Delegation Denounces US Interference in Venezuelan Election

11-05-06, 9:27 am

Venezuela Solidarity Network 1247 E St., SE Washington, DC 20003 Press Release For More Information November 2, 2006                                                  Chuck Kaufman 202-544-9355

Pre-Election Delegation Denounces US Interference in Venezuelan Election

A delegation of US citizens and residents spent September 30-October 8, 2006, in Caracas, Venezuela meeting with a broad cross-section of people representing the Venezuelan government and its opposition, civil and social organizations, the media, the OAS, and the US government.  The delegation looked at factors influencing the upcoming December 3, 2006, presidential election with a particular emphasis on the US government role in that election.

Chuck Kaufman, a member of the delegation, said, 'Starting probably before the polls close on Dec. 3, we're going to be subjected to a Bush administration campaign to delegitimize the re-election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.  Solidarity activists need to be ready to counter the lies with facts.  Our delegation report contains those facts.'

The delegation, organized by the US Venezuela Solidarity Network and the Marin (CA) Interfaith Task Force on the Americas came to the following conclusions:

1. Conditions and systems are in place which will allow a free and fair election for president on Dec. 3, 2006.

2.  The electronic voting machines – with their paper trails, audits, and controls -- are far less subject to manipulation and fraud than those in many states in the US, and national and international monitors will be present at every voting site.

3.  US involvement in the 2006 election is less public than, for instance, it is in Nicaragua's close presidential election.  A clear majority of the electorate favors Chavez, so public US efforts to defeat him electorally would only redound to Chavez' benefit.

4.  The US government strategy to delegitimize the current election is part of a broader strategy to destabilize Venezuela in a manner similar to what it did in Chile after the presidential election of socialist Salvador Allende in the early 1970s.

5.  $26 million in grants from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and US Agency for International Development (USAID) have been made to opposition groups, many of which are undisclosed, and additional funding has come from other US agencies to serve the needs of opposition groups, without Congressional scrutiny. USAID's grants of $23 million are managed though the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), an office established shortly after the 2002 coup which the Bush administration supported. In a Christian Science Monitor article earlier this year, OTI described itself as “overtly political.” Its name alone indicates that US 'democracy building' efforts are not nonpartisan.

6.  Due to a US-supported strategy of boycotting last year's National Assembly elections, the opposition sacrificed political spaces their parties otherwise would have commanded.  Only 'pro-process' parties won seats in the National Assembly after opposition parties pulled out at the last minute.  The five rectors of the National Electoral Council (CNE), a separate branch of government responsible for running elections, are nominated by civil society and elected by the National Assembly resulting in only one non-Chavez supporter directing the current CNE.

7.  A united opposition behind the candidacy of Zulia State governor Manual Rosales may improve the opposition's share of the vote, but it will be difficult for the opposition to lure some of its voters back to the polls after last year's effort to convince them to abstain.

8.  Chavez has won with roughly 60% of the vote in the three elections in which his name has been on the ballot and numerous others when his policies were at issue. His vote in this election is likely to be within a few points of that 60%.

9.  The US government and the most hardline groups of the opposition will not accept the results of the election regardless of the assessment of international observers as to whether it was 'free and fair.'

10.  US government 'democracy building' programs through the NED and USAID are designed not to build democracy but to promote the perceived interests of the US government. All US so-called 'democracy building' grants to Venezuela should be terminated.

The full report is available on the Venezuela Solidarity Network website