Buying the Media in Venezuela
Documents Show Millions of U.S. Dollars in Funding to Venezuelan Media and Journalists
Documents show that more than 150 journalists were trained and enabled by U.S. agencies and 25 websites were financed in Venezuela with foreign money. Documents recently declassified by the State Department of the United States through the Access to Information Act (FOIA, by its acronym in English) showed more than 4 million dollars in resources funding Venezuelan journalists in recent years.
The funding has been channeled directly from the State Department through three U.S. public entities: the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF, its acronym in English), Freedom House and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
In a crude attempt to hide their actions, the State Department censored most of the names of organizations and journalists receiving these multimillion dollars worth of funds. However, a document dated July 2008 left without censorship showed the names of the principal Venezuelan organizations receiving funds: Public Space and the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS).
Public Space and IPYS bodies are listed as responsible for coordinating the distribution of funds and projects of the State Department with Venezuelan private media and journalists .
The documents show that the PADF, the FUPAD in Spanish, has implemented programs in Venezuela dedicated to "promoting media freedom and democratic institutions" as well as training courses for journalists and development of new media on the Internet because of what it considers the "constant threats against freedom of expression" and "climate of intimidation and censorship against journalists and media."
Financing anti Chavez Webpages
One of the programs of PADF, for which it received $699,996 from the State Department in 2007, was dedicated to the development of independent media in Venezuela and to journalism "via innovative technologies." The documents show that more than 150 journalists were trained and enabled by U.S. agencies and 25 websites were financed with foreign money in Venezuela. Public Space and IPYS were the main executors of this project nationwide, which also included the granting of "prizes" of $25,000 to several journalists.
During the past two years, came a proliferation of web pages, blogs and members of Twitter and Facebook in Venezuela using such means to promote messages against the Venezuelan government and President Chavez and trying to distort and manipulate the reality of what happens in the country.
Other programs managed by the State Department selected young Venezuelans to receive training and qualifications in the use of these technologies to create what they call a "network of cyber-dissidents" in Venezuela.
For example, in April of this year, the George W. Bush Institute, along with the American organization Freedom House convened a meeting of "activists for freedom and human rights" and "Internet specialists" to analyse the "global movement for cyber-dissidents." At the meeting, which was held in Dallas, Texas, Rodrigo Diamanti was invited, of the organization Present Future of Venezuela.
Last year, during the 15th and 16th of October, Mexico City hosted the Second Summit of the Alliance of Youth Movements ("AYM", its acronym in English). Sponsored by the State Department, the event was attended by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a number of "delegates" invited by U.S. diplomacy, including the Venezuelan Yon Goicochea (of the organization Venezuelan Primero Justicia), the leader of the organization Venezuela de Primera, Rafael Delgado, and the former student leader Geraldine Alvarez, now a member of the Present Future Foundation, an organization founded by Yon Goicochea with funding from the Cato Institute, of the U.S.A.
Together with representatives of agencies from Washington, such as Freedom House, International Republican Institute, the World Bank and the State Department, the young guests were given courses in "training and development" by U.S. officials and creators of technologies like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace , Flicker and YouTube.
Funding to Universities
The declassified documents also reveal a funding of $716,346 through the U.S. organization Freedom House in 2008 for an 18-month project dedicated to "strengthen the independent media in Venezuela." This funding via Freedom House also resulted in the creation of a resource center for journalists in a Venezuelan university unspecified in the report. According to the official document, "The center will develop a community radio station, a web page and training courses, all funded by agencies in Washington.
Another $706,998 was channeled through the other organization, PADF, intended to "promote freedom of expression in Venezuela, through a project-oriented to two years investigative journalism and "new technologies," like Twitter, Internet, Facebook and YouTube, among others. "Specifically, PADF and its local partner will train and support [the journalists, media and NGOs] in the use of new media technologies in various several regions of Venezuela."
"The PADF conducts training courses on the concepts of investigative journalism and methods to strengthen the quality of independent information available in Venezuela. These courses will be developed and incorporated into the university curriculum."
Another document shows that three Venezuelan universities, the Universidad Central de Venezuela, Universidad Metropolitana and Universidad Santa Maria, have incorporated courses on journalism at the graduate and university level in their curricula, funded by PADF and by the Department of State. These three universities have been the main focus of the anti-Chavez student movements during the last three years.
Being the main channel of funds from the State Department's private media and newspapers in Venezuela, the PADF also received $545,804 for a program entitled "Venezuela: The voices of the future." This project, which lasted a year, was devoted to "develop a new generation of independent journalists through the use of new technologies." PADF also funded several blogs, newspapers, radio and television transmissions in regions around the country to ensure the publication of articles and transmission of broadcasts to "participants" of the program.
USAID and the PADF
More funds were distributed through the USAID office in Caracas, which manages an annual budget of between 5 to 7 million dollars. These dollars are part of the 40 to 50 million dollars that annually through U.S., European and Canadian agencies, are given to anti-Chavez sectors and agitators in Venezuela.
The Pan American Development Foundation is active in Venezuela since 2005, being one of the main contractors of USAID in the South American country. The PADF is an entity created by the State Department in 1962, and is "affiliated" with the organization of American States (OAS). The PADF implemented programs funded by USAID, the State Department and other international donors to "promote democracy" and "strengthening civil society in Latin America and the Caribbean."
Currently, PADF manages programs through USAID, and funded over 100 million dollars in Colombia as part of Plan Colombia funding "initiatives" in the indigenous area in El Alto, and it got a beating for 10 years working in Cuba, in a "clandestine" form to foster an "independent civil society" and to "expedite a transition to democracy."
In Venezuela, the PADF has been working to "strengthen local civil society groups." According to a declassified document, the PADF "has been one of the few international groups that have been able to grant significant funding and technical assistance to Venezuelan NGOs".
Public Space is a "Venezuelan" civil association headed by Venezuelan journalist, Carlos Correa. In spite of the fact that in his website (www.espaciopublic.org) emphasizes that the organization is "independent and autonomous international organizations of governments," the State Department documents show that he receives billions in financing from the U.S. government. And as these documents reveal, U.S. agencies, such as PADF not only fund groups such as Public Space, but regard them as their "partners" from Washington and send them materials, courses of action and guidelines that are applied in Venezuela, and exert control over its operations to ensure compliance with the U.S. agenda.
The Institute for Press and Society (IPYS) is nothing but a spokesperson for Washington, created and funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and other entities connected with the Department of State. Its director is the journalist in Venezuela, Ewald Sharfenberg, a known opponent of the government of Hugo Chavez. IPYS grouping is a member of the International Free Expression Exchange (IFEX), funded by the State Department and is part of the Network of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the French organization funded by the NED, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the Committee to Assistance to a Free Cuba.
See documents at:
* Venezuelan-American lawyer
Translated from the Portuguese version by: