Monday, June 30, 2008

Watch out America: What happened in Venezuela can happen here.

If you had asked me ten years ago if I thought that the strange, unbelievable events that happened over the past decade in Venezuela could occur in the United States, I would have said it was crazy. But having watched the events in Venezuela very carefully, and watching current events in the USA, I’m becoming deeply alarmed. In particular, I’m talking about the alarming claims of rampant voter fraud that is being reported in primarily Democrat counties in Alabama.
Before I get to what’s happening in Alabama, I need to review what we know about Venezuelan President Chavez.

It is now well known that Lt. Colonel Hugo Chavez led an illegal coup attempt in 1992 that resulted in the deaths of numerous innocent, unarmed Venezuelan civilians. After his coup failed, he agreed to go on the air and call for his armed co-conspirators to stop the coup, saying “we have failed—for now”. He went to jail, and eventually the Venezuelan president pardoned him for his crimes, and he embarked on a political campaign to accomplish ‘democratically’ what he had failed to accomplish by force.

Chavez embarked on a world-wide tour to gather financial resources from Cuba, middle-eastern leaders (including Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Syria’s Assad), and returned to Venezuela with millions of dollars for his campaign. He won the election, and immediately started to disassemble the Venezuelan government. Within a few years, he had replaced the federal judges with sympathetic followers, dissolved the bicameral congress and replaced with a temporary body that wrote a new constitution that favored him and his party and his “Bolivarian revolution”.

He then took complete control of the electoral council (Venezuela’s electoral system is completely centralized—a model that former US President Carter has said he’d like to emulate), and in every electoral process from that point forward, there were rampant charges of electoral fraud. Opposition candidates were harassed, beaten, arrested and threatened with impunity. Chavez supporters attacked opposition rallies en masse, resulting in many injuries and even deaths.

But what is very alarming is that entire electoral mechanism was undermined in a way that permanently disadvantaged the opposition parties. Millions of dollars of state funds found their way into pro-Chavez parties, rallies, and bought support around the country. People were paid to be bused to pro-Chavez rallies and show support for him, giving the impression to the world that his support was massive and popular. Voters were paid to cast votes for him, and there were many cases of intimidation against anyone who showed a proclivity to vote against him.
Chavez made it clear that he was willing to use the ever increasing petroleum revenue to fund his personal revolution, and that a top priority for Venezuela was to achieve the election—in the USA—of a “Bolivarian president”. This notion was mocked and laughed at as the ramblings of a Latin American madman.

However, over the next few years, a frightening pattern was revealed. Socialist parties across the Americas, from Mexico to Argentina and including many countries in between, were accused by their opponents of illegally and covertly receiving large sums of money from the Venezuelan government, in order to support the leftist causes and outspend their “neo-liberal” opponents. Chavez donated millions of dollars of petroleum to Sandinista candidates in Nicaragua, so that they could provide cheap fuel to their supporters—a way of demonstrating how supporting socialists would result in handouts for the poor. Chavez built housing in the districts of socialist candidates in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Bolivia, helping increase the popularity of the socialists. This pattern repeated itself in numerous countries, while the outcry of opposition leaders was ignored.

Following this pattern, the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Argentina and Nicaragua all turned to the left. There is a life and death struggle still going on in El Salvador and Panama.
The most telling turn of events occurred in Argentina, when it was discovered that high-level Venezuelan officials had funneled large sums of money into Argentina to covertly fund the election campaign of Kristina Fernandez de Kirchner—the wife of former socialist president Nestor Kirchner. The Kirchners were very vocal supporters of Chavez. Small wonder, when one considers how Chavez single-handedly (without the approval of the Venezuelan people) decided to buy Argentina’s multi-billion dollar debt to the World Bank. No one has yet been able to demonstrate how this purchase benefitted the Venezuelan people or economy, but it was clear that it supported Chavez: the Kirchners gained temporary popularity in Argentina and in turn showed him undying loyalty, defending his “revolution” in every forum of world government.

The way the money was funneled into the various countries is extremely important to understand. Chavez has always been savvy enough to maintain “plausible deniability”. That is to say, he might outwardly say that he wants to support the leftist parties in a country, but wouldn’t outwardly give the money to them. Instead, what has been learned is that the money often came directly from the coffers of the state-controlled Petroleum of Venezuela (Pdvsa), and was delivered secretly by private individuals contracted by government officials, who carried the money into the country under the guise of business discussions about oil leases and other convenient distractions. Unfortunately for Chavez, some of those suitcases of money were captured, and the whole plot was discovered.

At other times, the Circulos Bolivarianos, or “Bolivarian Circles”, were employed to this end. The Bolivarian Circles are a loosely organized system of community groups throughout the world, which claim to support underprivileged populations and provide a number of services. But they are alleged to be deeply involved in funneling money to opposition groups, to help organize and fund protest marches, even trigger riots.

In other cases, support was given as gifts of the Venezuelan government to its favored opposition leaders. This didn’t just happen in the backwaters of Latin American countries. Chavez gave cheap heating oil to the constituents of Democrat leaders in Boston and New York. He also tried to sway Native American populations in the USA with similar tactics, by donating gas or heating oil or other support.

Over the past few years, Chavez has received many visits from any number of American leaders, not to mention socialist Hollywood elite. Various members of the African National Congress have visited him, giving the impression that they not only support Chavez, but are expecting some return of favors.

Which brings me now to the events in Alabama.

According to the investigations of the Alabama Attorney General Troy King and the US Justice Department, a number of counties, whose local governments lean heavily Democrat, have been caught in a massive voter fraud scheme. The details that are being released are somewhat meager and unsatisfying. But in an interview on Fox news, AG King explained that they have discovered a pattern of vote-buying in these counties, the voters being offered between $50 and $100 to vote Democrat. What’s more, while his investigators attempted to gather information on the case, local officials in these counties actually arrested the Alabama state investigators for “harassment” of the voters who apparently accepted the bribes. King stated that he had to go to court to get his own investigators released from jail!

The method is extremely clear: the Democrat party has been encouraging its constituents to vote early via absentee ballots. This method was promoted heavily ever since the 2000 election, in which the vote was disputed in Florida, and the Democrats tried to claim that electronic voting machines were rigged by the Republicans to throw the election. So they have instead tried to get their constituents to vote by absentee ballots because—in their words—it would provide a paper trail in case of a future, contested election.

In Alabama, a number of these counties—which apparently are also predominantly black—have suddenly revealed some disturbing irregularities that suggest that something very odd is occurring. In Perry County, for example, the average number of absentee ballots cast in previous elections was close to one percent. Now, that has grown to nearly twenty five percent.
It is too early to tell exactly what is happening, but to me it’s very frightening. Where is this money coming from? Why are local officials trying to impede the investigations? Could the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who visited Chavez on private business, be at all related to the sudden appearance of money throughout mostly black precincts throughout the South?

And, since Chavez repeatedly stated that he trying to get a socialist elected in the United States, could his have anything to do with the presidential campaign of Senator Obama? Could there be a reason why Obama was able to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for his campaign, while none of the other candidates could come close? Could this be the reason why Obama refused to accept public financing--contracting his previous promise to do so?

It’s far from unprecedented for the Democrats to receive illegal funds from overseas—after all, this was exactly what President Clinton did when he accepted millions of dollars from the Chinese.

So, perhaps my speculations are not too hair-brained. Only time will tell.

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