[Marxism] Meddling in Venezuela
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Nov 9 08:02:44 MST 2006
NY Times, November 9, 2006
Venezuela Groups Get U.S. Aid Amid Meddling Charges
By SIMON ROMERO
CARACAS, Venezuela, Nov. 8 Since President Hugo Chávez returned to power
after a brief coup in 2002, the United States has channeled millions of
dollars to Venezuelan organizations, many of them critical of his
government. This aid has become a key issue in the presidential election
next month amid claims of American interference in the domestic political
Washington thinks it can buy regime change in Venezuela, said Carlos
Escarrá, a constitutional lawyer and a leading legislator in the National
Assembly who has been pushing for tighter regulation over the American
financing of Venezuelan groups. This is an affront to our sovereignty as a
nation that is not docile to Washingtons interests.
He echoed recent comments from other high-ranking officials and from Mr.
Chávez, who has a double-digit lead in most polls over his main opponent,
Manuel Rosales, the governor of Zulia State. Mr. Chávez rarely refers in
public to Mr. Rosales by name, instead framing his campaign as a choice
between his government and the Bush administration.
American diplomats here have remained largely quiet in commenting on the
election, which is scheduled for Dec. 3, in contrast to the active role
American officials played in Nicaragua before the election of Daniel Ortega
earlier this week. Government officials here exploit any example of
American efforts to counter Mr. Chávezs influence as evidence of what they
see as a looming confrontation with Washington.
For instance, Vice President José Vicente Rangel has organized an event
this week to publicize the release of Bush vs. Chávez: Washingtons War
Against Venezuela, a book by Eva Golinger, an American lawyer who has
become famous in Venezuela for detailing the American financing of groups here.
The United States Agency for International Development has distributed
about $25 million to various Venezuelan organizations over the last five
years, according to officials involved in the projects. The funds have been
channeled to the Venezuelan groups through private and public entities from
the United States that have opened offices in Caracas.
These include Development Alternatives Inc., a Bethesda, Md., company that
works closely with the State Department in dispersing funds around the
world, and the International Republican Institute and the National
Democratic Institute for International Affairs, two Washington groups that
have carried out training for emerging political leaders in Venezuela.
Documents obtained from the United States government under the Freedom of
Information Act point to numerous grants made by the United States in the
past two years to groups whose activities are viewed as critical of Mr.
Chávezs government. The international development agency withheld the
names of many of the grant recipients, saying that the disclosure of their
identities could put them at risk of political retaliation.
All of the grants were channeled through Development Alternatives, which
worked on behalf of the Office of Transition Initiatives, a little-known
branch of the international development agency that started operating in
Venezuela after the April 2002 coup.
O.T.I., which was created in the 1990s to push for democratic change in the
former Soviet Union, normally finances activities in strife-torn countries
like Liberia, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Its only operations in Latin America are
in Venezuela and Bolivia, two countries that have developed an alliance
based in part on shared distrust of the United States.
Mr. Chávez has repeatedly lashed out at the United States governments
activities, mixing his attacks with unsubstantiated claims that the Bush
administration is financing covert intelligence operations aimed at
strengthening his opponents campaign. This criticism has played well among
the presidents political base, where anti-American sentiment has
flourished since Mr. Chávez was briefly removed from power in a coup in
2002 with the Bush administrations tacit approval.
Officials from the agency for international development did not withhold
all of the identities of its grant recipients in Venezuela, as if to point
out that some of the aid went to groups receiving charity in the form of
baseball equipment and roofing materials. One $15,728 grant for a nutrition
program went to the municipal government of Baruta, an area of Caracas
whose mayor, Henrique Capriles Radonski, is an outspoken critic of Mr. Chávez.
American officials here and in Washington say the aim of the assistance is
to bring opponents and supporters of Mr. Chávez together to discuss ways to
prevent the erosion of democratic freedoms.
U.S. activities, as has been publicly discussed on numerous occasions,
focus on strengthening civil society in Venezuela, which is a critical
element for any healthy democracy, David Snider, an international
development agency spokesman in Washington, said in a statement.
These nonpartisan activities are no different than those activities that
U.S.A.I.D. supports in many other countries throughout the world, he added.
But some grants were directed at organizations whose stated objectives
seemed to look for potential weaknesses in Mr. Chávezs administration. One
$33,304 grant in March 2005 was called Land Redistribution Dos and
Donts, and required its unidentified recipient to investigate
agricultural policies in areas where the federal government had been
carrying out land expropriations.
Other grants had what appeared to be an objective of building support for
potential rivals to Mr. Chávez. A $47,459 grant, for instance, was made in
July 2005 to an organization whose goal was to meet with organizations to
build a democratic leadership campaign.
The agencys grants in Venezuela have raised concern among some political
analysts who see parallels in efforts by Washington to destabilize the
socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile in the early 1970s or
attempts to influence the domestic political system of Nicaragua in the 1980s.
I wouldnt feel comfortable with the Chinese government doing something
like this in the U.S., said Jeremy Bigwood, an international policy
analyst at the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington. Mr.
Bigwood filed a pending lawsuit against the agency for international
development this year asking that it name its recipients. He said not doing
so changed it from a civilian to a clandestine service.
Meanwhile, a backlash to the American financing has been building.
Prosecutors filed conspiracy charges against leaders of Súmate, a voter
education group, after it received $31,000 from the National Endowment for
Democracy, another entity backed by the United States government that
distributes money to groups in Venezuela.
A proposed law is also making its way through the National Assembly that
would regulate international financing of nongovernmental organizations.
The bill, which has been criticized by anticorruption groups like
Transparency International, has been held up until after the election.
Increased scrutiny by the government here of the American financing has
been described as hypocritical by some analysts at a time when Venezuela
has increased its own foreign aid in an attempt to influence the political
direction of countries like Bolivia and Nicaragua.
The thinking goes that if its for the revolution, then by definition it
is correct, said Aníbal Romero, a professor of political science at Simón
Bolívar University. But if the money comes from Washington, then its
Jens Erik Gould contributed reporting.
More information about the Marxism