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 the author of The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men. He can be reached atrjensen@austin.utexas.edu or online at http://robertwjensen.org/.

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Justin Anderson
Don’t Count the Left Out Just Yet
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail