By Ramiro S. Fúnez
In the coming weeks, the United States Senate is expected to vote on a bill authorizing boosted funding for anti-government groups in Venezuela for the upcoming fiscal year. If passed, the bill will only further violate legislation that prohibits said activities in the South American country, as recurrent U.S. government funding for insurrectional opposition groups represents a direct attack on Venezuela’s political sovereignty.
The U.S. government has continued to finance anti-government groups in Venezuela with millions of dollars annually, the Associated Press revealed late last month, irreverent of the 2010 Law for Protection of Political Liberty and National Self-Determination passed by Venezuela’s National Assembly. The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, originally proposed by senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) on March 13 of this year, now seeks to increase funding for undisclosed “pro-democracy” groups from $5 million to $15 million for Fiscal Year 2015. President Barack Obama’s administration already approved sanctions in May, which restrict travel to the United States for top Venezuelan government officials over alleged human rights abuses during violent February 2014 protests.
U.S. government officials, journalists, and NGO activists in support of boosted funding for “pro-democracy” groups in Venezuela have lauded the bill, based primarily on alleged evidence of government violence against protestors. However, they have failed to recognize the bill’s violation of Venezuela’s autonomy and the consequences financing these groups may bring.
“We’ve had enough of the United States assuming a role that belongs to multilateral bodies,” Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jau said back in May, after part of the legislation was approved by the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.
“We must remember that as a free and independent nation we do not recognize the United States parliament…as a legislative [force] over Venezuela. There are basic principles of the United Nations Charter that must be respected.”
Continual U.S. funding for right-wing opposition groups in Venezuela, which illegally receive money from the Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), represents a direct attack on the country’s sovereignty. Many of the opposition groups have provided both political and financial support to the anti-government coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), which during last February’s protests, was responsible for coordinating violent guarimbas—road blocks constructed by right-wing protestors with destroyed street materials used as shields for inciting violent rock throwing to provoke police officials into combat.
Organizations like Súmate, for example, run by conservative activist María Corina Machado, were revealed to have received USAID and NED funding while sponsoring the MUD’s La Salida (“The Exit”) campaign, which called on residents across Venezuela to forcibly remove democratically-elected President Nicolás Maduro from office. Another USAID and NED-sponsored organization, Formación y Acción (FORMA), also backed the MUD’s La Salida campaign and promoted anti-government demonstrations on social media. Other La Salida-sponsoring groups include CEDICE Libertad and Sin Mordaza.
In 2013 alone, the NED funneled over $2.3 million to Venezuelan opposition groups and projects—$1,787,300 was appropriated to anti-government groups within Venezuela, while another $590,000 was distributed to regional organizations that work with and fund the Venezuelan opposition, the Centre for Research on Globalization reports.
The bottom line is this: the U.S. government’ financing of anti-government opposition groups in Venezuela undermines the country’s autonomy because it intervenes with its domestic politics. Furthermore, it incites insurrectional and often violent behavior under the guise of establishing “democracy”—despite the current government being democratically-elected.
The Venezuelan government’s alleged human rights abuses in responding to violent protestors, which have yet to be fully investigated, do not warrant financial intervention from the North. Instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars on funding suspicious right-wing organizations in Venezuela, U.S. foreign policy makers should consider transforming those efforts into humanitarian aid, as former President Hugo Rafael Chávez has done in the past, for example, by donating heating oil to impoverished U.S. residents. For now, it seems likely the U.S. government will continue to fund “pro-democracy” groups in Venezuela, renewing the threat of right-wing insurrection against Maduro’s administration.
Ramiro S. Fúnez is a Honduran-American political journalist and activist earning his master's degree in politics at New York University.
[Photo courtesy of Javierebn]