July 9, 2004—Today, Venezuela’s opposition coalition, the Democratic Coordinator, announced its long-awaited “plan” for a post-Chávez government and society. Denominated “Plan Consenso País” (Country Consensus Plan), this new agenda attempts to seek “reconciliation” and “reconstruction” in Venezuela and to bring “peace”, “reactivation of the economy” and the “creation of a social and educative political sphere that includes all citizens, without exception”. The proposed Plan was presented by Diego Bautista Urbaneja, Coordinator of the Committee for the Country Consensus Plan of the Democratic Coordinator.
In a press conference early Friday, Urbaneja explained that the Plan was the product of a process of consultations and consensus of 9 political parties, 26 social organizations from civil society, 27 labor and workforce organizations and 5 opinion groups. The Consensus Plan is a pact amongst the opposition, who allegedly are committing to adopt such plan as the base of transitional government, post-Chávez. Urbaneja claims that the Plan will last from once President Chávez is recalled in a referendum to be held on August 15, 2004 until January 2007, the end of the constitutionally allotted presidential term.
The opposition has come under attack recently in the international press and by its own members for not offering any concrete alternatives to the Venezuelan people, but merely clamoring for the ouster of the current President. Many of the key political parties and members comprising the Democratic Coordinator umbrella group are members of former governments and of political parties, such as Acción Democrática and COPEI, which lost power based on their lack of policies to address the vast majority of poor and working class Venezuelans and their exclusionary politics that catered to Venezuela’s elite.
The new Consensus Plan offered today may, on its face, appear as a viable alternative, yet there exists one major fact that chips away its credibility: The Plan is a creation of the National Endowment for Democracy, a US Government entity that has been funneling in millions of dollars to anti-Chávez groups in Venezuela to aid their coup and strike efforts back in 2002-3, and now to springboard the referendum campaign and this new transitional government “Plan”.
The National Endowment for Democracy awarded a grant of approximately $300,000 in early 2003 to The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), a US based entity and one of four core NED grantees, together with the Center for Dissemination of Economic Information (CEDICE), a Venezuelan organization. CEDICE is presided by Rocio Guijarro, one of the initial signors of the “Carmona Decree,” enacted during the brief dictatorship that took control of Venezuela’s government during the 48-hour coup d’etat against President Chávez back in April 2002. The “Decree” authorized businessman Pedro Carmona as “President” and dissolved all of Venezuela’s democratic institutions, such as the National Assembly (and all its elected members), the Supreme Court, the Constitution, the General Attorney and the Public Defender’s office.
The CIPE-CEDICE grant was entitled “Project Consensus to Build a National Agenda” and featured prominent radical opposition leaders and coup participants as project committee members. Organizations comprising the “Project” included many of the same groups that led the coup efforts in April 2002 and the illegal strike in December 2003-February 2004 that crippled Venezuela’s economy, such as Gente de Petróleo, Fedecámaras, Alianza Bravo Pueblo, CTV, COPEI and the Democratic Coordinator, amongst others. Another key organization figuring in the Consensus Plan Committee is Liderazgo y Visión, a direct NED Grantee led by Oscar Garcia Mendoza, head of the Banco de Crédito. Mr. Garcia Mendoza published an advertisement in Venezuela’s national newspapers during the April 2002 praising the coup for bringing back “liberty and democracy with solid institutions and respect for the Law.” Garcia Mendoza also signed a business announcement published in national press on April 13, 2002, recognizing and supporting the “transitional government” of Pedro Carmona, despite the fact that Carmona had taken power via a coup and had violated Venezuela’s Constitution.
In a March – May 2003 Quarterly Report by CEDICE to NED, the Consensus Plan Project is justified by comparing the Chávez Administration to the Nazi Party of Germany: “The one thing separating the country from full revolutionary control is the fact that the Chávez Government was the result of free elections (as was the Nazi regime in its inception)…” (see http://www.venezuelafoia.info/NED/CIPE-CEDICE/CIPE-CEDICE-Con/pages/CIPE-CEDICE-consensus-02.htm for original document).
More than two years after the coup against President Chávez, the opposition has become increasingly dependent on the US Government for economic help, political guidance and support. The NED funds over nineteen (19) organizations operating in Venezuela – all on the anti-Chávez side, a fact which the NED themselves have admitted on various occasions. (Bart Jones, The National Catholic Reporter). Other financing sources, such as USAID, fund more than $5 million annually to “democracy building” activities in Venezuela that are entirely within the realm of civil society and not government-based.