Monday, February 06, 2006

National Endowment for Democracy: Anti-Democracy 'special forces'

We ripped the anti-democracy USAID folks here, but one organization that managed to escape our Haiti tirade was the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) (we have no idea if NED was active in overthrowing the Haitian government, but know enough about them that we would not be surprised to learn they were). The Christian Science Monitor picks up the ball, giving us details on the NED's illegal, anti-democracy tactics in Venezuela:

Beyond the heated rhetoric on both sides, one of the actions the Chávez government views as most theatening is the US government's funding and support of opposition groups that Chávez charges hope to overthrow his government.

Tuesday, the attorney general is scheduled to take a get-out-the-vote group called Súmate to court on conspiracy charges for accepting $31,120 from the US-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

The case, which comes at a time when US-sponsored democracy-building programs are facing increased scrutiny worldwide, has bolstered Chávez's claims that the US is meddling in Venezuelan affairs. Yet Washington says the persecution of Súmate, an organization highly critical of Chávez, smacks of a political witch hunt that damages democracy in the country.

Despite the attention the case has garnered, Súmate's NED money is small change compared with the millions of dollars given to Venezuelan groups by a little-known branch of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) called the Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI). The Venezuelan government and some analysts question OTI's motives in Venezuela, since it is less transparent than other US aid agencies, more directly tied to US foreign policy interests, and has unusual budgetary flexibility.

US aid agencies have been under scrutiny in Venezuela since it was revealed that some members of US-funded groups were at the forefront of the opposition movement and supported the failed coup against Chávez in 2002. But OTI's mode of operations, until recently, has gone under the radar.

Called 'the special forces of development assistance' by Harvard University public policy professor Robert Rotberg, OTI was designed in the 1990s to help former Soviet Union countries make the transition to democracy. It now works in areas such as Iraq, Haiti, Sudan, and the West Bank.

We all need to realize that the 'foreign assistance' that the U.S. gives to all these countries is not all for some benevolent cause - it's to achieve the U.S. government's foreign policy objectives. So, don't be impressed that Bush is using so much of our money to further his own goals - be outraged.

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