[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Herald Takes on Venezuela

Monday, August 01, 2005

Herald Takes on Venezuela

The Herald's recent string of editorials strongly criticizing authoritarian regimes continues, this time targeting Venezuela for its charges against a group which had organized last year's recall election.

You remember, the one that Jimmy Carter approved and deemed to be fair?

Here is the editorial in its entirety:

A vengeful prosecution


When does democracy building and voter education land you in legal trouble? When you are a civic group trying to check government abuses in Venezuela. The case in point involves María Corina Machado and three other leaders of Súmate, a pro-democracy group that helped organize the recall election that ultimately failed to unseat President Hugo Chávez. The four now are charged with ''conspiracy to destroy the nation's republican form of government.'' They face trial and possible prison terms of up to 16 years.

As evidence of the crime, government prosecutors cite a $31,000 grant that Súmate accepted from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a foundation funded by the U.S. Congress. They argue that Súmate leaders took U.S. government money to dislodge Mr. Chávez from power. What Súmate actually did with the money was teach Venezuelans about their constitutional, voting and other legal rights.

Admittedly, Súmate encouraged people to participate in the recall election. The group would have done the same with any other government in power. This is exactly what groups, such as the League of Women Voters, do in a democracy. Prosecuting Súmate's leaders now smacks of vengeance.

Accepting money from foundations such as the NED, and similar institutions funded by Canadian, European, Japanese and other governments, also is routine for civic groups worldwide. Groups like Súmate form the backbone of civil society; they check and balance governments, a vital role in weak democracies.

Mr. Chávez has accumulated sweeping powers, blurring the boundaries between government branches. A ''content'' law already exists to intimidate the press. Now the target is civil society. By eliminating all checks on government, Mr. Chávez may yet achieve absolute power.


Anonymous Dorian Buckalew said...

I am interested in your blogs.

2:42 PM, December 08, 2005  

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