Attack on democracy in Venezuela


Investors Business Daily has an excellent editorial today covering the prosecution of activists who organized the recall election against Hugo Chavez, which was defeated under suspicious circumstances.

Their crime? Taking a U.S. National Endowment for Democracy grant to advance democracy. It's not just political revenge from a victorious Chavez. It's also an attack on civic institutions and, if successful, opens the door to dictatorship and anarchy.

Maria Corina Machado and two others from a nongovernment organization called Sumate are facing 16 years in prison for accepting a $53,000 grant from NED, a bipartisan foundation sponsored by the U.S. Congress. The purpose of the grant was to strengthen democratic institutions.

And that's all it was. Sumate took the money and used it to exercise its existing constitutional right to gather signatures petitioning to recall Chavez. Sumate took no sides and made no statements on any preferred outcome. It only sought to make the process happen.

Any Venezuelan has the right do that; Chavez himself instituted it when he rewrote the constitution in 2001. What shocked him is someone took him up on it. And that Sumate attracted 40,000 volunteers, vastly more than anyone anticipated, a groundswell of democratic organizing that was led capably and competently.

Read the whole thing.

Thomas Lifson   7 6 05