On April 20, 2004, the Chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy (“NED”), Vin Weber, along with
The NED insists that there exists no connection between their organization and the coup d’etat of April 2002. As support for this claim, the NED cites the U.S. Inspector General’s Office report on the NED’s core grantees and discretionary grant recipients’ respective roles during the April 2002 coup, which concluded that these groups “…were carrying out programs in a manner consistent with NED grant policies and guidelines and were adhering to US laws and policies.” Such a conclusion leads to the question of whether it is NED policy to provide financing and political support to groups that openly and notoriously participated in the April 2002 coup. Despite claims of no relation to the April 2002 coup against President Chávez, the NED’s own documents provide evidence to the contrary. Concrete examples include:
Numerous NED grantees in
The Director of the Asamblea de Educación, Leonardo Carvajal, was named “Minister of Education” by the coup government in April 2002, and he also signed a Civil Society Document recognizing the legitimacy of the coup government on
Oscar Garcia Mendoza, Director of NED grantee Asociación Civil Liderazgo y Visión, authored two Official Communications published in national media in
Other individuals such as Cipriano Heredia of Visión Emergente, Tomás Páez of Red Universitaria and Elías Santana of Alianza Cívica signed the Civil Society Document recognizing the legitimacy of Carmona’s coup government on April 13, 2002 and were recently chosen to spearhead a CIPE-CEDICE project, “Consensus to Build a National Agenda”, funded by the NED.[iv]
The International Republican Institute, one of the NED’s core grantees, issued the following laudatory statement in support of the coup against President Chávez on
IRI PRESS RELEASE
TO: NATIONAL AND FOREIGN EDITORS
IRI President Folsom Praises Venezuelan Civil Society’s Defense of Democracy
, April 12 WASHINGTON
George A. Folsom, President of the International Republican Institute (IRI) praised the Venezuelan people in their efforts to bring democracy to the country. The following is a statement from President Folsom concerning last night’s events.
“Last night, led by every sector of civil society, the Venezuelan people rose up to defend democracy in their country. Venezuelans were provoked into action as a result of systematic repression by the Government of Hugo Chávez. Several hundred thousand people filled the streets of
to demand the resignation of Lt. Col. Hugo Chávez. Chávez responded with sharpshooters and his paramilitary Bolivarian circles killing more than 12 civilians and wounding more than 100 others. In contrast, IRI commends the patriotism of the Venezuelan military for their refusal to fire on their countrymen. Caracas
IRI also applauds the bravery of civil society leaders – members of the media, the Church, the nation’s educations and school administrators, political party leaders, labor unions and the business sector – who have put their very lives on the line in their struggle to restore genuine democracy to their country. IRI will remain engaged for the long term with political parties and our civil society partners to help rebuild
’s fractured political system and restore elected democracy to the country. Venezuela
IRI has promoted the strengthening of democracy in
since 1994 and recognizes that Venezuela ’s future is not a return to its pre-Chávez past, but instead the development of accountable, non-corrupt, and responsive government. Venezuela
Today, the National Assembly is expected to meet to lay the groundwork for the transitional government to hold elections later this year. The Institute has served as a bridge between the nation’s political parties and all civil society groups to help Venezuelans forge a new democratic future, based on accountability, rule of law and sound democratic institutions. We stand ready to continue our partnership with the courageous Venezuelan people.
IRI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing democracy worldwide. IRI’s programs span the globe and include training on civic responsibility and the legislative process, and strategies for building political parties and election campaigns. IRI is a nonpartisan organization, federally funded through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as privately funded by donations from individuals, corporations and foundations.”[vi]
It would hamper the notion of democracy to accept the NED’s argument that it is working to promote democracy and “defend and protect human and political rights” in Venezuela, when in fact, its very own documents prove it has continued to support groups and organizations that unapologetically participated in the April 2002 coup d’etat. The NED argues that it supports projects that “promote and defend democratic processes and rights, irrespective of political orientation”, yet its own documents, grant approvals and quarterly reports from grantees show a clear bias and orientation towards those organizations that radically oppose Venezuela’s current government.
In fact, in an interview on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! on
It appears rather inappropriate that the organization approving the grants would be so intimately involved in the preparation of the actual grant applications. This type of aid demonstrates the NED’s clear intention of supporting these groups from the ground level on up. Furthermore, the English language documents submitted to the NED’s board all refer to President Chávez in a very negative light, justifying the need for the grants due to the threat of “authoritarianism”, “Castro-communism”, “revolutionary control” and “dictatorship” they allege the Chávez administration presents to Venezuelan society. If, as the NED states, they support projects regardless of political orientation, how can groups supporting Chávez be eligible to receive such assistance when the NED itself has taken an open stance against the Chávez administration, by classifying it in the above-mentioned negative terms?[viii]
The NED also attempts to disprove Ambassador Valero’s allegation that they finance political parties in
In fact, the most extreme opposition party to President Chávez, Primero Justicia, has been considered by the NED itself as “IRI’s primary counterpart in
One of the main contentions of the NED involves their direct grantee Súmate, a Venezuelan organization dedicated to promoting and leading the recall referendum campaign against President Chávez. The NED continues to claim that Súmate received a grant of $53,400 in September 2003 to “observe” and “monitor” the signature collection process and not to participate or lead the process itself. However, the NED’s own documents easily disprove their attempts to classify Súmate as a mere observer or monitor in the recall referendum campaign. In their January 31, 2004 Report to the NED, Súmate explains their use of the project funds to “Train, capacitate and motivate the Municipal Coordinators to create a structural network and to utilize these Municipal Coordinators as instructors to provide technical training in the “Signature Drive” to those Responsible at the Centers of Signature Collection and/or the Signature Counters.”[xiii]
Additionally, the same Súmate report to the NED explains how they developed an “Operations Manual for the
The issue is not whether Súmate is acting within the democratic process, but rather the inappropriateness of the undeniable fact that
The NED also defends its financing of the Venezuelan organization, Acción Campesina, an organization working to prevent the successful implementation of the Land Reform and Agrarian Development Law in
This same logic follows for human rights projects funded by NED in
Finally, the NED continues to insist that the documents recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) were not “declassified” but rather public documents. This is merely a question of semantics. Were the documents entirely “public” as the NED claims, the process of submitting a FOIA request would not have been necessary. However, we did have to submit numerous FOIA requests, some of which have not yet been fulfilled to date, in order to receive those documents now available to the public at large on www.venezuelafoia.info. The documents posted on our website are not available to the public on the NED’s website, nor in the NED’s offices. Classified, declassified, public, not public; it’s really just about the wording, the issue remains the same.
[i]See “Los Documentos del Golpe”, Fundación Defensoría del Pueblo, 2004. See also, http://www.venezuelafoia.info/NED/CIPE-CEDICE/CIPE-CEDICE-Con/pages/CIPE-CEDICE-consensus-01.htm
[v]http://www.venezuelafoia.info/NED/ACILS-CTV/ACILS-CTV-index.htm. See also, “Is AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center Serving as a Channel for Bush’s Plan for Regime Change in
[viii]As examples, see http://www.venezuelafoia.info/NED/ACCEDES/2003-257/pages/ACCEDES-A04.htm, http://www.venezuelafoia.info/NED/ACJA/ACJA2002-427/pages/ACJA-2002-407-04.htm, http://www.venezuelafoia.info/NED/ACAdE/2000-421/pages/ACAdE-A08.htm, http://www.venezuelafoia.info/NED/FMG/2002-133.0/pages/FMG-2002-133-07.htm.
[xv]See also www.sumate.org, where the organization explains their role in the “collection and processing of signatures for the recall referendum drive” and http://18.104.22.168/search?q=cache:lZps3XDPWwQJ:www.csis.org/press/ma_2004_0304a.pdf+maria+corina+machado&hl=en&ie=UTF-8, a press release announcing Maria Corina Machado as “Referendum Leader”. Additionally, Súmate’s own grant proposal which was accepted by the NED indicates one of their project objectives as “promoting popular support for referenda.” This clearly differs from the role of “observing.”