Oliver Stone: Snowden director claims US could have triggered Venezuela power cuts in Facebook conspiracy post

US has denied being behind devastating blackouts

Andrew Buncombe
Wednesday 20 March 2019 02:42 GMT
Maduro attacks Trump's 'almost Nazi-style' speech after US president calls on military to abandon Venezuela leader

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Filmmaker Oliver Stone has waded into the controversy over Venezuela, posting a clip from his movie Snowden that suggests the US has long had the ability to trigger breakdowns and malfunctions in the infrastructure of other countries.

In a post on Facebook, the 72-year-old director admitted he had no evidence the US was responsible for the recent power outages that left millions of Venezuelans without electricity for several days, something the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, blamed on the “imperialist government of the United States”.

But he claims that Washington has previously been involved in attacking foreign computer systems to wreak havoc. In 2003, the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies made plans to freeze billions of dollars in the bank accounts of Saddam Hussein, and in 2010 the US and Israel are believed to have used a cyber attack to damage Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Remote cyber operations rarely require a significant ground presence, making the ideal deniable influence operation,” writes Stone.

He adds: “We can’t be sure that the US government was involved in this unprecedented outage, but we do know that the Trump administration is engaged in a reckless regime change strategy in Venezuela, seeking to foment a military coup or mass uprising through its creation of a parallel presidency while imposing devastating economic sanctions and threatening military intervention.”

Stone, a veteran supporter of left wing causes, has long been considered a conspiracy theorist by many. His 1991film JFK, suggested the 35th president was killed as part of a plot, rather than by sole gunman Lee Harvey Oswald, the conclusion of the official Warren Commission, and subsequent exhaustive media investigations. Elsewhere, he described the Al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11 as “a revolt”.

The Venezuela power outages happened when the San Geronimo B substation in the centre of the country, which supplies electricity to 80 per cent of citizens from the massive Guri hydropower plant, went down. While a union member told reporters that brush fire under a power trunk line destabilised the grid and caused Guri’s turbines to shut, a report in the New York Times suggested there was a major failure inside Guri’s turbines that officials struggled to restart.

“Every time they attempt to restart, they fail and the disruption breaks something else in the system, destabilising the grid yet further,” José Aguilar, a Venezuelan power industry expert based in Chicago, told the newspaper earlier this month. He said the government was “hiding something from us”.

In the aftermath of the outage, Venezuelan officials pointed the finger at Washington and opposition leader, Juan Guaido, who in January declared himself president. Around 50 countries have recognised him as such, among them the US, UK and Canada. Russia and China still support Mr Maduro.

Information minister Jorge Rodriguez accused supporters of Mr Guaido of trying to bring down the electrical grid by plugging in all their appliances at once.

The US has denied being involved in the black outs that reportedly led to a number of deaths, including a number in hospitals. Last week, secretary of state Mike Pompeo claimed the outages were the result of “years and years of neglect” to the grid by Venezuelan authorities. “The system has had problems for a very long time.”

Journalists allegedly detained by Venezuelan president Nicholas Maduro after showing him a video of people eating rubbish

At the same time, the Trump administration has made clear it is working with other countries in the region to try and get rid of Mr Maduro. In a speech in Miami last month directed at senior Venezuelan military officers, Mr Trump warned them to stop supporting Mr Maduro or risk “losing everything”.

Stone also posted clip of Snowden, his 2016 movie about the 35-year-old ex-CIA whistleblower who revealed a series of extensive US electronic surveillance programmes. In the scene posted, Snowden, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, talks about his work with the Japanese – a country he claims the NSA “bugged”.

“And we did not stop there. Once we had their communications we continued with the physical infrastructure,” says the character.

“We sneaked into small programmes in their power grids, dams, hospitals. The idea was that if Japan one day was not our allies we could turn off the lights. And it was not just Japan. We planted software in Mexico, Germany, Brazil, Austria. China, I can understand. Or Russia or Iran. Venezuela, okay. But Austria?

On Twitter, Stone wrote: “Edward @Snowden reminds us that the US government has already been laying the groundwork to cause massive power outages like the one that recently hit #Venezuela. The idea of US-caused sabotage is not far-fetched.”

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