FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

US Support for Anti-Democratic Forces in Venezuela Recall

Imagine the scandal if a foreign government had for years funneled millions of dollars to political groups in the United States in an attempt to affect the outcome of a U.S. election. Even worse, what if some of the groups that received money had been involved in a failed coup attempt against a democratically elected U.S. president? Would the U.S. public not have a right to be outraged at the attempt to manipulate our political process?

Of course we would — which is why the people of Venezuela have a right to be outraged at the U.S. government’s ongoing attempts to meddle in the electoral process in Venezuela.

On Sunday (Aug. 15), Venezuelans will go to the polls for a referendum on the recall of President Hugo Chavez. Polls show Chavez running 8 to 31 percentage points ahead. But whatever the result, Bush administration actions in Venezuela should alert the U.S. public that the commitment to “expanding democracy” we hear so much about is largely rhetorical cover for the typical U.S. interference in the politics of nations in Latin America — and around the world.

The vehicle for this meddling in Venezuela is the National Endowment for Democracy, which calls itself “a private, nonprofit organization” but is funded by U.S. taxpayers. Its self-described mission is “to strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts.”

In the case of Venezuela, “strengthening democratic institutions” has meant financing groups that helped carry out the failed coup attempt against Chavez in April 2002. Coup leaders representing the traditional oligarchy in Venezuela, and their supporters in the U.S. government, saw a “problem”: Chavez is genuinely interested in a fairer distribution of wealth and refuses to subordinate his country to U.S. policy. Their “solution” was a coup that lasted for 48 hours, during which an illegal decree installed a businessman as president and dissolved the National Assembly and the Supreme Court. The United States quickly backed the coup, until loyal officers and civilian groups restored Chavez to office.

In the continued quest to promote “democracy,” the NED kept funding some of those same opposition figures as they shifted to a strategy of work stoppages and lockouts aimed at crippling the country’s vital oil industry. When that failed to dislodge Chavez, they finally took up a legal route, the recall election. (Documents regarding NED funding obtained through the Freedom of Information Act are available online at http://www.venezuelafoia.info/)

Whatever objections U.S. officials might have to the Venezuelan president’s policies, it is clear the attempts to push Chavez from power have nothing to do with the charge that he is an authoritarian president (or “quasi-authoritarian,” as one U.S. newspaper described him in an editorial, or perhaps a “quasi-editorial”). Since his 1998 election, Chavez’s real “crimes” have been not just consistently speaking out against the unjust distribution of resources in his country but taking tangible steps to help the poor, such as literacy programs and community-based health clinics.

Unlike so many U.S.-backed leaders in Latin America in over the years, Chavez has respected freedom of speech and an open political process. Most of the private media outlets, in fact, are rabidly anti-Chavez, representing the interests of the Venezuelan elite. Those television stations remain on the air. Chavez has consistently stated he would abide by the results of the referendum, which the opposition leadership refuses to do. The fact is that Chavez has acted in a less repressive manner than any prior Venezuelan president.

And for all this, Chavez has been demonized by the Bush administration, a strategy that John Kerry seems determined to mimic. This suggests that the current fashionable rhetoric among U.S. policymakers about supporting democracy around the world is — as it was during the Cold War — empty rhetoric. If democratic elections put into power leaders willing to back U.S. policy, then all is well. If people around the world reject U.S.-backed “leaders,” then those people are likely to get some timely instruction in democracy — Washington style.

For independent information on events in Venezuela in English, go to http://venezuelanalysis.com/, http://www.zmag.org/venezuela_watch.cfm, and http://www.cepr.net/pages/americas.htm.

ROBERT JENSEN is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of “Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity” from City Lights Books. He can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu.

 

More articles by:

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully (Counterpoint/Soft Skull, fall 2015). http://www.amazon.com/Plain-Radical-Living-Learning-Gracefully/dp/1593766181 Robert Jensen can be reached at rjensen@austin.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online at http://robertwjensen.org/. To join an email list to receive articles by Jensen, go to http://www.thirdcoastactivist.org/jensenupdates-info.html. Twitter: @jensenrobertw. Notes. [1] Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996), p. 106. [2] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). [3] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, edited and with a revised translation by Susan McReynolds Oddo (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2011), p. 55.

July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science – Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional
George Wuerthner
The Awful Truth About the Hammonds
Robert Fisk
Will Those Killed by NATO 19 Years Ago in Serbia Ever Get Justice?
Robert Hunziker
Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact
Ramzy Baroud
Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen
Nick Pemberton
A Letter For Scarlett JoManDaughter
Marilyn Garson
Netanyahu’s War on Transcendence 
Patrick Cockburn
Is ISIS About to Lose Its Last Stronghold in Syria?
Joseph Grosso
The Invisible Class: Workers in America
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail