Thomas Walker is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Director Emeritus of Latin American Studies at Ohio University.
As a grizzly, grumpy old professor who has watched the behavior of the United States in Latin America for a number of years, I am increasingly worried nowadays about the real possibility that the US may be about to foment a coup in Venezuela. We've done it a number of times in other countries and unsuccessfully once in Venezuela itself in 2002.
I would ask you all to be very suspicious if our media and government start beating their breast over the killing of peaceful opposition marchers in the planned demonstration protesting the constitutional referendum this Sunday. As a Nicaraguanist I remember the CIA's lengthy terror manual, Psychological Operations in Guerrila Warfare (by "Tayacan") instructing the Nicaraguan opposition in a variety of very dirty tricks to be employed in overthrowing the Sandinista government. This document was published in English in 1985 and is easily available in hard copy or on the line in English, Spanish or Portuguese.
Of interest to us in particular should be pages 84 and 85. On p.85 "Tayacan" instructs us that "If possible, professional criminals will be hired to carry out specific selected 'jobs'." Then, on the very next page, he tells us that "Specific tasks will be assigned to others, in order to create a 'martyr' for the cause, taking the demonstrators to a confrontation with the authorities, in order to bring about uprisings or shootings, which will cause the death of one or more persons who will become martyrs..."
The clear implication is that, if the government does not oblige in creating the requisite "martyr" or "martyrs" this should be done by the aforementioned "professional criminals hired to carry out selected 'jobs'" - i.e. sniper assassins.
You may or may not remember, that in the failed coup attempt of 2002, the "brutal murder of unarmed demonstrators" was served up to us by the US and Venezuelan opposition media as a "last straw" justifying the overthrow of the evil Chavez. A number of demonstrators had, indeed, been shot dead. The perfect touch! And the anti-Chavez media showed red-shirted Chavez supporter firing off a bridge and anti-Chavez demonstrators in a crowd of marchers falling from fatal gun wounds. The only problem with this juxtaposition of images is that the Chavistas were actually firing down a largely empty avenue in the direction of a unit of rebel Caracas police, while the "marters" were being killed very professionally by gunmen firing from a completely different direction and obviously using extremely accurate weapons which could inflict one fatal wound after another. For more on that see La Revolucion no Sera Transmitida, a documentary shot during the coup attempt.
Not that Chavistas have not shot people. However, I would urge us all to be skeptical if in a few days we are treated to yet another "perfect storm" of coup-justifying propaganda a la "Tayacan" and Venezuela 2002.