Tuesday, 8 February 2011

USAID closes office in Venezuela

Source: lchirino

The US agency closed its Office of Transition Initiatives, which was used to provide Venezuelan opposition with millions of dollars every year.

By Eva Golinger, 8 February 2011.

Set up in 2002, the so-called Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) in Venezuela, which used millions of dollars to finance actions aimed at destabilizing the country and removing President Hugo Chavez from power, has finally closed its doors following countless denunciations about its subversive activities.

When Russell Porter, director of the OTI—a division of USAID dedicated to promote “transitions” in countries strategically important for Washington—first came to Venezuela in January 2002, he was committed to “evaluating the political situation” to find out how the USAID could better help by means of a “transition towards democracy.”

But the actual goal was not supporting democracy in Venezuela, since there was a democratic regime here that was supported by the majority of the people. The mission of the USAID, along with other US agencies, was to boost a “change of regime” that favored American interests, what translated into ousting President Chavez from power.

In the beginning, the USAID program for Venezuela—drawn up few weeks after Porter´s visit—would finance and advice political parties, non-government organizations and media outlets linked to the anti-Chavez sector. Three months after Porter´s visit to Venezuela, a coup was staged against the President which, after its initial success was defeated in less than 48 hours by the Venezuelan people. Most actors and groups involved in the coup had already been provided with a multi-million financing from the USAID and another US agency called National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

During its first two years of operations in Venezuela, the USAID/OTI managed an over-10-million-dollar budget by sponsoring some 64 opposition groups and programs in the country. A large part of this sum was dedicated to anti-Chavez propaganda in the media during the so-called “Managers´ Stoppage” in late 2002 and later to back a campaign for a revoking referendum against President Chavez.

Oppositions groups like SUMATE, CEDICE, Primero Justicia, CTV, Fedecarmaras and others, stood out as main recipients of that money and the leaders of destabilization efforts in the country.

After its failed attempts to oust the Venezuelan President, the USAID/OTI increased its budget and reoriented its Venezuela strategy; this time they focused on a sector not targeted before: the youths.

Over 34 percent of the multi-million USAID/OTI budget, which increased up to 15 million dollars annually, was dedicated to finance and give advice to an opposition “student” and youth movement from 2006 to 2010. Under the umbrella of USAID, workshops on how to use social networks like Twitter and Facebook to boost a “change of regime ” and “leadership” training programs for the youths were spread throughout the country.

And the money resulted in an effective tool. An opposition “student movement” was created. The “Manos blancas” (White Hands), the guru of the so-called “color revolutions” of Eastern Europe, attracted world attention with its protests against the Venezuelan government and its innovative tactics taken from the manuals and guidelines of US agencies and partners such as the Albert Einstein Institute and Gene Sharp.

However, despite the huge investment made on Venezuelan opposition, they did not reach their main goal. On the contrary, the popularity of Hugo Chavez kept growing, while relations between opposition groups and their US sponsors and advisors became less attractive.

The budget to finance opposition groups in Venezuela for 2010 reached over 57 million dollars. This huge interference with the country´s internal affairs and the violation of its sovereignty was corroborated by documents declassified by Washington, as well as by public reports issued by international organizations like the Spain-based Fundacion de Relaciones Internacionales y Dialogo Exterior –FRIDE- (International Relations and Dialog Foundation)

At the same time, the USAID presence in Venezuela never was legitimate—it was never authorized by the Venezuelan state, which evidenced a flagrant violation of national sovereignty. Unlike its programs in other countries, which are usually agreed to with the local authorities, in the case of Venezuela the USAID/OTI was operating in an illegal, semi-clandestine and subversive way.

Denunciations in Venezuela of the destabilization-aimed financing activity were considered by the authorities and in late 2010, they passed the Law for the Defense of Political Sovereignty and National Self-determination, which prohibits foreign financing with political aims in the country.

Did the USAID decide to abide by Venezuelan law? Did that organization realize that it had lost its millions of dollars in a fraudulent opposition that was incapable of retaking power? Or is it restructuring its strategy against the Venezuelan government by looking at other channels to finance and support its allies?

The fact is that the flow of dollars will continue to reach the groups that promote the US agenda in Venezuela, while imperial interference will not stop. But the closing of the USAID office in Venezuela is a victory for the Revolution, and a big step to guarantee national sovereignty.

Persistent denunciation works sometimes no matter if how powerful the adversary may be; the commitment to justice and truth will always win.

[English version by South Journal]