Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Impetus for protest: Of Grants and Student led Organization 

Pulpo says: University student led protests during the past several weeks over the non-renewal of RCTV’s license to broadcast over public airwaves has gained a significant amount of airtime both nationally and to a much lesser extent internationally. The students aim was initially to raise awareness over the perception of a loss of freedom of speech and expression. The student led protests were preceeded by a general opposition led protest. As the general protest waned the embers of the fire were rekindled by the student led movement. Flying the flag of freedom of expression the students gained some momentum, a momentum that had hitherto been seen by student groups during the current administrations tenure. Interestingly it was not their own freedom of expression which was being sought, it was the perceived right of a corporation to openly oppose the government on public airwaves and which aided in the coup that briefly deposed President Chavez.

The student led protests however, have taken a more generalized tone of late. No longer do they raise the flag for RCTV, they aim to change civil society as a whole. To protect the rights of the population from other perceived losses to society. The shift in focus perhaps is due to the fact that any opposition towards the government is good. Its focus need not be RCTV or a bridge collapsing or acts of nature - all of which have been cause for opposition. The interest is in keeping alive the fervor, whatever its name may be. The student protest differentiates itself from other protests, in that the participants are viewed as apolitical, or somewhat heterogenous, incorporating what are to be believed as former Chavez advocates.

If one is to beleive that the RCTV debacle was the catalyst, and the student movment a continuence thereof, then some questions arise that should be investigated:

What was the impetus for the student mobilization and how did it organize so quickly and efficiently?

Why after gaining support for the cause of RCTV did the movmement shift gears to be more generalized?

On August 26th 2006 a report was published by the Associated Press (AP) which highlighted their acquisition of documents obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act, a subject which had been addressed on this blogwhen the issue was current. The documents contained information regarding grants given to Venezuelan agencies by US government sponsered agencies, and displayed in a spreadsheet database detailing recipients and the awards granted to them. On many occasions the recipients names were withheld and in some instances the names of entire programs were withheld. The article is no longer available on the internet but can be purchased from the AP archives (although the link to the database cannot be verified to be available). An internet search, given the information provided, will result in several positive hits certifying its veracity.

Below is a list, derived from the database, demonstrating only the recipients of grants whose names were withheld by the US government:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Perusing the information one can take note of the interests the US government is concerned with, regarding the shaping of a “democratic society” with special attention given to where funding is allotted.

Below is a list of the most questionable grants with relation to the current student movement:

Grant G-3822-101-166 Project name is withheld. The purpose of the grant reads as follows: to develop a promotional campaign, meetings and workshops for university students in order to promote social responsibility and community service in poor areas (includes costs for surveys and focus groups). A grant in the amount of $40,474.

Grant G-3822-101-168: Project: Effectiveness of the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999 after five years in effect: Project: to evaluate the effectiveness of the 1999 constitution through a workshop and promote with political leaders and experts in constitutional law (also will support publication of a magazine and teaching material for the public on ideas about democracy)

G-3822-101- 177: Description; To hold three workshops aimed at promoting a dialogue among reporters, academics and journalism students “in the midst of the current Venezuelan political crisis” on the subject of “Equilibrium of information: modern journalism’s new goal”

G-3822-101-211: to conduct a series of training sessions for 20 local NGO’s to strengthen their administration and improve their self-sufficiency.

G-3822-101-224: to hold training workshops for 160 students in the field of communication, student activists and recent graduates in the humanities in Bolivar state on topics relating to human rights.

G-3822-101 -099: to advance toward shared political action though meetings with representatives of diverse sectors, including governors and mayors, academic groups and unions.

G-3822-101 -124: to build a common agenda that reflects students’ role in national reconciliation (by holding several university forums).

G-3822-101 -140: to provide training to 150 youths ages 18 and up in the Caracas areas to help them present proposals before local planning councils.

G-3822-101 -144: to strengthen communication and support networks among universities for the promotion of democracy and coexistence. Interestingly the project name of this program reads as follows: Gathering on Universities’ Responsibility in Strengthening Democracy

Certainly there is an interest on the part of US sponsered Aid agencies in providing guidance to Veneuelan student groups. What sort of guidance do US Aid agencies provide and are they benign and altruistic as they seem to be? One need look no further than the US governments rich track record on Latin American Foreign Policy to gain some understanding of how these funds are used.

Questions have been raised over whether this movement is endogenous or the product of some sort of destabilization program. From the information provided by the AP's FOIA request one can make strong assumptions to the latter. One way to dispel these assumptions is to release the names of the recipient organizations and/or the program names to which these monies are donated. Until such time, the entire student movement remains questionable as to who or what is the driving force behind thier goals. More questionable is any funding received by any group opposing the government, student, apolitical, or otherwise.


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