Vivanco Wants Foreign Money in Venezuela Campaign

Human Rights Watch "Americas Division" chief José Miguel Vivanco falls deeper down the slippery slope of anti-democracy lobbying now with his claim that foreign government funding of partisan electoral groups in Venezuela is okey-dokey by him.

First, a reality check and public service announcement for those who might not be familiar with United States campaign finance laws:

If you want to make a donation to the campaign of George W. Bush in the United States (we're not recommending it, for the record) and you go to Bush's website and click "donations" and you will find that, before you can give him money, you have to affirm:

"By clicking on this box I acknowledge that contributions from corporations and foreign nationals are prohibited."

Likewise, if you want to make a donation to the campaign of John Kerry in the United States (neither are we recommending this) go to Kerry's campaign website and click "contributions," and there you will have to affirm:

"I confirm that the following statements are true and accurate:

1. I am a United States citizen or a permanent resident alien...

Those who have violated these laws against foreign contributions have been prosecuted in the United States…
As this 2000 interview with Federal Elections Commissioner Danny McDonald on the U.S. State Department website states:

Q: There is a ban on contributions to candidates from foreign nationals. Why is that?

A: I think it is very strongly felt that it simply is not right for foreign nationals to be involved in the U.S. political process. Clearly it is a very sensitive area and one that, over time, people have felt very strongly about.

It is a complete ban. It even goes to state and local elections, which is unusual, because we normally do not regulate state and local elections. But the theory is very straightforward, which is that foreign nationals simply should not be determining American politics.

But what is good for the goose (or eagle) is apparently not good for the troupial (the national bird of Venezuela) and apparently not good for a turkey named Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch.

He told Oligarch's Daily, er, Miami Herald columnist and anti-Chavez cheerleader Andres Oppenheimer
yesterday (subscription required) that it's just fine with him that the U.S.-taxpayer funded National Endowment for Democracy pumps money into the Venezuelan opposition group SUMATE (the sponsor of the drive to recall Venezuela President Hugo Chávez, on the ballot on August 15th).

Vivanco told Oligarch's Daily:

"The fact that NED, the European Union, the Swedish government, the Canadians or any other country supports groups like these is not only legitimate, but necessary and within the hemisphere's democratic principles,'' said Jose Miguel Vivanco, head of the Latin American office of Human Rights Watch."

Analyze Vivanco's words very carefully. He doesn't say that "the European Union, the Swedish government, the Canadians or any other country" financially supported SUMATE, the official sponsor of the campaign to unseat Chavez in the upcoming August 15th referendum. He claims those other governments support "groups like these."

Vivanco is blowing smoke. There are no other "groups like these" in Venezuela. SUMATE is unique. SUMATE was an organization that made its number one priority a referendum to unseat a sitting president.

Imagine the situation inverted: If a foreign government had given money to a U.S. group whose main stated goal was to impeach Bush or Clinton in the United States, or unseat them by referendum (oops, the "democracy" of the United States doesn't allow presidential recall referenda like the new Venezuelan Constitution allows) what would have happened?

I'll tell you what would have happened: the same thing that has happened before when the U.S. government has found foreign money in U.S. electoral campaigns (even state, local, or referendum campaigns as the State Department interview above makes clear). There would have been a prosecution for violation of campaign laws.

And José Miguel Vivanco would have sat at his desk, in his suit and tie, collecting his exorbitant Peter-Principle salary, and he would have said nothing… absolutely nothing.

Because it is every democracy's right to prevent wealthy foreign interests from meddling financially in its elections. If Vivanco doesn't support that, he doesn't support democracy. And, again, we wonder why an organization like Human Rights Watch continues to keep this oligarch prince of the double standard around, treading upon human rights instead of defending them.


A Message from Charlie Hardy

15 July 2004

Dear Al,

I'm all set for Cochabamba, just have to pick up my ticket.  I'll arrive a few days early so let me know where I should be on Friday afternoon.

I will be interviewed on "Gorilla Radio" on Monday, 5-6 p.m. Pacific Time.  That's a program from the University of Victoria in Canada.  I see they once interviewed you also.  Would you want to put something in Narco News about this?  In Victoria it is 102FM, 104.3 cable and on the internet in RealAudio at:

...if someone should want to listen to the program.

That's all for the moment.  Relax. It will be great seeing you in Coch.

Con un abrazo,


P.S.  I just saw a translation that Google did of one of my editorials.  How do you like this?  "Despues del coup de abril de 2002 conta el, el arroz de Condoleezza advirtio Chavez, no los lideres del coup..."

J-School Countdown: Enter the War Room

July 16, 2004
Please Distribute Widely

Dear Colleague,

It's the calm before the storm. Two weeks from today, the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism will assemble in Cochabamba, Bolivia, with journalists and scholars from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Italy, Mexico, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela, among other lands, and just as the J-School did in February 2003 we will, together, unleash the famous "Narco News swarm" reporting by more than 60 authentic journalists all at once to break the information blockade and bring you the news from the coca growing lands of the Chapare and elsewhere.

This year there will be a few new twists:

  • Live Narco News Midnight Radio, available on the Internet, reporting and commenting on the presentations and interviews of each day. You can attend the J-School without even being there.
  • The Narcosphere "War Room" (with a plagiarist apology to my old friend James Carville: a good idea and title is always worth stealing with credit given of course) in which a specialized team of auténticos will review, fact-check, correct, and critique each day's Commercial Media coverage of the drug war and democracy in our América, on a scale not even we have attempted before.
  • The Narcosphere War Room (including, okay, I admit: "poolside blogging" by our attractive and fast-class professors and scholars) will pay especially close attention to the international Commercial Media coverage in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, of the upcoming August 15th presidential recall referendum in Venezuela... an important news story that the Commercial Media just can't seem to get right... They need some help... And we're happy to volunteer our services.
  • Interviews with and profiles of guest lecturers like former Brazilian drug czar Walter Maierovitch, Bolivian Congressman Evo Morales, coca expert Silvia Rivera, union leader Oscar Olivera, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Gary Webb, High Times editor Annie Nocenti, Freedom of Information Act keymaster Jeremy Bigwood, economist James S. Henry, Venezuela public television director Blanca Eekhout, foreign correspondent-of-the-year Reed Lindsay, the most knowledgeable and cutting-edge journalists covering the War on Drugs, and so many, many, more.
"In war," it has been said, "truth is the first casualty." So every war, especially the Drug War, needs a Carvillesque "War Room" to make sure that no lie shall spread across the world before the truth can put its pants on. Now you will see The Narcosphere participatory element of Narco News hit light speed... and from wherever you are, especially you 200 copublishers of Narco News, you'll be able to participate too.

As an example and prototype of the kind of work "The Narcosphere War Room" (TM!) will offer, I present to you a fact-check on claims made yesterday in Oligarch's Daily (The Miami Herald) by Human Rights Watch Americas Division chief José Miguel Vivanco, who fell a notch even lower on his slippery anti-democracy slope yesterday while pandering to Andrés Oppenheimer:

Vivanco Wants Foreign Money in Venezuela Campaign

I'll paste the text below for your wide redistribution (but read it on The Narcosphere too, where you can click the relevant links and see for yourself).

Narco News J-School 2004: Enter the War Room.

from somewhere in a country called América,

Al Giordano
The Narco News Bulletin

Heart of Darkness

This reads like carrion smells.

From Venezuelanalysis:

Violence Needed Against Chavez, Venezuela Opposition Leader Says. Dictatorship Must Follow

Former president Carlos Andres Perez:

"I am working to remove Chavez [from power]. Violence will allow us to remove him. That's the only way we have."

"...[Chavez] must die like a dog, because he deserves it."

"...We can't just get rid of Chavez and immediately have a democracy... we will need a transition period of two or three years to lay the foundations for a state where the rule of law prevails… a collegiate body (junta) must govern during that transition and lay the democratic foundations for the future.”

"...When Chavez falls, we must shut down the National Assembly (Congress) and also the Supreme Court. All the Chavista institutions must disappear."

"...I am not the past, I am the future [of Venezuela]."

What is there to say?

They call Chavez a thug, yet this man roams free.

PPT Responds

From Vheadline:

Patria Para Todos (PPT) calls for Ex-Prez Carlos Andres Perez’ extradition

The pro-government party Patria Para Todos (PPT) asked the Supreme Tribunal of Justice Monday to seek the extradition of ex-president Carlos Andres Perez (CAP) for calling for the assassination of President Hugo Chavez Frias in recent press statements.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.