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U.S. Awards Venezuelan Opposition's Maria Corina Machado with Democracy Prize

San Francisco, June 12th 2014. ( - On Wednesday, Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) announced its decision to honor Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado with the 2014 Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award. Meanwhile in a Miami county, a teachers’ union has organized students to collect riot materials to aid anti-government protestors in Venezuela.

Each year the IFES organization, which receives funding from the U.S. Department of State and Agency for International Development (USAID), gives an award to three individuals; one Democrat, one Republican, and a member of the international community.

Machado will receive the award on October 1, 2014, at a special dinner in Washington, DC.

IFES Board Director and former president of Colombia, Andres Pastrana, lauded Machado’s “relentless efforts to defend freedom and democracy against all odds in her native Venezuela,” in a press release yesterday.

The Venezuelan ex-congresswoman is currently under investigation for ties to an alleged plot to assassinate the elected president Nicolas Maduro, the details of which were presented last week in a series of emails intercepted by Venezuelan intelligence services.

“I believe the time has come to join forces, make the necessary calls, and obtain the financing to annihilate Maduro… and the rest will come falling down,” read one of the emails allegedly sent from Machado’s account.

Since February, Machado has called for Maduro’s immediate ouster in public rallies, and repeatedly encouraged the “street action” that led to violent blockades in many Venezuelan cities.

"I am honored to receive the IFES Democracy Award,” she said yesterday. “I accept this recognition on behalf of the democratic people of Venezuela, who struggle every day to restore democracy in our country.”

IFES made special mention of the Venezuelan vote-monitoring group Sumate, founded in 2002 by Machado and funded in part by the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NGO was primarily used to garner support for Venezuelan opposition parties after elections indicated mass preference for socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

Machado also signed the Carmona Decree during the 2002 coup attempt against Chavez which dissolved the National Assembly, Supreme Court and suspended constitutional liberties for the duration of the “transition government”. After the coup failed and Chavez returned to power, she claimed she had been unaware of the document’s purpose, mistaking it for a sign-in sheet to the presidential palace.

In another of the emails publicized by the Venezuelan government in May, Machado purportedly referred to support from the US ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whittaker, and said of their plans, “We have a bigger checkbook than the government … thanks to their giving away Venezuelan peoples’ money like presents.”

She has been summoned for June 16th to give her testimony to the Attorney General’s office over her alleged participation in the plans alluded to in the emails. She has signaled her intention to attend.

Donations for protestors

In Dade county, Miami, Florida, a teachers’ union has called upon students to gather materials that may aid Venezuelan anti-government protestors in their struggle to force Maduro’s resignation through street action.

The hard-line opposition activists, locally referred to as guarimberos, largely relied upon permanent street barricades to shut down cities and draw attention to their demands, which range from resolving high crime and economic problems to the immediate removal of Maduro from office. The latter set them at odds with the nation’s pro-government majority, who voted for the socialist trade union leader as their president after the death of Chavez in March 2013.

The guarimberos quickly set themselves apart from more peaceful protestors by burning trash and tires, refusing to let civilians pass, causing damages to public buildings, including universities, medical centers, government offices, and public transit, and confronting security forces with arms and other weapons.

Since the start of the unrest in February, these extreme tactics caused many of the 42 deaths which occurred during, including pro and anti government activists, nonpartisan citizens, and numerous security personnel. Millions of dollars in property damage was also caused, and at least 162 politically-motivated attacks on Cuban doctors were reported.

The street barricades and protests have now largely dissipated for the time being, but sporadic opposition protests and acts of violence by hard-liners continue.

Families of Dade county students were asked to donate walkie-talkies, helmets, gloves, goggles, and knee-pads as well as eye-drops to counteract the effects of tear gas and first aid kits.

The project was initiated by the Humanitarian Aid for Venezuela Program, based out of El Doral, Miami, a community made up of many self-exiled Venezuelans. The program’s website indicates that the donations are reaching their destinations safely, to be used by “struggling students” in the cities of Caracas, Valencia and San Cristobal.

Published on Jun 12th 2014 at 11.47pm