I, like many of you, have been paying attention to the world and know that something is going on in Venezuela. What is it? Who is Juan Guaido? Is he an interim president, or a so-called president? Why is he referred one way in one news outlet and another in another? I decided to take as deep a dive and open my eyes as wide as I could and wanted to see if I could put some things together for myself.
It led me to places and to investigate organizations that I had heard of but never really understood – and I had an incredibly difficult time figuring out how best to present it. I took a break over the weekend to see what would happen with the USAID humanitarian aid – and actually got the advice I needed while listening to Morty’s criticism of the screenplay in Rick & Morty’s Look Who’s Purging Now, of all places.
I’m not a huge fan of the ‘3 weeks earlier teaser thing.’ I feel, ya know, we should start our stories where they begin. Not start them where they get interesting.
So here’s what I’ve found – and it goes all the way back to Serbia prior to the fall of Slobodan Milosevic at the end of the 20th century. And I promise that’s the last R&M reference for this post.
A group formed called Otpor (resistance) about 20 years ago, which was a flattened and leaderless group who advocated non-violence and used Gene Sharp’s “From Dictatorship To Democracy” to emphasize nonviolence and the proper use of media techniques to take advantage of clashes between the State and the opposition to expand support both from the People and abroad (financially). Sharp’s book would eventually be incorporated into their operating manual and Roger Cohen did a great piece on them in 2000 that I recommend everyone read first if you can and then come back to this post. It’s a long read but a good one, and we can all use a few more good reads these days.
In it, a few particular nuggets stand out, including:
American assistance to Otpor and the 18 parties that ultimately ousted Milosevic is still a highly sensitive subject. But Paul B. McCarthy, an official with the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy, is ready to divulge some details…
For those Americans intent on bringing democracy to Serbia, the student movement offered several attractions. Its flat organization would frustrate the regime’s attempts to pick a target to hit or compromise, its commitment to enduring arrests and even police violence tended to shame the long-squabbling Serbian opposition parties into uniting; it looked more effective in breaking fear than any other group; it had a clear agenda of ousting Milosevic and making Serbia a ‘normal’ European state; and it had the means to sway parents while getting out the critical vote of young people.
”And so,” McCarthy says, “From August 1999 the dollars started to flow to Otpor pretty significantly.” Of the almost $3 million spent by his group in Serbia since September of 1998, he says, “Otpor was certainly the largest recipient.” The money went into Otpor accounts outside of Serbia. At the same time, McCarthy held a series of meetings with the movement’s leaders in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, and in Szeged and Budapest in Hungary. Homen, at 28 one of Otpor’s senior members, was one of McCarthy’s interlocutors. “We had a lot of financial help from Western nongovernmental organizations,” Homen says. “And also some Western governmental organizations.”
At a June meeting in Berlin, Homen heard [Madeline] Albright say, “We want to see Milosevic out of power, out of Serbia, and in The Hague..
Hanging out with then US Secretary of State Albright. Thats neat.
Just how much money backed this objective is not clear. The United States Agency for International Development says that $25 million was appropriate just this year . Several hundred thousand dollars were given directly to Otpor for “demonstration-support material, like T-shirts and stickers,” says Donald L. Pressley, the assistant administrator. Otpor leaders intimate they also received a lot of covert aid – a subject which there is no comment in Washington.
At the International Republican Institute, another nongovernmental Washington group financed partly by A.I.D., an official named Danie Calingaert says he met Otpor leaders “7 to 10 times” in Hungary and Montenegro, beginning in October 1999. Some of the $1.8 million the institute spent in Serbia in the last year was “provided direct to Otpor,” he says. By this fall, Otpor was no ramshackle students’ group; it was a well-oiled movement backed by several million dollars from the United States.
Why am I talking about these guys? Partly for what they became when they finished their job in Serbia. For a quick recap, we can use the great folks at Wikileaks courtesy of the Global Intelligence Files and a conversation between Marko Papic and Scott Stewart, and then Marko Papic and Fred Burton of Stratfor discuss internally the protests in 2010, which actually started this whole mess:
Here is one of the Stratfor emails courtesy of Wikileaks from 2011:
OTPOR (means resistance) were a group of students from Belgrade who took down Milosevic. They were tangentially connected to U.S. funding sources like NED, Freedom House and the Albert Einstein Institute and, through them, the US. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State. BUTT, the US funding sources more lached on to them after realizing their potency than the other way around.
After they toppled Milosevic, the kids who ran OTPOR grew up, got suits, and designed CANVAS, Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies – or in other words a “export-a-revolution” group that sowed the seeds for a NUMBER of color revolutions (they even have a website: www.canvasopedia.org/) They are still hooked into U.S. funding and basically go around the world trying to topple dictators and autocratic governments (ones that the US does not like).
Heres how the conversation evolved at Stratfor in 2013:
Take a look at this, change whatever you want and send to secure.
This is guidance on how to conduct intel collection with our contact at CANVAS. A little reminder that the main utility in this contact is his ability to connect us to the troublemakers around the world that he is in touch with. His own ability to discern situation on the ground may be limited, he mainly has initial contact with an asset and then lets them do their own thing. He does himself have information that me be useful from time to time. But, the idea is to gather a network of contacts through CANVAS, contacts that we can then contact independently.
Because each regional analyst may have utility contacting CANVAS directly Marko will not be the point of contact. Each regional analyst will conduct intelligence on their own. If you are interested in the CANVAS contact and you don’t have his information, please contact marko. It will not be publicized (although he has given many of you his contact information). However, as a company, we will use a single asset code for him. We will use SR501.
With me so far? I’m going to drive the point home one more time because it really is that important. In a 2011 piece from foreignpolicy.com’s revolution U they are mentioned in the following context:
The serbian capital is home to the Center for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies, or CANVAS, an organization run by young Serbs who had cut their teeth in the late 1990s student uprising against Slobodan Milosevic. After ousting him, they embarked on the ambitious project of figuring out how to translate their success to other countries. To the world’s autocrats – they are sworn enemies – both Venezuela’s Huga Chavez and Belarus’ Aleksandr Lukashenko have condemned them by name. (“They think we are bringing a revolution in our suitcase,” one of CANVAS’s leaders told me.) But to a young generation fo democracy activists from Harare to Rangoon to Minsk to Tehran, the young Serbs are heros. They have worked with democracy advocates from more than 50 countries. They have advised groups of young people on how to take on some of the worst governments in the world – and in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria-occupied Lebanon, the Maldives, and now Egypt, those young people won.
These guys are no joke. And they had Venezuela in their sights as early as 2010. Back to another Stratfor communication between Reva Bhalia to Marko Papic (Burton is CCd) regarding CANVAS a year earlier suggests that a longer play has been going on (and this was in 2010):
According to CANVAS itself, they believe the protests have come too early. They are analogous to the ban against media and therefore follow the CANVAS manual on regime change when it says that “you need to make your opponent aware that there will be a price tag attached to his oppressive behavior.” How effective the move is, we will soon know.
From the point of view of OTPOR, if the students want to grab the notion that they are the number one enemy of Chavez, as Otpor did with Milosevic, they are doing a good job at it. Next step is to start putting pressure on the opposition not to fracture (during the anti-Slobo protests the chant was ‘Trators are Pussies”, referring to opposition working with the government). Church and students are currently polled in Venezuela as more reliable and popular than the opposition paries, again very similar to what happened in Serbia. Next step is to gather at a place together with the opposition leaders… at a funeral, at a meeting, anything. That is the key next step. Getting the opposition to come to a STUDENT gathering.
Now – I think we can all agree who Otpor was, how they were funded, and who funded them. We know that they kept in touch with their US contacts. And based on their website, we know where they have been (Ukraine, Georgia, Egypt) and where they are now (Venezuela, Iran) based on emails leaked by wikileaks.
For your information – I collected the following figures from a few years of Form 990s from the National Endowment For Democracy and the International Republican Institute. Roger Cohen of the NYT detailed how little was used/needed to push movements into the spotlight – so take note of the figures below. All are openly available and are not linked only because linking to PDFs in a conspiracy forum is not best practices, but all you need is an email address to get a free account at Guidestar get what you need.
Consider the following numbers for monies allocated and distributed to two 501c3 foundations, the National Endowment for Democracy (which was chaired by Senator John McCain until his passing) and the International Republican Institute.
The National Endowment For Democracy funds dispersed to the International Republican Institute
2013|14,170,054|Democratic Governance and Political Parties
2014|14,610,350|Democratic Governance And Political Parties
2015|13,555,539|Democratic Governance And Political Parties
2016|18,212,131|Democratic Governance And Political Parties
The International Republican Institute – South America Data
Year|Dollar Amount|Number of Offices In The Region|Employees|Program Service
2015|2,886,138|left blank|left blank
2015|190,324|left blank|Grant Making
Now I would like to direct your attention to this video, detailing a first person perspective of the 2014 protests and the situation in Venezuela which started this current chain of events. In it, you will see the familiar Otpor Fist in both the channel logo and graphics, as well as a few familiar faces. The video is in Spanish but the subtitles are effective if you select English as a translation and have 30 minutes to help understand the current situation. If you don’t, I’ll show you a quick teaser – President Juan Guaido makes an appearance here and the video closes with Leopoldo Lopez and his call to action. He was banned from politics in 2008, then jailed for 14 years in 2015, and the released two years later:
Political allies and one of Mr. López’s lawyers described the release as a sign that the government was starting to buckle in the face of months of public demonstrations and growing diplomatic isolation.
“This is a step toward freedom, not just Leopoldo’s, but also a step that brings all Venezuelans closer to freedom,” a lawmaker, Freddy Guevara, told reporters outside Mr. López’s home, where supporters chanted “Yes, we can!”
This association shows that the Otpor/CANVAS folks were utilizing their non-violent strategies popularized and written about by Gene Sharp in Venezuela, and, just like in Serbia, have spent their political capital to get themselves elected to the National Assembly, obtain an opposition majority, and ultimately declare one of their own interim President and have it stick. President Maduro may have seen this coming, and has established a parallel legislative body and judicial system in the process, actually helping make the argument of his legitimacy (or lack thereof).
If you can, note that the video linked above cites two of the three articles of the Venezuelan constitution that Juan Guaido ultimately cited a little over a month ago when he sweared himself in as President, accusing the current President Nicolas Maduro of abandoning his post and being illegitimate, and having the Organization of American States, the Lima Group, and a host of nations recognize him. It also ends with a familiar Obama-like chant in Spanish, the phrase Si Se Puede – or Yes We Can.
The connections Guaido and his political party has to the United States (and those that will likely benefit to the new free and fair elections being demanded by most nations if you look around) cannot be denied. Florida Senator Marco Rubio has been especially active in this situation, from having Leopoldo Lopez’ wife up in DC and meet with President Trump sparking this tweet which may have been a signal to kick things off officially (if you are conspiratorially inclined) to being spotted down in Columbia with USAID trucks in Cucota, Columbia just a week ago. He was especially vocal announcing funding regarding the National Endowment of Democracy here, and, to be fair, the top 10 cities in the US with the highest Venezuelan population are in Florida (and the next 3 too). It makes sense that he is more involved here.
We’ve had plenty of aid fly in to Columbia to attempt to cross the border, including the Puerto Santander bridge which has been closed to all but foot traffic since 2015..
That didn’t stop a large contingent of aid and workers to congregate at the border this Saturday. If you were watching one of the livestreams you may have spotted everyone covering their faces whenever they passed this trailer – and initially I thought it was for privacy. Now, after seeing it (and the rest of them) engulfed inflames after now being allowed to pass… I think something flammable may have been in there on purpose. Who knows? Perhaps they were meant to just be war chariots and the real aid is still locked away for the second attempt.
And speaking of aid – whatever happened to the 21air story and the interception of what Venezuelan authorities describe as an intercepted shipment of arms?
Did that start before or after Eliot Abrams was appointed US Special Envoy to Venezuela?
Sure, the Trump administration (most notably John Bolton and Mike Pompeo have used the Troika of Terror meme that they have inserted into this to possibly pivot to Iran in the future) is attempting to make lemonade out of this, because a victory against socialism globally will inevitably help him domestically facing off against an increasingly socialist leaning-DNC candidate pool to challenge him in 2020.
But please don’t get lost in the right now here – and understand that these soft-power organizations help launder US taxpayer money to help aid democracy abroad which inevitably ends up funding movements in Ukraine, Georgia, Egypt, Ukraine (again), possibly Venezuela, and eventually even Iran. Its not a Trump thing. This whole scenario was attempted first by GWB in 2002, then it appears we decided to spread democracy with cash instead.
And to those who think these guys arent still around – their familiar chants can still be heard in the background of of your radio if you’re tuned into NPR:
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro insists he’s not going anywhere. He remains in place even though European nations have recognized an opposition leader as president and protesters flooded the streets over the weekend.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Si, se puede. Si, se puede. INSKEEP: Si, se puede, they’re saying – “yes, it’s possible” or “yes, we can.”
We are all watching this in real time. Perhaps we can all try a different tactic this time and understand how we got here, why we are here, and who the players actually are. And who is funding them and why. I think I’ve commented enough dots to get us started.
Perhaps you can all say Si Se Peude with me in that regard.