Chávez budgets $250 million for 'alternative' groups

Por Venezuela Real - 24 de Noviembre, 2007, 13:27, Categoría: Injerencia de/en Venezuela

CASTO OCANDO
El Nuevo Herald
November 24, 1007

Venezuela's proposed budget includes more than $250 million for 'anti-imperialist' groups in the United States and Latin America.

In an ambitious push to extend President Hugo Chávez's revolutionary ideology, the Venezuelan government's draft 2008 budget includes more than $250 million to finance pro-Chávez groups and ''anti-imperialist'' movements in the United States, Central and South America and Mexico.

Under the draft budget, given initial legislative approval earlier this week, the Foreign Ministry would finance an ample variety of foreign activities, including the ''consolidation'' of the Venezuela-Cuba-Bolivia axis, the strengthening of alternative movements in Central America and Mexico, and the promotion of solidarity ``with sectors that have been excluded from the North American Society
.''

In the past two years, the oil-rich Chávez administration has committed some $18 billion, between agreements and donations, to countries in the Americas in what analysts view as an effort to buy support for his leftist-populist policies.

The draft was the first time that the government publicly included in the Foreign Ministry's budget these types of spending plans for programs to promote Chávez's ideology abroad.

The Venezuelan government has allegedly intervened in presidential campaigns in Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina. Caracas has denied the complaints and there has been little evidence to back them up.

Chávez is ''making use of the enormous amount of money that comes from high oil prices to buy support from Latin American countries and promote anti-American initiatives,'' said Peter Hakim, president of the InterAmerican Dialogue, a Washington think tank.

KEY AREAS

The draft budget discussed by the National Assembly, dominated by Chávez supporters, identifies eight key areas of influence and includes strategies to strengthen the links to countries like Iran, Syria, Belarus, and Vietnam.

For Latin America, it includes plans to consolidate ALBA, Chávez's response to the free-market treaties promoted by the United States, and a strategy to ``neutralize the actions of the empire, [by] strengthening the solidarity and the public opening of organized social movements.''

In Central America and Mexico, the draft says the Venezuelan government expects to ''strengthen alternative movements'' in ``the search for an erosion from the imperial domination.''

After the draft budget was first made public last month, Mexican congress members protested and the Foreign Ministry in Mexico City demanded an explanation from Venezuela.

Mexico expelled two Venezuelan ambassadors and another top diplomat in the past three years, accusing them of promoting pro-Chávez candidates and organizing pro-Chávez groups in alliance with Mexican radical leftists factions.

Rodrigo Iván Cortés, a former Mexican legislator who first denounced the Venezuelan meddling in his country's politics in 2004, said that the use of Venezuelan funds to finance ideological groups could be a matter of ``national security.''

He cited the recent seizure of a weapons shipment in the Mexican port of Veracruz, that arrived from Venezuela and was suspected of being destined for leftist Mexican guerrillas. The Mexican congress is investigating the incident.

In the United States, the Venezuelan-owned CITGO oil company has been selling discounted heating oil to poor families in the northeast and even Alaska's indigenous groups.

`AN OFFENSIVE'

The draft 2008 budget also sets aside up to $70 million for trips abroad by government officials, including $20 million destined for activities by the Venezuelan military.

'This is an offensive by . . . Chávez so that the Venezuelan military can have influence in friendly countries like Bolivia, where there are Venezuelan functionaries and military equipment helping [leftist President] Evo Morales' government,'' said Carlos Berrizbeitia, a former Venezuelan lawmaker and leader of the opposition Proyecto Venezuela.

Berrizbeitia said that over the past seven years, most of the resources managed by Chávez for foreign agreements and aid has come from oil income that has not been in the official budget.
''There is no way to supervise those expenses,'' he added.





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