FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 12, 2008
For Information Contact
The independent US Venezuela Solidarity Network (VSN) on Friday January 11, 2008 filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demands to US government agencies for “all records” of “all grants, payments and/or funds transfers to individuals, groups or political parties in Argentina from January 1, 2006 to date.”
FOIA requests were submitted to the US Agency of International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Included in the request to the NED was the demand for records from its core groups, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, the AFL-CIO’s American Center for International Labor Solidarity, and the Chamber of Commerce’s Center for International Private Enterprise.
VSN’s Interim National Coordinator Chuck Kaufman explained, “When the US government arrested several people in Miami and attacked the Venezuelan government for allegedly sending nearly $800,000 to Argentina for President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s campaign, we were struck not only by the flimsy evidence, but by the sheer level of hypocrisy involved. We decided to make public how much money the US government spent on the presidential election in Argentina and who received it.”
In 2006 Kaufman led delegations to Nicaragua and Venezuela to investigate US involvement in those countries’ presidential elections that year. In Nicaragua US ambassador Paul Trivelli admitted that he had $12 million to spend on the election and an IRI official bragged that “we started” a supposedly independent group that opposed Sandinista candidate Daniel Ortega’s candidacy. In Venezuela an embassy official confirmed press reports that USAID was spending $23 million and the NED another $3 million for groups opposed to President Hugo Chavez’ candidacy.
“The Bush Administration is extremely worried about the growing rejection of US political and economic hegemony in Latin America,” Kaufman said. “They were surely up to their eyeballs in the Argentine election. Argentina, after all, was the first country in Latin America to kick out the International Monetary Fund which enforces US economic policy,” he noted.
So-called “democracy building” programs are an ever larger portion of foreign aid money administered by USAID. In Venezuela the funds pass though a US embassy office named the Office of Transition Initiatives. Purported to be non-partisan, US democracy building grants go preponderantly to groups and individuals aligned with US government and corporate policies.
“They are democracy manipulating programs pure and simple,” Kaufman said. “One of NED’s founders, Alan Weinstein, was quoted at the time as saying, ‘We do now overtly what the CIA did covertly 25 years ago.’”
The Venezuela Solidarity Network filed the FOIAs in an effort to educate US taxpayers about the fact that their money is being spent to manipulate other countries’ elections. It would be illegal if those countries spent money to influence elections in the US. “US citizens believe in free and fair elections and they would be outraged if they knew our government was trying to rig elections in other countries,” Kaufman said.
The FOIA’s were filed on behalf of the Venezuela Solidarity Network by the public interest law firm, Partnership for Civil Justice. The Partnership for Civil Justice just last week won a lawsuit against New York City for refusing to permit an anti-war demonstration in Central Park during the 2004 Republican convention.
The VSN is a network of US local and national organizations formed to expose and oppose US government intervention in Venezuela and to support Venezuela’s Bolivarian process to reduce poverty and increase economic justice in that country. Its web page is www.vensolidarity.org.