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.

User login


About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.