Hugo Chavez showing Greg Palast the sword of Simon Bolivar at Miraflores Palace, Caracas, in 2006
For BBC Television, Palast met several times with Hugo Chavez, who passed away Tuesday, March 5.
In 2005, Reverend Pat Robertson -- channelling the frustration of George W Bush's State Department, said, "Hugo Chavez thinks we're trying to assassinate him. I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it."
Despite Bush's providing intelligence, funds and even a note of congratulations to the crew who kidnapped Chavez (we'll get there), Hugo remained in office, re-elected and wildly popular.
But why the Bush regime's hate, hate, HATE of the President of Venezuela?
Reverend Pat wasn't coy about the answer: It's the oil.
"This is a dangerous enemy to our South controlling a huge pool of oil."
A really BIG pool of oil. Indeed, according to Guy Caruso, former chief of oil intelligence for the CIA, Venezuela holds a recoverable reserve of 1.36 trillion barrels -- a whole lot more than Saudi Arabia.
If we didn't kill Chavez, we'd have to do an "Iraq" on his nation. So the Reverend suggests, "We don't need another $200 billion war... It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
Chavez himself told me he was stunned by Bush's attacks: Chavez had been quite chummy with Bush Senior and with Bill Clinton.
So what suddenly made Chavez "a dangerous enemy"? Just after Bush's inauguration in 2001, Chavez' congress voted in a new "Law of Hydrocarbons." Henceforth, Exxon, British Petroleum, Shell Oil and Chevron would get to keep 70 percent of the sales revenues from the crude they sucked out of Venezuela. Not bad, considering the price of oil was rising towards $100 a barrel.
But to the oil companies, which had b*tch-slapped Venezeula's prior government into giving them 84 percent of the sales price, a cut to 70 percent was "no bueno." Worse, Venezuela had been charging a joke of a royalty -- just one percent -- on "heavy" crude from the Orinoco Basin. Chavez told Exxon and friends they'd now have to pay 16.6 percent.
Clearly, Chavez had to be taught a lesson about the etiquette of dealings with Big Oil.
On April 11, 2002, President Chavez was kidnapped at gunpoint and flown to an island prison in the Caribbean Sea. On April 12, Pedro Carmona, a business partner of the US oil companies and president of the nation's Chamber of Commerce, declared himself President of Venezuela -- giving a whole new meaning to the term, "corporate takeover".
US Ambassador Charles Shapiro immediately rushed down from his hilltop embassy to have his picture taken grinning with the self-proclaimed "President" and the leaders of the coup d'etat.