President of National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to Visit Venezuela (revised)

In connection with a court case against the directors of the NED-funded NGO Sumate, the NED President and its Director will visit Venezuela next week. The case charges Sumate leaders with illegally creating a parallel Electoral Council.

Correction: An earlier version of this article that was posted here included several errors. It stated that Vin Weber is the president of the NED, when actually it is Carl Gershman. Also, it said that Sumate directors are being charged with treason, when the charge against them is actually one of violating article 132 of the Penal Code, which prohibits conspiracies against Venezuela’s political-institutional organization set forth in the constitution. Poor fact-checking caused us to repeat many errors that have been circulating in Venezuela’s mainstream media and in particular that were reprinted in an El Universal article upon which much of this article was originally based.

Carl Gershman, the long-time president of the U.S.-government funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Chris Sabatini, the NED’s Executive Director, are to arrive in Venezuela on Monday in relation to the Attorney General’s case against Sumate.

Venezuela’s Attorney General’s Office is conducting a criminal investigation that seeks to demonstrate that the U.S. Department of State and the NED are involved in an alliance intended to finance opposition groups that are trying to undermine the government of President Hugo Chávez.

In particular, the Attorney General is accusing the group Sumate (Join-Up), which receives NED funding, of attempting to set up a parallel electoral council (CNE) by developing a citizen database and taking over other functions that are the responsibility of the CNE. According to Venezuelan law, it is illegal for individuals or organizations to attempt to create parallel institutions to those set forth in the constitution. Venezuela’s constitution designates the CNE as the sole arbiter of electoral issues.

According to a brief filed in the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court (TSJ), the Public Prosecutor questioned Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel, Foreign Affairs Minister Jesús Pérez, and the Venezuelan Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Jorge Valero, in an effort to demonstrate a relationship between the NED and the US government.

According to Rangel there is “a relation of subordination [between the NED and the U.S. Department of State], as the NED is an instrument of the U.S. foreign policy. There is also an economic link, since the NED receives money because of that. The U.S. government itself has acknowledged this relation.”

Regarding Súmate, Rangel indicated that “it is an instrument of North American policy, intended to meddle in Venezuelan electoral and internal affairs. It is also a widely known fact that the NED funded Súmate to encourage a campaign to remove Chávez from power.”

Foreign Minister Pérez said the relation between the U.S. Department of State and the NED is “absolutely direct,” “…not only because of the financial support given to the latter, but because of what resolutions 66 and 274 of the North American government ratify: that the work of the NED has ennobled the interests of national security of the U.S.”

OAS Ambassador Valero testified that the NED “is a governmental body of the U.S. that works under the façade of an NGO.” Referring to Súmate, Valero claimed that it “requested the intervention of the NED, a foreign body, to conduct destabilizing political activities and train leaders.”