Our Gang in Venezuela? THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY HAS BEEN BUSY--AND FAR FROM ALONE

By Corn, David | The Nation, August 5, 2002 | Go to article overview

Our Gang in Venezuela? THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY HAS BEEN BUSY--AND FAR FROM ALONE


Corn, David, The Nation


In the weeks before the April 12-13 coup in Venezuela, Asociacion Civil Consorcio Justicia, a legal rights outfit, was planning an April 10 conference to promote democracy in that country. At the time, Venezuela was undergoing severe political strife. Business groups and labor unions were bitterly squaring off against President Hugo Chavez, a democratically elected strongman/populist. Using an $84,000 grant from the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy, a quasi-governmental foundation funded by Congress, Consorcio Justicia was supposed to bring together political parties, unions, business associations, religious groups and academicians to discuss "protecting fundamental political rights," as an NED document put it. In a proposed agenda Consorcio Justicia listed as one of the main speakers Pedro Carmona, president of Fedecamaras, a leading Venezuelan business group. But when the coup came, Carmona was handpicked by the plotters to head a government established in violation of the Constitution. Then he signed a decree suspending the National Assembly and the Supreme Court. Carmona, it turns out, was hardly interested in safeguarding "fundamental political rights."

Fortunately for NED, the conference was part of a series that never happened. The program was canceled as Venezuela was hit by national strikes that would lead to the massive business-and-labor demonstration against Chavez on April 11, in which at least eighteen people were killed by unidentified gunmen. The murders provided Chavez's military foes cause, or cover, to move against him early the next morning. (A recent Human Rights Watch report concluded, "Both sides bear responsibility for the shootings.") But imagine if the NED-backed conference had occurred and Carmona had appeared there--days before becoming a front man for the coup-makers. That was a close call for NED. Instead, the episode may be no more than a mild what-if embarrassment for NED, which is supposed to finance pro-democracy activism around the world. It shows, though, how democracy-promotion can slip, perhaps unintentionally, toward supporting the opposite--especially in a highly polarized political environment like the one in Venezuela.

Created by President Ronald Reagan and Congress in 1983, NED was designed to run a parallel foreign policy for the United States, backing and assisting entities that Washington might not be able to officially endorse--say, an opposition party challenging a government with which the United States maintained diplomatic relations. In a way, NED took public some of the covert political activity the CIA had previously mounted. The endowment--which devotes much of its budget to funding the foreign policy arms of the Democratic and Republican parties, the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO (its core grantees)--has been involved in both questionable and praiseworthy projects. It awarded a large grant to a student group linked to an outlawed extreme-right paramilitary outfit in France, helped finance the development of conservative parties in countries where democracy was doing just fine and played a heavy-handed role in Nicaragua's 1990 elections. In the late 1980s it aided the pro-democracy opposition in Chile and antiapartheid organizations in South Africa. But even if its programs have indeed enhanced democracy on occasion, NED overall has long been problematic, as it has handed taxpayer dollars to private groups (such as the two major parties) to finance their overseas initiatives and has conducted controversial programs that could be viewed abroad as actions of the US government. What might the reaction be here, if the British government funded an effort to improve the Democratic Party's get-out-the-vote operation in Florida?

Which brings us back to Venezuela--where the US Embassy was compelled after the coup to declare as a "myth" the notion that "the US government, through organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, financed coup efforts. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Our Gang in Venezuela? THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY HAS BEEN BUSY--AND FAR FROM ALONE
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.