly: I falsified my psychological test.

- Tell us honestly, did you get to identify yourself with Chávez and his Movement?

- I say it again, what we have been analyzing has nothing to do with the subjective element. Let us look at it from another perspective: I was able to analyze this process without prejudices because I come from a very humble family. I was able to study thanks to the efforts of my father and my mother, a worker and a secretary. They always encouraged me to be a better person, to study and to always try hard. Certainly, my origin allowed me to evaluate Chávez’s proposal. I knew perfectly well that what he was saying was true: if Venezuela continued the path it was following, it would explode.

It could not sustain itself with a social structure that resembles a reversed glass of champagne with only a few on top and millions down. All the people I knew lived in the part of society that was mistreated and disregarded, the one allied to Chávez. I knew that reality from very close. I was not blinded by my work. I did not take it personally. He was not a friend but not an enemy either. I tried to find an explanation to what was going on and where did that man come from. I was interested in the man. And when I started to realize that he was saying reasonable things I said to myself: well, if he feels what he is saying and the people see it, a miracle will have to happen for him to lose the elections.

- Did you alert your superiors that he would win?

- Yes. Chávez had concentrated the hopes of millions of Venezuelans who were fed up with corruption, impunity, social differences, politicians’ lies and the degenerative process of the institutions.

- What did you feel when Chávez won the elections?

- It was like a movie I had already seen. It was like going to a movie to watch a film I already knew. I saw people and situations that were very familiar to me. Anyway, it was a very strange feeling. I knew he would win. It was not a surprise, but seeing him there also cause certain astonishment.

- Where were you when they made the official announcement of his victory?

- They had sent me to work to an electoral desk - of course, secretly. Chávez won there with an overwhelming advantage. Shortly afterwards, they made the official announcement. I said to myself - and I confess that with joy, like one who gets good grades in an exam-: well, I was not wrong.

- What was the reaction within the DISIP after Chávez’s victory?

- A big uncertainty. What would happen to us? Where would we go? Many of my co-workers felt worried: some with faults and some without them but there was a terrible sense of unease.

- Did you have any contacts with the US services during those days?

- We met with them at least once a year. In March 1998, two CIA analysts came down and I made a presentation about Chávez for them, like on other occasions. However, this time they were more interested and worried.

- Did you feel any pressure?

- No. They always tried to inspire us confidence. In fact, on February 4th, during the coup, it was an American officer who called me to attend my course in the US Embassy and my regular job in the DISIP. He told me not to worry about anything because everything was under control. When I went to the course, one of them, a Mexican, asked me: “What is your perception of what has just happened?” It was almost an environment of comradeship, like two co-workers who spoke about a common concern.

- Did they ask you to identify any weakness in Chávez?

- Yes.

- For example...

- Anything possible. And I was not alone in that kind of analysis but also other people who, for one reason or another, were related to him. They called us to do what we called brainstorming sessions and to answer to the question: “what do you see?”

- When you say “they”, do you mean the Americans?

- No, my superiors. The contacts with those people were very punctual, at least with me. When they came, we knew in advance and we prepared for their visit. All of us who worked jointly - because the compartmentalization did work, each one with his or her own part - got together and when we were in front of the Americans, that is when I could realize who was doing what. For them it was an obsession and it also worried us:

who was him? Why, after so much time, he continued being someone the people supported more and more? What was the mystery of Hugo Chávez? Everyone wanted to know where he was hiding his magic wand.

- What weaknesses did you identify during those brainstorming sessions?

- Do you know what? None. He was and he is still a man and his circumstance. If you look at what he said when he left prison you will realize that it is the same he still says, only that at that time he was a little bit naïve. As he increased his relationship with the people and he gained political experience, he began to use a methodology to achieve his goals. His speech was extraordinarily coherent.

For example, if you read Habla el Comandante (The Commander Speaks), a book that includes a long interview that began in 1995 and finished a little before the elections and in which Chávez presents his strategy and tells his personal story, you will see that it is the same Chávez. He never deceived anyone. He said what he would do in a clear way. It was the government of Caldera and my superiors who refused to see the reality and reacted too late.

- Now, between us, tell us at least one fault of Commander Chávez.

- Look, I do not know his personal life. I evaluate him as an analyst who tries to see everything in its historic context. From that point of view, Chávez is invulnerable. He has no Achilles’ heel; he does not have it because he has been able to depersonalize himself from the process instead of what his enemies say about him and call him “maximum leader”, “dictator” and other things. No. For the first time in the history of Venezuela, all the citizens are part of a process, including the opposition that has a space and a leading role never before in this country. Chávez was the opposition in Venezuela and the media, the DISIP and all the governmental institutions hunted him, slandered him or excluded him, in the best of cases.

You can take any of his speeches. You will never find an imposition, a pyramidal position. His proposal is not vertical; it is you, us, all of us... When you approach him you feel yourself included, particularly if he speaks about your essential problems. That is what makes him different. There is a real leader, not a chief but someone that in 12 years of public work has been able to motivate and ad millions of people to his cause.

- When Chávez triumphed, did you have any problem? Were you fired?

- Absolutely not. I had nothing to hide so I had nothing to fear. When the new administration arrived I continued working. I am an analyst, a professional who never participated in any kind of irregular activities.

- And you continued analyzing Chávez?

- No. I began to work in the department of Interior Analysis.

- Did collaboration with the US services continue after Chávez’s victory?

- No, they decreased notably. At least I did not have any contacts with them after 1999.

- But the US services were seriously involved in the coup of April 2002. That was public and there is evidence still coming out...

- That is right. But I only answer from my personal experience.

- One last question, to satisfy our curiosity. You followed Chávez closely, you knew of his close relationship with the majority of the Venezuelan people. Was it possible to predict the reaction of the people that brought him back to Miraflores only a few hours after the coup d’état?

- No, I admit that the analyst failed. And, look, I was deeply moved. I had never lived a similar experience and I don’t think I ever will again. My house is located in a humble neighborhood. I saw thousands of people take to the streets and organize themselves spontaneously. I saw their determination to go look for Commander Chávez in Tiuna and Miraflores. They stood there for hour determined to face whatever was necessary for one man, for their President. I do not know if you understand me... I could not foresee in my analysis that respect and that love that the people felt for him and that was evident in Chávez’s meetings and in the speeches that I had studied. I never imagined that the people would bring him back like that. I confess: when I saw Chávez’s arrival in Miraflores on television I was so moved that I cried. Then, the analyst fell to pieces.