Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Venezuela's (Not So)Civil Society - Sumate

The most democratic woman in Venezuela, or just a US pawn?

According to the Miami Herald, the US Government is finalizing plans to double the spending of our money ($100,000) to a discredited, treasonous group operating under the guise of "democracy promotion" in Venezuela. Here is what I've learned about the group, with bits edited from here and here.

The group, called Sumate (or join-up), plans to use to the funds to "strengthen the democratic process in Venezuela." As it turns out, this would be laughable if the stakes weren't so high and opposite so apparent. For example, as one of her chief democracy strengthening activities, Sumate's leader Maria Corina Machado, signed a decree supporting the (just a wee bit) anti-democratic 2003 military coup and the corresponding attempt to dissolve the Constitution and the National Assemly. This support for a US-backed big-business directed dictatorship in the waiting has led the Venezuelan government to file legal charges against the group's leaders for treason - a trial that is looming ever larger.

According to Machado, who gained organizing experience trying to privitize homeless shelters, Súmate is "an objective non-partisan civil association." However, Súmate has worked exclusively with the Venezuelan opposition since its inception in 2002. Their controversial role conducting flawed exit polls during the referendum (specifically criticized by the Carter Center and OAS observation missions in Venezuela) and their subsequent rejection of the referendum results (though both the Carter Center and the OAS declared them to be free and fair) have cast doubt on Súmate's professed "neutrality" to say the least.

The funding also shines the light back on the US approach to Venezuela since Chavez has been in office, which is about everything BUT democracy building. Declassified records show the US quadrupled financing specifically to anti-Chávez groups, at the time that U.S. officials knew that the very same organizations and individuals clearly were planning a coup. This shows that they had the intention to support those activities. Since 2001, the total calculated amount of transparent (non CIA) US financing is a little over $27 million. And it's not just financing, it’s training and political support, and military support.

Some of you might be thinking, who cares about this one group? But this Sumate organization - and its trial that has not yet begun - are critical to the pressure that is elevating on Venezuela, from the US Government as well as human rights groups. When you hear that Chavez is "eroding democracy" from Sec. Rice, she is referring primarily to this group and their trial. So lets focus on the legality of taking money from foriegn governments to engage in political activity a bit more.

First off, the Venezuelan laws are more relaxed than our own in the US. In the US it is straight-up illegal for any political campaign to get money from a foreign government. In terms of a foreign government funding, say, an NGO or a PR group, they would have to be registered in the US with the Foreign Agent Registration Act under DOJ. They would have to report on their activities in a determined period and what is reported would have to correlate with actual actions, unlike in Sumate's case. Sumate was approved for "supervising the collection of recall election signatures," when we know they were far more involved in partisan politicking, propaganda dissemination and organizing during the recall. In Venezuuela, the law under consideration is whether Sumate tried to overthrow the Venezuelan government while receiving foriegn government money. Their appearance at the swearing-in ceremony for 2-day President Carmona and Mochado's signature on the decree that dissolved Consitution, would appear to be proof, but we'll see what the courts say.

Now of course, Chavez has held - and his supporters have won - more elections in his time in office than anyone else on the planet. Participation in elections has skyrocketed from the dismal US ranges to 90% for the referendum, where Chavez won with 60%. Participation in the affairs of the State at all levels is a guiding principle of Chavez's revolution. It was Chavez's idea to allow recall elections, lets remember. But still, the NED has us believing democracy is at risk in Venezuela and that they are supporting the "most moderate, and democratic elements." Yeah right.

We know the score, we've seen the US pull these tricks before in Nicaragua and the Phillipines. It coalesces a factured opposition, often with boatloads of undiscolsed cash, chooses its leaders from the elite of society, then chooses its moment to pounce.


Blogger jsb said...

"treasonous"? You're afraid of her, aren't you. Shows how weak you Chavistas are that you have to persecute this group, which has operated absolutely under the letter of the law.

Now, what about that Spanish bank that gave money to Chavistas? You ignoring that, right? Not calling them treasonous, are you.

You're falling hook, line and sinker for Chavista propaganda. Consistently...

12:51 PM  
Blogger jsb said...

...and if there are any readers out there who want to know the other side of the story, you can read about it at:

12:55 PM  
Blogger jsb said...

And here's legal analysis that shows they're acting within the law, no matter Matt's accusation of treason.

Chavistas are afraid of Sumate because, despite Chavez victories, he continues to degrade democratic institutions. Something Matt doesn't care about because he's a marxist and a communist apologist.

12:59 PM  
Blogger leftside said...

Look I'm not a judge or a Venezuelan Constitutional expert, so I can't say whether Sumate's leaders are guilty. And actually the long-standing law is a bit more vague than I said. It's illegal to “solicit foreign intervention in the internal political affairs of Venezuela.”

I respect Douglas Cassell, who wrote the VCrisis piece. He argues the law is too vague to be up to international standards. Maybe, but this certainly appears to be a perfect test case.

But the question of treason and respect for democracy are far easier.

Treason is defined as: Violation of allegiance toward one's country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one's country by waging war against it or by consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies.

I think most would objectively agree that backing a military coup to topple the most widely and numerously elected President in the country's history, as well as signing one's name to a pledge to dissolve the remnants of democracy - the Constitution, the National Assembly, etc - is treasonous. Especially when you look at the US' knowledge of, support of and probable active involvement in, the coup itself.

3:14 PM  
Blogger jsb said...

"backing a military coup to topple"

Chavez resigned after his supporters murdered marchers. Something you won't be able to continue to cover up. Now The Revolution Will Not Be Televised has a counterpart that will show the actual footage of these murders. Murders committed in the name of Chavez.

I encourage every reader of this blog to see this film, to see what really happened. They use real, undoctored footage of the murders.

And hopefully someone will make a film someday that shows the murders Chavez committed in his coup attempt in 1992. That's right folks, Matt doesn't want you to know that Chavez murdered innocents with his own hands in 1992 in an attempt to overthrow the government. A failed coup. Just like Castro in the 50's. ...and Hitler in the 20's. They always start with their own failed coups.

7:28 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

JSB, I thought we covered this already in detail.

I showed you declassified CIA documents that proved that US Officials knew of the advance plan to put a coup into motion with that fateful day's supposed peaceful march.

And you know that Chavez did not resign like the original well-coordinated US/plotters story went. I can't believe you still say such crap.

At least you appear to acknowledge that Chavez did not order the shooting, but it was "in his name." Maybe there were Chavista shooters that day. But surely they did not provoke the violence, which was caused by a secret plan to reroute the march towards Miraflores (their White House). And it is highly likely the opposition fired first... this is what This was their plan all along.... to provoke violence to give the coup an excuse.

What do you not understand about the sinister opposition plans for that day. There was nothing spontanous about it. Or are you claiming they just got lucky that Chavistas just happened to play into their plans?

1:11 PM  
Blogger jsb said...

What you showed me was propaganda. Propaganda which you continue to believe. People died in 1992, you know about that don't you? Were those not "sinister plans"? You're a freakin' hypocrite. Worship Chavez if you want, but don't expect people to believe you as long as we still have the freedom in this country to counter your lies.

7:01 AM  

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