Today's article in the Times provides the other key to the puzzle I addressed in my article today in Salon on the attempted Venezuelan coup.
As my piece describes, when Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America Otto Reich met with Latin American diplomats at the State Department early last Friday afternoon, he suprised them by not only parroting the rationales and alleged constitutional justifications for the coup, but also providing surprisingly precise pro-coup details of what had happened.
There were rumors among Latin America specialists in DC yesterday that at the meeting Reich had had a "document" laying out the constitutional rationale for the coup. Based on my conversations with diplomats who were present at the meeting, this seems not to have been the case. At least to the extent of there not being a "document."
However, he did seem to have been briefed on the details provided by, and the arguments of, the coup plotters. This is what made a number of the diplomats present at the meeting suspicious. In Washington parlance, Reich seemed to be reading from the coup plotters ... well, talking points.
In any case, today's article by Christopher Marquis in the Times confirms that Reich had in fact been in phone contact on Friday with Pedro Carmona Estanga, the man who briefly assumed the presidency during Chavez's overthrow. Reich apparently tried to counsel him on the management of the coup, specifically, trying to dissuade him from foolish and ultimately fatal expedient of dissolving the National Assembly. It's unclear from the article whether this was before or after he State Department meeting, but I think it's safe to assume it was before.
(Check out the Salon article to see the other embarrassing things Reich said at the meeting -- and why the representative of Argentina was not at all happy.)
I think this is trouble for the administration. Nothing earth-shattering, but trouble. Everything they admit brings up a half a dozen more questions. It's an uncomfortable mix of bad acts and incompetence. I don't think this story is going away.