Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Nov 16/05 - On the lost battle for Capitol Hill: Hugo Chávez's "democracy" under review

Warning: Lobbying does not work when the product is so tainted

PMBComments: Two developments from the U.S. Congress merit today’s post. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), the highly respected Chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, wrote a letter to the National Endowment for Democracy expressing serious concerns about “the increasing number of reports on the efforts of certain foreign governments to thwart U.S.-originated support for grassroots democratic organizations in their countries”. Belarus, Uzbekistan, Russia, Egypt, and Zimbabwe are joined by Venezuela in this “usual suspects” lineup of countries that opt to blame foreigners for their citizens growing thirst for democracy, freedom and prosperity.

With regards to Venezuela, the letter highlights the case of “the leadership of the NGO SUMATE [which] is being prosecuted on conspiracy charges for receiving grant funds from NED to conduct voter education workshops, and its leaders have now been banned from leaving the country”.

Senator Lugar concludes by stating: “We take these developments seriously, inasmuch as they threaten the ability of democrats, operating peacefully and openly, to continue working with U.S. organizations that receive congressional funding to carry out their mandates”. He requests from NED a survey on threats to democratic assistance around the world in order to discuss “appropriate means by which to address this serious problem”.

If history is any guide, I would suggest that the Caracas regime start planning for the kind of relentless pressure that can be rallied from the outside by individuals that do not tread on these matters lightly. Senator Lugar far from being a Neocon, is a moderate, but firm, conservative that played instrumental roles in such “simple” tasks as calling Ferdinand Marcos’s final electoral bluff in the Philippines; setting the stringent – and still followed - rules for Nuclear disarmament in the former Soviet Union, and forcing a re-run of Kuchmas’ tainted election in the Ukraine last year. With yellow and orange people’s power revolutions on his mantle piece, it is sure good to count on his support as we – Venezuela’s true democrats - try to extricate our country from the jaws of a fraudulent, tainted, nuclear-seeking and very red revolution.

In another development that represent a setback to Mr. Chávez dreams of dividing U.S. public opinion around him, Congressman Dan Burton (R-Indiana), Chairman of the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, issued the following statement in anticipation of today’s hearing in his Subcommittee on Democracy in Venezuela. What makes this unusually harsh statement relevant is that over the last few months Mr. Chávez had been meeting with Mr. Burton under the auspices of Representative William Delahunt (D-Massachusetts), Chávez's top cheerleader-apologist in the halls of the U.S. Congress. With this statement, it is clear that Mr. Burton puts an end to his efforts to seek dialogue with a dictator-on-training-wheels that is hell bent on prodding the U.S. into a desperately desired confrontation. I reproduce the entire statement below. PMB



(Washington, D.C.) - Since his election in 1998, President Hugo Chávez has proclaimed to be the champion of the poor, supposedly fighting poverty and improving the social well-being of Venezuela and the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, largely through revenues derived from his country's vast oil supplies. Despite these "efforts," poverty rates continue to rise in Venezuela, while democracy erodes, and instability rises.

"I have met President Chávez twice, both in Caracas, Venezuela and again in New York. On both occasions he indicated to me that he wanted to have a working dialogue with the United States Government, and that he was a supporter of democratic institutions. Since these meetings, I have listened to Mr. Chávez's speeches, where he continually uses rhetoric that sounds anti-democratic and revolutionary and this causes many problems" stated Burton.

"In his speech at the Summit of Americas, President Chávez openly talked about the revolutionary goals of communist Che Guevara, and the need for Guevara's revolution to continue throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. His talk of armed revolution is something all of the democracies of the Western Hemisphere oppose, and Mr. Chávez is gravely mistaken if he believes there will be no repercussions for his anti-democratic rhetoric and activities. His efforts to limit freedoms in Venezuela while simultaneously supporting anti-democratic, revolutionary, leftist efforts in Colombia, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and elsewhere throughout Latin America and the Caribbean is unacceptable to the United States of America and the international community at large" concluded Burton.

Congressman Dan Burton [R-IN-05], Chairman of the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, will hold a hearing entitled, "Democracy in Venezuela," on Thursday, November 17, 2005, in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building at 10:30 a.m., to review and measure the status of democracy and democratic institutions in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.