08 August 2006

Sumate Caught Red-Handed Fixing Elections in Venezuela

The story of Uncle Sam working through front organizations to rig elections in foreign countries has become so commonplace and its successes so infrequent that we have not bothered spilling much ink on the subject of late. But occasionally a story exposing the audacity of these organizations catches our attention. And more often than not the audacious party happens to be Uncle Sam's vote-rigging front group in Venezuela - an organization called Sumate.

On Monday, Michael Fox repored in Venezuelanalysis that Sumate, the NED-backed operation in Venezuela charged fixing Venezuela's elections to overthrow Comrade Chavez, now finds itself in legal trouble because of its willingness to flout Venezuela's electoral laws.
According to José Albornoz, National Assembly Representative with the pro-Chavez coalition party Patria Para Todos (PPT) and president of the commission currently investigating financing for the opposition primaries, Súmate has received over $400,000 in undeclared deposits from foreign banks since 2003. This does not include contributions made to Súmate by the US Congress funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the German- Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Canadian Embassy, deposits of less than $10,000, or the approximately $1 million that the Superintendent of Banks and Other Financial Institutions (SUBEDAN) verifies that the organization has been managing.

The largest of the undeclared deposits in Súmate accounts over the past three years were made public this past week, including a deposit of $300,000 from a Bank of America account, on November 18, 2005. This transaction in particular has raised attention, because of the large sum and the fact that the deposit was made just ten days before the opposition withdrew from last December’s congressional elections.“

According to Albornoz, the funds were never declared to the Commission of Currency Administration (CADIVI), which manages currency transactions, and Súmate is not registered in the national agency.

Any citizen or legal entity that receives more than $10,000 should be registered with CADIVI,” said Albornoz in late July. “The aforementioned organization [ Súmate ] received $240,000 last year, but nevertheless, this organization is not registered. That is a crime in violation of the laws and the Constitution.”
We know not only from this report but from the way in which Sumate has operated for years that the organization uses foreign money - Uncle Sam's money - to fix elections.

We also know that all over the world, but especially in places like Bolivia, Haiti, and Venezuela, these campaigns lack credibility. While nominally independent, they offer a mouthpiece to candidates willing to espouse Uncle Sam's party line... but that's all.

The case of Sumate is especially revealing because of all the money given to the organization - from Uncle Sam, from Canada, from Germany - only a tiny fraction originates among the population in whose interest they claim to act. The rest comes from imperial interests abroad.

The exposure of this lone fact effectively buries all of the organization's rhetoric about 'democracy' and 'civil society' far beneath the weight of its own hypocrisy.

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