Over the last 60 years the United States has worked to maintain its vested interest in a number of countries throughout Latin America.
The U.S. government has participated in the installation of a military government in Guatemala in 1956, the 1973 military coup in Chile and the Iran Contra scandal in the 1980s.
And in the last decade, a plot to destabilize the government of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez by picking up the trash, according to newly-released private diplomatic documents.
In a secret 2006 cable published online by Wikileaks, then U.S. ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield unveiled a plan by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Transition Initiative (OTI) to send an army of opponents of late president Hugo Chávez to a Caracas neighborhood to wage a psychological warfare campaign by picking up the trash.
The idea was to show the incompetence of the Chávez government in terms of providing public services.
“Due to incompetence of the local elected leadership, the garbage problem in Catia is a messy issue for all those who live there,” wrote Brownfield, who is now an assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration.
“This group has organized brigades to collect and recycle trash, in the process putting pressure on the government to provide basic services and repositioning the group as a respected ally of the ‘barrio,’” Brownfield wrote.
The trash clean-up operation is one of a number of plans either proposed or initiated by Brownfield to infiltrate and destabilize the Chávez regime, according to the documents obtained by WikiLeaks.
The OTI also supported a number of human rights groups, worked to promote social activism and even advocated for the rights of handicapped Venezuelans through funding projects to make Caracas more accessible to those with disabilities.
“The USAID/OTI program objectives in Venezuela focus on strengthening democratic institutions and spaces through non-partisan cooperation with many sectors of Venezuelan society,” Brownfield wrote.
“Organized civil society is an increasingly important pillar of democracy, one where President Chávez has not yet been able to assert full control,” he added.
Brownsfield’s plan to destabilize the Chávez government and get him out of office didn’t work, since the boisterous Venezuelan leader retained the presidency -- at least until his death from cancer last month.
On top of that, it looks like "Chavismo" will stay alive for some time to come since Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, looks poised to retain the presidency and keep the status quo.
The most recent polls suggest that Maduro has a 14-point lead over opponent Henrique Capriles, as the campaign ramps up ahead of the April 14 vote. Capriles lost to Chávez in the last presidential election.
“It’s Maduro’s election to lose,” said Chris Sabatini, the senior policy director at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, a nonprofit think tank in New York City.
“It is getting close, but on Election Day we’re not looking at a contest between Maduro and Capriles. We’re looking at a contest between the uncertainty in the country and the legacy of Chavismo."