I Met Her in Venezuela

"I met her in Venezuela with a basket on her head. And if she knew others, she would not say, but I knew she’s due to pass away, to pass away the time in Venezuela."

So goes the words of an old folk song made popular by the late Burl Ives. Which leads one to ask, "How are they passing the time in Venezuela these days, and with whose money?"

We now know the answer to that question. The National Endowment for Democracy has spent to date, as far as we know, $877,000 on a variety of activities in Venezuela that increased as the situation deteriorated, including a $154,377 grant to the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, the international arm of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. to assist the main Venezuelan labor union, the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, in trying to overthrow Hugo Chavez, the elected president. So much for democracy.

This is not news. If anyone has bothered to read Ted Morgan’s biography of Jay Lovestone, A Covert Life, they would know that Lovestone, for years the head of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s international division, was a CIA operative working under James Angelton, who was his case officer. Now, this stuff is done under the auspices of the National Endowment for Democracy.

But that’s not the worst part. The endowment also provided significant resources, according to The New York Times, " to the foreign policy wings of the Republican and Democratic parties for work in Venezuela, which sponsored trips to Washington by Chavez critics." $210,500 went to the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs to "promote the accountability of local government." The International Republican Institute, which actually has an office in Venezuela, got $449,998 for "political party building."

On April 12, the day of the non-coup, this bunch applauded Chavez’ ouster, proclaiming "The Venezuelan people rose up to defend democracy in their country." The institute’s president, George A. Folsom (a great Venezuelan hero) stated: "Venezuelans were provoked into action as a result of systematic repression by the government of Hugo Chavez." What a joke!

Where does this so-called National Endowment for Democracy get its money? From the human rights division of the United States Department of State, for one thing, which has just pledged a grant of $1 million to the Endowment. But stop there. That’s not the State Department’s money. It is OUR money. Did anyone ask us, the taxpayers, if we cared to fork over a ton of money to the Democrat and Republican parties so a pack of hacks could spend it to overthrow an elected president? Of course not. That’s because this government assumes we work for it, and not the other way around.

The audacity of these scheme boils down to two corrupt political parties voting themselves our money through the State Department budget and then spending it on staff in Venezuela, where they screw around, drink Venezuelan rum and hang out with that girl with the basket on her head, the metaphor for those in Venezuela who will do out bidding as long as we pay for it. Those Venezuelans who take the money are the whores and the Democrats and Republicans who fork out our money are the johns.

The annual budget of the Endowment if $33 million. It supports actions abroad where U.S. government direct involvement might be "cumbersome or unwelcome." But to say this is private is absurd. It runs on federal money, only with no accountability. This is an agency that overreached in Chile in 1988 and in Nicaragua in 1989, when, according to The Times, "endowment funds were used to sway the outcomes of elections." So why is this any different from what the CIA did and still does? So no one can say it’s the CIA? Nonsense. If you think the CIA does not influence the direction of the Endowment, you believe in the tooth fairy. Barbara Conry of the libertarian CATO Institute put it best: "You ended up with the worst of both worlds. Everybody knew it was directly funded by Washington. That didn’t fool too many people. But it wasn’t really accountable."

Once again, we have a congress and a federal bureaucracy tossing around our money so some jerks can play at being power brokers around the world. The National Endowment for Democracy is a hoax. Now everyone in Latin America knows we were up to our ears n trying to get rid of Chavez. The whole thing backfired. The politicians walk away and we pick up the bill. Some democracy. But what I really want to know is, is there a Ritz in Caracas, so the hacks on the gravy train can meet to overturn a democratically elected government at our expense? And this stuff happens because we let it happen. If we choose to be a nation of sheep, we have only ourselves to blame.

April 27, 2002

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