Ltr to Reps Michaud and Pingree: the situation in Venezuela

Recently a resolution was passed nearly unanimously in the House supposedly “supporting the people of Venezuela.” The appalling vote reflects the lack of concern for the truth that we often see in Congress. Pretty words, no substance. Tom Whitney has drafted a letter to Maine Reps who both voted yea, and some of us will be meeting with them and/or their staff for a conversation about reality.
Please read the letter here (the same effort/letter is being addressed to Rep. Pingree), and if you care to add your name, contact Tom at He will want to know your Rep (Michaud or Pingree) and town. 
Thank you for your support.
This posturing should not be allowed to stand. — JR
March 12, 2014
Honorable Mike Michaud
Representative, Second District of Maine
1724 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative Michaud, 
We, the undersigned, note your “yes” vote on March 4 to Resolution 488 offered by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).  Its title is “Supporting the people of Venezuela as they protest peacefully for democracy, a reduction in violent crime and calling for an end to recent violence.”  In approving this resolution you joined 392 other congresspersons.
We note, further, that the resolution went forward under a procedure called “suspension of the rules,” one that is used for “legislation of non-controversial bills.” (1) Those of us signing this letter, however, regard the matter as hardly routine. In fact, we suggest, with respect, that you overlooked inaccuracies in the resolution and key background information relevant to the disturbances in Venezuela. 
Although we think you should have rejected the resolution, we would like very much to hear your rationale for approving it. We therefore request a meeting with you – or an assistant – in order to learn more about the basis for your thinking.
Below you will find specific points indicating to us that the resolution ought to have been rejected. Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Sincerely yours
Addendum – Relevant points 

The resolution speaks of Venezuelans “protesting peacefully.” Actually as of March 7, protesters had shot five people dead. Three were soldiers. Six deaths are attributed to opposition roadblocks. Soldiers had killed three people, one a government supporter. When protests started in Táchira, Mérida, and Caracas in early February, police did not intervene until government offices and police cars were being attacked and burned and until food and medical supply trucks were blocked. The government arrested officers who violated orders to act with restraint. (2)  

The resolution suggests Venezuela is undemocratic. Over 15 years, however, governments there have won 17 out of 18 national elections. They are elections that the Carter Center in Georgia regards as “the best in the world” for fairness and efficiency. Press freedom abounds: Venezuela’ predominately privately-owned newspapers and television outlets disseminate opposition viewpoints. Their television broadcasts reach 90 percent of viewers nationally. (3) 
Real democracy means that everybody benefits. In Venezuela poverty dropped from 50 percent in 1998 to 32 percent in 2011. (4)  Social spending increased from 11 percent of the GDP to 24 percent.  Pensioners rose from 500,000 to 2.5 million; people finishing college, from 600,000 to 2.3 million. High school enrollment increased 42 percent. Children malnutrition and infants deaths have fallen dramatically. Every year the minimum wage has increased 10 – 20 percent. (5)  
Media misrepresentation contributed to the resolution’s passage. Protesters, for example, hardly represent Venezuela’s majority population. Disturbances have taken place in only 18 of 335 municipalities (6), places where the middle and upper classes live and where right-wing politicians are in charge.  Most students in the streets attend private schools. National polling shows that 85 percent of respondents oppose “protests continuing throughout the country.” (7)  
Passage of Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s resolution occurs within the context of U.S. efforts over many years to cause destabilization within Venezuela. That campaign has contributed to the disturbances playing out there now. The message “follow the money” applies here, we think.  Analyst Mark Weisbrot reports, “[O]ne can find about $90 million in U.S. funding to Venezuela since 2000 just looking through U.S. government documents available on the web, including $5 million in the current federal budget.” (8)   According to “Over one third of US funding, nearly $15 million annually by 2007, was directed towards youth and student groups, including training in the use of social networks to mobilize political activism.”  And, “Embassy cables also reveal US government funding of opposition parties.”  Discussing his leadership of the National Endowment for Democracy, a prime source of U.S. funding, Allen Weinstein told the Washington Post in 1991 that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” (9)   


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