Sunday, May 27, 2007

Documents Reveal U.S. Effort to Influence Venezuelan Journalists

By: Chris Carlson -

Caracas, May 26, 2007 (— Several major Venezuelan journalists have received all-expenses paid trips to the U.S. for courses in an apparent effort of the U.S. State Department to influence the media in Venezuela, according to recently released documents. The Venezuelan-American attorney Eva Golinger, who released the information yesterday in a press conference in Caracas, also revealed evidence of a destabilization plan against the Chavez government to take place this weekend.

Golinger is the author of The Chavez Code, which documents U.S. funding of opposition groups and U.S. involvement in the 2002 coup attempt.

Under a program named International Business Leadership Program, many Venezuelan journalists, mostly from the opposition media, but also some from the Venezuelan government, have received "scholarships" from the U.S. government to attend training courses during the years 2001-2005.

Some of the most recognized opposition journalists of the country have participated according to the documents, including Miguel Angel Rodriguez of RCTV, who received more than six thousand dollars for his participation in 2003, and Maria Fernanda Flores of Globovision among others, according to the documents obtained by Eva Golinger through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

With the supposed intention of teaching journalists about the media and journalism in the United States, the program also has the purpose of influencing how Venezuelan journalists cover events related to the U.S. foreign policy. According to the documents released, the programs denominated "Journalism IV" seek to "influence the approach and ultimately the coverage given to issues of importance to U.S. foreign policy and to strengthen the Venezuelan democratic process."

The State Department gave special attention to the Venezuelan news channel Globovisión, which they believe to be "the most influential channel" and to have the most positive coverage of the United States. The State Department sought a special relationship with this particular news network, and especially with one important journalist Maria Fernanda Flores.

According to an unclassified State Department memo, “A program that gives Flores a better understanding of and closer ties with U.S. media executive decision-making policies and practices can help Globovision, already the country’s news leader, an even more professional responsible force in Venezuela’s media environment, with profound implications not only for more positive coverage of U.S. policies but for Venezuela’s evolving political situation as well.”

Golinger emphasized, though, that the journalists involved in these programs were chosen by the U.S. embassy and could very well be unaware of the program’s efforts to influence their coverage of U.S. foreign policy.

Golinger also spoke about other State Department programs including one to increase U.S. access to the Venezuelan Armed Forces through various training programs, whose objectives she said are similar to the program for journalists.

The Press Attaché of the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela, Bryan Penn, responded on Globovisión to Golinger’s press conference yesterday by saying that the programs she presented were common with governments around the world and that the U.S. is “proud of them.”

Destabilization Plan

Golinger also presented evidence of a destabilization plan for this Saturday, showing a flyer calling for people to come into the streets and march in the morning hours of Saturday, May 26th. According to the attorney, the campaign is designed by Freedom House, a U.S. organization dedicated to non-violent resistance.

Freedom House, headed by Peter Ackerman, has been involved in other countries and other campaigns to overthrow regimes such as Serbia and the Ukraine. According to Golinger, the flyers circulating in Caracas have the logo of a clenched fist, the same logo used in the campaigns in other countries such as Serbia, Georgia, and the Ukraine.

Golinger also made reference to the fact that leaders from the Serbian campaign, and people from the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (Canvas) have been involved with the Venezuelan opposition and have given trainings about nonviolent resistance inside Venezuela. According to the webpage of Canvas, Venezuela is one of three nations in which the resistance strategies are being used.

Golinger said that she found the presence of these programs to be "worrying" in light of the tense relations between the United States and Venezuela, as well as the aggressive media atmosphere in Venezuela in recent years.