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Re: One more on Venezuela: US funded Chavez's opponents
by n0705590
25 April 2002 15:40 UTC
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Well...this is really amusing.  I have to confess that, after Reagan's alleged 
reasons to invade Grenada (that little island was supposed to be a security 
threat for the US...according to Chomsky the Mexican president refused to 
report this to his own people and support the invasion because he was, 
understandably, afraid that fourty million mexicans would die in histerical 
laughter)...well, I never thought that I would find a more reliable source of 
comic relief than that story.  But what about this?  We have a country whose 
president wins, and with a considerable margin, four elections in three years 
(1998 election with 80 per cent of the vote, referendum on the modification of 
the constitution, election for the members of the constitutional commission, 
referendum on the approval of the constitution...to the point that i do not 
believe there is a more 'democratic' government on planet earth), who gets 
attacked by an organisation for the promotion of democracy emating from a 
country of which the president was appointed by the Supreme Court, after a 
very dubious Florida ballot and anyhow obtaining the minority of the overall 
US citizens votes...this one really is hard to beat.

>===== Original Message From "Elson Boles" <boles@svsu.edu> =====
>April 25, 2002
>U.S. Bankrolling Is Under Scrutiny for Ties to Chávez Ouster
>WASHINGTON, April 24 — In the past year, the United States channeled
>hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to American and Venezuelan groups
>opposed to President Hugo Chávez, including the labor group whose protests
>led to the Venezuelan president's brief ouster this month.
>The funds were provided by the National Endowment for Democracy, a nonprofit
>agency created and financed by Congress. As conditions deteriorated in
>Venezuela and Mr. Chávez clashed with various business, labor and media
>groups, the endowment stepped up its assistance, quadrupling its budget for
>Venezuela to more than $877,000.
>While the endowment's expressed goal is to promote democracy around the
>world, the State Department's human rights bureau is examining whether one
>or more recipients of the money may have actively plotted against Mr.
>Chávez. The bureau has put a $1 million grant to the endowment on hold
>pending that review, an official said.
>"We wanted to make certain that U.S. government resources were not going to
>underwrite the unconstitutional overthrow of the government of Venezuela,"
>said the official, who occupies a midlevel job in the department and asked
>not to be identified. The deputy spokesman for the State Department, Philip
>Reeker, said he was unaware of the proposed grant.
>Of particular concern is $154,377 given by the endowment to the American
>Center for International Labor Solidarity, the international arm of the
>A.F.L.-C.I.O., to assist the main Venezuelan labor union in advancing labor
>The Venezuelan union, the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, led the work
>stoppages that galvanized the opposition to Mr. Chávez. The union's leader,
>Carlos Ortega, worked closely with Pedro Carmona Estanga, the businessman
>who briefly took over from Mr. Chávez, in challenging the government.
>The endowment also provided significant resources to the foreign policy
>wings of the Republican and Democratic parties for work in Venezuela, which
>sponsored trips to Washington by Chávez critics.
>The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs was given a
>$210,500 grant to promote the accountability of local government. The
>International Republican Institute, which has an office in Venezuela,
>received a grant of $339,998 for political party building. On April 12, the
>day of the takeover, the group hailed Mr. Chávez's ouster. "The Venezuelan
>people rose up to defend democracy in their country," the institute's
>president, George A. Folsom, said in a statement. "Venezuelans were provoked
>into action as a result of systematic repression by the government of Hugo
>The statement drew a sharp rebuke from Carl Gershman, the endowment
>president, for the openly political stance, which he said would undercut the
>institute's work in Venezuela in the future.
>The institute has close ties to the Bush administration, which had also
>embraced the short-lived takeover; Lorne Craner, the assistant secretary of
>state for democracy, human rights and labor, is a former president of the
>In an interview, Mr. Folsom said discussions at the institute on Venezuela
>involved finding ways to remove Mr. Chávez by constitutional means only.
>Chris Sabatini, the endowment's senior program officer for Latin America and
>the Caribbean, said his agency's funds went to specific projects to bolster
>the democratic opposition in Venezuela — including training in civics,
>journalism and conflict resolution — and did not contribute to the attempted
>ouster of Mr. Chávez.
>"None of our funds in any way were used to support the coup," he said.
>Mr. Sabatini acknowledged that the endowment had hurriedly increased its
>outlays in Venezuela in the past year as Mr. Chávez and his supporters
>restricted press freedoms and sought to suppress growing dissent against his
>leftist policies. The goal was to create political space for opponents to
>Mr. Chávez, not to contribute to his ouster, he said.
>"We were very explicit that we had no opinion of Chávez," but were
>responding to events, Mr. Sabatini said.
>The Bush administration, which has made no secret of its disdain for Mr.
>Chávez — and his warm relations with nations like Cuba and Iraq — has turned
>to the endowment to help the opposition to Mr. Chávez.
>With an annual budget of $33 million, the endowment disburses hundreds of
>grants each year to pro-democracy groups from Africa to Asia. Advocates say
>the agency's independent status enables the United States to support
>democratic actors in nations where American government aid might be
>cumbersome or unwelcome. Its supporters proudly cite critical assistance
>from the endowment to countries emerging from repressive systems like Poland
>and South Africa.
>Jane Riley Jacobsen, a spokeswoman for the endowment, said her agency
>scrupulously maintained its independence from the federal government and
>avoided foreign policy debates.
>But critics say recipients of endowment aid do not have the same
>accountability that government programs require, which opens the door for
>rogue activities and freelancing. The agency overreached, those critics say,
>in Chile in 1988 and in Nicaragua in 1989, when endowment funds were used to
>sway the outcomes of elections.
>Barbara Conry, an analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, said the
>organizing philosophy behind the endowment was flawed.
>"You ended up with the worst of both worlds," she said. "Everybody knew it
>was directly funded by Washington. That didn't fool too many people. But it
>wasn't really accountable."
>Elson Boles
>Assistant Professor
>Dept. of Sociology
>Saginaw Valley State University
>University Center
>Saginaw MI, 48710

Damian Popolo
PhD candidate
Newcastle University
Department of Politics
Room 301

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