Friday, August 19, 2011

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

It's been a fairly busy day, and I couldn't decide what to write about, but this might be worth passing along. I heard about it on the Shortwave Report, a radio program that plays on my community radio station on Fridays, so I looked around on the web, and sure enough, it was true:
For the first time in recent history, the Foreign Operations Budget (State Department) openly details direct funding of at least $5 million to anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela. Specifically, the budget justification document states, "These funds will help strengthen and support a Venezuelan civil society that will protect democratic space and seek to serve the interests and needs of the Venezuelan people. Funding will enhance citizens' access to objective information, facilitate peaceful debate on key issues, provide support to democratic institutions and processes, promote citizen participation and encourage democratic leadership".
Sure, it's better for Obama to interfere in the Venezuelan elections with cash instead of bombs, but can you imagine the hysteria if it were revealed that Venezuela had funded the US political opposition on a similar scale? You don't even really need to imagine it. Back in 1976 one of our free-world allies sought to influence the workings of Congress by greasing a few palms, and all heck broke loose. Time complained about "exported South Korean corruption", and I suppose they had a point: what, our homegrown American corruption isn't good enough for Congress, they have to import it from the Asian sweatshops? One source reported that
he once saw then Ambassador Kim Dong Jo stuffing $100 bills into white envelopes. Kim's attaché case was "bulging with bundles of $100 bills. There must have been several hundred thousand dollars in that briefcase. It was an astonishing sight."

Incidentally, Tongsun Park, the prime mover in Koreagate, kept up his US connections. He eventually became a lobbyist for Iraq at the United Nations for the oil-for-food program of the late 1990s. He was convicted in 2007 of influence-peddling and served about a year of a five-year sentence. The things you learn ....