Talks in the Chancellery

BERLIN/CARACAS (Own report) - Chancellor Merkel will meet one of Venezuela's leading government opposition politicians today in the Chancellery. Julio Borges, who, according to reports, supported the 2002 putsch attempt in Caracas, will discuss the political development in Venezuela with the chancellor. Fierce power struggles are being waged in that country. The opposition, mainly composed of representatives of the traditional wealthy elites, has ties to Western powers und is also supported by Berlin. With its operational assistance, for example in advising Borges' Primero Justícia (Justice First) party in "political communication," the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation has been playing a special role. Primero Justícia had also participated in the 2002-attempted putsch. Berlin is pursuing an approach similar to that used in other Latin American countries, wherein it regularly supports the traditional elites. This resembles the German authorities' interventions in the run-up to the putsch in Ukraine.

Advisory Processes

Since the early years of the presidency of Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013, Germany has been supporting Venezuela's opposition, which is essentially composed of the country's traditional wealthy elites. This had become particularly evident through the activities of the CDU affiliated Konrad-Adenauer Foundation in Venezuela. Already in 2001, the Foundation bolstered the young Primero Justícia party, whose leader, Henrique Capriles Radonski, is still one of the most influential opponents of the Venezuelan government. Capriles, who, from 2000 to 2008, had been mayor of the Venezuelan capital's wealthy Baruta district participated in the uprisings leading to the 2002 putsch attempt against Chávez. Since 2008, he is governor of the federal state Miranda, where Baruta is located. His party is a member of the opposition alliance Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD). The Konrad-Adenauer Foundation continued supporting Primero Justícia after the putsch, which it played down as simply a "general protest." ( reported.[1]) Presumably due to a ban on foreign support for political parties, the foundation reported, in 2008, that it was assisting Primero Justicia and the traditional elite party COPEI "primarily through their educational institutes" - described as a "successful" support that should be "expanded."[2] In 2010, an analysis of the FRIDE Institute in Madrid divulged that the Adenauer Foundation is paying "around €500,000 annually" for projects with Venezuelan opposition parties, including "long-term advisory processes" in "political communication."

Contacts in Berlin

The Adenauer Foundation has repeatedly arranged personal contacts for members of the Venezuelan opposition in Germany and elsewhere in the EU. According to the web portal amerika21, the foundation had also invited politicians from the Primero Justícia party to Berlin and Brussels in early 2011. In the German capital, the delegation had talks with parliamentarians of the Bundestag.[3] In January 2015, the foundation again organized a visit to Berlin and Brussels for a MUD delegation. The members of the opposition - including activists of the Primero Justícia party that had been involved in the 2002 attempted putsch - again met with members of the Bundestag,[4] and had talks also in the German foreign ministry and chancellery.[5] Last year, the foundation organized another visit in June. According to the CDU-affiliated organization, the delegation met with "parliamentarians and chairpersons of various Bundestag committees, had talks in the chancellery and foreign ministry, as well as with representatives of business and civil society."[6]

On the Way to Power

Currently, a Venezuelan opposition delegation is again having a high-level consultation visit to the EU. Parliamentary President Julio Borges is reported to discuss the political situation in Venezuela, today, Wednesday, with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Monday, Borges had met with President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and in Madrid he held talks with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis on Tuesday. A meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May is also planned.[7] Borges, the founder of the Primero Justícia party, according to a journal on US foreign policy, as well as information from observers of the period, had personally supported the attempted putsch to overthrow Chávez in April 2002.[8] Today, in his struggle against incumbent President Nicolás Maduro, he is seeking to take power.

No Right of Interference

Germany and other EU countries' blatant support for the Venezuelan opposition has begun to create diplomatic conflicts. Already in mid-August, Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza summoned Germany's Ambassador in Caracas, Stefan Andreas Herzberg, and presented him with a note protesting Berlin's open support for the government's opponents. "Neither Germany, nor any other country in the world, has the right," Arreaza declared, "to interfere in Venezuela's domestic affairs."[9] Monday, Arreaza summoned Herzberg again,[10] giving him, along with his Spanish and Italian counterparts, another note of protest. This time the protest pertained to the fact that Caracas had denied the departure of the Venezuelan government opponent; Lilian Tintori, who had sought to accompany Borges on last weekend's trip to Europe. The German government sharply protested. Tintori, who was also scheduled to meet with Chancellor Merkel, was not allowed to leave the country, because of a pending court subpoena, provoked by last week's discovery in her car, of 200 million bolivars in cash. This is equivalent to several tens-of-thousands of euros, a considerable amount for Venezuela. Because Tintori and her lawyer had contradicted one another in their explanations of the purpose of the money,[11] the case will now be investigated by the court. The fact that February 15, 2017, Tintori had been received by US President Donald Trump also plays a role in this case. Trump has even threatened Venezuela with a military intervention.

The Traditional Elites

It is nothing new that Berlin interferes in Latin American countries' domestic conflicts, openly supporting the respective traditional elites. German expressions of sympathy for the cold coup carried out in Brazil,[12] or even the FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation's contacts to the putschists in Paraguay,[13] and in Honduras are but a few of the examples. In late June 2009, the Naumann Foundation's representative in Honduras at the time, Christian Lüth, defended the putsch, which had just taken place, calling it a correctly implemented "impeachment procedure." ( reported.[14]) Lüth has since become the press spokesperson for Germany's new rightwing "Alternative für Deutschland" (AfD) party.

Assistance to a Putsch

Even beyond Latin America, it is usual German foreign policy in countries with insubmissive governments, to support that country's forces of the opposition, inviting their opposition politicians to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chancellery for talks. One of the best known examples is the support for Vitali Klitschko, the Ukrainian opposition politician, at the time, initiated in 2010 by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. That assistance included extensive consultations on building his party, as well as several invitations to the foreign ministry and Chancellery for talks. ( reported.[15]) Berlin pursued this assistance right up to the February 2014 coup in Kiev.

[1] See Protesting Elections as Tactic.
[2] Georg Eickhoff: Regional- und Kommunalwahlen in Venezuela. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Auslandsbüro Venezuela: Länderbericht. 01.08.2008.
[3] Adenauer-Stiftung präsentiert Chávez-Gegner in Berlin und Brüssel. 01.02.2011.
[4] Christian Kliver: Adenauer-Stiftung bringt heute Opposition aus Venezuela in Bundestag. 29.01.2015.
[5] Harald Neuber: Adenauer-Stiftung und CDU laden Oppositionelle aus Venezuela ein. 17.06.2016.
[6] Abgeordnete der Opposition aus Venezuela werben in Deutschland um Unterstützung. 16.06.2016.
[7] Merkel analizará con Borges y Guevara la "preocupante" situación de Venezuela. 05.09.2017.
[8] Roberto Lovato: The Making of Leopoldo López. 27.07.2015. Andrew Cawthorne, Diego Oré: Venezuela's opposition, government resume hostilities for 2017. 05.01.2017.
[9] Venezuela rüffelt Berlin. 17.08.2017.
[10] Kenya Marcano: Venezuela entregó nota de protesta a embajadores de Alemania, Italia, España y Reino Unido. 04.09.2017.
[11] Modaira Rubio: Europareise geplatzt. 04.09.2017.
[12] See Wende in Lateinamerika (I).
[13] See Ganz liberal geputscht.
[14] See The Naumann Caucus and Ein Amtsenthebungsverfahren.
[15] See Our Man in Kiev.