In April 2002, the U.S. backed a coup that overthrew Venezuela’s democratically elected leftist government and installed right-wing businessman Pedro Carmona as leader. The putsch, however, lasted just 48 hours. Venezuelans from poor and working-class neighborhoods immediately filled the streets demanding that elected President Chávez return to power. The military subsequently forced Carmona’s unelected, U.S.-recognized government to step down and reinstalled Chávez.
The State Department later admitted, “it is clear that NED [National Endowment for Democracy], Department of Defense (DOD), and other U.S. assistance programs provided training, institution building, and other support to individuals and organizations understood to be actively involved in the brief ouster of the Chávez government.”
A week after the 2002 coup, leading British newspaper the Guardian reported that the “failed coup in Venezuela was closely tied to senior officials in the U.S. government.”
The U.S. has “long histories in the ‘dirty wars’ of the 1980s, and links to death squads working in Central America at that time,” the Guardian added. “Washington’s involvement in the turbulent events that briefly removed left-wing leader Hugo Chávez from power last weekend resurrects fears about U.S. ambitions in the hemisphere.”
Since 2002, the Venezuelan government has accused the U.S. numerous times of supporting further coup attempts. Washington denied that it was pursuing regime change in Venezuela — although the U.S. has, stretching over many decades, overthrown numerous democratically elected left-wing governments in Latin America.
For a four-month period in Venezuela in 2014, right-wing opposition groups resorted to violent protests. Even after nine Venezuelan national guardsmen were killed, the U.S. government was firm in its support for the opposition.