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