US accused of bid to oust Chavez with secret funds


Richard Moore

Imagine the outrage in the US if Castro or Chavez were caught secretly funding 
US opposition groups.

The hypocrisy and hutzpah of the US is so outrageous -- on every issue I can 
think of -- that I am amazed how anyone can swallow it.


Original source URL:


US accused of bid to oust Chávez with secret funds

30 August 2006 07:19

The United States government has been accused of trying to undermine the Chávez 
government in Venezuela by funding anonymous groups via its main international 
aid agency.

Millions of dollars have been provided in a "pro-democracy programme" that 
Chávez supporters claim is a covert attempt to bankroll an opposition to defeat 
the government.

The money is being provided by the US Agency for International Development 
(USAid) through its Office of Transition Initiatives. The row follows the recent
announcement that the US had made $80-million available for groups seeking to 
bring about change in Cuba, whose leader, Fidel Castro, is a close ally of 

Information about the grants has been obtained following a Freedom of 
Information request by the Associated Press. USAid released copies of 132 
contracts but obscured the names and other identifying details of nearly half 
the organisations.

The Office of Transition Initiatives, which also works in such "priority 
countries" as Iraq, Afghanistan, Bolivia and Haiti, has overseen more than 
$26-million in grants to groups in Venezuela since 2002.

Among the grants detailed in the information are: one for $47 459 for a 
"democratic leadership campaign"; $37 614 for citizen meetings to discuss a 
"shared vision" for society; and one of $56 124 to analyse Venezuela's new 

"What this indicates is that there is a great deal of money, a great deal of 
concern to oust or neutralise Chávez," said Larry Birns, director of the Council
on Hemispheric Affairs (Coha) in Washington on Tuesday. "The US is waging 
diplomatic warfare against Venezuela."

He said that while the US had accused Chávez of destabilising Latin American 
countries, the term "destabilisation" more aptly applied to what the US was 
trying to do to Chávez.

"It's trying to implement regime change," Eva Golinger, a Venezuelan-American 
lawyer who wrote The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela, told 
AP. "There's no doubt about it. I think the US government tries to mask it by 
saying it's a noble mission."

She added: "It's too suspicious to have such a high level of secrecy."

Chávez has also accused groups of taking US money and predicted that the US will
seek to use its influence in Venezuela's December polls.

USAid officials denied any suggestion the money had any political aim and said 
the reason for anonymity for some groups was to protect them from potential 

"The goal of the programme is to strengthen democracy, which is consistent with 
President Bush's 'Freedom Agenda'," said a USAid official on Tuesday. "A strong 
civil society is a critical part of any healthy democracy, just as it is in the 
United States, England or anywhere else in the world."

The official said that the money was used to pay for "a wide range of seminars, 
educational programmes and even public service TV commercials aimed at promoting
dialogue between pro- and anti-Chávez camps. Other projects include workshops on
conflict resolution, efforts to promote human rights, and training for positive 
citizen involvement in their communities."

USAid also supports programmes such as day-care centres for the poor, 
improvement for schools, junior sports teams, and children's homes, the official
said, adding that the sums being spent in Venezuela were much smaller than those
allocated elsewhere this year in Latin America, with USAid budgeting 
$3,8-million for Venezuela compared with $84,8-million for Bolivia and 
$85,1-million for Peru.

The row comes just as China has agreed to invest $5-billion in energy projects 
in Venezuela, including the building of 13 oil rigs and 18 oil tankers. Last 
week Chávez announced that China was endorsing Venezuela's bid for the rotating 
Latin America seat on the 15-member Security Council, a candidacy strongly 
opposed by the US. The commercial arrangements with Beijing are seen as part of 
the Chávez government's strategy of establishing new links so as to lessen the 
country's dependence on US trade.

As a symbol of the friendly relations established between Chávez and the London 
mayor, Ken Livingstone, there will be a festival of Latin-American music with a 
Caracas theme in Trafalgar Square this Friday evening. The two men met earlier 
this summer when the president was a guest at an event hosted by the mayor. - 
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

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