Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Win for US Interference

Although it is undeniably true that the winner of Venezuela’s legislative elections last Sunday was the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which sealed a solid and absolute majority in the new National Assembly, there was also another winner: US interference

President Hugo Chavez’s party, PSUV, achieved a landslide victory this past Sunday, September 26 in the nation’s legislative elections, winning 98 seats out of 165 in the parliament. The coalition of opposition parties, grouped under the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), won 65 seats, while a third party, PPT, took two.

On a national level, the PSUV won in 56 out of 87 circuits, and 18 states out of 24, including the capital district, Caracas. PSUV also won 7 seats on the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino), while MUD took five. Out of the votes tallied nationally 5,422,040 went to PSUV and 5,320,175 were for MUD parties.

In all scenarios, PSUV won. It’s an impressive achievement for a political party formed just three years ago, and demonstrates PSUV is the primary political force in the country. With 98 deputies in the National Assembly, PSUV has an absolute majority, followed in second place by opposition party Accion Democratica (AD), which won 22 seats. The other 43 seats in parliament are divided between 9 different political parties.

But despite the victory of PSUV in the elections, some key areas were lost to opposition forces, such as in the state of Anzoategui, a solid Chavez-supporting region. Opposition sweeps in the states of Tachira and Zulia, while not suprising, merit analysis.

INTERNAL ERRORS

This year was one of the most difficult for the Chavez administration since it came to power in 1999. Electrical energy problems caused by a severe drought during the first semester of the year almost plummeted the nation into collapse. If the government hadn’t implemented a nationwide electricity-rationing plan, the situation would have been unbearable. Nonetheless, entire regions in Venezuela were without regular electricity and water service for months, and this had a major impact on the daily lives of Venezuelans. Even though the principal cause of the energy problem was not the government’s fault, Chavez still took the blame.

The global financial crisis had its impact on Venezuela, forcing oil prices to drop and the country’s budget to decrease. Eleven Venezuelan banks were intervened by the state to save customer savings and prevent a bad situation from becoming even worse. The majority of these private banks were either nationalized or liquidated, some for corruption or financial irregularities. If the Chavez administration hadn’t intervened, millions of Venezuelans would have lost all their savings and the social crisis would have been unimaginable.

Inflation and speculation encouraged by private enterprise also had a major effect on the daily lives of Venezuelans. Prices of basic consumer products skyrocketed to unaffordable rates. If the state hadn’t expropriated several chains of supermarkets involved in speculation and turned them into a nationwide chain of state-run stores selling products at affordable and accessible prices, millions of Venezuelans would have been without basic food supplies. But the problems of speculation and inflation persist, and instead of recognizing the partial responsibility of private enterprise sabotaging the economy, and consumers willingly paying hiked up prices, the media and others blame Chavez.

Despite the government’s efforts to solve these difficult and complex problems, the manipuation perpetuated through mass media, nationally and internationally, ignored the reality and exaggerated the negative, influencing voters’ decisions at the polls.
There have also been some very real problems this year, such as the discovery of several tons of decomposed food items in containers owned by the state food program, PDVAL. Despite an investigation into the matter and the detention of those involved, the media exploited the incident to pin corruption and inefficiency on the government. On a regional level, numerous elected officials have failed to follow through on key policies. Others have been consumed by corruption, bureaucracy or incompetence, ignoring the constituents who elected them and causing people to feel abandoned, betrayed and forgotten.

A ferocious international media campaign against the Chavez administration has attempted to link the government with terrorism, drug trafficking, authoritarianism and human rights violations, with little, if any, alternative viewpoints. And nationally, the majority-owned private media ran fear campaigns about communism, corruption and dictatorships, in the style of US Cold War propaganda.

This context heavily influenced the elections last Sunday and the decisions of voters. The miracle may be not that the opposition won 65 seats, but rather that the PSUV achieved 98. The sound support for President Chavez and his policies demonstrated through this vote evidences a majority in the country still backs his Bolivarian Revolution, despite imperfections, inefficiencies and failures.

EXTERNAL FACTORS

Another important factor influencing these elections was the multimillion-dollar support the opposition campaign received from US agencies, such as USAID, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI). These agencies, backing the opposition to Chavez for years, achieved a major result; their most loyal agents won top seats in parliament.

During the past eight years, US agencies have been working hard to strengthen opposition forces and help them return to power in Venezuela. The result of Sunday’s elections is their most important victory to date.

Efforts backed by US agencies to destabilize Venezuela and force Chavez’s removal from power have not succeeded since the 2002 coup d’etat. Since then, economic sabotages and numerous electoral interventions had failed to produce favorable results for the opposition.

2010

The key strategic aid and millions in campaign funding from US and other international agencies – in clear violation of Venezuelan law – helped bring opposition forces together under the MUD coalition and select candidates most likely to win.
IRI and NDI set up “campaign schools” and workshops to train candidates and help them develop the right messages to influence voters. US funding helped design campaign propaganda, most of it directed against Chavez. Almost none of the opposition candidates presented alternative policies to attract voters. Their entire campaign was about the threat of “communism” if Chavez stays in power.

The political parties that won the most votes in the elections were Primero Justicia, Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT), AD and Copei – including winning entire states, such as Zulia (UNT) and Tachira (Copei), both strategic regions bordering Colombia of key interest to US policy.

Two of these parties, Primero Justicia and UNT were created under 10 years ago with US funding and strategic advice. Their work with them over the decade has finally paid off.

The funding and advising invested in one particular candidate, Maria Corina Machado, helped her get the most votes of any candidate on a national level. Machado, founder of the US-funded opposition group Sumate, was the only Venezuelan to be publicly received by President George W. Bush in the White House (with a photo op) throughout his presidency.

The discourse of “communism vs. capitalism” was the pillar of Machado’s campaign, and her baby-kissing, plastered-smile style was clearly made in USA.

The brutal international media campaign against the Chavez government, primarily in CNN, FOX News, the New York Times and the Washington Post also had a heavy impact on the elections. For weeks, all the news about Venezuela was related to unsubstantiated claims linking Chavez to “terrorism”, “drug trafficking” and even “nuclear weapons”.

The US government is pleased. They never thought the opposition would win a majority in the National Assembly, but they did believe that PSUV could achieve a solid two-thirds majority. Their objective was to impede Chavez supporters from achieving the comfortable two-thirds majority, which would have neutralized opposition forces in parliament and rendered them powerless. They won.

Although the PSUV has an absolute majority, the presence of US-funded and backed deputies in Venezuela’s legislative body will cause unrest. They won’t be able to roll back any of Chavez’s policies, but they will be able to use this platform to strengthen ties with external allies and prepare their strategy for the 2012 presidential elections.

US interference triumphed this time around in Venezuela. The most loyal agents of the US government are now in key positions in Venezuela, where they can create obstacles and challenges for the Chavez government. Now these individuals, many of whom participated in the 2002 coup and subsequent destabilization attempts, can continue with their anti-Chavez agenda, acting with the legitimacy of being representatives of Venezuela’s National Assembly.

T/ Eva Golinger

UPDATE: 10:15pm PRESIDENT RAFAEL CORREA RESCUED/COUP THWARTED

Please see sidebar for my Tweets all day on the coup attempt in Ecuador. It's 10:15pm, President Correa was just rescued by special forces from the hands of coup leaders and now speaks from the Presidential Palace balcony before crowds of supporters. Coup forces have been thwarted for now, but their plans remain. Today was a day of great fear and concern, but the people rose up, like in Venezuela 2002, and rescued their democracy and President.

VIVA CORREA!
VIVA ECUADOR!
VIVA LAS REVOLUCIONES DE AMERICA LATINA!
EL PUEBLO UNIDO JAMAS SERA VENCIDO!!

COUP IN ECUADOR

EDITOR’S NOTE
Follow @Evagolinger on Twitter for up to the minute updates on the Ecuador situation

A third coup d’etat is underway against a nation member of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA), a Latin American bloc of nations that opposes US hegemony in the region and has created new mechanisms for trade and integration based on principles of solidarity and independence from imperial powers.

In 2002, a coup d’etat by opposition forces backed by Washington briefly ousted Hugo Chavez from power in Venezuela. The coup was defeated by the people of Venezuela during a popular uprising rejecting the attempt to destroy democracy. Chavez returned to power two days later. Since then, Venezuela has suffered numerous destabilization attempts, economic sabotages, psychological warfare – both nationally and internationally – electoral intervention, assassination attempts against President Chavez, and a vicious international campaign to portray Venezuela as a dictatorship. This past weekend, opposition forces, funded and supported by US agencies, regained key seats in the nation’s legislature; a platform from where they can intensify their efforts to provoke regime change.

In June 2009, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in a coup d’etat backed by the Obama Administration and promoted by military and right wing forces in Honduras. Since then, Honduras has never recovered its democracy. Zelaya remains in exile.

Now, Ecuador is victim of a coup against President Rafael Correa, an outspoken, solid revolutionary who ousted the US military base from his nation last year and has taken a firm stance against the US capitalist economic model imposed in his nation years ago. Security forces have risen up against his government, backed by political organizations funded by USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy.

An emergency meeting has been convened by ALBA and UNASUR nations in Argentina late Thursday night. President Correa’s life was in danger Thursday, as he remained sequestered by coup forces.

Another coup against ALBA attempts to impede Latin American liberation and integration, but the people remain defiant, with dignity.

URGENT: COUP UNDERWAY IN ECUADOR

Coup Attempt in Ecuador
2pm EST

A coup attempt is underway against the government of President Rafael Correa. On Thursday morning, groups of police forces rebelled and took over key strategic sites in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. President Correa immediately went to the military base occupied by the police leading the protest to work out a solution to the situation. The police protesting claimed a new law passed on Wednesday regarding public officials would reduce their benefits.

Nonetheless, President Correa affirmed that his government has actually doubled police wages over the past four years. The law would not cut benefits but rather restructure them.

The law was used as an excuse to justify the police protest. But other forces are behind the chaos, attempting to provoke a coup led by former president Lucio Guitierrez, who was impeached by popular revolt in Ecuador in 2005.

“This is a coup attempt led by Lucio Guitierrez”, denounced Correa on Thursday afternoon via telephone. Correa was attacked by the police forces with tear gas. "Kill me if you need to. There will be other Correa's", said the President, addressing the police rebellion. He was hospitalized shortly after at a military hospital, which has now been taking over by coup forces. As of 1pm Thursday, police forces were attempting to access his hospital room to possibly assassinate him.

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño called on supporters to go to the hospital to defend Correa and prevent his assassination. Military forces took over an air base in Quito to prevent air transit and took over nearby streets to prevent Correa's supporters from mobilizing towards the hospital. Other security forces took over the parliament, preventing legislators from accessing the state institution and causing severe chaos and violence.

Thousands of supporters filled Quito’s streets, gathering around the presidential palace, backing Correa and rejecting the coup attempt.

At 2pm EST, the Ecuadorian government declared an emergency state.

Countries throughout the region expressed support for Correa and condemned the destabilization. The Organization of American States in Washington called an emergency meeting at 2:30pm EST. ALBA nations and UNASUR are also convening.

Ecuador is a member of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) and a close ally of Venezuela. Last June, Honduras, a prior ALBA member, was victim of a coup d'etat that forced President Manuel Zelaya from power. The coup was backed by Washington. In 2002, Venezuela was also subject to a Washington-backed coup d'etat that briefly ousted President Chavez from power. He was returned to office within 48 hours after millions of Venezuelans protested and defeated the US-backed coup leaders.

Ecuador is the newest victim of destabilization in South America.

USAID channels millions annually into political groups against Correa that could be behind the coup attempt.

Information in development

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

US MEDIA INTENSIFIES CAMPAIGN AGAINST CHAVEZ

By Eva Golinger


[Vea este artículo en español aquí]

As election time approaches in Venezuela, international media increase negative coverage of the South American nation. CNN applauds terrorism against Venezuela, while Fox News accuses the Chavez government of terrorism

The bombardment of negative, false, distorted and manipulated news about Venezuela in US media has increased in volume and intensity during the last few days. Venezuela is subjected to this phenomenon every time an electoral process nears. This international media campaign against the government of Hugo Chavez appears to have a clear and coordinated objective: removing the Venezuelan President from power.

During the last eight years, those pursuing this same objective have promoted, and attempted to justify, coup d’etats, economic sabotages, terrorist acts, assassination attempts, electoral interventions, psychological warfare and a disproportionate increase in US military presence in the region – all with the goal of ousting President Chavez. And to achieve this objective – which every year seems attainable to the powers that be – millions and millions of US taxpayer dollars are channeled by US agencies into political parties, campaigns, candidates and organizations that oppose Chavez.

International media also do their part. With sensationalist headlines and slanted reports, mass media try to condition public opinion to believe any action or aggression against Venezuela will be necessary to remove the “evil” Chavez from power.

According to The Economist, “Venezuela has the worst economy in the world”, despite the fact the data cited by the financial magazine doesn’t match up. The New York Times, which sets the news standard for press worldwide, erroneously and dangerously headlined two weeks ago, “Venezuela is more lethal than Iraq”.

“Venezuela has the highest homicide rate in the hemisphere”, claimed Newsweek, falsely adding, “Chavez’s popularity has fallen off a cliff”.

To these media, it doesn’t matter that Venezuela’s economy is actually on an upward rise, despite the world financial crisis, or that while Caracas certainly has crime – and homicides – there is absolutely no comparison to the millions killed in Iraq at the hands of the US war machine.

And if a 54% popularity rate (per the latest national polls) means President Chavez’s popularity has “fallen off a cliff”, well then, where does that put President Obama’s “best” rate at 47%?

Regarding coverage of Venezuela, television is even worse. Two weeks ago, CNN International premiered a docu-report titled “The Guardians of Chavez”, during which the international network falsely associated armed groups, criminals, terrorists and paramilitary forces with the Venezuelan government.

On Monday, September 13, just one and a half weeks before the upcoming legislative elections in Venezuela, CNN en Español’s primetime anchor, Patricia Janiot, conducted a live interview with an escaped convict from Venezuela, who just two years earlier had been tried and sentenced for terrorism.

In a clear showing of yellow journalism, Janiot referred to the terrorist fugitive as a “political prisoner” and “student persecuted” by the Chavez government. The escaped convict, Raul Diaz Peña, was sentenced in 2008 after a lengthy trial proving his guilt as one of the material authors of a terrorist attack with C4 explosives against the embassies of Colombia and Spain that took place February 25, 2003 in Caracas.

Diaz Peña escaped from his Venezuelan jail cell on September 5 and after arriving in a commercial airliner at the Miami International Airport, was somehow able to easily enter the US, despite his status as a convicted terrorist and fugitive from justice.

A mere week after his US arrival, CNN broadcast him in prime time.

“How many other students are political prisoners in Venezuela”, Janiot asked of the terrorist. “Were you tortured”, she inquired, with concern in her voice. At the end of the interview, the stellar journalist of the US network wished the fugitive terrorist “good luck”, lauding him for escaping Chavez’s “terrible dictatorship”.

It’s a wonder that an international television network can conduct a live interview with a convicted, fugitive terrorist, and wish him “good luck” in public, without a concern for any kind of consequence. But this type of irony is only possible when it comes to US media treatment of Venezuela.

According to CNN, in the case of Venezuela, terrorists are “political prisoners” and fugitives from justice are “immigrants”.
Two days after CNN’s flagrantly offensive interview with Venezuelan fugitive terrorist Raul Diaz Peña, which openly validated and approved the use of terror in Venezuela, Fox News headlined “Venezuela cancels roundtrip ‘Terror Flight’ to Syria and Iran”.

In the report, which also ran on its website, the US network claimed Venezuela was one of “the world’s most terror-friendly nations”, along with Syria and Iran.

Regarding a legitimate flight route conducted by a Venezuelan airline, Conviasa, between Caracas-Damascus-Tehran, Fox falsely sustained, “the flight would carry illicit, lethal cargoes -- such as explosives and possibly radioactive materials -- and provide safe passage to terrorists, spies, weapons experts, senior Iranian intelligence operatives and members of both Hezbollah and Hamas”.

The source? “Western intelligence agencies, Venezuelan opposition figures and a former Iran-based spy for the CIA”. Sounds convincing.

The dangerous and intentionally erroneous Fox News report, which attempts to link Venezuela to international terrorism (ironically while CNN welcomes Venezuelan terrorists, Fox accuses the Venezuelan government of terrorism), went on to further accuse the Venezuelan government of facilitating terrorism against the United States:

“Reza Kahlili, the pseudonym for an Iranian who the CIA has confirmed once spied for the United States as a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, told FoxNews.com these ‘special flights’ have been ‘instrumental in creating an Iranian dominated worldwide terror network that now reaches the United States.’ He said the flights were used to expand Iran’s efforts to create a base of operations in the Western Hemisphere”.

But right after that false accusation, Fox News discredited its own report, when a prime source admitted he didn’t really have any evidence to prove his claims:

“Peter Brookes, a former Defense Department analyst and CIA employee now with the Heritage Foundation, said there was a steady stream of elite Al Quds officers from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard who were transported to Venezuela aboard the flight and took up positions in the Latin American country’s intelligence service. ‘We can’t say for sure what is going on, but it is clandestine and secretive’, he said”.

In the final stretch before the September 26 legislative elections, media attacks against Venezuela continue to intensify.

Last week, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano summed up the media campaign against Venezuela: “There is a process of demonization against Chavez…It’s scandalous that today, every minute, three million dollars are spent on military affairs. And that requires enemies. In the theater of good and evil, at times those concepts are inter-changeable, as with Saddam Hussein, a saint of the West who was converted into Satan”.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

US INTERFERENCE IN VENEZUELAN ELECTIONS



BY EVA GOLINGER

[Ver este artículo en español aquí]

In 2002, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) arrived in Venezuela with a mission: Remove Hugo Chavez from power

A report commissioned by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and published in May 2010 by the Spanish Foundation for International Relations and Foreign Dialogue (FRIDE) revealed that this year alone, international agencies are investing between $40-50 million in anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela. A large part of those funds have been channeled to the opposition coalition, Democratic Unity (MUD), and its campaign for the upcoming legislative elections on September 26.

A majority of funding comes from US agencies, particularly USAID, which has maintained a presence in Venezuela since 2002 with the sole intention of aiding in President Chavez’s removal from power. For the past eight years, USAID has channeled millions into political parties, organizations and private media entities linked to the opposition, helping them to grow and unify, and providing strategic advice, support and resources for their political campaigns.

Unlike in other nations, USAID has no formal agreement or authorization from the Venezuelan government to operate in the country. As an oil-wealthy nation, Venezuela does not qualify for economic aid from the United States. Nonetheless, USAID has been operating in Venezuela unauthorized through its political office during eight years, funding and helping to design and plan anti-Chavez campaigns and feeding an internal conflict with millions of US taxpayer dollars.

USAID’S BEGINNINGS IN VENEZUELA

In a confidential memorandum dated January 22, 2002, Russell Porter, head of USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), revealed how and why USAID set up shop in Venezuela. “OTI was asked to consider a program in Venezuela by the State Department’s Office of Andean Affairs on January 4…it became clear there is growing concern about the political health of the country. OTI was asked if it could offer programs and assistance in order to strengthen the democratic elements that are under increasing fire from the Chavez government”.

The Office of Transition Initiatives is a division of USAID that works exclusively with political matters to further US government objectives abroad. OTI provides short-term, rapid and flexible assistance to aid “political transitions and stabilization efforts” in countries of strategic importance to Washington.

Porter visited Venezuela on January 18, 2002 and held nine meetings in Caracas with representatives from opposition political parties and organizations. “There is a belief among nearly everyone I spoke with that Chavez will not finish out the year as president”, wrote OTI’s chief, noting, “Rumors of a coup are pervasive…The next election is four years away. Given the situation now, Chavez will not likely be around to participate in it”.

To ensure Venezuela’s political destiny would be favorable to US interests, Porter commented, “For democracy to have any chance of being preserved, immediate support is needed for independent media and the civil society sector…One of the large weaknesses in Venezuela is the lack of a vibrant civil society…The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has a $900,000 program in Venezuela that works with NDI, IRI and the Solidarity Center to strengthen political parties and the Unions…This program is useful, but not nearly sufficient. It is not flexible enough, nor does it work with enough new or non-traditional groups. It also lacks a media component”.

“Civil society needs to be strengthened in order to reduce social conflict and begin to rebuild the democratic infrastructure. While OTI is not the right office to rebuild long-term democratic infrastructure, it is the office that can best reduce social conflict by working with the media and civil society. In addition, with no USAID Mission in Venezuela, OTI is the natural office to start a high-impact program quickly. Success, however, is far from guaranteed. No matter how good the program, anti-democratic forces may well overrun democracy, but then OTI will need to be there to pick up the pieces and strengthen those democratic elements that remain”, elaborated Porter, evidencing the extent of US intervention. He concluded, “I recommend OTI send an assessment team to Venezuela as soon as possible with a prejudice toward starting an active program to support civil society and the media”.

ELECTORAL INTERVENTION: RECALL REFERENDUM

After the failed coup d’etat against President Chavez in April 2002, OTI formally established its office in Caracas with a clear objective: facilitate a recall referendum against the Venezuelan President.

Another confidential memo dated October 2003 from OTI outlined the strategy: “The most immediate program objective…is the realization of a successful referendum, followed by the restoration of stable democratic governance”.

USAID defined its strategy with “two distinct, but closely interrelated components”. “The first of these is the faciliation of a successful and legitimate recall referendum process…The second component is support for fostering an inclusive reconciliation process”. First, they would have to recall Chavez’s mandate, and then, implement a “transition and reconciliation government”.
To achieve the first objective, USAID channeled more than $750,000 to a “public information campaign” in Venezuelan media. “The purpose of this assistance…will be to help the population better understand the procedure and what is at stake…”

Through USAID and NED support, Sumate, a Venezuelan organization, was created to provide “domestic observation/quick count” and “electoral education campaigns”, all of which were directed against President Chavez. From that time on, Sumate has maintained the same role in all subsequent electoral campaigns. Sumate’s founder, Maria Corina Machado, met personally with President George W. Bush in the White House in May 2005 as a sign of support for the Venezuelan opposition. Today, she is a candidate in the upcoming National Assembly elections.

For the recall referendum process, USAID additionally invested $1.3 million into opposition “political party strengthening” to aid in “campaign organization and structure, message development and grassroots campaigning”.

As evidence to the close relationship maintained between US agencies and opposition groups in Venezuela, the confidential memo revealed, “OTI will hold regular coordinating meetings with the grantees funded directly through USAID in both Caracas and Washington to ensure…implementing partners are achieving the objectives of the program”.

OTI field offices usually do not extend beyond a time period of 2-3 years. However, in the case of Venezuela, USAID anticipated an exception. “The US objective in Venezuela is the continuation of a stable, free market-oriented democracy. Regardless of the result of the referendum process, given the continued potential for conflict and volatility, the OTI program should probably continue into FY ’05…If instability and volatility continue, the eventual restoration of stability in Venezuela is important enough to USG interests for consideration of reintroducing a longer-term USAID program”.

After the recall referendum was won victoriously by the Chavez camp, USAID opted for a greater investment and expansion of the agency’s interventionist activities in Venezuela.

INTERVENTION IN LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS – 2005/2010

A declassified cable sent in April 2005 from then US Ambassador in Caracas, William Brownfield, to the Secretary of State and the National Security Council outlined the work the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) were pursuing “to facilitate the renovation/transformation of Venezuela’s political parties”. “They are working with opposition parties to help them focus on their survival as relevant political institutions”, revealed the cable.

“In January 2005, NDI began implementation of a year-long $500,000 project focusing on party transformation…Of primary importance will be the mobilization and engagement of reformist forces (e.g. young leaders, women, civil society) so that necessary change does indeed occur” in the legislative elections.

Brownfield indicated how “experienced trainers/political consultants” were brought from the US to aid opposition parties in the “development of strategies and messages that address the aspirations of low-income voters”, which the US Ambassador considered a “high priority”, considering it’s the base of hard-core Chavez supporters. And although opposition parties AD and COPEI appeared as principal beneficiaries of these programs, the cable also revealed support to Primero Justicia for “modern techniques of message development and diffusion”.

In January 2005, IRI also received $500,000 to continue its program of “campaign schools” for opposition candidates. According to the document, “Topics to be covered in the campaign schools include: campaign strategy and organization, message development, outreach, fundraising, public relations, get-out-the-vote techniques, and candidate selection”. Not only were US agencies funding and training opposition candidates, but they were involved in selecting them as well.

In the end, the opposition chose to boycott the legislative elections instead of facing a severe defeat at the polls.

2010

Five years later, the funds opposition parties are receiving have multiplied by the millions, as have the hundreds of new anti-Chavez organizations created in Venezuela under the façade of NGOs.

In 2003, USAID funded 66 programs in Venezuela. Today, this figure has grown to 623 with more than $20 million. USAID’s original objective of “strengthening civil society” has been achieved.

There remains no doubt the Venezuelan opposition – in all its manifestations – is product of the US government. US agencies fund and design their campaigns, train and build their parties, organize their NGOs, develop their messages, select their candidates and feed them with dollars to ensure survival.

Until USAID achieves its principal objective – Hugo Chavez’s ouster – their work will continue.

Note: In the US, foreign funding for political campaigns or political parties is strictly prohibited. Organizations that receive foreign funding for other non-campaign related political or media activities must register as Foreign Agents under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). In Venezuela, while the law does prohibit foreign funding of political parties and campaigns, recipients of these funds, and their foreign funders, have cried political persecution and accused the government of repression when attempting to impose the law.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

CHAVEZ: SECURITY A PRIORITY/COMBATING THE VIOLENCE OF POVERTY



The Venezuelan Government is taking concrete steps to combat a rise of criminal activity and insecurity in the country by also addressing the root cause of violence: Poverty

The New York Times mistakenly headlined last week that violence in Venezuela is worse than Iraq. The sensationalist and distorted article, authored by correspondent Simon Romero, fed an ongoing anti-Chavez campaign attempting to portray Venezuela as a failed state.

Pulling on non-official figures of crime statistics in Caracas and declarations exclusively from anti-Chavez analysts, Romero engaged in the worst kind of yellow-journalism, distracting from the hundreds of thousands of Iraquis killed in the US-led war in the days before President Obama’s announcement of an “end to combat”, to turn the focus to another one of Washington’s targets, Venezuela –much closer to home.

That crime exists in Caracas is undeniable. But to somehow imply, as opposition media in Venezuela do daily, that crime and violence are the “fault” of the Chavez administration is not only absurd, but also dangerously sinister.

Just like in any major urban area around the world, there are frequent incidents of homicide, armed robbery, burglary, and muggings, often exacerbated by the visibly stark divisions of wealth between a minority upper class and a majority poor. Long ago, well before Hugo Chavez became president, middle and upper class neighborhoods erected giant walls and electric fences to live behind, hiding their wealth from the eyes of those with lesser means.

The growth of the wealthy class in Venezuela is largely based on another form of violence and crime, rarely reported in mainstream media. Throughout much of the twentieth century, as Venezuela’s oil industry grew, corruption and so-called “white collar crime” grew with it. Despite oil being nationalized in 1976, poverty increased exponentially as millions in oil wealth were embezzled and stolen by the political and economic elite in power.

They then hid their stolen riches behind gated communities and concrete walls, and bought properties in Miami, New York, Aruba, Curaçao and the Dominican Republic, so the majority poor couldn’t see how they had ravaged the nation, and wouldn’t reclaim what rightfully belonged to the people of Venezuela.

SOCIAL ROOTS

Crime in Venezuela has complex social and political roots. The violence of the elite classes that held power throughout the latter half of the twentieth century created a severely impoverished, under-educated, malnourished and excluded majority. Addressing crime and security in Venezuela today requires finding solutions for the larger social ills facing the nation.

The policies of the Chavez government are focused on eradicating poverty and misery as a first and essential step towards national development and progress. More than 60% of oil profits today are invested in social programs, providing free, quality healthcare and education to all Venezuelans; creating job-training programs and new forms of employment through worker-run businesses and cooperatives; and ensuring food security and sovereignty through a recuperation and expansion of the nation’s agricultural industry together with state-run supermarkets and distribution centers that ensure basic food products are accessible and affordable to all.

Extreme poverty has been reduced by more than 50% during the past ten years, and Venezuela’s literacy program has been hailed as a “model for the world” by the United Nations. Today, Venezuelans are eating better, are better educated, have more buying power and are actively participating in their political and social processes. A new model of communal economy, where communities run their own markets, banks and local services, is being created in order to change the mentality of entitlement imposed by the paternal oil state.

At the same time, there has been an increase in non-traditional criminal activities during the past ten years, including kidnappings, “express kidnappings”, paid assassinations and gang-related murders, most of which take place in the barrios – poor neighborhoods sprawled on the hillsides of Caracas, or in border regions. However, this type of violence has often been exported from neighboring Colombia, one of the most violent countries in the world, in the form of paramilitary forces seeking to gain territory inside Venezuela and aid the conservative opposition in destabilizing the Chavez government to the point of regime change.

Drug-related violence and crime also encompass a majority of incidents in the nation, and while Venezuela is not a drug-producing nation, Colombia is, and exporting drugs to Venezuela has become a key business for Colombian drug-traffickers.

COMBATING CRIME

So, while this reality does exist, the Chavez administration has taken key, concrete and effective steps to respond to a circumstance inherited from the neglect, abandonment and corruption from governments past.

In addition to addressing the roots of poverty and crime through social programs and inclusionary policies, the Chavez government is also dealing directly with day-to-day violence through the creation of a new police force, the National Bolivarian Police, and a heightened security presence throughout the country.

On Wednesday, Minister for Interior and Justice Tareck El Aissami, oversaw the permanent deployment of National Bolivarian Police, National Reserve, Homeland Guards and officials from the Transit Authority to secure the 47 metro stations in greater Caracas. Over one thousand forces from these four state security bodies will police the main artery of public transportation in the Venezuelan capital during its hours of operation, in an effort to reduce criminal activity and ensure commuter safety.
A nationwide security deployment also began earlier this year, the Bicentennial Security Deployment (Dibise), combining National Guard, counter-narcotics and national police forces charged with combating drug-trafficking activity and reducing incidents of kidnapping, homicides and general crime. To date there have been thousands of arrests and tons of drugs and illegal arms confiscated.

As part of the creation of the National Bolivarian Police force, a new University of Security was inaugurated earlier this year, which will provide in depth professional academic and physical training for aspiring officers. Human rights and studies of social inequalities are required material for all cadets, in an effort to build a non-corrupt, non-repressive, socially conscious security force.

This pioneering effort will create Venezuela’s first professional police force and will eventually result in the phasing out of other non-professional, corrupt forces operating on a local and regional level.

While the national government is engaging in these concrete steps to reduce crime and violence, local governments – both state and municipal, which control police forces, are doing little or nothing to combat insecurity. The states with the higest crime rates are Miranda, Tachira and Zulia, all three in the hands of opposition, anti-Chavez governors. All three of those states also have the highest presence of Colombian paramilitary forces, which appear to operate freely with the approval of those governors.

As poverty is eradicated and Venezuelans become more socially aware and increase their own participation and responsibility in the building of their nation, crime will dissipate. The combination of social polices directed at improving the well being of all Venezuelans and concrete steps to reduce crime, increase police presence and build non-corrupt forces will ensure long-term safety and security in Venezuela.

T/ Eva Golinger