[News] National Endowment for Democ on offensive in Venezuela
News at freedomarchives.org
News at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 1 08:45:43 EST 2004
NED BACK ON THE OFFENSIVE IN VENEZUELA
November 28, 2004
by Eva Golinger, VHeadline
On November 8, 2004, National Endowment for Democracy (NED) president Carl
Gershman made an historic visit to Venezuela with a very peculiar purpose.
Gershman traveled to the South American nation to request President Chavez
to influence the outcome of a legal case brought against NED direct grantee
Sumate ... currently in the hands of the independent Attorney General's
But much to Gershman's surprise, no meetings had been authorized with the
Venezuelan President or cabinet members and therefore he was unable to
exert the weight of the US-backed NED over the popular head of state.
Gershman did meet with Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez and Chief Justice
Ivan Rincon. However, both legal chiefs were unwilling to succumb to NED
pressure and, instead, made very clear that Venezuelas judiciary is
independent of the Executive and that international influence will not be
allowed to interfere with, or impede, due process of law.
The case brought against NED-grantee Sumate has caused uproar in the ranks
of the US State Department and the quasi-governmental NED (which receives
all of its financing from the US Congress and is obliged to report annually
on its activities and use of funds).
On occasion, such as in Venezuela, the State Department issues special
funds to the NED to finance its activities in nations of "key interest." In
April 2002, just days after the failed coup d'etat against Venezuela
President Hugo Chavez, the State Department gave the NED a US$1 million
grant entitled Special Venezuela Funds .. which was distributed to many of
the very same groups that had just led and participated in the coup.
In fact, since President Chavez's election to highest office in 1998, the
NED has consistently funded just one sector in Venezuela: the opposition to
Once George W. Bush assumed the US presidency in 2000, funding to
opposition groups in Venezuela was quadrupled. Those organizations
receiving NED funding, such as the Confederacion de Trabajadores
Venezolanos (CTV), the Asamblea de Educacion, Primero Justicia,
Fedecamaras, CEDICE, Sumate and others have used the millions in US
taxpayer dollars to lead a coup against President Chavez, devastate
Venezuela's economy through an illegal 64-day long strike and, later, lead
a failed recall referendum attempt.
All of the NED-funded initiatives have shared just one goal: remove
President Chavez from power ... be it through legal or illegal means.
The case against Sumate was brought earlier this year by the Attorney
General's office alleging violation of Article 132 of the Penal Code, which
makes it a crime to conspire to destroy the government and to solicit
international intervention in international politics or to incite civil war
or defame the President or diplomatic representatives in the foreign press.
The Attorney General alleges that Sumate committed a crime by soliciting
financing from the NED, an arm of the US government to campaign for and
lead a recall referendum against President Chavez.
Furthermore, the Chief Prosecutor alleges that Sumate violated the
Constitution by usurping functions of the Electoral Power through its
creation of a parallel Electoral Registry and database that it used to
collect and count signatures during stages of the referendum process.
Though charges have been filed with the court, and an arraignment hearing
to set, a trial date has yet to be announced.
Due to a massive campaign in defense of Sumate that has been launched by
the US State Department, the case has experienced interesting delays.
Gershmans visit came one week after the arraignment hearing had been
postponed from November 2 to November 24, as a result of the resignation of
one of the defendant's attorneys.
Subsequently, the case experienced another development after US Ambassador
to Venezuela, William Brownfield, visited Chief Justice Ivan Rincon and
requested he intervene to prevent the case from proceeding. Although Rincon
was clear about his respect for due process and the jurisdiction of the
Attorney General (a separate power), one of the other justices in the Penal
Chamber of the Supreme Court decided to review the case for clarity and
merit before allowing it to continue.
But Gershman's visit ... the first visit by the NED president to a foreign
nation to defend the organization's interests ... was an apparent last
chance offer to the Venezuelan government to stop the case or face the
wrath of the US government.
Even presidential candidate John Kerry got on the Sumate defense bandwagon
in the days prior to the US elections, criticizing Chavez for political
persecution and accusing him of heading towards a dictatorship.
Other Sumate defenders include US Congress members Christopher Cox and
Gregory Meeks ... both on the NED Board of Directors ... and Senator John
McCain and former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright who chair the NED
core grantee organizations, the International Republican Institute and the
National Democratic Institute, respectively.
The aforementioned have all authored letters defending NED's work in
Venezuela and defending its grantees, despite their notorious
unconstitutional behavior during the coup and the strike.
Though NED representatives and spokespersons have time and again claimed
their work in Venezuela as impartial and only promoting democracy,
Gershman's declarations to the Venezuelan press showed otherwise. After
being snubbed by the Executive, Gershman angrily declared to the Venezuelan
media that Venezuela is neither a democracy nor a dictatorship but rather
something in between. In the same breath, Gershman claimed that, in
Venezuela, the NED only finances democratic groups, which must imply that
groups involved in coup d'etats fit within the NED's view of democracy. He
also tried to make a weak comparison between the Venezuelan government and
the Chilean dictator Augustus Pinochet by claiming in the eighties, we were
attacked by the Pinochet government, which didn't like the fact that we
supported the groups that moved forward the democratic transition in Chile.
Gershman's comparison between the Pinochet dictatorship and Venezuela under
Chavez, along with his outright denial of Venezuela's democracy .. despite
the nine electoral processes in the past five years that have reaffirmed
Chavez's overwhelming popular support ... evidence the NED's biased
position against the Venezuelan government.
How could Gershman expect a warm welcome from the Venezuelan government
after making such declarations?
Furthermore, Gershman's statements merely reaffirmed that the NED's purpose
in Venezuela is to remove President Chavez from power. The NED-grantees
were the ones chosen by the US government to lead the democratic transition
post-Chavez ... just like in Chile. This has been evidenced through
NED-funded projects in Venezuela to create alternative government agendas
and transition government plans for post-Chavez Venezuela.
But there is one major difference here:
Chile under Pinochet was a dictatorship, one in fact imposed by the US
government. Venezuela under Chavez is the most participatory and
popularly-support democratic government in Venezuelas history. In fact,
Chavez just won a recall referendum promoted by the opposition with 60% of
the vote, a landslide victory that demonstrated the massive support of his
presidency to the world.
But the NED and the US government just dont appear to care about the
majority that supports President Chavez ... or the nine democratic
electoral processes that have reaffirmed his administration ... or the fact
that more Venezuelans today participate in the governance of the nation
than ever before.
Instead of rectifying or apologizing for such blatantly offensive and
biased statements, NED president Carl Gershman followed through on his
threats to the Venezuelan government to increase international pressure in
defense of the Sumate case and to attempt to convert Chavez into an
international pariah and human rights abuser.
Just twenty-four hours after Gershman's departure from Venezuela, a letter
was released from an alleged group of 70 international democrats demanding
the Venezuelan President intervene in the Sumate action and prevent the
Attorney General from proceeding with the case.
The letter ... the existence of which had been leaked to the press more
than one week ago, but was kept under the wraps until needed ... was
obviously Gershman's attempt to exert international pressure over the
But the letter is riddled with misinformation and errors about Venezuela's
legal system and laws and strangely demands respect for democracy while
asking the Venezuelan President to violate the Constitutional separation of
powers in his nation by intervening in a case under the authority of the
The letter requests an abandonment of the law and demands the Sumate
directors be granted above the law status, just because they are supported
by 70 prominent international democrats who state to share Sumate's view of
Again, if the NED, along with these 70 personalities believe democracy and
rule of law can been averted by those who have friends in high places, then
Venezuela certainly doesnt share the same vision.
Although the letter was intended to look like an independent statement by
70 renowned democrats, its ties to the NED were all too obvious. In fact,
the letter was released to the public by the NED press department and of
the 70 signors, more than half are either on the NED Board of Directors or
are direct NED grantees ... clearly, their allegiance is to the hand that
The NED visit to Venezuela was also unsuccessful in its efforts to attract
pro-Chavez groups to accept financing. NED president Gershman and his
sidekick, Christopher Sabatini, thought they could entice pro-Chavez
organizations into accepting their funding so they could then justify their
claims of non-partisanship. But no such groups were even the slightest
interested in establishing a relationship with a US government funded
organization that has worked exclusively with coup leaders and other hard
line opposition groups in Venezuela.
In fact, Christopher Sabatini's claim in the Venezuelan press that the
Boston Group, a coalition of pro-Chavez and opposition-linked National
Assembly members in Venezuela and US Congressional representatives, was
negotiating with the NED to receive financing was quickly refuted the
following day in El Nacional.
Both opposition and pro-Chavez National Assembly members in the Boston
Group declared to the press that they never met with the NED to discuss any
potential funding or future financing.
Clearly, Sabatini had made a desperate attempt to justify the NED's work in
Venezuela, not realizing that his error would be caught by savvy
Venezuelans attuned to the NED's deceptive ways.
Deception, manipulation, pressure, intimidation, threat and constitutional
violations seem to be the NED's tools for promoting democracy around the
Luckily, Venezuelans are on to the trickery of this heavy-handed
organization and are unwilling to cede to its bully tactics.
Copyright © 2004 Z Magazine
The Freedom Archives
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