[News] Agee - Venezuela Part 3

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Tue Sep 13 09:03:15 EDT 2005

How United States Intervention in Venezuela Works, part 3 of 3
Analysis of Four USAID Contracts with with Republican and Democratic Party 
Foundations in Venezuela
Sunday, Sep 11, 2005


By: Philip Agee

Part 1: <http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1548>How United 
States Intervention Against Venezuela 

Part 2: <http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1549>Use of a 
Private U.S. Corporate Structure to Disguise a Government 

Part 3: below

2. AID/OTI Contract with the International Republican Institute (IRI) to 
Organize and Train Political Party Poll Watchers to Monitor the Recall 
Referendum and the Possible Elections Afterwards.

This contract, dated September 15, 2003, resulted from the May 2003 
agreement between the government and the opposition to hold a recall 
referendum and new elections if the opposition won. The value was $284,989 
for the period of September 2003 to September 2004, and IRI was obligated 
to report to OTI on finances and progress every three months.

In the introduction to this 25-page document, OTI recognizes that the 
activities covered by the contract are “extraordinary” and that “the 
current political situation in Venezuela is very unique and requires 
unprecedented coordination.” Therefore “close collaboration and joint 
participation” of IRI with the OTI representative in the Embassy will be 
essential for the success of the program. It adds that OTI will be working 
through several institutions “to accomplish its objective of supporting a 
peaceful, democratic, and electoral solution to the crisis in Venezuela.” 
It also adds that “to avoid duplication of efforts among grantees and to 
navigate in the sensitive political waters in Venezuela,” AID will 
establish a coordinating committee in Washington. These same paragraphs are 
found in the three additional contracts that follow below: 3) OTI/IRI; 4) 
OTI/NDI and 5) another OTI/NDI contract, all of which establish programs 
related to the referendum and the possible elections afterwards.

According to the project description submitted by IRI’s headquarters in 
Washington and included in the contract, the IRI office in Caracas agreed 
to establish an organization and training program for voluntary poll 
watchers belonging to the different political parties. The need for the 
project was based on doubts about the integrity of the Venezuelan electoral 
system: "With controversy and tensions rising, it is clear that proper 
checks and balances need to be in place for the eventual referendum and 
possible elections to help ensure the integrity of the vote. Party poll 
watchers (fiscales) will play a key role in guaranteeing the transparency 
and integrity of the processes."

It goes on to say, “Key to both ballot security and public confidence in 
the veracity of the ballot are political party poll watchers. IRI’s 
experience throughout the region and the world has shown that party 
representatives at the polling stations are the best check against fraud.”

The contract finances training courses for poll watchers that will be 
organized by IRI along with “a local non-governmental organization (NGO)” 
that significantly is not named but has already been “approved by the CTO” 
of AID/OTI in Washington, Mr. Russell Porter. (The unnamed NGO probably is 
the anti-Chavez civic organization Súmate, created by NED, that was the 
major force in promoting the recall vote.) This NGO, according to the 
contract, will contact all of the Venezuelan political parties to recruit 
paid volunteers to be trained as trainers of others. The weeklong workshops 
will instruct about 50 volunteers each. These new volunteer instructors 
will be assigned to Caracas and the capitals of the states of Zulia, 
Carabobo, Tachira and Anzoátegui where they will prepare other volunteers 
who will be assigned to voting stations on the day of the referendum and, 
if the opposition wins, on the day of the new elections.

The contract requires that the Foreign National Program Coordinator, who 
will direct the project, and each voluntary trainer receive prior approval 
of their employment from the CTO of OTI in Washington. Prior approval by 
the CTO is also necessary for IRI to distribute money under subcontracts 
with Venezuelan organizations. Additionally the contract requires IRI to 
submit a report on finances and progress every three months and immediate 
reports on problems that may affect the project.

The role of the poll watchers in the referendum will be to observe closely 
the voting procedure in order to discover, identify, and report any 
irregularity. The system of reporting irregularities is the most 
interesting part of the contract. Each volunteer will have the duty to 
report irregularities only to the NGO partner of IRI and not to his/her 
party or to the electoral authorities. The NGO will transmit the details to 
IRI in Caracas, which in turn will report, in English, the details 
witnessed by the volunteers to OTI’s CTO in Washington. The CTO then will 
have the power to decide what information is to be announced and how, and 
it will advise the IRI in Caracas in this regard. The IRI, only after 
approval by the CTO, will permit its partner NGO to notify one of the 
political parties for publication of the information. Obviously this 
contract gives total control of the operation to OTI/AID in Washington 
which, doubtless in coordination with the Department of State, will decide 
on the use of the information gathered by the network of voluntary 
observers excluding, if it wishes, the National Electoral Commission.

3. AID/OTI Contract with the International Republican Institute (IRI) to 
Strengthen Political Parties for the Recall Referendum and the Possible 
Elections afterwards.

This contract, dated September 15, 2003, is to finance a program of the 
Caracas IRI office to teach Venezuelan political parties how to organize 
electoral campaigns. It too resulted from the agreement between the 
government and the opposition to hold a recall referendum and, if the 
opposition won, new elections. It provided $450,000 and was valid until 
September 2004. The contract required that IRI prepare quarterly progress 
and financial reports for OTI in Washington.

The project description, written by IRI and included in this 26-page 
document, observes that IRI has had a program in Venezuela since 1999 for 
the purpose of “strengthening” Venezuelan political parties. Without naming 
the parties, it says that the participating parties span the “political 
spectrum." The program is carried out not only in Caracas but also in the 
states of Zulia, Carabobo and Anzoátegui. The main focus of this already 
existent program, financed by NED and the State Department, is the 
development of a system of national surveys, political platforms, and 
internal democratization of the parties.

The new project covered by this contract, financed by AID/OTI instead of 
NED, is only dedicated to preparations for the referendum and the possible 
subsequent elections. The goal is to establish regional workshops with 
one-week political courses in Caracas, Zulia, Carabobo, Anzoátegui and 
Táchira in an effort to cover the whole country. Leaders and electoral 
campaign workers of all parties will be invited to participate, and the 
courses will have two phases. In the first, the instruction will focus on 
how to create a “strong party campaign organization, including preparing 
candidates for debates and public forums, the various stages of campaign 
development, and strategies to overcome party weaknesses and capitalize on 
party strengths."

In the second phase the instruction will be focused on political research 
through preparation and interpretation of surveys and studies of 
demographic, social and economic statistics in order to “better understand 
the political environment in which they must function effectively." The 
contract includes a list of 12 topics that can be included in the courses 
such as the organization and structure of a campaign; the recruitment and 
motivation of the campaign’s rank and file personnel; the use of voter 
registration lists; creating coalitions; development of a campaign 
schedule; identification and targeting of voter blocks; developing a 
campaign budget and fund raising; and organizing door to door surveys.

For this project IRI will hire a foreign expert, with previous approval of 
the CTO in Washington, as Foreign National Program Coordinator for the 
whole period of the contract throughout the referendum and the electoral 
campaign if it happens. This person will dedicate all of his/her time to 
the project working in the IRI office in Caracas and traveling throughout 
the country and maintaining contacts with political party leaders. IRI will 
also contract and bring to Venezuela experts in political campaigning from 
Latin America, Europe and the U.S. to teach the courses and perform follow 
up tasks after the courses. These are called International Party Training 
Experts and Advisors, and the hiring of each one also requires prior 
approval by the CTO in Washington.

In the “Conclusions” to this contract there is a comment that IRI has 
organized similar political and electoral training courses in other 
countries such as Guatemala, Peru, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Macedonia.

4. AID/OTI Contract with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to Foment 
a Coalition Among Political Parties of the Opposition and to Strengthen 
These Parties

This 32-page contract dated September 24, 2003 and valid until the end of 
September 2004 allotted $550,000 for an NDI program at its Caracas office 
in order to “build coalitions and to strengthen political parties." The 
program also resulted from the May 2003 agreement between the government 
and the opposition to hold a recall referendum and elections to follow if 
the recall was successful. The contract required that NDI report to AID/OTI 
every 3 months on the program’s finances and progress.

The objectives of the program were “to assist political parties in 
Venezuela to engage in coalition building and become more representative, 
inclusive, internally democratic, and ethical.” The need for this program 
is expressed in terms of the collapse of the old political system: 
“However, new political movements and the traditional political parties, 
suffering from internal rifts and lacking credibility and funds, have 
proven ineffective in offering convincing alternatives to Chávez’s 
leadership.” Thus: “In response NDI would continue to promote internal 
reform and renewal efforts by the main political parties and movements.”

The description of the program contained in the contract, as written by 
NDI, begins with comments on the political situation. “The collapse of the 
party system remains one of the root causes of the political stalemate in 
Venezuela.” “In recent years Venezuelan society has split over the populist 
policies and authoritarian leadership of President Hugo Chávez.” “President 
Hugo Chávez has emerged as one of the most controversial and polarizing 
leaders in Venezuelan history.” In 1998, “Chávez was swept into power by an 
electorate deeply disillusioned with the nation’s traditional leaders.” 
“Once in office, President Chávez quickly moved to consolidate his power by 
abolishing the Senate, markedly increasing the power of the presidency, 
suspending public funding of political parties and traditional 
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and creating his own set 
of  'Bolivarian' societal organizations. He pursued controversial land 
reform measures, politicized the judicial system, and attacked his critics 
in the media."

The contract continues with a list of proposed activities under this 

a) Coalition-Building with Opposition Political Parties and Movements. As 
an example, says the document, NDI is considering an invitation by the 
President of Costa Rica to organize a strategic meeting of opposition 
representatives to discuss the formation of a coalition. The program in 
Venezuela will consist of: consultations to negotiate the formation of a 
coalition and the development of a common strategy; the design of a plan of 
communications among the parties; a plan to attract support for the 
coalition from other groups; the development of a common platform that 
unites the parties; the design of procedures for decisions about leadership 
of the coalition and its candidates in future elections; and a plan for the 
leadership of the coalition after the referendum.

For these consultations NDI will bring experts to Venezuela from its own 
team and also experts and political “practitioners” experienced in building 
coalitions in other countries such as Chile, Nicaragua, Poland and the 
Czech Republic.

b) Promoting Acceptance of the Referendum Process with the Chavez 
Coalition. “To help affirm support for the referendum within the Chavez 
government, NDI would seek out reformist elements of President Chávez's 
party, the MVR, and share lessons learned by practitioners or experts from 
countries where confidence-building measures were necessary such as: 
Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, Portugal and Spain. These practitioners would 
underscore the importance of taking pro-active, public steps to remove 
doubt about President Chávez’s commitment to the process."

c) Building and Renewing Political Parties and Movements. This part of the 
program will be a continuation of the activities that NDI already has 
underway and that are financed by NED until September of 2003. They will 
consist of bringing “international practitioners” to Venezuela to assist 
political parties in areas such as outreach to “underrepresented” sectors 
like “youth, women, racial minorities, and the poor; strengthening state 
and local chapters; ethics and transparency; political negotiation; 
internal party communication; coalition-building; and relations between 
political parties and civil society.” The parties named for this program 
are AD, COPEI, MAS, Primero Justicia, Proyecto Venezuela, and the Chavez 
party, Movimiento Quinta República.

d) Public Opinion Analysis. In support of these activities with the 
parties, NDI will establish a new system for surveying public opinion, 
contracting the Argentine polling firm Romer and Associates with assistance 
from a Venezuelan firm like Consultores 21.

To carry out this program NDI will hire a National Director for its office 
in Caracas who has extensive experience with political parties and 
elections. A Project Assistant will also be hired. These appointments must 
be previously approved by the CTO of AID-OTI in Washington. The same 
approval is required for all the practitioners, experts, and advisers that 
NDI plans to bring to Venezuela from abroad. Finally NDI commits to 
coordinate the program closely with IRI and with the Carter Center in Atlanta.

5. AID/OTI Contract with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to 
Guarantee the Credibility of the Referendum and Possible Elections through 
a Group of Venezuelan NGO’s that will Monitor the Process

The period of this 34-page contract is from September 2003 to September 
2004, and like the others that OTI/AID has with IRI and the NDI it followed 
the May 2003 agreement between the opposition and the government to carry 
out the referendum that could result in subsequent elections. The total 
value is $769,487 but NDI is obliged under the contract to seek additional 
funding from Venezuelan and international sources, which opens the door for 
the CIA to channel money to this project. The purpose is to establish, 
finance, train and direct a group of Venezuelan NGOs that will monitor the 
referendum process before, during and after the voting. The funds will also 
support this organization for the possible presidential elections in case 
the opposition wins the referendum, and even further to assure its 
long-term permanence.  The Venezuelan NGOs that the contract mentions as 
possible participants in the program are Súmate (Join Up), Red de Veedores 
(Network of Monitors), Mirador Democrático (Democratic Observer), Queremos 
Elegir (We Want to Choose), and Ciudadanía Activa (Active Citizenry).

With this program NDI hoped to attract to the NGOs participating in this 
unnamed civic-electoral organization thousands of volunteers for training 
and assignment to diverse tasks that cover the entire referendum process. 
The goal is also to overcome a problem: "Venezuelans do not have confidence 
in the administration of a referendum or electoral process, expecting bias 
from the elections authorities and other state institutions, including 
manipulation of the voting and counting processes (on) elections day."

NDI writes in the description of the program that it has carried out 
similar election monitoring projects in 65 countries over 20 years. In 
Venezuela it has worked since 1995 “assisting Venezuelan civic groups with 
electoral reform and election observation initiatives.” It mentions the 
Escuela de Vecinos de Venezuela (School of Neighbors of Venezuela) and 
Queremos Elegir as two of its Venezuelan partners. NDI claims that this 
project’s objective is “to promote citizen confidence and participation in 
upcoming referendum and electoral processes.”

To carry out this program NDI will hire a Field Representative who will 
advise participating NGOs “on all the aspects of the program” on a daily 
basis. The Field Representative will also organize visits and schedules of 
NDI and foreign experts including Latin American members of an election 
observation network called El Acuerdo de Lima (The Lima Agreement). As in 
all AID/OTI contracts, prior approval by the CTO in Washington is necessary 
for recruiting the Field Representative and all the experts and 
consultants. Likewise prior approval by the CTO is required for all the 
subcontracts necessary to give money to the participating Venezuelan NGOs.

In the project description NDI enumerates the steps to take in forming the 
coalition of NGOs. These include the formation of a board directors of 
prominent and respected citizens such as civic activists, academics, 
business leaders and clerics. These should represent the various ethnic, 
religious, geographical and social sectors of Venezuelan society and give 
prestige and credibility to the NGO coalition. Another step is an agreement 
on the procedures for making decisions and choosing of spokespersons, as 
well as the assignment of such tasks as administration, control of funds, 
public relations and recruitment. It will also be necessary to make a work 
plan that includes a tasks time-table and a plan for connecting with 
government and electoral authorities, political parties, media, the 
delegations of international monitors, international organizations and the 
public in general. Finally, it will be necessary to organize a system to 
collect funds from national and international donors.

The description of the program then details in several pages the tasks to 
complete during the pre-electoral period and on election day as well as 
short and long term post-election tasks. Of special interest is the quick 
count method to calculate the probable results before the official count is 
completed. This system is based on the selection of voting stations from 
which probable results can be extrapolated before the official count is 
available. The purposes of the quick count, according to the document are 
“1) identify and expose electoral fraud when it occurs or to deter 
potential fraud from occurring; and 2) raise public confidence in the 
election results and reduce the potential for post-election conflict.” The 
uses of the quick count result can include its announcement “to provide an 
independent check on the official count.”

NDI attaches much importance to the continuance of this coalition of NGOs 
after its first election-monitoring event, that is to say the recall 
referendum. It emphasizes that the NGOs should retain the thousands of 
volunteers throughout the country active and interested between electoral 
processes through work evaluations, planning, and other civic 
activities.  The contract doesn't say it, but obviously the possibility 
exists of transforming this civic coalition of NGOs into a political party 
itself as has happened in other countries.

D. Comments and Conclusions

The contracts analyzed here are only five among dozens agreed upon between 
U.S. government agencies and Venezuelan organizations of the political 
opposition, according to the declassified documentation published at 
http://www.venezuelafoia.info. However they reveal an extraordinary effort 
at penetration and manipulation of the Venezuelan political process by the 
Caracas offices of IRI, NDI and DAI under control of the U.S. Embassy and 
AID and the Department of State in Washington. The role played by the CIA 
has not been revealed, but one can be sure that the Agency takes part in 
clandestine funding and other support tasks. There is also a good 
possibility that the DAI operation in Venezuela is in fact a covert 
operation of the CIA.

The documents analyzed fail to reveal the criteria applied to decisions 
about which of the agencies should distribute support to the different 
activities and beneficiaries, that is, which funds should be channeled 
through NED and its foundations, which AID/OTI should channel to IRI or the 
NDI directly, and which funds should be channeled through DAI. In any case, 
these would be collective decisions made in Washington by the committee 
representing all of the agencies participating in the intervention, 
assigning responsibilities and trying to avoid duplications of tasks.

All the analyzed programs have the goal of developing and strengthening the 
political parties opposed to the Bolivarian Revolution along with several 
civil, supposedly non-partisan, associations that are in fact also opposed 
to President Chávez's program. The activities are disguised as support for 
democracy, but several of the leaders of the recipient organizations signed 
the Carmona Decree that abolished democracy in Venezuela during the brief 
and unsuccessful coup of April 2002.

The contracts show disdain for President Chávez and his program, and they 
blame him for the “crisis” in Venezuela and for the polarization of the 
country. Likewise, they show distrust in the National Electoral Council, 
and they underline the necessity to watch over the electoral process 
closely to discover and denounce fraud. Prominent among the objectives of 
these programs is the formation of a coalition of opposition parties that 
is able to attract new members and new voters for the electoral campaigns. 
Although the contracts examined last one year, or two in the case of the 
DAI, they can be extended or new contracts can give continuation to the 
activities while allowing for adjustments demanded by a changing situation.

There is no doubt that these programs will continue as long as the current 
political process continues in Venezuela, since the United States will 
never accept the taking of power by popular forces in Latin America. Since 
the adoption of Project Democracy in 1983, the US has attempted to 
establish and strengthen, in various countries around the world, pro-US 
“democracies” controlled by elites who identify with the U.S. political 
class and who can take advantage of the “bought democracy” that the U.S. 
seeks to impose. In this way, the U.S. aims to eliminate the danger that a 
truly democratic government of working people would represent to its 
interests. Secretary of State Rice underlined these policies on January 18, 
2005 in her hostile comments toward Venezuela and Cuba before the Senate 
Committee on Foreign Affairs. Two days later President Bush, in the 
inaugural speech of his second term, reaffirmed the great priority that the 
U.S. will continue giving to these foreign political interventions. Both of 
them and others continued during the following months to emphasize the 
“promotion of democracy” as a fundamental program of the administration. In 
Latin America, an increase in these programs should be expected in order to 
counteract the growth in recent years of electoral victories by popular 

President Chávez's coalition has two significant advantages working in its 
favor that the Frente Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 1980s did 
not have. The first is a growing economy, thanks to oil revenues. This has 
assured the success of the social programs, the misiones, and the beginning 
of the redistribution of national income. The other advantage is the 
absence of an internal guerrilla war that terrorizes and massacres the 
population while it destroys the economy.

Nevertheless, large quantities of dollars continue to flow to the 
opposition, and in 2005 and 2006 these funds should increase considerably 
for the election campaigns. Only a 10% swing is needed in national voting, 
from the August 2004 referendum, to produce a dead heat between the Chávez 
coalition and the opposition. One should understand that for the U.S. the 
2006 presidential campaign has already begun, and if they achieve a 
coalition of opposition parties, a kind of “union for national salvation,” 
it is not inconceivable that a great surprise could occur, as when very 
similar interventionist activities took place in Nicaragua in 1989/1990.

In the United States, it is a crime to request or to accept foreign funds 
destined to influence elections, and Venezuela has similar legislation. In 
2004, the Venezuelan government reacted to U.S. intervention by initiating 
criminal proceedings against leaders of Súmate, which had received 
financing from NDI to promote the recall referendum against Chávez. This 
action naturally provoked expressions of support for Súmate from the U.S. 
Ambassador, NED, and members of Congress. But in July of 2005 a judge ruled 
that the case against the four leaders of Súmate could proceed. (For more 
information about the Súmate case see 

The Venezuelan government always has the option of closing the offices of 
NDI, IRI and DAI and expelling the U.S. citizens and other foreigners 
working in these offices. Such an action, although completely justified, 
without a doubt would cause screams of outrage in Washington, although it 
would not put an end to the operations. The three offices would probably 
relocate to Miami where they would continue distributing money to their 
Venezuelan partners. However, it would make it much more difficult to 
direct the activities in Venezuela that they finance, and it would require 
constants trips between Miami and Caracas for meetings. In any event, U.S. 
interventionist policies to put an end to the Bolivarian Revolution and 
make possible the return to power of the old oligarchy will not change. 
They will continue as long as there is a government in Venezuela that gives 
priority to the interests of the poor, maintains strong relationships with 
the Cuban Revolution, and promotes regional integration without the United 

Translated by Dawn Gable

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