Protesting Elections as Tactic

CARACAS/BERLIN | | venezuela

CARACAS/BERLIN (Own report) - The German CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation has classified the protests of alleged electoral fraud by the Venezuelan opposition as a tactical maneuver, aimed at the long-termed delegitimization of the country's new president, Nicolás Maduro. The foundation explained in a recent statement that electoral fraud is extremely unlikely, due to the scrupulously regulated electoral process. By encouraging turmoil, the opposition seeks to spread the idea that the newly elected head of state lacks "legitimacy." This German foundation is well informed on the strategies, in particular, of those of the oppositional "Primero Justicia" party - for which the narrowly defeated Enrique Capriles had been their presidential candidate. The Adenauer Foundation has been counseling it for years, also in "political communication." Primero Justicia, and Capriles, himself, had been receiving support from the Adenauer Foundation back in 2002, when they were involved in a putsch to overthrow President Hugo Chávez. Statements made by the head of the foundation's branch office in Venezuela, at the time, indicated intimate knowledge of the putschists' objectives. Capriles is considered a leading political representative of the traditional Venezuelan elite, who has always cooperated closely with the West. However, since Chávez came to office, the elite has been pushed back, to the advantage of previously underprivileged social sectors.

Integration of the Lower Classes

During the presidency of the late Hugo Chávez, Venezuela has been profoundly transformed. Nicolás Maduro seeks to continue this policy. According to the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), Chávez' "most significant achievement" was "the augmentation of the number of Venezuelans benefiting from the oil revenues." Whereas, "the elite of the country was profiting almost exclusively from oil exports," previous to his arrival in office, the "Gini coefficient" - an indicator for social inequality - has now "dropped from 0.49 to 0.39."[1] According to GIGA, Venezuela, therefore, has clearly risen above the Latin American average and has reached, at least, "the level of Portugal, in the late 1990s." The oil revenues have flowed largely into "extensive social programs," financing the promotion of literacy in the poorer social strata and into health programs in poverty-stricken areas. These initiatives "benefit a substantial segment of the population." Under Chávez, "the political culture has also changed." "Whereas the lower classes had been de facto shut out of the political process, they are now integrated in politics." The GIGA does not conceal the economic difficulties confronting the government in Caracas, but acknowledges the remarkable progress that has been made over the past few years.

The Traditional Elite

The CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation, on the other hand, certainly judges the Venezuelan situation differently. According to a recent statement on the elections, the foundation sees the country as confronting "sheer insurmountable economic difficulties:" An "aggressive socialist policy" has seriously damaged industry; an "expansive social policy" has "above all, provoked political expectations in broader sectors of the population."[2] Chávez has "bequeathed his successor a country in ruins." The Adenauer Foundation is openly partisan to the opposition around Henrique Capriles, a representative of the old Venezuelan elite, who, according to Berlin's advisors, have been weakened over the past few years, mainly by the "rigorous persecution and prosecution of expulsions and confiscation of land" - practices that had enhanced wealth, before Chávez took office.[3] The country's traditional elite has always loyally cooperated with the West, which maintains its support. The same holds true for traditional elites in Ecuador and Bolivia. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[4]) Their stubborn domestic neo-liberal policies and their foreign course of a transatlanticist alliance are also attractive to Berlin.

Defaming the Electoral Winner

According to the Adenauer Foundation statement, Capriles and his partisans are encouraging the current turmoil in Venezuela, not because Maduro's election victory is seriously challenged. The rigorous regulations of the electoral process and its monitoring "leave little room for manipulating the results of the voting," writes the Foundation. "Manual counting" as demanded by the opposition, would most likely not produce "significantly different results."[5] In any case, in the past "the overall results (...) have regularly corresponded to the electoral records" which is why "the electoral officials were even applauded by European diplomats." By insisting on a manual vote count, the Adenauer Foundation explains, "Venezuela's opposition is not primarily seeking a different electoral result, giving them the victory." Rather, they are seeking to claim and anchor in the public consciousness an alleged "lack of legitimacy of the government" - a prerequisite for future attempts at destabilization. Seven people have already been killed because of this tactical maneuver.

Involved in the Coup

Opposition leader Enrique Capriles Radonski has experience in destabilizing tactics. Born 1972, this son of a wealthy business family from Caracas, has been politically active since the 1990s. In 2000, he took part in establishing "Primero Justicia," a group founded in 1992, as a political party, in opposition to the ruling president, Hugo Chávez. Since, he is considered the organization's main leader. Capriles first became mayor of the capital's wealthy Baruta district and participated, together with other Primero Justicia functionaries, in the 2002 coup against Chávez. He has also been accused of involvement in the attack on the Baruta-based Cuban embassy during the coup. Because of his activities during the coup, Capriles was convicted and imprisoned in 2004. The November 2004 assassination of the prosecutor, who had brought Capriles to trial, received worldwide attention. Investigations against the perpetrators revealed a network of ultra-right wing activists, some of whom had also been involved in the coup.[6] However, Capriles was able to resume his political career - since 2008, no longer as Baruta's mayor, but as the governor of the Miranda federal state, where Baruta is located.

Merely a Generals Protest

Capriles' party Primero Justicia is not only receiving assistance from the USA, but also from Germany, particularly, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which has been reinforcing the party since 2001. At the time, the foundation claims to have recognized a "greater need" to "become politically involved" in Venezuela. Following the coup's defeat in April 2002, Michael Lingenthal, who headed the Foundation's Venezuela bureau at the time, obviously alluded to internal knowledge, when he declared that, in Caracas, the coup's president had "squandered everything within a few hours." "The idea had been to form a government on a broad democratic basis. That did not work out."[7] Soon afterward, Lingenthal demanded a "critical, unbiased assessment" of the coup, which he characterized as a simple "protest of generals."[8] In the summer of 2003, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation helped organize a meeting to instruct Primero Justica members in the "modernization of political parties."[9] Plans for another coup were revealed in the summer of 2004 and Primero Justicia members were again involved, according to reports from Caracas. (german-foreign-policy.com reported [10]).

Long-term Consulting Processes

Today, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation is still supporting that party. Referring to an analysis of the Madrid based FRIDE institute, the expert on Venezuela, Eva Gollinger, reported in 2010 that the foundation is paying "around 500,000 Euros annually" for joint projects with right wing Venezuelan parties, including Primero Justicia.[11] One project, for example, was a meeting on February 4, 2010, to present "leading members of the Venezuelan party Primero Justicia" a concrete methodology of "political communication," aimed at the "long-term strengthening" of respective capacities and "long-term consulting processes," according to the Foundation.[12] Since German foundation's direct financial support for political parties is actually not permitted, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation admits "primarily" using the indirect route of aid to the party affiliated "Fundación Justicia y Democracia".[13] The Konrad Adenauer Foundation is opening doors in Berlin and the EU for the Venezuelan opposition. According to the web portal, amerika21, in 2011, the foundation had invited opposition representatives to Brussels and Berlin, where they could also meet for talks with members of the German parliament. The delegation led by the foundation's bureau chief in Caracas, included a Primero Justicia activist - a man from Enrico Capriles' immediate entourage.[14]

[1] Ana Soliz Landivar, Sören Scholvin: Die "Bolivarische Revolution" nach Hugo Chávez, GIGA Focus Lateinamerika 3/2013
[2] Georg Eickhoff: Venezuelas Opposition erkennt das Wahlergebnis nicht an; Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Länderbericht Venezuela, 15.04.2013
[3] Günther Maihold: Zeitenwende in Lateinamerika. Venezuela und Kuba nach Hugo Chávez, SWP-Aktuell 2, Januar 2013. See also Hoping for a Historical Turning Point
[4] see also Elitenwechsel mit Folgen
[5] Georg Eickhoff: Venezuelas Opposition erkennt das Wahlergebnis nicht an; Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Länderbericht Venezuela, 15.04.2013
[6] Dario Azzellini: Ein Anschlag auf die Justiz, Lateinamerika-Nachrichten, Januar 2005
[7] Chávez verspricht Korrektur seiner Politik; www.handelsblatt.com 15.04.2002
[8] see also "Generalsprotest"
[9] see also Zuerst Gerechtigkeit
[10] see also Demokratische Werte
[11] Eva Golinger: Finanzhilfen für Opposition in Venezuela; amerika21.de
[12] Strategischer Workshop mit der venezolanischen Partei Primero Justicia; www.kas.de
[13] Georg Eickhoff: Regional- und Kommunalwahlen in Venezuela; Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Länderbericht Venezuela, 01.10.2008
[14] Adenauer-Stiftung präsentiert Chávez-Gegner in Berlin und Brüssel; amerika21.de 01.02.2011