How to turn a right-wing nuthouse into a pro-union hotbed

Very simple…hold the spectre of one Hugo Chavez over their collective head.

My friend CCG sent me this eminently bloggable bit of fun:

Venezuela’s New Chokehold on Civil Society

by Stephen Johnson

Executive Memorandum #1005

July 7, 2006 |

Concealed in language that evokes respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, peace, and democracy, Venezuela’s National Assembly has drafted a draconian bill that would block foreign donations to local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and put such groups under state control. For now, Venezuela’s new International Cooperation Law is a framework, but when filled in by President Hugo Chávez, it will muzzle the few voices that still provide a check on his creeping dictatorship.

The United States and democratic allies in the Americas should protest such constraints on basic freedoms of expression and association and press Venezuela to rescind the law. They should also promote action in the Organization of American States (OAS) to clarify the legitimate role of independent civic organizations and foreign donations that support them. Finally, because Venezuela has abused its people’s civil liberties, they should oppose its bid for a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council.

My oh my oh my. Such lovely “pro-democracy” rhetoric. One would almost think that the Heritage Foundation had suddenly developed a conscience–nay, a sense of altruism, even. Who knew that they were so touchingly concerned about another country’s internal well-being–including, as we shall soon see, its unions?

Well, this scribble talks about “cloaking language”, and like all wingnuttery, it’s pure projection. They are the ones cloaking nefarious, tyrannical intent in pretty words. Read on, and keep your barf bag handy…

Cues from Uzbekistan and Russia. Hugo Chávez is not the only leader eager to rein in labor unions, political parties, universities, business groups, rights monitors, and special-issue advocates that might challenge his anti-democratic grip on power. Beginning in 2003, the Uzbek parliament reformed laws on NGOs and public foundations, requiring them to pass donations directly to government-controlled banks where authorities could monitor and withhold disbursement. As a result, over 80 percent of foreign grants to Uzbekistan’s NGOs have been blocked, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Worried by the central role that NGOs played in defending individual freedoms in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a comprehensive NGO law in May 2006 to increase oversight of activities and monitor foreign funds reaching Russian civic organizations. Heritage Foundation Russia expert Yevgeny Volk reports that rights monitors now fear that this will smother Russian NGOs in red tape, endless reports, checkups, and increased operating costs—all without risking negative publicity by banning them outright.

This is very funny, considering that Uzbekistan and Russia are both still BushCo allies in the War on Terra. For how much longer that might be, who knows? BushCo has certainly done its level best to alienate the people while sucking up to the tyrannical leadership–and furnishing it with plenty of money and weaponry.

Meanwhile, Venezuela under Chavez has an exceedingly healthy anti-terrorism and pro-democracy record…but you’d never know it to hear the way BushCo and their parrots at the Heritage Foundation carry on:

Chutes and Ladders. On June 13, 2006, Venezuela’s National Assembly—consisting almost entirely of Chávez loyalists—approved a preliminary draft NGO law that uses devices similar to those in Uzbek and Russian reforms. Like Russia, Venezuela would require all local civic organizations to register as legal entities before a new regulatory body in addition to complying with existing civil code and tax laws. Registered groups would also have to provide detailed information on donations and donors.

As in Uzbekistan, the Venezuelan government would monitor and control all international contributions to civil society groups. Instead of using state banks, Chávez would name a regulatory board to filter donations. This "agency for international cooperation" would have full discretion to issue or withhold funds based on vague criteria. It could also give money to causes that donors never intended to sponsor, including Chávez’s support for radicals in foreign countries. In fact, the agency would finally provide a legal channel for such aid. Until now, Chávez had been helping foreign political movements largely off the books.

The law also requires NGOs to provide information about activities and funding to anyone who requests it. On the surface, that might seem like a good way to keep NGOs accountable. However, it could become a harassment mechanism, enabling Chávez’s quasi-official militant groups to flood independent think tanks and electoral monitors with inquiries they would be forced to answer or else face closure. Chávez has yet to announce further details.

I have a question for the Heritage Foundation guys: Would you, in the United States, allow Venezuela to finance “pro-democracy” organizations on your turf? Or would you insist on tons of financial monitoring and strict laws against it? (Heh. Looks like my question is already answered. By the same guy who wrote this dreck, no less!)

What Is at Stake. Venezuela has between 4,000 and 5,000 NGOs, including the president’s own partisan support groups. Although all activities should be known to the public and foreign donations should be disclosed on annual tax statements, that is as far as it should go. NGOs cannot educate voters, promote just institutions, conduct advocacy for special-interest groups, and enrich public discourse if regulatory bodies interfere with their donations or limit their freedom to communicate.

Chávez already insults and intimidates opponents, and media outlets self-censor to keep their licenses from being revoked. Meanwhile, a rubber-stamp National Assembly and crony courts block checks on Chávez’s caprices and whims. The president’s new "international cooperation agency" would add more weight to an already stacked deck.

The mind-boggling thousands of NGOs mentioned above are certainly not all above-board, and the kind of “education” they do is dubious. Many of them are nothing more than fronts for right-wing US interests. The biggest one, Sumate, is blatantly anti-Chavez and financed heavily by the National Endowment for Democracy (an ironically named institution if ever there was one.) Eva Golinger has all the goods on the NED, Sumate and others, so I won’t duplicate her research here; I’ll just point y’all to her excellent site.

And by the way, that pro-Chavez national assembly you slagged off on, Mr. Crapaganda-bot? Democratically elected, by the Venezuelan people. They wanted those deputies, and they wanted Chavez, and that’s what they got! And all without any help from US “pro-democracy” moneybags like li’l ol’ you. Dang, what a shame!

How to Support Venezuelan Democrats. To defend Venezuela’s civil discourse and its citizens’ rights to dissent, the United States and its democratic allies in the Western Hemisphere should:

•Protest measures that constrain basic freedoms of expression and association, both in diplomatic contacts with Venezuelan officials and in multilateral forums such as the OAS and the U.N.

•Urge private, international human rights monitors to maintain scrutiny in Venezuela, despite increasing pressure from its government to leave.

•Promote an OAS resolution that clarifies the role of local civic organizations in maintaining space for free public discourse in authoritarian societies and specifies the right to receive domestic and foreign donations.

•Inform Venezuelan citizens of their rights and what they could expect from public servants if their country was a full democracy. International broadcasting to Venezuela should encourage the poor to ask whether they are any better off than they were before the Chávez regime as well as reveal losses to corruption and transfers to political causes outside Venezuela.

•Oppose Venezuela’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council unless President Chávez governs democratically, respects human rights, and lives peaceably with neighboring countries.

Okay, there is an awful lot of bullshit here, so let’s dissect it point for point.

Firstly, the best way to support Venezuelan de
mocrats is simple: STAND ASIDE AND LET THE WILL OF THE VENEZUELAN PEOPLE WORK. This means no more money to subvert democracy for Sumate or any other NGO from the NED, the IRI, the AFL-CIO, etc., etc.

Next, instead of protesting according to the Heritage Foundation’s propaganda and talking points, people in the US should educate themselves as to just how democratic Venezuela really is right now, under Chavez, without US help. If you can’t go there, you can at least read Venezuelanalysis for honest, untainted information.

Also, bear in mind that international human rights organizations have not been interfered with; on the contrary, Chavez has welcomed them, particularly the Carter Centre–treating their visits as an opportunity to have his record independently verified.

And don’t forget that the OAS has also been in Venezuela, doing some monitoring of its own–and despite some reservations as to how the last round of elections went off, they’ve also rejected the very things the author of this piece is proposing! How embarrassing…

As for “informing Venezuelans of their rights”–how laughably ludicrous can these punks get? The Venezuelans know their rights already! That’s why Chavez has wiped out illiteracy and urged them to read and understand the Bolivarian Constitution (which their own elected representatives wrote, and which they democratically ratified!) Far from dictating to them how they should live and vote, he has urged them to form their own organizations and come up with their own ways to improve community life, and many have taken up his challenge with enthusiasm. For his part, Chavez has freed up money and resources from oil sales and taxes to support those initiatives. Citizen groups can now get microcredits and government grants to do their work; they don’t need it from Uncle Sam, unless their purpose is as dishonest and propagandistic as that of the Heritage Foundation. If asked whether they are doing better now, most Venezuelans would answer unequivocally in the affirmative. For the gringos to tell them what their rights would be “if their country was a full democracy” is therefore redundant, patronizing and insulting, not to mention downright mendacious. It IS a full democracy–not merely representative, but a participatory one; it’s not Venezuela’s fault if the Heritage Foundation has a strange and obtuse notion of what that word means.

Finally, opposing that Venezuelan bid for a seat in the UN Security Council is just plain fucked, especially when you consider the “alternative”. A country with a truly undemocratic and foul human-rights record like Guatemala is a shoo-out, and everyone but the US knows it. (Hell, I’m sure the US knows it too, but this is the land where fascist death squads have been more or less successfully spun as forces of democracy holding off the Red Menace of Communism. Never underestimate the power of crapaganda.)

And so we arrive, with no small relief, at the…

Conclusion. In his rush to establish a police state in South America, Hugo Chávez employs new tactics so fast that it is easy to let some slide, but the international community must stand up to his attempts to stifle discourse. This should be done to lend Venezuela’s unions, universities, think tanks, political parties, and rights monitors courage, as well as to mark boundaries that no authority should cross in trying to influence citizens’ thoughts.

“Police state”? Pardon me while I convulse myself laughing. Where was this propagandroid when Pedro the Brief unleashed a REAL police state for two days in April, 2002? And did so with the help and blessing of union boss Carlos Ortega, who makes Jimmy Hoffa look like a rank amateur when it comes to being mobbed up? And does he not realize how many Venezuelan unionists have broken with the once powerful CTV over that–and are now taking up the struggle in the fractious manner of good old-time organizers? Someone please send this twinkie copies of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and Llaguno Bridge: Keys to a Massacre so he can see what a REAL police state looks like. It may shock him to hear that capitalism has ’em too.

The author has the gall to end on the phrase “…boundaries that no authority should cross in trying to influence citizens’ thoughts.” How ironic is that, coming from a right-wing foundation that uncritically supports BushCo’s “right” to do EXACTLY that–at home and abroad?

And who is the author of this dogpile?

Stephen Johnson is Senior Policy Analyst for Latin America in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. The author wishes to acknowledge Heritage intern Angelita Ramírez’s contribution to this report.Analyst for International Economics in the Center for International Trade and Economics, at The Heritage Foundation.

Figures. His own bio at the Heritage Foundation confirms that he’s a dyed-in-the-wool State Dept. operative. And look what he wrote in the wake of the 2002 coup, too. Tsk, tsk.

If the Heritage Foundation seriously wants truth and democracy to prevail in other countries, maybe they’d better clean their own house first. But since it’s built of nothing but bullshit, that would mean demolishing it altogether.

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