Dollars, democracy and Venezuela (Ian James, 8/26/06, The Associated Press)
The U.S. government is spending millions of dollars in the name of democracy in Venezuela — bankrolling human-rights seminars, training emerging leaders, advising political parties and giving to charities.
But the money is raising deep suspicions among supporters of President Hugo Chávez, in part because the U.S. has refused to name many of the groups it’s supporting.
Details of the spending emerge in 1,600 pages of grant contracts obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request. […]
While USAID oversees much of the public U.S. spending on Latin America, the Bush administration also has stepped up covert efforts in the region. This month, Washington named a career CIA agent as the “mission manager” to oversee U.S. intelligence on Cuba and Venezuela.
The Bush administration has an $80 million plan to hasten change in Cuba, where Chávez has sworn to help defend Fidel Castro’s communist system. The U.S. also is spending millions on pro-democracy work in Bolivia, where Bush has warned of “an erosion of democracy” since a Chávez ally, socialist Evo Morales, was elected president in December.
Chávez makes no distinction between the programs supported by U.S. funds and the secret effort he claims the CIA is pursuing to destabilize his government. And it appears a crackdown on the U.S. aid is looming as Chávez runs for re-election in December.
You mean the President’s serious about all that democracy guff?