[Marxism] 08-30-06 US Accused of Bid to Oust Chavez With Secret Funds - Guardian UK 30 August 2006

Ralph Johansen mdriscoll at earthlink.net
Wed Aug 30 16:32:03 MDT 2006

  *US Accused of Bid to Oust Chavez With Secret Funds*
    By Duncan Campbell
    The Guardian UK

    Wednesday 30 August 2006

    /*Millions of dollars given to opposition, claim critics. Venezuelan
    groups' details hidden from list.*/

    The US government has been accused of trying to undermine the Chavez 
government in Venezuela by funding anonymous groups via its main 
international aid agency.

    Millions of dollars have been provided in a "pro-democracy 
programme" that Chavez supporters claim is a covert attempt to bankroll 
an opposition to defeat the government.

    The money is being provided by the US Agency for International 
Development (USAID) through its Office of Transition Initiatives. The 
row follows the recent announcement that the US had made $80m (£42m) 
available for groups seeking to bring about change in Cuba, whose 
leader, Fidel Castro, is a close ally of Mr Chavez.

    Information about the grants has been obtained following a Freedom 
of Information request by the Associated Press. USAID released copies of 
132 contracts but obscured the names and other identifying details of 
nearly half the organisations.

   *_ The Office of Transition Initiatives, which also works in such 
"priority countries" as Iraq, Afghanistan, Bolivia and Haiti, has 
overseen more than $26m in grants to groups in Venezuela since 2002._*

    Among the grants detailed in the information are: one for $47,459 
for a "democratic leadership campaign"; $37,614 for citizen meetings to 
discuss a "shared vision" for society; and one of $56,124 to analyse 
Venezuela's new constitution.

    "What this indicates is that there is a great deal of money, a great 
deal of concern to oust or neutralise Chávez," said Larry Birns, 
director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (Coha) in Washington 
yesterday. "The US is waging diplomatic warfare against Venezuela."

    He said that while the US had accused Mr Chávez of destabilising 
Latin American countries, the term "destabilisation" more aptly applied 
to what the US was trying to do to Mr Chavez.

    "It's trying to implement regime change," Eva Golinger, a 
Venezuelan-American lawyer who wrote The Chavez Code: Cracking US 
Intervention in Venezuela, told AP. "There's no doubt about it. I think 
the US government tries to mask it by saying it's a noble mission."

    She added: "It's too suspicious to have such a high level of secrecy."

    President Chavez has also accused groups of taking American money 
and predicted that the US will seek to use its influence in Venezuela's 
December polls.

    USAID officials denied any suggestion the money had any political 
aim and said the reason for anonymity for some groups was to protect 
them from potential harassment.

    "The goal of the programme is to strengthen democracy, which is 
consistent with President Bush's 'Freedom Agenda'," said a USAID 
official yesterday. "A strong civil society is a critical part of any 
healthy democracy, just as it is in the United States, England or 
anywhere else in the world."

    The official said that the money was used to pay for "a wide range 
of seminars, educational programmes and even public service TV 
commercials aimed at promoting dialogue between pro- and anti-Chavez 
camps. Other projects include workshops on conflict resolution, efforts 
to promote human rights, and training for positive citizen involvement 
in their communities."

    USAID also supports programmes such as day-care centres for the 
poor, improvement for schools, junior sports teams, and children's 
homes, the official said, adding that the sums being spent in Venezuela 
were much smaller than those allocated elsewhere this year in Latin 
America, with USAID budgeting $3.8m for Venezuela compared with $84.8m 
for Bolivia and $85.1m for Peru.

    The row comes just as China has agreed to invest $5bn in energy 
projects in Venezuela, including the building of 13 oil rigs and 18 oil 
tankers. Last week Mr Chavez announced that China was endorsing 
Venezuela's bid for the rotating Latin America seat on the 15-member 
security council, a candidacy strongly opposed by the US. The commercial 
arrangements with Beijing are seen as part of the Chavez government's 
strategy of establishing new links so as to lessen the country's 
dependence on US trade.

    As a symbol of the friendly relations established between Mr Chavez 
and the London mayor, Ken Livingstone, there will be a festival of 
Latin-American music with a Caracas theme in Trafalgar Square this 
Friday evening. The two men met earlier this summer when the president 
was a guest at an event hosted by the mayor.

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