Tuesday, June 29, 2010

US ARRESTS 10 "RUSSIAN SPIES", A US JOURNALIST AMONGST THEM

Vicky Peláez caught in U.S. dragnet

Vicky Peláez was the only Spanish language journalist in New York worth a damn. So naturally something had to be done about her. She and her husband are the sore thumbs in this story and you have to wonder if the mighty U.S. Justice Department wasn’t running a twofer (or in this case a ten-fer) that swept Vicky off the press desk at El Diario/La Prensa so that even if she is ultimately exonerated, her career will be destroyed. Eva Golinger has the story.

BREAKING NEWS: United States Arrests Ten Supposed “Russian Spies,” a Journalist Among Them - español

Eva Golinger

English translation: Machetera (thanks!!)

Caracas, June 28, 2010 – Last week, President Barack Obama shared a typical “American” meal with the President of the Russian Federation, Dmitri Medvedev. Between hamburgers and Coca-Colas, the two heads of state smiled and proclaimed their relationship “stable” and “better than ever.” Medvedev even sent photos via Twitter of his pleasant meal with his U.S. counterpart. He didn’t expect that just a few days later, the Cold War would be resuscitated.

Today the U.S. Justice Department announced the arrest of ten presumed “Russian Spies,” the majority of whom are U.S. citizens accused of receiving financing from the Russian government to carry out “intelligence” operations. Their main violation is that of the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), which regulates and monitors every citizen or U.S. resident who receives financing from a foreign government for political or propagandistic ends within the country.

Until now, the 10 under arrest have not been accused of espionage, but of having “conspired to act as foreign agents without being registered under the FARA law.” Among those detained is a journalist in New York, of Peruvian origin. Vicky Peláez wrote for El Diario/La Prensa, the most widely read Spanish language newspaper in the Big Apple. She was one of the few Hispanic journalists to criticize Washington’s policies toward Latin America, and who sought balance in her reports on Venezuela and other countries of the region that are normally extremely criticized in the U.S. press.

Until today, no international organization that defends journalists and freedom of expression, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA – English/SIP – Spanish), or Reporters Without Borders (RSF – French/Spanish) has made a statement about her arrest.

Peláez was arrested along with her husband, Juan Lázaro, a Uruguayan native, on Sunday in their house in Yonkers, on the outskirts of New York City. According to the Department of Justice, Peláez is accused of having received money from a representative of the Russian government on January 14, 2000, while she was in a South American country. Presumably, her spouse received another packet of money from a Russian agent on August 25, 2007. According to the warrant, “just days after returning to New York, almost $8,000 in taxes owed to the U.S. government were paid.”

So, money was received from Russia to pay taxes in the United States?

The warrant delivered by the Justice Department reveals that the head of Russian intelligence in Moscow had sent a message to two of the detainees. The message said that their main mission was to “search and develop ties in policymaking circles in the U.S.” and “send reports” later on. High level espionage?

FBI agents arrested Richard and Cynthia Murphy at their home in Montclair, New Jersey, last Sunday. Anna Chapman was arrested in Manhattan, Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills in Arlington, Virginia; Mikhail Semenko in Alexandria, Virginia; and Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley in their house in Boston. Christopher R. Metsos is another suspect who has apparently escaped. Nine of the 10 arrested were charged with “money laundering.”

Last week a document published with financing from a U.S. agency, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) revealed that between $40 and $50 million dollars in financing went to political groups in Venezuela who oppose the government of President Hugo Chávez. According to reports declassified since 2002, various U.S. and European agencies such as USAID, NED, Freedom House, the State Department, the European Commission and others, have financed political parties and groups in Venezuela to “end the Chávez government,” including an attempted coup d’etat in April, 2002.

Nevertheless, when the Venezuelan government has accused (not arrested) groups and individuals receiving these funds of being “foreign agents,” the U.S. government and international human rights “defenders” accuse it of being “dictatorial,” “repressive,” and a “violator” of basic rights.

Last week, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales also accused USAID of financing destabilization activities in his country, alerting Washington that its embassy could be expelled from the Andean nation.

In Cuba, Alan Gross, an employee of a USAID contractor, Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), was arrested in December 2009 and accused of espionage and subversion. He brought satellite and other high technology equipment to the Caribbean country to be delivered to counter-revolutionary groups.

In Venezuela, international agencies appear to be involved in huge money laundering networks, along with their Venezuelan “associates.” Millions of dollars in cash are brought into the country without being reported, in order to avoid Venezuelan controls on foreign currency exchange which exist to prevent illegal activities and capital flight.

Venezuela’s electoral laws prohibit the external financing of political campaigns in the country. Nevertheless, Washington violates the same laws that it insists be respected on its own territory.

Monday, June 28, 2010

EEUU detiene 10 supuestos “espías rusos”; entre ellos, una periodista





Por Eva Golinger

Caracas, 28 de junio de 2010 - La semana pasada, el Presidente Barack Obama compartía una típica comida “americana” con el Presidente de la Federación Rusa, Dmitri Medvedev. Entre hamburguesas y coca colas, los dos jefes de Estado sonreían y proclamaban su relación “estable” y “mejor que nunca”. Hasta Medvedev envió por Twitter las fotos de su agradable comida con su par estadounidense. No esperaba que días después, la Guerra Fría sería resucitada.

El Departamento de Justicia de Estados Unidos anunció hoy la detención de 10 presuntos “espías rusos”, la mayoría de los cuales son estadounidenses acusados de recibir financiamiento del gobierno ruso para ejecutar operaciones de “inteligencia”. Su principal violación es de la ley FARA (Foreign Agent Registration Act – Ley de Registro de Agentes Extranjeros), que regula y monitorea todo ciudadano o residente estadounidense que recibe financiamiento de un gobierno extranjero para fines políticos o propagandísticos en el país.

Hasta el momento, los 10 detenidos no han sido acusados de espionaje, sino de haber “conspirado para actuar como agentes extranjeros sin estar registrados bajo la ley FARA”.

Entre los detenidos, hay una periodista de Nueva York, de orígen peruano. Vicky Peláez escribía para El Diario/La Prensa, el periódico en idioma español más leído en la Gran Manzana. Era una de pocos periodistas hispanos que criticaba las políticas de Washington hacia América Latina, y que buscaba balance en sus reportajes sobre Venezuela y otros países de la región que normalmente son muy criticados en la prensa estadounidense.

Hasta hoy, ninguna organización internacional que defiende a los periodistas y la libertad de expresión, como el Comité de Proteger a los Periodistas (CPJ), la Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa (SIP), o Reporteros sin Fronteras (RSF) ha declarado sobre su detención.

Peláez fue arrestada junto con su esposo, Juan Lázaro, nativo de Uruguay, el domingo en su casa en Yonkers, en las afueras de la ciudad de Nueva York. Según el Departamento de Justicia, Peláez es acusada de haber recibido dinero de un representante del gobierno ruso el 14 de enero del 2000, mientras estaba en un país de Sur América. Presuntamente, su esposo recibió otro paquete de dinero de un agente ruso el 25 de agosto de 2007. Según el expediente, “apenás días después de regresar a Nueva York, pagó casi 8 mil dólares en impuestos que debía” al gobierno estadounidense.

Entonces, ¿recibió dinero de Rusia para pagar sus impuestos en Estados Unidos?

El expediente entregado por el Departamento de Justicia revela que la sede de inteligencia rusa en Moscú había enviado un mensaje a dos de los detenidos. El mensaje decía que su misión principal era “buscar y desarrollar vínculos con los círculos políticos en EEUU”, y luego “enviar informes”. ¿Alto espionaje?

Agentes de la FBI detuvieron a Richard Murphy y Cynthia Murphy en su residencia en Montclair, Nueva Jersey el domingo pasado. También fueron arrestados Anna Chapman en Manhattan; Michael Zottoli y Patricia Mills en Arlington, Virginia; Mikhail Semenko en Alexandria, Virginia; y Donald Howard Heathfield y Tracey Lee Ann Foley en su casa en Boston. Están buscando un sospechoso adicional, Christopher R. Metsos, que parece haberse escapado.
Nueve de los 10 detenidos también fueron imputados por “lavado de dinero”.

La semana pasada, un documento publicado con financiamiento de una agencia estadounidense, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), reveló entre 40 a 50 millones de dólares en financiamiento a grupos políticos en Venezuela que se oponen al gobierno del Presidente Hugo Chávez. Según informes desclasificados desde el 2002, distintas agencias estadounidenses y europeas, como la USAID, NED, Freedom House, Departamento de Estado, Comisión Europea y otras, han financiado partidos y grupos políticos en Venezuela para “salir del gobierno de Chávez”, incluyendo un intento de golpe de Estado en abril 2002.

No obstante, cuando el gobierno venezolano ha acusado (y no arrestado) los grupos e indivíduos que reciben estos fondos, de ser “agentes extranjeros”, el gobierno estadounidense y las “defensoras” internacionales de derechos humanos lo acusan de ser “dictatorial”, “represor” y “violador” de los derechos básicos.

La semana pasada, el Presidente Evo Morales de Bolivia también acusó a la USAID de financiar actividades de desestabilización en su país, alertando a Washington que su agencia estatal podría ser expulsado del país andino.

En Cuba, Alan Gross, un empleado de una contratista de la USAID, Development Alternatives Inc (DAI), fue detenido en diciembre 2009 y acusado de espionaje y subversión. Traía equipos satelitales y de alta tecnología al país caribeño para ser entregados a grupos de la contrarrevolución.

En Venezuela, las agencias internacionales parecen estar involucradas en grandes redes de lavado de dinero, junto a sus “socios” venezolanos. Ingresan los millones de dólares en efectivo al país, sin fiscalizarlos, para evitar los controles sobre el cambio de moneda extranjera que existen en Venezuela para evitar actos ilícitos y fuga de capital.

Las leyes electorales en Venezuela prohiben el financiamiento externo a campañas políticas en el país. No obstante, Washington viola las mismas leyes que hace respetar en su propio territorio.

Monday, June 21, 2010

NED Report: International Agencies fund Venezuelan opposition with $40-50 million annually

NED Report: International Agencies fund Venezuelan opposition with $40-50 million annually
Eva Golinger

A revealing report published in May 2010 by the FRIDE Institute, a Spanish think tank, prepared with funding from the World Movement for Democracy (a project of the National Endowment for Democracy “NED”), has disclosed that international agencies are funding the Venezuelan opposition with a whopping $40-50 million USD annually.

This exhorbitant amount of financing well exceeds the approximately $15 million USD previously believed to have been channeled to Venezuelan opposition groups via the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the NED.
According to the FRIDE report, which analyzes the impact of this funding in Venezuela, and concludes that more donations are necessary to support the “democratic opposition” to President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, the multi-million dollar funds are exclusively directed towards political activities in the polarized South American nation. A large majority of the $40-50 million USD, donated by US and European agencies and foundations, is given to the right wing opposition political parties, Primero Justicia (First Justice), Un Nuevo Tiempo (A New Time) and COPEI (Christian Democrat ultra-conservative party), as well as to a dozen or so NGOs, student groups and media organizations.

In the FRIDE report, the Venezuelan government is classified as “semi-authoritarian”, which is a term used frequently by the NED and another US donor to Venezuelan opposition groups, Freedom House, to describe the Chavez administration. The report even goes so far as to indicate that in Venezuela, “Elections are the main link between democracy and dictatorship”. As a result, the international funds provided to political groups in Venezuela are destined to fight against the government of Hugo Chavez in order to “restore representative democracy” and return a more US-friendly government to power.

The authors of the revealing report recognize that “international assistance” for political groups in Venezuela did not begin until 2002, after the Chavez government began implementing a series of major reforms. “The presence of large international donors engaged in democracy promotion, particularly the donors based in the US (including the Carter Center, the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the Open Society Institute (OSI), the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and multilateral institutions (OAS and EC) is closely linked to the Chavez presidency…Their political engagement began in the aftermath of the new Bolivarian Constitution, approved by popular consultation in 1999, which was the starting point of Chavez’s Revolution and Socialism of the 21st Century…Many civil society organizations emerged in 2002 – the year of the attempted coup…”

According to the FRIDE document, “Foreign democracy assistance is mainly channelled through 10-12 small institutions, all of them with offices in Caracas. New political actors, such as the students’ movement or other groups, have rather sporadically been addressed by donors, mainly from the US”. In recent years, an opposition movement has emerged from the universities, backed by Washington primarily, but also by some European foundations, particularly from Spain. These student and youth groups have attempted to project a “fresh” image of the tarred traditional political parties that ruled the country throughout the latter half of the twentieth century and were largely viewed as corrupt and elitist.

But by receiving mass amounts of foreign funding and aid for their anti-Chavez political activities, the student and youth groups have demonstrated that their priorities and actions are directed by external forces, which in turn has caused for a loss of their credibility and has confirmed accusations that they are “agents” of the US government.

US: MAIN DONOR

US agencies are the principal donors to political groups in Venezuela, with annual funds of about $6 million USD. The FRIDE report confirms that this multi-million dollar aid is a result of US efforts to undermine the Chavez presidency. “Until very recently, the United States did not have a prominent role in democracy assistance to Venezuela. When US engagement began under the Chavez government, its political profile consisted of supporting democratic NGOs and opposition parties”.

US funds are channeled to opposition groups in Venezuela through the following organizations, Development Alternatives, Inc DAI (since 2002), the Pan-American Development Foundation PADF (since 2005), the International Republican Institute IRI (since 2002), the National Democratic Institute NDI (since 2002), Freedom House (since 2004), USAID (since 2002), NED and the Open Society Institute (since 2006).

Declassified documents obtained under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests regarding the activities of these agencies in Venezuela have revealed that their multi-million dollar funding has largely gone towards promoting anti-democratic activities, such as the April 2002 coup d’etat against the Chavez government, and subsequent strikes, destabilization attempts and economic sabotage. The foreign funding has also gone to support the opposition electoral campaigns over the past eight years, including in-kind aid to train and strengthen political parties, help design elections and communications strategies and even to develop political platforms and agendas for opposition groups. This level of support goes well beyond mere donations and evidences a direct meddling in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.

EUROPE

But, not only are US agencies providing the millions to keep the Venezuelan opposition alive and feed the political conflict in Venezuela. The FRIDE report reveals that the European Commission is channelling between 6-7 million Euros annually to opposition political parties and NGOs in the South American nation. Although some of the EC’s work is done with Venezuelan government entities on a local level (infrastructure development), the majority is going to “civil society organizations” and “human rights” NGOs.

Additionally, the FRIDE report exposes the EC for serving as a “channel” for the “triangularization” of US funding to groups in Venezuela, in order to avoid the stain of Washington on the Venezuelan organizations receiving foreign aid for political activities.

Several German foundations, including the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and Friedrich Ebert Foundation (ILDIS-FES) are providing direct funding to political parties in Venezuela. Konrad Adenauer invests about 500,000 Euros annually in projects with the right-wing parties COPEI and Primero Justicia, and has a 70,000 Euros annual commitment to fund programs at the conservative Catholic University Andrés Bello (UCAB), a hotbed of opposition student groups.

The governments of Canada and Spain are also funding political opposition groups and programs in Venezuela, though with a much lower profile, so as not to affect diplomatic relations.

The FRIDE report, which admits that a majority of the NGO’s receiving the multi-million dollar funding are actually “virtual organizations with no offices or staff”, also reveals that the international funders are evading and violating Venezuelan laws.
Because Venezuela has currency controls, so as to prevent large amounts of capital flight, there are restrictions on the flow of foreign currency in and out of the country. Additionally, the Venezuelan currency, the Bolívar has a fixed rate set by the State, although a large parallel, or “black market” exists for illegal trading. The FRIDE report confirms that several international agencies, particularly those from the US, are exchanging currency on the illegal market, in clear violation of Venezuelan law. “…An additional problem for civil society organizations has been the ‘double currency’: even after the devaluation of the Bolívar, the unofficial exchange rate is higher than the official one…Some donors have solved this problem by paying in hard currency, by using foreign bank accounts, or by applying a semi-official exchange rate…”

The FRIDE report, titled, “Assessing Democracy Assistance: Venezuela”, is part of a series of studies conducted in 14 nations where international agencies are actively involved in funding political groups favorable to US policies. In addition to Venezuela, other case studies were conducted in Belarus, China, Georgia, Egypt, Ukraine, Nigeria, Bosnia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mysteriously, the report on Venezuela, and any evidence of its existence, disappeared from the FRIDE website after this author referred to it in a prior Spanish-language article. Nonetheless, it can now be viewed at:
http://centrodealerta.org/documentos_desclasificados/fride_report_on_funding_in_.pdf

Eva Golinger, winner of Mexico’s 2009 International Journalism Award, is a Venezuela-based attorney and author. Her first book, The Chavez Code, which exposes US involvement in the 2002 coup in Venezuela, has been published in six languages and is currently being made into a feature film.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

EXCLUSIVA: INFORME DE LA NED: AGENCIAS INTERNACIONALES INVIERTEN $40-50 MILLONES EN LA OPOSICIÓN EN VENEZUELA

Informe de la NED: Agencias internacionales invierten entre $40-50 millones de dólares en la oposición en Venezuela anualmente

Por Eva Golinger

Caracas, 17 de junio de 2010 - Un informe preparado por el instituto FRIDE de España, con financiamiento y apoyo de la Fundación Nacional para la Democracia (National Endowment for Democracy “NED”) y el Movimiento Mundial para la Democracia, (entidad creada por la NED), revela que distintas agencias internacionales invierten entre $40 a 50 millones de dólares en sectores de la oposición en Venezuela cada año.

Según el informe, el cual fue publicado en mayo 2010, los fondos multimillonarios están exclusivamente orientados a fines políticas, e incluyen grandes aportes para partidos políticos venezolanos como Primero Justicia, Un Nuevo Tiempo y Copei.

En el informe, el gobierno del Presidente Hugo Chávez está clasificado como “autoritario” y “dictatorial”, además de “violador de los derechos humanos”. Los fondos internacionales destacados en el informe están destinados a grupos venezolanos con el objetivo de luchar contra el gobierno de Hugo Chávez para “restaurar el estado democrático”.

Los autores del informe admiten que la “asistencia internacional” para fines políticos en Venezuela no comenzó sino hasta el 2001-2002, y luego aumentó después del fracasó del golpe de Estado de abril 2002. Desde entonces, el objetivo principal de estas organizaciones ha sido impulsar un “cambio de régimen” en Venezuela para lograr derrocar permanentemente al Presidente Chávez y acabar con la Revolución Bolivariana.

Más de $6 millones de dólares están destinados a grupos políticos en Venezuela este año a través de las agencias estadounidenses, como la USAID, la NED, el Centro Carter, el Instituto Republicano Internacional (IRI), el Instituto Demócrata Nacional (NDI), Freedom House, la Fundación Panamericana para el Desarrollo (PADF) y el Instituto de la Sociedad Abierta (OSI). El OSI pertence al billonario húngaro, George Soros, conocido por su extenso financiamiento y apoyo a las llamadas “revoluciones de colores” en países como Serbia, Ucrania y Georgia, entre otros de la Europa Oriental.

Pero no es solamente Estados Unidos que financia a la oposición en Venezuela. El informe revela que, debido a los “peligros” que enfrentan los grupos venezolanos que reciben los aportes de Washington para fines políticos en el país, han creado una red de “triangulación” para canalizar fondos a través de fundaciones europeas y canadienses. La Comisión Europea (EC) es una de las principales entidades que está filtrando estos fondos, con inversiones entre 6 a 7 millones de euros cada año a grupos opositores en Venezuela. Este año, según el informe, la Comisión Europea ha dado hasta 3 millones de euros para financiar ONGs y proyectos dedicados a demostrar las supuestas amenazas contra los derechos humanos y la libertad de expresión en Venezuela.

La ayuda estadounidense se canaliza de la siguiente manera:

• Desde el 2002, la contratista Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) ha invertido más de $40 millones de dólares en pequeñas ONGs y programas dirigidos a la formación y capacitación de jóvenes líderes políticos, movimientos estudiantiles, campañas mediáticas y “asuntos sociales”;
• El Instituto Demócrata Nacional (NDI) financia desde el 2002 a partidos políticos de la oposición y organizaciones de observación electoral. Fundó la organización venezolana Ojo Electoral y suministró grandes aportes a Súmate;
• El Instituto Republicano Internacional (IRI) financia y apoya estratégicamente a los partidos políticos de la derecha, como Copei, Primero Justicia y Un Nuevo Tiempo;
• La NED invierte alrededor de $1 millón de dólares anualmente en distintas ONG dedicadas a los temas de “democracia” y “libertad de expresión” en Venezuela’
• Freedom House está desde el año 2004 en Venezuela trabajando con los temas de derechos humanos y libertad de expresión;
• La Fundación Panamericana para el Desarrollo (PADF) financia directamente a ONGs venezolanas para “fortalecer la sociedad civil”;
• El OSI está financiando proyectos relacionados con las campañas electorales de la oposición.

El informe de la NED revela que varias fundaciones alemanas también están trabajando con los partidos políticos y ONGs de la oposición en Venezuela. Las principales fundaciones de Alemania son Konrad Adenauer (KAS) y Friedrich Ebert Foundation (ILDIS-FES). Entre estas dos fundaciones alemanas, invierten alrededor de 500 mil euros anuales en proyectos con Copei, Primero Justicia y la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB), además de otras ONGs y grupos políticos en Venezuela.
Los gobiernos de Canadá y España son los otros donantes principales de las actividades de la oposición venezolana, aunque muchos de sus fondos son también provenientes de Washington.

Finalmente, el informe evidencia que una mayoría de las organizaciones venezolanas que están recibiendo estos aportes internacionales son realmente entidades “virtuales”. No tienen oficinas, ni equipos, ni trayectorias de trabajo. Son canales para filtrar recursos a la oposición venezolana, para mantener vivo el conflicto político en el país.

También afirman en el informe que la mayoría de las agencias internacionales, con la excepción de la Comisión Europea, están trayendo los fondos en moneda extranjera y cambiándolos en el mercado paralelo, en clara violación de la ley venezolana. En algunos casos, como destaca el informe de la NED, abren cuentas en el exterior para depositar los recursos, o se los entregan en euros o dólares en efectivo. La Embajada de Estados Unidos en Venezuela podría utilizar la valija diplomática para traer grandes cantidades de dólares y euros al país que luego entregan a actores venezolanos de forma ilegal, sin ninguna contabilidad formal del Estado venezolano.

La mayoría de las agencias estadounidenses que están financiando a la oposición venezolana hoy en día operan a través de la Embajada de Estados Unidos en Caracas. Cuando antes tenían oficinas en Venezuela, ahora operan desde el exterior para evitar el monitoreo del gobierno venezolano.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

“We are in an Economic War”

President Chavez called on workers to not be manipulated by private business owners and companies and challenged the Venezuelan “bourgeoisie” to economic war

By Eva Golinger

“Make the economy scream”, wrote Henry Kissinger in a note to CIA forces involved in efforts to oust President Salvador Allende in Chile in the early 1970s. Later, economic sabotage overtook the South American nation, as workers went on strikes and business owners hiked prices, temporarily shut doors and caused mass inflation, creating an overall climate of instability that led to the 1973 coup d’etat overthrowing Allende.

The same strategy was applied in Venezuela in 2002. A coup d’etat that briefly succeeded, but then failed, was followed by an economic sabotage that shut down the oil industry and depleted the nation of basic consumer products, causing more than $20 billion USD in damages to the economy, but failing to remove Chavez from power. The business, labor, media and political groups backing the coup and the sabotage received direct funding and support from Washington and its agencies, including USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

In 2007, they tried again, causing major product shortages nationwide, which spiked inflation, while at the same time taking protests to the streets and garnering international media attention that attempted to portray the Chavez government as dictatorial, repressive and in crisis.

Former US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, explained the US strategy and role at the time on Fox News, “[Chavez’s] ability to appeal to the Venezuelan people, only works so long as the populous of Venezuela sees some ability for a better standard of living. If at some point the economy really gets bad, Chavez’s popularity within the country will certainly decrease and it’s the one weapon we have against him to begin with and which we should be using, namely the economic tools of trying to make the economy even worse so that his appeal in the country and the region goes down”.

Eagleburger, also Advisor to President George W. Bush at that time, went on to state that “Anything we can do to make their economy more difficult for them at this moment is a good thing, but let’s do it in ways that do not get us into direct conflict with Venezuela if we can get away with it”.

SABOTAGE

Shortly after Eagleburger’s statements, Venezuela’s economy plummeted. But the Chavez government’s swift nationalization of several industries and companies, along with firm legal action taken against those businesses hoarding products and illegally raising prices, saved the country from recession. The year 2007 in Venezuela was incredibly difficult, even toilet paper was hard to find, along with basic food staples like sugar, milk, flour and coffee. But it wasn’t because these products were lacking in the country. Discoveries were made of tons of products, hidden from consumers in warehouses belonging to national and transnational corporations in the country. Other products were illegally transported across the border into Colombia and Panama for resale at higher prices.

During the past several years, the sabotage has continued in waves. Sometimes sugar is absent from supermarket shelves, causing panic, other times it’s milk, or corn flour, napkins or black beans. Then, mass quantities of these products are found in some container or warehouse belonging to a private corporation or overseen by a corrupt government official.

Just recently, 32 tons of decomposed food products, including oil, coffee, sugar, butter, rice, pasta, meat and milk, were discovered by Venezuela’s intelligence agency, Sebin, in 1,300 containers sitting in Port Cabello, on the north-central coast. The products were destined to be sold in the government subsidized markets, Mercal and Pdval, but corrupt officials had purposefully left them there to rot in order to provoke product shortages. Several government officials have already been detained and are under investigation for their role in this and other acts of corruption and sabotage in the food industry.

"War on corruption", declared President Chavez on Wednesday, adding that "These are vices of the past, and we have discovered many public officials involved in corruption and will investigate and bring them to justice. No one is protected from corruption here, whoever falls, falls". Chavez revealed that more than 30 public officials had already been tried and imprisoned for corruption in the food industry during the past few years.

ECONOMIC WARFARE

In an event on Wednesday at a new socialist processing plant, Diana Oil, President Chavez responded to his private sector critics, diminishing their accusations. “They say Chavez is destroying the country, that the workers don’t have the capacity to manage companies and that worker-run production is a crazy idea. They say the government destroys all the companies we run”.

Chavez also called for a response to what he perceives as a “declared economic war” against the people and the Revolution. “I call on the true working class in Venezuela to battle in the economic war against the bourgeoisie”, he exclaimed, adding, “I was born for this battle. They have declared economic warfare against me and I call on all workers to join with me in the fight to take back our economy”.

The Venezuelan President had particular words for the owner of one of the nation’s largest food and beverage producers and distributors, Lorenzo Mendoza. One of the wealthiest men in Venezuela, and a Forbes billionaire, Mendoza runs Empresas Polar, which produces and distributes products such as Polar beer, PepsiCola and all kinds of juices, vinegars, sauces, ice creams, cereals, canned and frozen foods.

Chavez responded directly to Mendoza’s claims that the Venezuelan President is destroying the country, stating, “I accept your challenge. Lets go. You with your millions and me with my morals. Lets see who lasts longer, you with your Polar and your riches, or me with my people and the dignity of a revolutionary soldier”. Chavez also warned Mendoza that if his company continues to hoard products, speculate and violate price regulations, Empresas Polar could be nationalized.

“I’m not afraid to nationalize Polar, Mendoza, so be careful. The law is the law”, declared the Venezuelan head of state.

Polar has been one of the principal companies propelling product shortages in the country during the past few years, by hoarding the consumer goods in its hundreds of warehouses nationwide until enough panic and descontent has been generated in the country. Then the products are released at higher prices, violating financial regulations, causing inflation and attempting to cripple the economy.

But this week, President Chavez called on all sectors, private and public, to resist and combat this economic warfare. “We are working for the well being of everyone, even the upper classes and private businesses. You won’t be stable until the rest of the country is, so lets work for that together”.

Despite the economic turmoil affecting Venezuela, unemployment rates have decreased over the past few years, and poverty has been reduced from 70% to 23% since 1999.