Mérida, November 24th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government held a special event in the National Assembly on Tuesday to express its opposition to a recent meeting held in the U.S. Congress between U.S. legislators and members of Latin America’s right-wing elite.
The November 17th meeting in question was titled “Danger in the Andes: Threats to Democracy, Human Rights and Inter-American Security” and was held at the U.S. Congressional Visitors Center in Washington.
The agenda included a discussion of whether Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua “constitute a threat to U.S. interests and inter-American security,” and whether the U.S. is “equipped to respond.” Venezuela’s “21st Century Socialism” and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), a fair trade bloc based on solidarity and social development, were highlighted as examples of the “erosion of democracy” in the region.
In Tuesday’s event in Caracas, which was titled an “Act in Defense of National Sovereignty,” President Hugo Chavez called the Washington meeting an act of imperialist aggression against Venezuela. “We are here to defend our homeland as humans. We are defending our right to follow our own path,” Chavez told the National Assembly.
The president's Council of Ministers, the heads of all five branches of the government, legislators, the high military command, and several state and local officials, ambassadors, and community representatives attended Tuesday's event.
U.S.-Venezuelan lawyer and investigative journalist Eva Golinger also spoke about the U.S. government’s funneling of millions of dollars to “psychological operations,” or propaganda campaigns to slander governments with policies that are not in line with U.S. interests.
Golinger said these campaigns are designed primarily by the Pentagon and the State Department with the collaboration of local media outlets, journalists, and other parties. According to Goleinger, in 2011 the Pentagon slotted US$384.8 million for psychological operations through the U.S. Southern Command and the Congress approved US$768.8 million for the State Department to create a special propaganda division. Funds are also channeled through the U.S. government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Organization for International Development (USAID), reported Golinger.
President Chavez called on the National Assembly to pass a law to stop this money from reaching Venezuelan civil society groups. “It is beyond belief, even though we have our constitution, that we allow political parties, non-government organizations, and counter-revolutionary individuals to continue to be financed with millions from the [United States] empire and that they make use of it with full freedom to violate and destabilize,” said Chavez.
“I am sure that the Venezuelan government I head – under the constitution – is not going to continue allowing this,” he said. “A very severe law should be passed to impede Yankee financing.”
Legislator Saúl Ortega, from the Foreign Relations Committee of the National Assembly, said on Tuesday that two law proposals are already in the works with the aim of “putting controls on these non-government organizations that receive financing for destabilizing actions,” and for the “control of foreign agents.”
Several Venezuelan opposition groups including Súmate, which has acknowledged receiving NED funding, are suspected of involvement in subversive actions, including demonstrations that culminated in the military coup d’état that temporarily ousted Chavez from power in April 2002.
Some domestic organizations that are not explicitly aligned with any political party or movement have expressed concern that if a new law bans all foreign funding without distinguishing the origin or the purpose of the funds, groups providing social services and engaging in human rights advocacy could have their efforts weakened.
Another point of discussion during Tuesday’s special session was Guillermo Zuloaga, owner of opposition television station Globovision that aided the April 2002 coup d’état by broadcasting manipulated images and suppressing news before, during and after the coup events.
Zuloaga, who is wanted in Venezuela for money laundering and hoarding of marketable vehicles at his private residence, attended the Washington meeting. He told reporters outside the U.S. Congressional Visitors Center that Venezuela is a “threat to the United States.”
Chavez referred to Zuloaga during Tuesday's event, saying, “Venezuela's bourgeoisie has to learn that it won’t just get away with having one of its representatives go off to the US Congress to attack Venezuela, while keeping a TV station here.”
Also during the event, Chavez told the National Assembly that in order to “defeat the imperial threat,” it must “radicalize the revolution” by embracing “extreme left” policies in order to counter the “extreme right” policies of legislators who were newly elected in September and will be sworn in early next year.
National Assembly President Cilia Flores called on Venezuelans to organize similar events around the country to express opposition to U.S. interference in Venezuelan affairs.
In a related event this week, President Chavez said he would welcome U.S. President Barack Obama to Caracas for a diplomatic visit. “We would sit, talk, and eat arepas [a Venezuelan staple food]; I would take you to the streets of Caracas,” he said. “I would give you my hand one more time and suggest that youhonor your promises to your people,” said Chavez.
He also urged Obama to “ignore the stereotype. Don’t pay attention to the lie-filled reports that say we are a threat.”
In April 2009, during Obama’s first trip to Latin America as president, Chavez gave him Eduardo Galeano’s book, Open Veins of Latin America, and the two countries expressed their willingness to revamp previously severed diplomatic relations. But relations currently remain stalled, as Venezuela has rejected Washington’s ambassador nominee Larry Palmer.
Palmer heads the U.S. government-funded Inter-American Foundation, which specializes in channeling money to non-government organizations. He also made controversial remarks in a Senate hearing earlier this year in which he alluded to Venezuela’s alleged ties to armed insurgent groups that the U.S. deems “terrorists”, prompting the nominee’s rejection by Venezuelan authorities.