Yesterday in his Sunday address President Hugo Chávez, besides suggesting that English was the language of the devil, made the accusation that the program presented by the opposition called “Consensus Pais” (Consensus Country) was financed by Bush’s Government’s via the National Endowment for Democracy to the tune of US$ 316,000
The error in the accusation is that the project that received the financing is a project that has been around for quite a while called “Construyendo Consenso” (Building Consensus) which has been carried out by CEDICE the Center for the diffusion of economic knowledge since 2002. In CEDICE’s website you can find the description of the project which is not exactly an economic plan, but a project to aid the private sector in responding to Government initiatives and assist Government officials and organizations in initiatives that promote a market economy:
Consensus Building: Private Sector Formulation of Public Policy
In order to provide the directors and officers of the chambers and associations affiliated to the top entrepreneurial entity with theoretical practical support for the development of strategies and effective techniques of responses to proposals of public policies made by other sectors, and for the making of own proposals, and assist legislators, governors and other organizations in the proposal and approval of laws and rules promoting the market economy in a democratic society. This program is supported by the International Center for the Private Enterprise (CIPE).
Many have been implemented so far; Seminars, Cost/Benefit Analysis and/or Proposals on the Organic Law of Agricultural Development and Feeding Security, Social Security (package of Laws), Telecommunications Bill and rules of the main municipalities in tax matters, Bulletin on Legislative Trends, for analysis of national parliamentary activity.
What probably confused the self-confessed “discoverers” of this financing Eva Golinger and Jeremy Bigfoot is that Diego Urbaneja, who participates in CEDICE as a representative from the Coordinadora Democrática, was the Coordinator for the opposition plan and was likely behind the use of the word “Consensus” in the title. As far as I can tell, that word and the overlap in some people that participated in CEDICE’s project and the proposal by the opposition. Urbaneja said the same today to the press. That the opposition would choose someone who has participated in that project should not be a surprise, after all, it did require a lot of consensus building to reach a consensus for the “Consenso País” project presented by the opposition. That CEDICE would also like to help in a project like that is clear from its mission statement on its webpage:
“To become the most influential institution of economic thinking in the country”
The rest is superficial research and conspiracy building for electoral purposes. The truth is, that the “Consenso Pais” project can not be attacked for its content, because it is simply a list of priorities that everyone, pro and against Chávez would agree with. You can agree or disagree with what are the main priorities or not, but not with the issues and goals themselves. In fact, most of these issues and goals are the same ones that Chávez campaigned on in 1998, but has failed to act effectively in ant of them. Where the two sides certainly do not agree is that CEDICE and the opposition want to promote a free market economy and Chávez and his friends do not. If that is the basis of the conspiracy, then it certainly exists! And the Devil’s Excrement is part of it! And many of its readers too!
Finally, the discussion is silly anyway. Receiving funds from abroad for legal activities is perfectly legal and not as Chavez implies is an act of treason. What was not legal, was for Chavez to receive US$ 1.5 million for his Presidential campaign from a foreign bank and not declare. To this day those funds remain unaccounted for, but the obscene profits of those same banks in these five years, the last year at the official rate of exchange, are there for everyone to see.
What is not legal today either, is for the Government to fund the political campaign to save Hugo Chavez permanence in the Presidency and his administration is spending daily amounts higher than the one for the CEDICE project to promote the “NO” vote in the upcoming recall. But for almighty and unethical Chávez, that is not a relevant issue.