Letter to NED Chairman Vin Weber from Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez

By: Bernardo Alvarez

Mr. Vin Weber
Chairman, Board of Directors
National Endowment of Democracy
1101 Fifteenth Street, Northwest
Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005

November 16, 2004

Dear Mr. Weber,

I am writing in response to your letter, recently made public, regarding the National Endowment for Democracy’s activities in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. As a representative of Venezuela in the United States, I cannot advance any comment regarding the letter on behalf of the Supreme Court or the Attorney General, as they are institutions independent of the Executive Branch of Government.

Regarding the case referred to in your letter, there is a pending investigation in the Venezuelan judiciary, and any comment to that end must be addressed by that body.

As you know, it is illegal for foreign governments and organizations to finance political campaigns in the United States. It would be illegal, for instance, for Democratic Party activists to accept money from a foreign government to gather signatures to recall California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The same is true in Venezuela. It is illegal for Venezuelans to accept foreign financing to intervene in internal democratic political processes in Venezuela. I am sure you would agree that it would be a very serious matter if NED grantees violated Venezuelan law, and more so if NED funding was linked directly to the breach of our laws or used in ways that may not have been represented forthrightly to the NED.

You may also be aware that shortly after the 2002 coup, the State Department gave the NED a $1 million special fund that was distributed to organizations in Venezuela, some of whose leaders supported the coup and even participated in the coup government. This has been widely documented. To any outside observer, these grants appear to financially reward those individuals involved in illegal and anti-constitutional activities aimed at overthrowing our democratic government and replacing it with a dictatorship.

Consider, for example, the NED’s support for the following organizations:

- - "CEDICE", whose Director was a principal signer of the "Carmona Degree," which abolished our Supreme Court, the Congress, and the Constitution.

- - "Asociación Civil Liderazgo y Vision," whose Director publicly celebrated the coup in Venezuelan newspapers and called for recognition of the illegal Carmona government.

- - "Fundacion Momento de la Gente," whose Director publicly endorsed the coup and even sent correspondence to NED asking the NED to endorse the Carmona dictatorship.

- - The Confederación de Trabajadores Venezolanos (CTV), a long-term ACILS direct grantee, which was a principal actor in the violence leading up to the coup and the subsequent illegal ouster of the Venezuelan President. Note that the CTV’s then President, Carlos Ortega, publicly called for the "death of Chávez" in a Miami newspaper. The CTV continues to receive NED funding to date.

- - "Asamblea de Educación", whose President was named "Minister of Education" under the Carmona coup government.

- - International Republican Institute, whose President issued a laudatory public statement on the day after the coup, claiming "The Venezuelan people rose up to defend democracy in their country", when in fact, a violent coup had taken place that resulted in multiple human rights violations.

I hereby formally request, as the Venezuelan Ambassador to the United States, that the National Endowment for Democracy’s Board of Directors commission an investigation--by individuals independent of the NED-- of its funding and activities in Venezuela. I thank you for your consideration of our concerns. It would be unfortunate if NED grantees violated Venezuelan laws, or used NED funds for purposes other than those for which they were granted. It would be equally unfortunate if the NED has violated its own mandate by supporting individuals involved in subverting Venezuela’s democracy and democratic institutions.

I hope you agree that the clarification of this matter is as important to the NED as it is for the Government of Venezuela. I look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Bernardo Alvarez Herrera
Ambassador

Cc: Board of Directors, National Endowment for Democracy