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Venezuela's Anti-American Rhetoric Unites Government Supporters

  • Brian Padden

Officials in Venezuela have repeatedly accused the United States of orchestrating anti-government demonstrations in the South American country. While the United States provides funding to human rights groups and organizations that promote democracy in Venezuela, U.S. authorities deny they support political opposition parties or play a part in the current Venezuelan crisis.

President Nicolas Maduro has time and again accused the United States of trying to destabilize the Venezuelan government by providing aid and support to anti- government protests there.

"Elements of America's power structure and their internal subordinates seek to demoralize, to blemish the armed forces,” he said.

While no evidence has been presented, anti-America rhetoric has been an effective political tactic to unite his party.

The late President Hugo Chavez often accused the United States of supporting opposition groups and playing a role in an attempted military coup in Venezuela in 2002. The United States denies involvement, but Latin American analyst Michael Shifter, with the Inter-America Dialogue, says many observers remain skeptical.

“Certainly the United States expressed great pleasure after that coup, which I think was really a terrible mistake during the Bush administration," he said. "And I think it raised a lot of questions.”

Chavez accused the United States of providing aid to opposition groups under the guise of supporting human rights and democracy development.

These are the same charges Maduro is making today.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki defends U.S. support for basic human rights.

"We have serious concerns about some issues in Venezuela, including democracy and human rights, and we will continue to express those concerns,” she said.

Human rights, democracy and free press groups often have adversarial relationships with those in power.

"Basically human rights organizations, whether it is Venezuela or any other country in the world, they work to avoid, denounce, confront human rights violations committed by state agents,” said Santiago Canton, director of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Shifter says the Obama administration has drawn a policy line between supporting democracy and human rights and taking sides in a political conflict.

“It is much more careful, much more deliberate, much more low-key and clearly is careful not to cross the line into political organizing,” he said.

Some in Congress want to increase funding to democracy groups in Venezuela, but Shifter says the perception of U.S. invovlement would take the focus away from the deteriorating economic and security conditions in the country and give Venezuela's leaders a foreign enemy to blame.

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