(repost of article on Indymedia 20.07.2004 )
The documents on this site reveal the intimate economic and political relationship between the National Endowment for Democracy (“NED”) and the Venezuelan opposition group Súmate. NED approved a grant of $53,400 to Súmate on September 12, 2003, for a one-year duration, under the pretense of promoting “Electoral Education”. The grant proposes to utilize Súmate to conduct a national propaganda campaign in Venezuela, garnering support for a recall referendum against democratically-elected President Chávez. Specifically, the grant states that Súmate will “train citizens throughout Venezuela in the electoral process and will promote participation in a recall referendum”.
The substantial funds awarded by the NED were also appropriated for the design and reproduction of materials to ‘promote’ the recall referendum against President Chávez, including training manuals and information packets that contain information about Súmate, the constitutional basis for the recall referendum, election laws and guidelines and how to monitor and observe the electoral process.
The grant also reveals Súmate’s intention to work with the National Elections Council, Venezuela’s electoral body, in the development of election materials to educate the public about the referendum process, utilizing television, radio and print media. The grant additionally includes detailed information about an “Advisory Committee” formed by Súmate and comprised of representatives from various regions throughout Venezuela. This Committee will “ensure the effectiveness of the materials” produced with the NED’s funds. One of the members of the Advisory Committee indicated in the grant is Mrs. Miriam Kornblith, placed in charge of “election matters.” Mrs. Kornblith is currently serving as an alternate member for director of the National Elections Council (“NEC”) Board in Venezuela, which clearly represents a conflict of interest. The NEC is an official government body and its members should not receive funding from foreign governments.
Within the documents included in this site, Súmate is described as an organization of citizens and professionals with more than 100,000 volunteers, dedicated to finding a peaceful and democratic solution to the “political crisis” in Venezuela. As a credential for receiving the $53,400 from NED, Súmate proudly claims to have collected “27 million signatures in one day”, in February 2003. What they fail to mention is the massive fraud discovered in that signature drive that rendered the whole endeavor illegitmate.
Many of the documents provided on this site, which are the result of numerous Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests, demonstrate the relationship between the NED and Súmate, and also reveal a continuous correspondence and contact between the two parties, based upon their shared objective of “reestablishing democracy” in Venezuela. This purpose is pursued under the pretext of utilizing democratic and constitutional means to achieve their goal. These documents confirm the direct link between the U.S. government and the Venezuelan opposition, and prove that the United States is the principal investor in the destabilization campaign against President Chávez.
While taken on face value, the grant proposals and approvals and overall objectives may appear benign or within the democratic framework. Yet what needs to be understood through an analysis of this information is the consistent and generous economic support of the U.S. government of an opposition movement in Venezuela that has made two dangerously undemocratic attempts to oust a popularly elected and democratic president: the April 2002 coup d’etat and the 64-day business lockout in December 2002 – February 2003.
Furthermore, the funds provided by NED to Súmate were utilized to create mass propaganda campaigns promoting a recall referendum against President Chávez outside constitutional limits. Súmate’s “election materials”, paid for by NED funds, included little blue cards that verified whether an individual had signed the petition for a recall referendum against President Chávez. These cards were given by employers to employees across Venezuela, with one message: “come back with the card stamped ‘I signed’ or don’t come back at all.” Is this within the limits of democracy?
Other documents included on this site also reveal that more than $800,000 has been donated by NED to various Venezuelan opposition groups. These funds have been allocated by a special Department of State mandate for specific use on Venezuelan issues. Amongst the beneficiaries of these grants are the Central Workers Union (CTV), the People’s Moment (Momento de la Gente), Press & Society Institute (Instituto de Prensa y Sociedad), First Justice (Primera Justicia) and Farmer’s Action, Leadership & Vision (Acción Campesina, Liderazgo y Visión). Leadership of these organizations either participated in or came out in favor of the April 2002 coup d’etat against President Chávez.
An analysis of these documents leads to the conclusion that the NED has been clearly acting in favor of the destabilization of Venezuela by supporting political initiatives exclusively of the Venezuelan opposition, little of which has anything to do with democracy. In fact, what the documents evidence is an increase in U.S. intervention in Venezuela. This is evident through the internal memoranda and email communications between Chris Sabatina, Director of the NED Program for Latin American and the Caribbean, and the numerous Venezuelan opposition groups supported by the NED.
This site provides the opportunity for you to read the truth with your own eyes.