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Leopoldo Lopez Mendoza

Here we go again. As right wing groups with shady connections riot in Venezuela, demanding the democratically elected left wing president resign, the US State Department is dodging questions as to whether US intelligence agencies are assisting the rioters. For those with hazy memories, we’ve seen this movie before.

In 2002 the Venezuelan right wing “opposition”, with backing from the Bush Administration, launched a coup against President Hugo Chavez. Chavez was temporarily detained with a new president installed. Ultimately there were enough Chavez loyalists within the Venezuelan military and instead of killing Chavez – as allegedly ordered – they returned him to power with the fake right wing president allowed to escape to Columbia.

Now right wing groups have taken to the streets destroying property and shooting at police officers. Their demand for President Maduro to resign are ironically based on his inability to restore order and stop violence in the cities. Yes, the people creating disorder and violence are allegedly doing so because they are upset about disorder and violence.

“The allegation that the United States is helping to organise protesters in Venezuela is baseless and false. We support human rights and fundamental freedoms – including freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly – in Venezuela as we do in countries around the world,” spokeswoman Jan Psaki said.

One of the leaders of the “peaceful assemblies” is Leopoldo Lopez Mendoza. Lopez is currently facing arrest for murder and terrorism and is the first cousin of frequent uncredited Buzzfeed source and Wikipedia editor Thor Halvorssen Mendoza.

Lopez attended the Kennedy School of Government and was close with members of the Bush Administration. In Venezuela Lopez was sanctioned for influence peddling and embezzlement of funds partly for using money from Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA. Lopez was also sanctioned for illegal fund transfers when he was Mayor of Chacao.  He and his associates have additionally been caught taking money from the US National Endowment for Democracy, an organization created as an alternative to funding from the CIA to pursue US interests abroad.

The statement from the US State Department that the US is not “helping organize protesters” is an interesting claim. While US government officials may or may not be involved in on the ground organizing the US government has been funding the organizers.

Photo by Guillermo Ramos Flamerich under Creative Commons license.