MOSCOW, October 18 (RIA Novosti) - Diosdado Cabello, Speaker of the Venezuelan National Assembly, called on the country’s intelligence services to investigate non-governmental organizations funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Telesur has reported.
Speaking on Venezuelan state television, Cabello criticized the interventionist development agency following meetings between US officials and USAID-funded NGO representatives in the US Embassy in Caracas on Friday, purportedly for the purpose of auditing groups’ accounting, the source also said.
Cabello criticized the agency’s funding of individuals accused of crimes in Venezuela, and pointed to a Florida-based NGO with USAID connections which is allegedly tied to “Operation Liberty,” led by Lorent Saleh, who Venezuela’s Socialist-led government accuses of planning to commit terrorist acts in Venezuela.
The comments follow Cabello’s fiery comments last week about USAID-linked NGOs using US financing “to finance conspiracy” and plot against Venezuela’s government, Telesur noted.
This past June, the USAID-tied NGO International Foundation for Electoral Systems awarded Venezuelan opposition Congresswoman Maria Machado its Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award, along with $100,000, which she accepted “on behalf of [Venezuelans] who struggle every day to restore democracy in our country.” The Venezuelan government has since noted the need to revise legislation against such organizations and their financiers, Correo del Orinoco noted.
USAID’s website notes that its Venezuela program, with an official budget of $5.78 million, is focused on issues including human rights, democracy promotion, and media freedom, noting its “assistance [for] “trainings, exchanges with other Latin American countries, support for research, and opportunities for Venezuelans to share ideas.”
Although many USAID-linked organizations purport to promote democracy and human rights, many Venezuelans instead connect US influence in the country with the 2002 military coup attempt against the late President Hugo Chávez, which failed due to a popular uprising.
Cabello’s remarks come after the US aid agency’s departure from Ecuador earlier this month, following President Rafael Correa’s refusal to allow the agency to renew its programs, which included a “democracy and governance” component. The decision follows several years of icy relations between the leftist leader and the United States, including a 2010 coup attempt against him. Correa, a US-educated economist, earned himself the ire of the US as an ally of Chávez; he defaulted on USD 3.2 bln in sovereign debt in 2008, calling creditors "true monsters who won't hesitate to crush the country."
Last year, Bolivia expelled the USAID mission due to the agency’s alleged support for political opposition groups; President Evo Morales accused the agency of conspiring against him. Morales, a socialist and the first democratically-elected president to come from Bolivia’s indigenous population, was another friend of Chávez.
For its part, Russia expelled the agency in October 2012, accusing it of meddling in its politics, including the financing of human rights and pro-democracy initiatives and civic organizations. This was followed by further initiatives which forced foreign-funded NGOs to register if they received funding for political activity.