[Marxism] US funds Chávez opponents...

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at resist.ca
Sun Mar 14 13:33:33 MST 2004

US funds Chávez opponents...
(I know. you could put this under the category of 'so what else is new'):



US supports Chavez opponents

Sunday 14 March 2004, 10:33 Makka Time, 7:33 GMT

Washington has channelled hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund the 
political opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FIA) at the 
weekend reveal that in 2002, the US was also involved with those who 
briefly overthrew the democratically elected leader in a coup two years ago.

The million dollars of political funding were justified as an onging effort 
to build democracy and "strengthen political parties".

The revelation comes as the Venezuelan president faces a possible recall 
referendum and a series of violent street demonstrations in which at least 
eight people have died.

His opponents, who include politicians, some labour leaders, media 
executives and former managers at the state oil company, are trying to 
collect sufficient signatures to force a national vote.

Signatures and money

But FIA documents reveal that one of the group's organising the collection 
of signatures - Sumate - received $53,400 from the US in September 2003.

Jeremy Bigwood, a Washington-based freelance journalist who obtained the 
documents, said: "This repeats a pattern started in Nicaragua in the 
election of 1990 when [the US] spent $20 per voter to get rid of [the 
Sandinista President Daniel] Ortega.

"It's done in the name of democracy but it's rather hypocritical. Venezuela 
does have a democratically elected President who won the popular vote which 
is not the case with the US."

The funding has been made by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) a 
non-profit agency financed entirely by Congress.

It distributes $40m a year to various groups in what it says is an effort 
to strengthen democracy.

NED condemned

But critics of the NED say the organisation routinely meddles in other 
countries' affairs to support groups that believe in free enterprise, 
minimal government intervention in the economy and opposition to socialism 
in any form.

In recent years, the NED has channelled funds to the political opponents of 
the recently ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide at the same 
time that Washington was blocking loans to his government.

"It's the sort of stuff that used to be done by the CIA," said Bigwood. "I 
am not particularly interested in Chavez - I am interested in what 
Washington is doing."

In Venezuela, the NED channelled the money to three of its four main 
operational "wings".

The international arms of the Republican and Democratic parties - the 
International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute 
for International Affairs respectively - and the foreign policy wing of the 
AFL-CIO union, the American Centre for International Labour

These groups ran workshops, training sessions and provided free advice to 
three political parties in Venezuela - Democratic Action, Copei and First 
Justice - the leaderships of which have been at the forefront of efforts to 
undermine Chavez.

NED response

Chris Sabatini, the director of the NED for Latin America, claimed the 
organisation's aim is to promote democracy and "build political space".

He told the New York Times that the endowment had been working with civic 
groups in Venezuela with no political ties and human rights groups.

Relations between the US and Venezuela have not been so tense since April 
2002 when Chavez was briefly ousted by opponents who had been supported by 
the US in the run-up to the coup.

At the time, Washington blamed Chavez for his own downfall.


Washington's antipathy towards Chavez is fuelled by his friendship with 
Cuba's Fidel Castro and his open criticism of Washington-backed free market 

But Venezuela is also America's fourth largest supplier of oil - something 
that gives Chavez a degree of leverage but, at the same time, makes him 
vulnerable to those who would like to see a more pro-American leader in power.

In recent days, Caracas and other cities have been rocked by demonstrations 
in support of a national vote to force another general election.

Those intensified after the supposedly independent elections council ruled 
that government opponents lacked enough total signatures to force the vote.

There have also been large and vociferous marches by thousands of 
supporters of the president who oppose the vote.
Macdonald Stainsby
In the contradiction lies the hope

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