Venezuela Asks U.S. to Stop Funding Opposition and Coup Supporters

Venezuela's Ambassador to Washington sent a letter to Colin Powell asking the U.S. government to respect Venezuela’s election laws and stop funding opposition groups and coup leaders

By Martin Sanchez - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Washington, D.C. June 24 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – In a letter dated June 22, 2004, Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela’s Ambassador to the United States, requested that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell ask the U.S. Congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to respect Venezuela’s election laws and stop funding coup leaders.

“We would ask that, in supporting democracy in Venezuela, the United States take care not to violate Venezuela’s election laws or other Venezuelan laws; and take care not to assist or facilitate the violation of such laws by Venezuelan citizens,” said the statement.

“We also would expect that the United States and its agencies would refrain from funding organizations and individuals in Venezuela who participated in the April 2002 coup,” said Alvarez.

The National Endowment for Democracy has been providing monetary assistance to Venezuelan groups that are seeking to remove democratically-elected President Hugo Chavez, according to documents obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act by the New York-based Venezuela Solidarity Committee, and published at www.VenezuelaFOIA.info.

The evidence of U.S. funding of Venezuelan anti-Chavez organizations, has enraged Venezuelan authorities, as the Aug 15 recall referendum on Chavez approaches.

One of the recipients of the U.S. aid is Sumate (Join up), the group that organized the technical aspects of the signature drive to demand the recall. Sumate’s director Maria Corina Machado, signed a document in support of dictator Pedro Carmona, a businessman who replaced Chavez after a military coup d’etat in 2002. The Venezuelan government has accused the NED of giving a grant to Ms. Machado’s group after the coup, knowing about her support for Carmona. The Carmona government abolished the constitution, dismissed the Supreme Court, fired all state governors and the Attorney General, and unleashed a wave of persecution of Chavez loyalists resulting in the death of up to 50 people during the short/lived dictatorial rule.

During an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Ms. Machado denied having signed the pro-dictator document, but copies of the signatures prove otherwise (See http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1202).

Signers in support of dictator who replaced Venezuelan president Chavez after the April 2002 coup include Maria Corina Machado from SUMATE. Click to enlarge
Dictatorial government supporters such as Sumate´s Maria Corina Machado signed in separate pages as the book of attendees at dictator Pedro Carmona's self-swear in ceremony ran out of allocated slots.
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Citing Colin Powell’s condemnation of the U.S. government’s backing of the 1973 coup in Chile, the Alvarez letter pointed out that President Bush’s spokesman Ari Fleischer had spoken favorably of the brief coup that unseated democratically-elected President Hugo Chavez in April of 2002. 

A copy of the letter sent by Alvarez follows.

The Honorable Colin Powell
Secretary of State
U.S. State Department
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520.


Dear Mr. Secretary,

I want to thank you for your recent comments on Venezuela, in particular on the signature repair process for the recall referendum. I think that your comments helped establish the climate whereby the repair process could proceed smoothly and peacefully.

I think you know that many on both sides of the political divide in Venezuela see present events in Venezuela as a possible replay of events in Chile in the early 1970s. Supporters of the government fear that illegal efforts to replace the current government will be supported, overtly or covertly, by the United States Government. Many in the opposition hope for just such an outcome. In this regard, I am grateful for your comment to high school students in February of last year that the coup in Chile “is not a part of American history that we're proud of.” From this comment and your public statements on Venezuela I infer that you are committed to a different kind of policy towards Venezuela than has governed relations in the past. As you know, some pronouncements of the present U.S. Administration in the past few years have given a very different impression, as when Ari Fleischer, in his press briefing on April 12, 2002, appeared to endorse the coup, claiming falsely that President Chavez had resigned.

We would ask that, in supporting democracy in Venezuela, the United States take care not to violate Venezuela’s election laws or other Venezuelan laws; and take care not to assist or facilitate the violation of such laws by Venezuelan citizens.

In particular, Venezuelan law prohibits political parties from receiving foreign financing [1]. We understand that the National Endowment for Democracy is also prohibited from funding, directly or through its grantees, campaigns of candidates for public office, which would seem to cover the present case in spirit if not in letter. Thus, I would ask you to instruct the NED and other U.S. agencies to refrain from funding any organization in Venezuela that is participating in the referendum campaign.

We also would expect that the United States and its agencies would refrain from funding organizations and individuals in Venezuela who participated in the April 2002 coup. It is our understanding that several individuals who have received and continue to receive U.S. funding through the National Endowment for Democracy were among the signers of the document known as the Carmona Decree, which attempted to abolish the democratic institutions of Venezuela including the national legislature, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution. One of these individuals was an official in the coup government. I would ask that you instruct the NED and other U.S. agencies not to fund these organizations and individuals.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns.

Fraternally,

Bernardo Alvarez Herrera,
Ambassador, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

[1] “These are obligations of the political parties… Not to accept donations or subsidies … of foreign States and foreign political organizations.” Public Law of Political Parties, Meetings and Demonstrations, Article 25.

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