Usaid/oti Programmatic Support For Country Team 5 Point Strategy

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Classified By: Robert Downes, Political Counselor,
for Reason 1.4(d).

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SUMMARY
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1. (S) During his 8 years in power, President Chavez has
systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and
governance. The USAID/OTI program objectives in Venezuela
focus on strengthening democratic institutions and spaces
through non-partisan cooperation with many sectors of
Venezuelan society.

2. (S) In August of 2004, Ambassador outlined the country
team’s 5 point strategy to guide embassy activities in
Venezuela for the period 2004 ) 2006 (specifically, from the
referendum to the 2006 presidential elections). The
strategy’s focus is: 1) Strengthening Democratic
Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3)
Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5)
Isolating Chavez internationally.

3. (S) A brief description of USAID/OTI activities during
the aforementioned time period in support of the strategy
follows:

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Strengthen Democratic Institutions
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4. (S) This strategic objective represents the majority of
USAID/OTI work in Venezuela. Organized civil society is an
increasingly important pillar of democracy, one where
President Chavez has not yet been able to assert full
control.

5. (S) OTI has supported over 300 Venezuelan civil society
organizations with technical assistance, capacity building,
connecting them with each other and international movements,
and with financial support upwards of $15 million. Of these,
39 organizations focused on advocacy have been formed since
the arrival of OTI; many of these organizations as a direct
result of OTI programs and funding.

6. (S) Human Rights: OTI supports the Freedom House (FH)
“Right to Defend Human Rights” program with $1.1 million.
Simultaneously through Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI),
OTI has also provided 22 grants to human rights
organizations, totaling $726,000. FH provides training and
technical assistance to 15 different smaller and regional
human rights organizations on how to research, document, and
present cases in situations of judicial impunity through a
specialized software and proven techniques. Following are
some specific successes from this project, which has led to a
better understanding internationally of the deteriorating
human rights situation in the country:

Venezuelan Prison Observatory: Since beginning work with
OTI, OVP has taken 1 case successfully through the
inter-American system, achieving a ruling requiring BRV
special protective measures for the prison “La Pica”. Also,
on November 7th – 12th they will be launching the
Latin-American Prison Observatory, consolidating their work
with a regional network. OVP receives technical support from
FH, as well as monetary support from Pan American Development
Foundation (PADF). Due to the success of the OVP in raising
awareness of the issue, the BRV has put pressure on them in
the form of public statements, announcing investigations,
accusing them of alleged crimes as well as death threats.

Central Venezuelan University Human Rights Center: This
center was created out of the FH program and a grant from

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DAI. They have successfully raised awareness regarding the
International Cooperation Law and the human rights situation
in Venezuela, and have served as a voice nationally and
internationally.

Human Rights Lawyers Network in Bolivar State: This group
was created out of the FH program and a grant from the DAI
small grants program. They are currently supporting the
victims of a massacre of 12 miners in Bolivar State allegedly
by the Venezuelan Army. Chavez himself was forced to admit
that the military used excessive force in this case. They
will present their case to the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights in February 2007.

7. (S) Citizen Participation in Governance: Venezuelan
NGOs lack a long history of social activism. In response,
OTI partners are training NGOs to be activists and become
more involved in advocacy. The successes of this focus have
been as follows:

Support for the Rights of the Handicapped: OTI has funded 3
projects in the Caracas area dealing with the rights of the
handicapped. Venezuela had neither the appropriate
legislation nor political will to assure that the cities are
designed and equipped in a handicapped sensitive fashion.
Through these programs, OTI brought the issue of the
handicapped to the forefront, trained advocacy groups to
advocate for their rights and lobby the National Assembly,
and alerted the press regarding this issue. Subsequent to
this, the National Assembly was forced to consider
handicapped needs and propose draft legislation for the issue.

Por la Caracas Possible (PCP): Once-beautiful Caracas has
decayed over the past several years due to corruption and
lack of attention. PCP is a local NGO dedicated to bringing
attention to this problem. They have held campaigns with
communities shining a light on the terrible job elected
leadership are doing resolving the problems in Caracas.
During their work they have been expelled from communities by
the elected leaders, further infuriating communities that
already feel un-assisted.

8. (S) Civic Education: One effective Chavista mechanism
of control applies democratic vocabulary to support
revolutionary Bolivarian ideology. OTI has been working to
counter this through a civic education program called
“Democracy Among Us”. This interactive education program
works through NGOs in low income communities to deliver five
modules: 1) Separation of Powers, 2) Rule of Law, 3) The
Role and Responsibility of Citizens, 4) Political Tolerance,
and 5) The Role of Civil Society. Separate civic education
programs in political tolerance, participation, and human
rights have reached over 600,000 people.

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Penetrate Base/Divide Chavismo
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9. (S) Another key Chavez strategy is his attempt to divide
and polarize Venezuelan society using rhetoric of hate and
violence. OTI supports local NGOs who work in Chavista
strongholds and with Chavista leaders, using those spaces to
counter this rhetoric and promote alliances through working
together on issues of importance to the entire community.
OTI has directly reached approximately 238,000 adults through
over 3000 forums, workshops and training sessions delivering
alternative values and providing opportunities for opposition
activists to interact with hard-core Chavistas, with the
desired effect of pulling them slowly away from Chavismo. We
have supported this initiative with 50 grants totaling over
$1.1 million. There are several key examples of this:

10. (S) Visor Participativo: This is a group of 34 OTI

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funded and technically assisted NGOs working together on
municipal strengthening. They work in 48 municipalities
(Venezuela has 337), with 31 MVR, 2 PPT and 15 opposition
mayors. As Chavez attempts to re-centralize the country, OTI
through Visor is supporting decentralization. Much of this
is done through the municipal councils (CLPPs). The National
Assembly recently passed a law that creates groups parallel
to the mayor’s offices and municipal councils (and that
report directly to the president’s office). These groups are
receiving the lions share of new monies Chavez is pumping
into the regions, leaving the municipalities under-funded.
As Chavez attempts to re-centralize all power to the
Executive in the capital, local Chavista leadership are
becoming the opposition as their individual oxen are gored.
Visor has been providing these leaders with tools and skills
for leadership to counter the threat represented by the new
legislation.

11. (S) CECAVID: This project supported an NGO working
with women in the informal sectors of Barquisimeto, the 5th
largest city in Venezuela. The training helped them
negotiate with city government to provide better working
conditions. After initially agreeing to the women’s
conditions, the city government reneged and the women shut
down the city for 2 days forcing the mayor to return to the
bargaining table. This project is now being replicated in
another area of Venezuela.

12. (S) PROCATIA: OTI has partnered with a group widely
perceived by people in the large Caracas &barrio8 as
opposition leaning. Due to incompetence of the local elected
leadership, the garbage problem in Catia is a messy issue for
all those who live there. This group has organized brigades
to collect and recycle trash, in the process putting pressure
on the government to provide basic services and repositioning
the group as a respected ally of the “barrio.”

13. (S) Finally, through support of a positive social
impact campaign in cooperation with PAS, OTI funded 54 social
projects all over the country, at over $1.2 million, allowing
Ambassador to visit poor areas of Venezuela and demonstrate
US concern for the Venezuelan people. This program fosters
confusion within the Bolivarian ranks, and pushes back at the
attempt of Chavez to use the United States as a “unifying
enemy.”

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Isolate Chavez
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14. (S) An important component of the OTI program is
providing information internationally regarding the true
revolutionary state of affairs. OTI,s support for human
rights organizations has provided ample opportunity to do so.
The FH exchanges allowed Venezuelan human rights
organizations to visit Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Chile,
Argentina, Costa Rica, and Washington DC to educate their
peers regarding the human rights situation. Also, DAI has
brought dozens of international leaders to Venezuela,
university professors, NGO members, and political leaders to
participate in workshops and seminars, who then return to
their countries with a better understanding of the Venezuelan
reality and as stronger advocates for the Venezuelan
opposition.

15. (S) More recently, OTI has taken advantage of the draft
law of International Cooperation to send NGO representatives
to international NGO conferences where they are able to voice
their concerns in terms that global civil society
understands. So far, OTI has sent Venezuelan NGO leaders to
Turkey, Scotland, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Chile, Uruguay,
Washington and Argentina (twice) to talk about the law.
Upcoming visits are planned to Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.

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OTI has also brought 4 recognized experts in NGO law from
abroad to Venezuela to show solidarity for their Venezuelan
counterparts. PADF supported visits by 4 key human rights
defenders to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission
meetings in Washington in October of 2006. These have led to
various successes:

Civicus, a world alliance of NGOs, has put the Venezuela
issue on their Civil Society Watch short list of countries of
concern.

Gente de Soluciones, a Venezuelan NGO presented their
“Project Society” to the OAS General Assembly. While there,
they met with many of the Ambassadors and Foreign Ministers
of OAS member states to express concern about the law.

Uruguayan parliamentarians met with NGOs at a special session
of the Foreign Affairs commission, and have promised to help
where they can.

The Human Rights Commission of the OAS has made several
public statements and sent private letters to the National
Assembly expressing concern with the law.

The most prestigious law faculty in Buenos Aires, Argentina
has committed to hosting an event to deal with the draft law.

The Democratic Observatory of MERCOSUR plans to hold an event
early next year to discuss the draft law.

So far the Venezuelan National Assembly has received many
letters and emails of opposition to the law from groups all
over the world.

A private meeting between 4 Venezuelan human rights defenders
and Secretary General Jose Miguel Inzulsa during the October
2006 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (please
protect).

The press, both local and international, has been made aware
of the proposed law and it has received wide play in the US
as well as in Latin America

16. (S) OTI has also created a web site which has been sent
to thousands of people all over the world with details of the
law in an interactive format.

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Comment
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17. (S) Through carrying out positive activities, working
in a non-partisan way across the ideological landscape, OTI
has been able to achieve levels of success in carrying out
the country team strategy in Venezuela. These successes have
come with increasing opposition by different sectors of
Venezuelan society and the Venezuelan government. Should
Chavez win the December 3rd presidential elections, OTI
expects the atmosphere for our work in Venezuela to become
more complicated.

BROWNFIELD