Open Letter to President Hugo Chavez, and to the People of Venezuela

Inspired by their struggle, we urge President Chavez and the people of Venezuela to stand firm against intervention by foreign agencies, and we urge them to continue to expose abuses by the National Endowment for Democracy

President Hugo Chavez
Office of the President
Caracas, Venezuela

Esteemed President Chavez,

We urge you, in the name of democracy and the people’s will, to hold fast in your struggle against the manipulation of Venezuela’s electoral process by foreign agencies. We urge you to continue to expose abuses by the National Endowment for Democracy.

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the international struggle for real democracy. We are persons and organizations who hunger for people’s democracy here in our own countries, particularly the United States of America. We are inspired in our struggle by the powerful victories of the Venezuelan people against all efforts to undermine representative government there.

We understand well that the struggle for voting and civil rights, and for responsive and representative government, is an international struggle. An advance anywhere is an advance for all people, everywhere. Throughout the world, people are inspired by the tremendous witness of the Venezuelan people in electing a representative government and in standing strong against all attacks and attempts to bring that government down.

When we see a nation rising up and thwarting all attempts to derail people’s government, the inspiration and motivation we derive is inexpressible. We stand in solidarity with the people of Venezuela not just because we care about Venezuela — but we are inspired in our struggle for democracy rights here in our own land!

The National Endowment for Democracy does not represent the will of the American people. It is an organization funded by our tax dollars — but it does not receive any meaningful oversight or review from Congress or any elected body. In fact, though created and funded by Congress, the NED is considered a “private” organization precisely in order to keep its activities in the shadows, hidden from the American people, hidden from the world. This is why we are so grateful to the Venezuelan people for exposing this abuse of US taxes and taxpayer confidence!

Indeed, the NED has little to do with promoting fair elections, representative government, or any of the ideals and institutions one would normally associate with democracy. What the NED promotes is US corporate globalism. In fact, the main political agenda of the NED is the derailment of people’s democracy whenever it is in conflict with U.S. commercial interests. [See attachment for a brief overview of the activities of the NED.]

As Allen Weinstein, the NED’s theoretical planner, noted in a 1991 Washington Post interview, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” In many respects, NED-sponsored groups are even freer of congressional monitoring than those of their CIA predecessors!

In a letter to Mr. Vin Weber, chair of the Board of Directors for the National Endowment for Democracy, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, Venezuela’s ambassador to the United States, clearly states the illegal nature and the extent of the NED’s interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs. Mr. Alvarez writes:

“As you know, it is illegal for foreign governments and organizations to finance political campaigns in the United States. It would be illegal, for instance, for Democratic Party activists to accept money from a foreign government to gather signatures to recall California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The same is true in Venezuela. It is illegal for Venezuelans to accept foreign financing to intervene in internal democratic political processes in Venezuela. I am sure you would agree that it would be a very serious matter if NED grantees violated Venezuelan law, and more so if NED funding was linked directly to the breach of our laws or used in ways that may not have been represented forthrightly to the NED. You may also be aware that shortly after the 2002 coup, the State Department gave the NED a $1 million special fund that was distributed to organizations in Venezuela, some of whose leaders supported the coup and even participated in the coup government. This has been widely documented…..”

The National Endowment for Democracy awarded $53,400 to Súmate for the promotion of the recall. No matter how much NED functionaries try to say otherwise, there was no purpose for this award other than to influence Venezuela’s democratic processes and institutions. Súmate itself existed ONLY for that purpose–so there is really no valid argument to defend this NED funding.

In Fiscal Year 2005, the NED will receive $80 million from US taxpayers, double the previous year’s allocations. Much political and media manipulation is carried out under the auspices of the NED and its core granting organizations: the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE affiliated with the US Chamber of Commerce), and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS, also known as the Solidarity Center, and affiliated with the AFL-CIO).

The entire 100% increase in next year’s NED funding is being allocated to the Middle East, mainly to Iraq. This funding will go toward the building political parties that are amenable to the presence of US military bases and corporate development. The NED is a political trailblazer for neo-liberalism and, thus, for neo-colonialism. For that reason, proponents of real democracy who love peace and justice must work together to demand the de-funding and the closing of the NED. Venezuela is showing the rest of the world that it does not have to tolerate US interference in its electoral processes.

Again, we urge you to stand firm! Your struggle is a light to us all!

Thank you,

  • Latin America Solidarity Coalition
  • James Jordan, Turnwinds, Tuscon, AZ
  • Chuck Kaufman, National Co-Coordinator, Nicaragua Network
  • WaBunInini, Ojibwe Nation, aka, Vernon Bellecourt, Director of International Relations, American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council
  • Tom Ricker, Quest for Peace, Brentwood, MD
  • Burke Stansbury, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), New York, NY
  • Olivia Burlingame Goumbri, EPICA (Ecumenical Program On Central America & the Caribbean), Washington DC
  • Tom Hansen, Mexico Solidarity Network
  • Peter and Gail Mott, Co-Editors, INTERCONNECT, Rochester, NY
  • Paul Baizerman, Director, TECNICA, Queens, NY
  • Sarah Aird, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), Washington, D.C.
  • Patricia Dahl, Coordinator, Colombia Support Network New York City
  • Lisa Sullivan, Maryknoll Lay Missioners, Maryknoll, NY
  • Megan Kennedy, Program Coordinator, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN), Chicago, Illinois
  • Tom Baker, Chicago, IL
  • Chris Kaihatsu, Chicago, IL
  • Kenneth Kennon, Tucson SOA Watch, Tucson, AZ
  • Nathan M. Gant, Carlos Baliño Institute for Advanced Cuban Studies, Oviedo, Florida
  • Finian Taylor, Hilton Head for Peace, Hilton Head SC
  • Anne Lamb, Latin@s por Mumia, Iglesia San Romero de las Américas, Bronx, New York
  • Charlotte Kates, New Jersey Solidarity – Activists for the Liberation of Palestine, New Brunswick, NJ
  • Joyce Smith, Tucson Community Project to Free Lori Berenson Now, Tuscon AZ
  • Julie A. Charlip, Associate Professor, Department of History, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • Catherine M. Stanford, CWA Local 1104/Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU) (*), Albany, New York
  • Pat Birnie, acting facilitator, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom- Tuscon, Tuscon, AZ
  • Tim Jeffries, Bend-Condega Friendship Project, Bend, OR
  • Jean Pauline, San Francisco Neighbor to Neighbor, San Francisco, CA
  • Tom Brown, Francisco Neighbor to Neighbor, San Francisco, CA
  • Chester Chambers, Toledo Area Committee on Central America, Toledo, OH
  • Kathie Sherman, chair, Latin American Action Team, Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery, St. Louis, MO
  • Susan Severin, Marin Interfaith Task Force on the Americas, San Anselmo, CA
  • Diana Bohn, Co-coordinator, Nicaragua Center for Community Action, Berkeley, CA
  • Rev. Deacon Arthur C. Donart, Ph.D., Social Justice and Peace Committee, JesusChrist, Prince of Peace Parish, Clinton, Iowa
  • Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB), New York, New York
  • Renate Bridenthal, Emerita Professor of History, Brooklyn College, the City University of New York (*)
  • John Mineka, Department of Mathematics, Lehman College, CUNY, Bronx, NY
  • David “Punch” Worthington, IUPAT retired, Salem, Oregon
  • Alfred L. Marder, President, US Peace Council
  • Asociacion Mujer y Comunidad, San Francisco Libre, Nicaragua
  • Rita A. Clark, Nicaragua – U.S. Friendship Office, Washington, DC
  • Dale Sorensen, Marin Interfaith Task Force on the Americas, California
  • Victoria Cervantes, La Voz de los de Abajo, Chicago, Illinois
  • Midge Quandt, Princeton-Granada Sister Cities, Princeton, New Jersey
  • Rayen Russell, Phoenix, AZ
  • Bartlett Harvey, Exeter NH
  • Harold F. Leahy, Dayton, Ohio
  • Debra Wilmer, AZ
  • Jeff Bogdan, Red Bank, NJ
  • Hannah Walsh, Chicago, IL
  • Clyde Appleton, Tucson, AZ
  • Mike Fox, San Francisco, California
  • Sister Deanna Rose Von Bargen, rscj, Lewiston, Idaho
  • Mary Hurley, Elyria, OH
  • Paul Meyers, Jersey City, New Jersey
  • Frank Kromkowski, Helena, Montana
  • Rene V. Arcilla, Professor, New York University, New York NY
  • Debra Neyman, Westminster, Colorado
  • Elmer Armstrong, Boulder, Colorado
  • Jean Pauline, Oakland, California
  • Thomas G. Brown, Jr., Oakland, California
  • Garry Fry
  • Andrea Valverde, Berkeley, California
  • Rachel Greenwood, Williamsburg, MA
  • Maurita Bernet, Phoenix AZ
  • Cecilia Girz, Boulder, Colorado
  • Kathleen M. Burke, Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Martha Nagy, Truro, MA
  • Jennifer Cyr, Bolton, CT. USA
  • Jack Bopp, Henniker, NH
  • Raymond Giraud, Palo Alto, California, USA
  • Lise Giraud, Palo Alto, California, USA
  • Dr. Arthur C. Donart, Ph.D., Thomson, Illinois 61285
  • Jeff Mezzocchi, San Francisco, CA
  • Jim Bier, Ferrum, VA
  • Elaine Novak, Sacramento California
  • Courtenay White, Golden, Colorado
  • Gaia Mika, Ph.D., Boulder, CO
  • Patricia A. Yager, Tacoma, Washington
  • Richard Weiner
  • Martha Nagy
  • Bentley Davis, Rockland, ME 04841
  • John W. Murphy, Miami, FL
  • John Smartt
  • Malcolm Donald
  • Susan Thorpe
  • Lorna Thorpe
  • Mary Jane Walz
  • Ada Taylor
  • Meripat Bowman
  • Anne Lively, New York, NY
  • Courtenay White, Golden, Colorado
  • Rachel Greenwood, Williamsburg MA
  • Ann Mulrane, Washington, DC
  • Walter Tillow, New York, NY
  • Wayne Alt
  • Martha Bushnell, Ph.D., Boulder, CO
  • Kevin Uhl
  • Yann Kerevel, Albuquerque, NM
  • Mary Munch, Albany, NY
  • David Rohrlich, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Erik Bowen, Lake Bluff, Illinois
  • Arthur Kennedy
  • Mary Jane Schutzius, Florissant, MO
  • Arnold H. Matlin, M.D., Linwood, NY 14486
  • Joan Malerich, St. Paul, MN
  • Catherine Goodman, Green Brook, NJ
  • Laura Tabili, Tucson, Arizona
  • Alexandra Hernandez, San Francisco, CA
  • Ben O’Shaughnessy, Albany, NY
  • Joe Callahan, Tuscon, AZ
  • Bill Koehnlein, New York, New York
  • Marie-Claire Picher, New York, New York
  • Ronald E Rosenberg, Tucson, Arizona
  • Jean Eisenhower and Asante, Elfrida, Arizona,
  • Raquel Mogollon, Tucson, AZ
  • Richard Boren, Tucson, AZ
  • Dr. J. Richard Weaver, Bluffton, Ohio
  • Mallory Clarke, Seattle, Washington
  • Richard Greene
  • Rev. Henry Atkins, Lucy Treadwell Atkins, New Hampshire
  • Martha Bushnell, Ph.D., Boulder, Colorado
  • Rev. Sue Wagner Fields
  • Edwin M. Moser, Roosevelt, New Jersey
  • Frank Kromkowski, Helena, Montana
  • Evangelos Kalambokidis, Fridley, Minnesota
  • Marcel Hatch, Education Coordinator, Cuba Education Tours, Vancouver, Canada
  • B.A.E.van der Wal-Kijlstra, The Hague, Netherlands
  • Charlie and Colleen Withall, Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England
  • Denise van Wissen, Ocotal, Nicaragua
  • Joachim Holstein, Hamburg, Germany
  • Paul Volgyesi, Budapest, Hungary
  • Marque Brill, Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Marthe Ruth Wolfe Raymond, MFA,Ciudad Ayala, Morelos, Mexico
  • Aldo Zanchetta, Fondazione Neno Zanchetta, Lucca – Italia
  • Fiona Mary Graham, Brussels, Belgium
  • B.A.E.van der Wal-Kijlstra, The Hague, Netherlands
  • Dr. Ralf Hedwig, Jena, Federal Republic of Germany
  • Nan McCurdy, Managua, Nicaragua
  • Karen Huggins, University of Calgary (*), Calgary, Alberta, Canada

(*) Organizations named for identification purposes only