Until Thursday 18th November, Venezuelans had been enjoying a period of relative calm. The re-affirmation of President Hugo Chávez in the recall referendum and his government's landslide victory in recent regional voting had persuaded most of the opposition to simply wait for the 2006 general elections.
Then came the assassination of Danilo Anderson. The 38-year old State Prosecutor was blown up in his car by two attached bombs with remote control detonation, after attending a graduate class at the Bolivarian University. Two suspects in the murder were killed in shoot-outs with police during the following week, and two others have been arrested.
Danilo Anderson was leading the case against the "golpistas" (the coup-plotters who had orchestrated the kidnapping of Chávez and the overthrow of his democratic government in April 2002) and was only days away from formally presenting his case, having just issued over 400 subpoenas.
No-one has gone to jail for the coup, although the signing-in book for dictator-for-a-day Pedro Carmona's inauguration reads like a Who's Who of the Venezuelan oligarchy. The Supreme Court ruled that there was not enough evidence that a coup had taken place; rather there had been a "power vacuum" which the top-dog oil-man happened to fill.
However, fascinating proof of how far the coup-conspiracy stretched has emerged from Chávez' recent visit to Spain, where Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos revealed on state television that the previous Aznar government had actually instructed its ambassador in Venezuela to support the coup.
Also, a top secret CIA document titled "Venezuela: Conditions Ripening for Coup Attempt", was obtained through a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request by Eva Golinger, a New York-based lawyer. The memo was written on April 6th 2002 - just five days before the coup.
The CIA has a long history of sabotage aimed at progressive movements in Latin America, from paramilitary terrorism against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua to the assassination of Allende in Chile. The Chávez government's policies of wealth redistribution and spending oil profits on free healthcare, education and housing makes it a prime target for attack.
Golinger also discovered that, since 2001, the US government has channelled over $20-million to forces fiercely opposed to President Chávez. Three-quarters of it came from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a quasi-governmental entity entirely funded by Congress and widely perceived to be a CIA-front.
Danilo Anderson, the murdered prosecutor, was trained to follow the money - in this case, from the United States. Venezuela, like most countries, has strict laws about this: it is illegal for any organisation in Venezuela to take money from a foreign power in order to influence elections. (If this seems overly harsh, consider the outrage if, say, Libya were to start funding the Respect party here!)
One such organisation is Súmate, who spearheaded the August referendum campaign against Chávez, and according to Golinger's FOIA research has received more than $3-million through the NED. Despite claiming the money was used "just for teaching", it is also being charged with creating a parallel electoral council in an attempt to illegally influence the referendum result.
In early November, the president of the NED, Carl Gershman, made an unprecedented visit to Venezuela to defend the company's interests. After being refused an audience with Chávez, Gershman tried to lobby both the Attorney General and the President of the Supreme Court to have the case against Súmate dropped.
One day after he left, empty-handed, a letter was released from 70 "international democrats" (most of whom are financially connected to the NED) demanding a halt to the Súmate trial. In response the Venezuelan Ambassador to Washington, Bernardo Alvarez, called for a formal investigation into the NED's funding and activities in Venezuela.
Gershman's visit wasn't totally in vain. Less than a week later, the Supreme Court ruled that Súmate's directors, María Corina Machado and Ricardo Estévez, should be released on bail because they posed no flight risk (unlike the other rich "golpistas" who'd gone into hiding, most ending up in Miami).
The following day, Danilo Anderson was murdered.
Although some on the right-wing are publicly hinting that Chávez himself was behind the assassination (for the same reason he staged the coup, to crack down on dissent) most eyes are focussing on two places: Colombia and Miami.
It is not long since 130 Colombian paramilitaries, dressed in Venezuelan military uniforms, were arrested on a ranch just outside of Caracas. The Anderson car-bombing is very much in their style, as well as that of the CIA. Coup-leader Carmona sought asylum in the Colombian embassy shortly after he was placed under house-arrest.
But also to consider are the Venezuelan "exiles", undergoing military training in the Florida Everglades with their Cuban counterparts for several years now. Most openly call for the assassination of Chávez, and earlier this year General Felipe Rodriguez declared from Miami that he was commencing a clandestine guerrilla civil war.
The US has been asked by Venezuela repeatedly for their help in capturing and extraditing these would-be terrorists, but Washington's only public comment has been that it's "not necessarily a crime" for terrorists to train on US soil - as long as their terror isn't directed against the US.
Terror directed by the US is another matter. After the Spanish revelations, the Bush administration claimed they had indeed "alerted President Chávez to coup plots" - presumably their own! If this attack is a taste of their second term priorities, at least it shows how desperate they're getting.
As always, the ultra-right will end up shooting themselves in the foot, and this unprecedented act of aggression will only serve to radicalise the progressive government, unite a class war-weary country and earn Venezuela sympathy, support and solidarity around the world.
As John McDonnell MP wrote on November 23rd in Early Day Motion 127, the car-bombing "is a further attempt to destabilise the country by those ... who refuse to respect the will of the Venezuelan people". Find out if your MP has signed this EDM at http://edm.ais.co.uk/weblink/html/motion.html/ref=127 and put pressure on them if they haven't!
The UK Bolivarian Circle and Hands Off Venezuela (London) will be having a candlelit vigil outside the Venezuelan consulate, Grafton Way, W1 (off Tottenham Court Road, nearest tube Warren Street) on Thursday December 2nd from 6pm. This will be two weeks after the assassination of Danilo Anderson and we invite anyone who cares about Venezuela, of whatever political stripe, to join us in condemning this barbaric and cowardly act of intimidation. Please wear black.
read press release at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/12/302149.html