Canada Attempts to Undermine Democracy in Venezuela

While many on the left know that Washington has spent tens of millions of dollars funding groups that oppose Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, less well known is Ottawa’s role, especially that of the Canadian government’s “arms-length” human rights organization, Rights & Democracy (R&D).

Montreal-based R&D recently gave its 2010 John Humphrey Award to the Venezuelan non-governmental organization PROVEA (El Programa Venezolano de Educacion-Accion en Derechos Humanos). According to R&D’s website, “The Award consists of a grant of $30,000 and a [just completed] speaking tour of Canadian cities to help increase awareness of the recipient’s human rights work.”

PROVEA is highly critical of Venezuela’s elected government. In December 2008 Venezuela’s interior and justice minister called PROVEA “liars” who were “paid in [US] dollars.”

During a September visit “to meet with representatives of PROVEA and other [Venezuelan] organizations devoted to human rights and democratic development” R&D President, Gérard Latulippe, blogged about his and PROVEA’s political views. “Marino [Betancourt, Director General of PROVEA] told me about recent practices of harassment and criminalization of the government towards civil society organizations.” In another post Latulippe explained, “We have witnessed in recent years the restriction of the right to freedom of expression. Since 2004-2005, the government of President Chavez has taken important legislative measures which limit this right.”

Upon returning to Canada, Latulippe cited Venezuela as a country with “no democracy”. He told Embassy magazine, “You can see the emergence of a new model of democracy, where in fact it’s trying to make an alternative to democracy by saying people can have a better life even if there’s no democracy. You have the example of Russia. You have an example of Venezuela.”

Latulippe’s claims have no basis in reality. On top of improving living conditions for the country’s poor, the Chavez-led government has massively increased democratic space through community councils, new political parties and worker cooperatives. They have also won a dozen elections/referendums over the past twelve years (and lost only one).

R&D, which is funded almost entirely by the federal government, takes its cues from Ottawa. The Canadian government has repeatedly attacked Chavez. In April 2009 Stephen Harper responded to a question regarding Venezuela by saying, “I don’t take any of these rogue states lightly” and after expressing “concerns over the shrinkage of democratic space” in September, Minister for the Americas Peter Kent said, “This is an election month in Venezuela and the official media has again fired up some of the anti-Semitic slurs against the Jewish community as happened during the Gaza incursion.” Even the head of Canada’s military recently criticized the Chavez government in the Canadian Military Journal. After a tour of South America, Walter Natynczyk wrote “Regrettably, some countries, such as Venezuela, are experiencing the politicization of their armed forces.”

The Harper government’s attacks against Venezuela are part of its campaign against the region’s progressive forces. Barely discussed in the media, the Harper government’s shift of aid from Africa to Latin America was largely designed to stunt Latin America’s recent rejection of neoliberalism and U.S. dependence by supporting the region’s right-wing governments and movements.

To combat independent-minded, socialist-oriented governments and movements Harper’s Conservatives have “played a more active role in supporting U.S. ideologically-driven [democracy promotion] initiatives,” notes researcher Neil A. Burron. They opened a South America focused “democracy promotion” centre at the Canadian Embassy in Peru. Staffed by two diplomats, this secretive venture may clash with the Organization of American States’ non-intervention clause.

According to documents unearthed by Anthony Fenton, in November 2007 Ottawa gave the Justice and Development Consortium (Asociación Civil Consorcio Desarrollo y Justicia) $94,580 “to consolidate and expand the democracy network in Latin America and the Caribbean.” Also funded by the U.S. government’s CIA front group National Endowment for Democracy, the Justice and Development Consortium has worked to unite opposition to leftist Latin American governments. Similarly, in the spring of 2008 the Canadian Embassy in Panama teamed up with the National Endowment for Democracy to organize a meeting for prominent members of the opposition in Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Ecuador. It was designed to respond to the “new era of populism and authoritarianism in Latin America.” The meeting spawned the Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia, “which brings together mainstream NGOs critical of the leftist governments in the hemisphere.”

The foremost researcher on U.S. funding to the anti-Chavez opposition, Eva Golinger, claims Canadian groups are playing a growing role in Venezuela and according to a May 2010 report from Spanish NGO Fride, “Canada is the third most important provider of democracy assistance” to Venezuela after the U.S. and Spain. Burron describes an interview with a Canadian “official [who] repeatedly expressed concerns about the quality of democracy in Venezuela, noting that the [Federal government’s] Glyn Berry program provided funds to a ‘get out the vote’ campaign in the last round of elections in that country.” You can bet it wasn’t designed to get Chavez supporters to the polls.

Ottawa is not forthcoming with information about the groups they fund in Venezuela, but according to disclosures made in response to a question by former NDP Foreign Affairs critic, Alexa McDonough, Canada helped finance Súmate, an NGO at the forefront of anti-Chavez political campaigns. Canada gave Súmate $22,000 in 2005-06. Minister of International Cooperation, José Verner, explained that “Canada considered Súmate to be an experienced NGO with the capability to promote respect for democracy, particularly a free and fair electoral process in Venezuela.” Yet the name of Súmate leader, Maria Corina Machado, who Foreign Affairs invited to Ottawa in January 2005, appeared on a list of people who endorsed the 2002 coup against Chavez, for which she faced charges of treason.

The simple truth is that the current government in Ottawa supports the old elites that long worked with the U.S. empire. It opposes the progressive social transformations taking place in a number of Latin American countries and as a result it supports civil society groups opposed to these developments.

Yves Engler is the author of 12 books. His latest book is Stand on Guard for Whom?: A People's History of the Canadian Military . Read other articles by Yves.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Rehmat said on December 13th, 2010 at 8:09am #

    Another of Harper government’s sign of love for Israel. Venezuelan President Chavez Hugo while calling Iranian President Dr. Ahmadinejad “a trustworthy friend” has called Israel’s closest Latin American government of Colombia “Israel of Latin America”.

    The ‘Hudson New York’ run by AIPAC director Nina Rosenwald has published a very scary news – ‘Iran Placing Medium-Range Missiles in Venezuela, Can Reach the US’.

    Another of Wikileaks ghost stories to attack Iran for Israel, right….

  2. bozh said on December 13th, 2010 at 9:38am #

    i am not surprised that canada thwarts a timocratic and pantisocratic. this is what both u.s and canadian inegalitarians fear the most; rule by the people! tnx

  3. hayate said on December 13th, 2010 at 12:19pm #

    “Canada Attempts to Undermine Democracy in Venezuela”

    Canada, or israeloamerica’s quislings running that country? I believe it’s the latter who are engaging in those criminal acts.

  4. Rehmat said on December 13th, 2010 at 5:35pm #

    Iran behind ‘US-Venezuela Missile Crisis’

  5. hayate said on December 13th, 2010 at 9:35pm #

    Jewish zionists up the goebbelsian family tradition:

    Demonizing Iran-Venezuela:

    Deputy FM: Iran-Venezuela Ties Threaten U.S., Entire World

    Reports of financial and military ties between Venezuela and Iran have raised U.S. concern, who is closely monitoring Iran’s activities in Latin America.

    By Haaretz Service

    One of the more amusing passages:

    “The verbal and written attacks have included hints that Jews are damaging the country’s economy, and follow the style of the notorious anti-Semitic fabrication, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”


  6. shabnam said on December 14th, 2010 at 7:20pm #

    The Zionist Jews are using every single avenue to demonize Iran in Latin America to spread hatred against Iran and Muslims.

    Incriminating Iran in Chile?
    By Rómulo Vera*

    There are many reasons to be concerned over an intense campaign escalating in Chile to frame the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Shia Muslims of Chile for supposed death threats and/or attacks received by members of the Jewish Community of Chile, and maybe even preparing grounds for a future false-flag terrorist attack as the one of Argentina in the 1990s that they can blame on the Islamic Republic.

    The framing of Iran and accusations
    The first time that Iran was brought into the picture was in a September 6th interview given by the president of the Jewish Community of Chile, Gabriel Zaliasnik, in TVN (National Television of Chile).
    Gabriel Zaliasnik: There Is A Surge Of Nazi Inspiration In Chile
    In this interview, Zaliasnik sets the following three claims (between 05:30 and 07:30 in the video):
    1) Iran is directly financing neonazi groups who have threatened his life and attacked members of his Jewish community, Hebrew schools and synagogues, and are possibly planning larger scale terrorist attacks.
    2) Iran has masterminded an increase of antisemitism in Chile, motivated by the innate hatred of Iranians/Muslims towards Jewish people.
    3) Iran actively calls for the eradication of the Jewish people from the Middle East (strange claim considering Iran is home to the largest Jewish community in the Middle East!).
    One week earlier, in an August 29th interview with CNN Chile, Zaliasnik had already set the claim that the attacks were not authored by scattered individuals, but he attributed them to a “very highly organized hierarchy and an outside third party” (consider the police had not yet started an investigation, yet he somehow already knew that he had to blame a bigger structure).