When Russell Porter, the director of USAID’s Ofice of Transition Initiatives (OTI) division, which is dedicated to injecting liquid funds into resolving “political crises” to Washington’s favor, first visited Venezuela in 2002, his task was “evaluating the political situation” to determine how USAID could better help the nation towards a “democratic transition”.
But the real objective of USAID was not supporting democracy in Venezuela, since the South American nation already had a vibrant democracy with a president supported by a majority of the people. USAID’s mission, together with other US agencies, was to provoke “regime change” favorable to US interests, which meant removing President Hugo Chavez from power.
From the beginning, USAID’s program in Venezuela, which was established weeks after Porter’s visit, was dedicated to funding, creating and advising anti-Chavez political parties, NGOs and media. Three months after Porter’s trip to Venezuela, those same groups executed a coup d’etat against President Chavez, which although briefly successful, was defeated by the people – Chavez supporters – less than 48 hours later.
During its first two years of operations, USAID/OTI had a $10 million budget, which it used to fund approximately 64 opposition groups and programs in Venezuela. The majority of that funding went to anti-Chavez propaganda in the media and an unsuccessful campaign to recall President Chavez from office in 2004.
Failing in its prior attempts to oust Chavez from power, in 2006 USAID/OTI reoriented its funding, increased its budget and began focusing on crafting an opposition “youth movement” that could utilize new technologies, such as Twitter and Facebook and other Internet media to build an international campaign against the Venezuelan president. From 2006 to 2010, more than 34% of USAID’s budget – which neared $15 million per year – was used to fund university programs, workshops and other events to aid youth in building an anti-Chavez movement.
By 2010, external funding for opposition groups in Venezuela reached more than $57 million, the majority coming from US agencies such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy.
USAID’s presence in Venezuela did not have authorization from the Venezuelan state, evidencing clear violations of sovereignty. USAID’s OTI program operated like a clandestine agency in Caracas, illegally bringing dollars into the country and using them to fund subversion against the government.
As a result of this ongoing violation of Venezuelan sovereignty, the country’s National Assembly passed a law in late December 2010 prohibiting foreign funding of political activities. USAID/OTI promptly shut its doors and moved its Venezuela operations to Miami, now a hub of anti-Chavez activities.