So, maybe Israel has been manipulating Chavez coverage

Kepler for the win? Here is Wikileaks’ latest. I’ve bolded a few lines, you’ll see why:

From: “Reva Bhalla”
Sent: Monday, December 5, 2011 9:13:24 PM
Subject: INSIGHT – VENEZUELA – Update on Chavez’s health, power struggle,
etc. – VZ302

SOURCE DESCRIPTION: well-connected VZ source working with Israel
SOURCE RELIABILITY: B – source is anti-Chavez, but I’ve gotten better at
reading him over the years to tell when he’s feeding me shit and when he’s
giving useful info – his info on the VZ regime has checked out, but i tend
to be more skeptical on iran-related info
SPECIAL HANDLING: Alpha, scrub source info and also make sure rest of
latam team sees this

Chavez’s health – the tumor started as a growth close to the prostate, it
spread to the colon, which is what led to a lot of confusion in the OS
about the treatment of prostate v. colon cancer in hormonal v.
chemotherapy. A reliable source on the medical has explained that the
cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and into the bone marrow up to the
spine, ie. very serious.

Chavez temporarily stopped the chemo in order to make an appearance at the
recent CELAC meeting. The medical team is made up of both Russian and
Cuban doctors. Both sides are clashing. THe Russian team blamed the
Cubans for an improper surgery the first time in trying to remove the
tumor. The second surgery over the summer was basically the Russian team
trying to clean up the Cuban team’s mistakes. The Russians complain that
the Cubans dont have the right imagery treatment to properly treat
Chavez. The Cuban medical diagnosis is 2 years. The Russian medical
diagnosis, due to improper medical equipment, is less than one year. The
source on the medical team complains that Chavez is a very ‘bad patient.’
He doesn’t listen to his doctors, he ceases treatment when he has to make
a public appearance. Now the Russian and the Chinese doctors are going at
it because Chavez sought hte advice of a Chinese doctor that advocates
more natural treatments and the Russians are saying this is horse shit
treatment. only chavez can get the most politicized medical team in the
(note – if you see medical reports on Chavez’s health in WSJ or Brazil’s Veja magazine, it’s probably coming from this source.)

Who replaces Chavez?
I would keep my eye on FM Nicolas Maduro. Maduro is loyal as a dog to
Chavez. (the source knows Maduro personally, from the days that Maduro was
a driver of the metro bus.) At the same time, maduro is seen as the most
pragmatic in the regime. If Chavez’s health deteriorates significantly
before the scheduled Oct 2012 elections, expect him to proclaim Maduro as
his successor in one way or another. You can already see him propping up
Maduro in a lot of ways. This is less risky than Chavez going through with
elections, winning, suddenly dying and then a power struggle among the
Chavistas breaking out. It will be much harder in this latter scenario for
Maduro to assert himself against rival Chavistas like Diosdado Cabello,
Rafiel Ramirez, etc.

Remember that there are four key players propping up the regime – China,
Cuba, Russia, Iran. All four are split on how to manage a post-Chavez
regime. China and Russia are more insulated, as they’ve tried to get away
from Chavez the personality, to preserving Chavismo, the regime. Russia
has set up a specific task force (note the Patrushev visits) to help
manage the post-chavez transition. Both China and Russia are backing
Maduro as their preferred successor. Cuba, however, is in trouble. They
can’t count on a Maduro to continue subsidizing them with thousands of
barrels of oil every day. No one is really paying attention to Cuba – they
can;t count on the Europeans for investment. Without VZ, they’re screwed.
The Cubans so far have been backing Adan Chavez (Chavez’s brother) as the
preferred candidate, but he doesnt have the same following. Cuba may shift
to backing Maduro. (At this point in the convo, i brought up the
possibility of Cuba, having the best intel on VZ, using that intel to
leverage with the US and open up its options – he agreed that’s what the
Castros will do to survive but he hasnt seen serious signs of this.. yet.)

Maduro is seen as more of a Lula candidate. He has a following, he has
charisma, but he’s also a balancer. He’s the kind of guy that would open
up to the US and keep tight with everyone else, but that still makes Iran
nervous. The source seems to think that Obama in his second term would
open up to Maduro (and this is something that he is actively working on.)

The opposition –
Venezuela is divided into 5 different strata – A, B, C, D, E – A ++ is the
elite of the elite, the boli-bourgeoisie that that Chavez has very
successfully vilified. Chavez doesn’t give a shit about these guys. His
base is the D and E.
Capriles Radonski, Leopoldo Lopez, Maria Corina Machado are all the A++ –
way too elitist. They can’t win over the chavista vote.
The only one that has a real chance is Pablo Perez – Zulia governor – he’s
actually seen as one of the people. The conversation between him adn the
Castros is jsut starting up. (i asked if Perez is talking to Maduro yet –
he says not yet.)

guess who has been most cooperative with us lately? The military elite.
These guys have been living the good life. They love women… lots of
women. THey love booze. They love bora bora. They are easy to bribe. They
dont care about chavez. they care about maintaining their current
lifestyles. We’ve seen a lot of these military elite reach out to us
lately, trying to insulate themselves in a post-Chavez scenario.

This is why you’ll see Chavez investing a lot of time and money in
developing the militia. They’re his best insurance policy. The more of a
problem the militia can create on the streets, the more the military elite
will hestiate before acting against him or his potential successor.

The intent of the ley de precios is very simple. The money laundering
schemes in food, pharmaceuticals, energy parts, etc. etc. have gotten
worse./ Completely unchecked. This price controls law is the government’s
way of controlling opposition campaign spending. Very straightforward –
they have the legal justification to intimidate corporations into cutting
back their support for the opposition, or else, their company is taken
over. This will allow the state more control of the private sector.

(side note) – we were talking a bit about a recent PdVSA-Iran joint
venture. They shifted their main base of operations from Caracas to
Ankara, though. This has become a trend lately, where a lot of Iran’s
sanctions circumventing oeprations in VZ are quietly being relocated to
Turkey. Part of Turkey’s balancing act with Iran.

these were the main points. will update with more..little fuzzy from wine
right now.

Wow, would be interesting to see what she’d say if she were really wasted!

I have a personal interest in this story. When I worked in Caracas, Stratfor started calling for info. The kid who was calling was very young, early 20s, and was trying to write analysis reports on the very complex economic, political and oil situation in Venezuela, without ever having visited the country. I pointed him to some sources for a while, but at some point, he asked me a truly ignorant question, I think about the currency rules, and I told him I couldn’t help him if he wasn’t going to study on his own. Point being, Stratfor seemed miserably sourced on Venezuela at that time, and may still be. It’s depressing to think that one source may have managed to spin Stratfor, WSJ and Veja. You sure have to wonder what this “working with Israel” means — and where the information was really coming from.

Kepler was noting Israel’s interest in the Venezuela-Iran links weeks ago.


23 thoughts on “So, maybe Israel has been manipulating Chavez coverage

  1. David

    This email was mentioned on the radio earlier so I came and Google’d parts of the quotes. I think you should expand the above article to include more information about the source? The bigger picture is more revealing.

    ~ The source: REVA BHALLA
    ~ The source’s position: director at Stratfor
    ~ Reva’s reason for writing the above: She’s become a “handler” of someone, a man who has access to Chavez, and the above is what was shared with her. She’s reporting it to her “boss” and is about to get started, or already has started, her next “phase” of training into being a spy.

    Some telling quotes from the article include…
    “This is intended to start our conversation on your next phase.” by George Friedman

    “If this is a source you suspect may have value, you have to take control
    od him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control to the
    point where he would reveal his sourcing and be tasked.” by George Friendman

    “To be effective your goal is the person and not the subject” by George Friedman

    So you see – REVA is not considered an actual agent just yet. In fact Reva may be in some trouble if there is any backlash from the male, or others who suspect they know the male, find out about her intentions.

    ANYWAY – my point is don’t trust what REVA wrote, she’s not trusted by her own “handlers” just yet.

    Why do I read this stuff? :/

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      Thanks. Yes, the whole thing was interesting, but I was just pulling out this tidbit that shows, in any case, that someone who “works with Israel” was pushing a specific version of the Chavez health and Maduro stories to at least three different media outlets. That to me is more interesting than the internal policies at Stratfor.

      You need to be very, very careful in trusting what intelligence types say about themselves, even internally. Take a listen to this when you have an hour to kill. I learned from it not just some novel facts, but also the fundamental fact that most of what we know about intel agencies comes from them, and is inherently biased to make them look more ooh-la-la than they really are.

  2. westslope

    Hot off the press. Interesting, certainly entertaining stuff. But how do you get the Israelis manipulating coverage of Chavez?

    Antony Loewenstein summarizes the Stratfor wiki-leaks and pastes a few examples here:

    Does Ms. Bhulla speak and read Spanish? If not, does that mean that she is limited to English-speaking sources? I’ll bet that the Israeli information gatherers are not limited to English-speaking sources. Let me guess, the 20-year old kid that called you did not speak or read Spanish–a qualification I personally view as more important than actually visiting Venezuela.

    Russian doctors: Are there any socialist brothers and sisters the Russians don’t look down upon? Seriously.

    As for pragmatic Maduro, don’t half the politicians in South America want to emulate Lula? Starting with elitist opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski who from first glances seems like he would make an excellent choice as president.

    Nice catch setty.

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      The Stratfor guy did speak Spanish. I don’t know anything about the language abilities of this person. As far as understanding the Venezuelan economy, sorry but a visit is even more important than language. When you’re not there, you just can’t get how things like currency controls affect every bit of life. It’s not until you go that you understand how un-dictatorship-ish the place feels. And it’s being there and seeing and talking to people that gives you a much smarter intuition about the sorts of issues addressed here — like whether you are getting played by a source, whether people care about Iran, etc.

      I agree that my headline was a bit of a leap. The conditional verb was very intentional.

    2. Kepler


      You get a German journalist from Die Welt who did a pseudo-kibbutzim holiday instead of civil service years ago and who is a Christian who loves to read and re-read Exodus by Leon Uris to publish rubbish about “intelligence sources” telling him there are missiles in Paraguana. Then Jerusalem Post et alia will replay that. And then you get a Vanessa Neumann saying similar stuff. You feed “I stand with Israel”(no matter what)-evangelicals with those news and then you try to see if that contributes to the general mood about Iran and the need to bomb Iran.
      Perhaps something like that? My hypothesis.

  3. Tom O'D

    Greetings Setty,
    This is all interesting stuff. Great job.

    Regarding ‘information’ in Venezuela … just an observation: Venezuela is different from other countries in various ways. One of the ways it is different is in the extremity of the political polarization, another is the superficiality of “analysis” which is deeply conditioned by by the aforementioned polarization. With such visceral polarization, it is common to shamelessly cherry pick information (or ‘intel’) that servers one’s own side. If one interjects any actual ‘fact’ to the contrary, you are immediately believed to be an agent of the other political trend. It matters little if the info is verifiable, In these circles, ‘information’ is simply another stone to throw at the other side. All countries have this; but it is extreme in Venezuela for underlying ECONOMIC reasons.

    There is the allure of appearing to ‘being in the know,’ of being connected of having ‘inside information.’ This allure is exacerbated in the business class because it has had a statist economic system forever (both the IV and Vth Republics). So, the basic mode of ‘doing business’ is connected with having ‘contacts’ and ‘information’ about what the government is up to, This is the best way to compete with rival business groups. There is no sense in actually out-competing a rival in the marketplace (an endeavor reserved for ‘pendejos’). when you can get ‘information’ and ‘contacts’ on what government ministers and/or PDVSA officials are up to and use this to outmaneuver your business opponents in the state-centered economy. This is the real game of ‘doing business.’ … the ‘insiders deal’.

    Anyway,, the point is, I appreciated very much your earlier comments on Caracas Gringo’s debunking of many of the Iran ties to Chavez. (I still have to read CG’s original post). Indeed certain Venezuelan sources are being ‘informed’ not only by Israel, probably even by the Iranians, and who know whom else. But, the thing in Venezuela is that most of the people who deal in this stuff don’t really care if the info they get is factual or not. That does not matter. The only interest is that it hurts the other side. And, if it is a lie being floated by a foreign intelligence or diplomatic service, all the better; because it is an opinion that will be coming up from various places and have more of an appearance of being real, and you will look very connected by repeating it and, eventually it might get you money.

    In Venezuela, I have found that, indeed there are intrepid academics and analysts who are ‘objective’ in that they actually look at verifiable facts. There are also foreign companies and states who really want to make money there, so they are interested in objective analysis and want to cover themselves no matter who is in power. (Of course, they won’t generally tell you too much.) The last category of reliable persons are those that mediate and/or bring together various domestic and foreign business and diplomatic interests, and have an interest, therefore, in knowing the real situation, and know how to filter out the traditional b.s. information peddling.

    Anyway, the Chavez-Iran link is way overblown. Almost everything claimed is unsubstantiated when you look into it, as you know. That does not mean there is nothing, but most is propaganda. My post on January 18 on “With a U.S. dependent oil sector, Chavez can’t help Ahmadinejad’ at gives my opinion on this. If the U.S. catches Chavez really helping Ahmadinejad in the new sanctions regime, he’d be sanctioned himself. He has to be very careful.
    …. I went on a bit. Great stuff, Setty!

    1. westslope

      Tom O’D, I had to laugh. The polarization and lack of interest in the actual truth describe various factions of British Columbia society to a T. Some of the worst culprits are activists who are ex-pat Americans. They can lie, make up stuff and spin better than the Canadian-born activists.

      BC is reactionary and populist but not just folks on the so-called right, and believe me, there are plenty of those. Folks on the left too. Ironically enough, so-called progressives and socialists support policies that hurt the state and public assets, decrease public wealth, etc. This ain’t northern Europe, not by a long shot.

      The self-styled ‘progressives’ claim they have aboriginal interests at heart but support policies that hurt Aboriginals. The righteousness makes me think of those with strong brown shirt tendencies.

  4. Kepler

    I just say: why are those reporters and “think tankers” saying what they say? Do they have a common background? Do they tend to get their feeds from some common background?
    Can there be some interest group behind that common background?
    About the Chávez health issue: I don’t know. About the Venezuela-Iran issue: I think the signs are (almost) all on the wall.

  5. Dr. Faustus

    Cherchez la Femme!
    (behind everything there is a woman who caused it, ..and perhaps drinking red wine as well)

    In defense of the woman spy…

    OK, OK, she got it wrong about Maduro and his political prospects. She also vastly overestimated the supposed popularity of Pablo Perez. And,….and, the Israeli Mosad is not stupid. The know perfectly well what is, and what is not good intelligence. They’ve been in this business a very long time. They would know the real capabilities and intelligence depth of any of their overseas operatives, with or without a glass of red wine in her hand. So, OK, she got a lot of it wrong.

    But she may have been right about the medical condition of one Hugo Chavez. Yes, the information is three months old and the source of her information is unclear, other than being a source “working with Israel.” But,….but, she turned out to be right, didn’t she? After all Hugo is undergoing an operation in Cuba for recurring cancer. Let’s not be too critical of her ‘intelligence work.’ Perhaps she was indulging in an exquisite Chilean red wine when writing-up her report. She got that right too.

    1. Kepler

      “And,….and, the Israeli Mosad is not stupid. The know perfectly well what is, and what is not good intelligence. They’ve been in this business a very long time.”
      Mossad is not more or less stupid than a lot of other agencies, but in this case they do know the missiles from Paraguana or from Macanao are utter rubbish. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that.
      But they or someone else on that side may be trying to feed some people in the States and elsewhere because they wanted to increase the momentum for an attack on Iran. See references I put.

  6. westslope

    Question for the Venezuela aficionados: what is the state of anti-Jewish sentiment (if any) in contemporary Venezuela?

    And if anti-Jewish sentiment has any kind of resonance, will reports like fuel more anti-Jewish feelings that could play in the upcoming presidential elections?

    1. Kepler

      Sapitto thinks there is probably a lot and I think he is based on his discussions with Chavista guys at some meetings. The vast majority of Venezuelans don’t know what a Jew is.

  7. westslope

    That’s my gut feeling Kepler. Some of the North American and Israeli press have made a big deal about alleged thinly veiled anti-Jewish remarks directed at opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski and his Jewish heritage.

    I can readily imagine chronically insecure Chavistas with their infantile version of anti-colonial politics moving from anti-Israeli slurs to anti-Jewish slurs. But I can also readily imagine just as many well-educated Venezuelans seeing through that and the rest of Venezuelan voters simply not caring or not getting the subtle pokes.

  8. Dr. Faustus

    I would agree with Kepler on this. Most Venezuelans have neither positive or negative feelings toward Jews. The anti-Jewish rhetoric won’t fly. However, if Israel launches an attack against Iran ‘before the October elections,’ then you’ve got a different ballgame. …..a very real possibility by the way.

  9. westslope

    I can see the headline in the North American press:

    Israel helps secures Chavista victory in Venezuela!

    Subtitle: The USA is eternally grateful. Ex-pat Cubans in Miami get a warm and fuzzy feeling as Cuban embargo is forecast to last for another 40 years.

    For the record, it is early in the morning, I am not drinking an Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignon; moreover, the Fair Trade Not Aid certified organic coffee I’ve been drinking is not as good as the light Colombian coffee available in the supermarket chains.

  10. westslope

    On a decidely more serious note, a talking head on Bloomberg TV just suggested that the benchmark prices of oil may contain a US$25 to US$30 fear premium.

    Venezuelan consumers may be protected by horrendous subsidies but not the poorest people living in the poorest of the developing economies. Just sayin’.

  11. JB Lenoir

    Israeli source? LOL. 1. Anyone who follows Venezuela with any regularity could glean the same ‘intelligence’ from the local newspapers. 2. Stratfor isn’t a private espionage agency and it doesn’t train and deploy “spies.” Reva has been with Stratfor since she was still in university, having started as an intern and worked her way up the ladder to where she became a ‘director’ basically by default (or attrition) because the real talented pros either got fed up with the Stratfor culture where everything is always a top priority required immediately, and where some folks always scream round-the-clock at other folks, or else thepros were sacked because they didn’t pay sufficient homage to what Stratfor insiders call “The Cult of George.” Sure, Friedman loves to use gobbledy-gook spook words and phrases, but that’s his style, very much part of Stratfor’s longtime marketing schtick. In reality he’s never been a real spook in the field. The language he uses in his email exchange with Reva is typical George, always aggressive in-your-face rhetoric. What you and I call “news” or “information” is called “intelligence” at Stratfor. But a rose by any other name is still…. As for “handling sources,” those of us who work as reporters (when we’re not consulting) also recruit, cultivate and handle sources, else how would we get the information we use in the articles we write for the press? Israeli sources in Caracas feeding Stratfor intel? I asked one of the local Mossad reps in Caracas about this and he replied: LOOOOOOOOOOOOL. No Joda, panita. There’s one primary vector feeding info (a lot of it bogus) to certain folks in DC and to groups like Stratfor. The grand disinformation spookmeister is Jose Vicente Rangel aka Grima Wormtongue, who always plays all sides against each other, even maintaining back channel contacts at very high State Department levels (Tom Shannon?). No, I’m not suggesting Stratfor or the DC disseminators of the Iran-Terror meme actually speak with Grima. He never shows his face, never reveals his hole cards, always works through intermediaries, always has done so. In fact, I suspect Grima even may be feeding inside information to guys like Bocaranda and Ralph Poleo, given JVR’s decades-old associations with both of these Venezuelan reporters and also to certain folks in Havana who could deliver PhD-level dissertations on the craft of creating and disseminating disinformation “legends” and who certainly enjoy watching the gringo “experts” in DC chase their tails on the Iran vaina whilst the Cuban regime seeks to consolidate its hold over Venezuela before Chavez kicks the bucket.

    1. Kepler

      I agree Rangel is probably trying to do what you say, but the preposterous claims of Iranian missiles on the beaches of Paraguana or Margarita, coming from such people as a rather obscure German journalist who spent a lot of time in Israel committed to “mending fences” (see my account on what links he has and where his accounts were republished) and Vanessa Neumann (Neumann, not Pérez or Pacheco), should fire an alarm.
      Please, tell me how this German bloke, Clemens Wergin, can relate to a José Vicente Rangel or similar fauna:
      How he can relate to Israel is rather obvious.

      It is not about Venezuela for certain groups in Israel. It is about Iran and pushing a little bit more to stir the mood.
      Perhaps a Rangel may find it good to let some conservatives in the US go round the bend with these ridiculous news about the missiles, probably some rich lunatics among the Venezuelan oppo may also want to support these theories, but those announcements by the Noriega’s and Fox news and Jerusalem Posts through Die Welt are just too convenient for the hawks in the Middle East as well…and the messengers are typical of theirs.

      Of course US agencies know better, it is not so hard to find out the truth about this in Venezuela. The gringos even know better about Iran, which is way more difficult to survey and the CIA has even gone to the extent to warn about the exaggerations from the Israel party.
      (and later, repeatedly)
      Only recently, again through a lot of Israel lobby, has the US government seen obliged again to go the other way.

    2. sapitosetty Post author

      Ah good, Mossad says they aren’t involved. And if you can’t trust a Mossad representative on matters of possible Israeli operations, who can you trust?

  12. westslope

    JB Lenoir: You had me up until this part about “…..whilst the Cuban regime seeks to consolidate its hold over Venezuela before Chavez kicks the bucket.”

    What hold? Cuba remains a nearly powerless welfare basket case that remains ‘interesting’ as long as politicians such as Chavez or ex-pat Cubans living in Florida can exploit the island for political purposes.

    1. JB Lenoir

      Cuba the island, its people and economy, may be a basket case. But I was referring to a small faction of Cuban regime figures, the Fidelistas. Venezuela under Chavez has been the Cuban regime’s financial lifeboat. For the Fidelistas in Havana, Venezuela also has long been Plan B, their fallback option to survive after Fidel dies and the Raulistas start making political and economic changes that remain impossible while Fidel still lives. A Fidelista is not the same thing as a Cuban national, and a Fidelista also is not a Raulista. The Castro regime’s various elite components in Havana aren’t sitting in one boat rowing in the same direction. The Fidelistas remain the most radical faction of Cuba’s dying revolution. Cubazuela was never simply a propaganda catchphrase for the Fidelistas; the word reflects the Fidelista plan to move their operations physically to Venezuela where a healthy Chavez would give them all the time in the world to survive Fidel’s eventual death and the subsequent changes that likely will so swift and massive as to literally threaten the lives of many of the most radical Fidelistas. But now that Chavez is marching towards death’s door even faster than Fidel, Plan B is evaporating. The Fidelistas already are trying to harden their control from senior levels inside key Venezuelan government entities. I believe they will fail, and when they realize failure is inevitable they may choose to react more violently against Venezuela through the irregular armed groups that the Chavez regime helped to create and certainly armed.

  13. The Cat

    Hmmm…well, just let me say that JB Lenoir surely sounds like Caracas Gringo, whoever he is. And, that said, I also hope that Plan B absolutely disappears, and that the Fidelistas massacre themselves!

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