May 16, 2013

The Reprehensible Meddling of the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center

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Just before the April 14 Presidential elections in Venezuela, RT News reported on a Wikileaks Cable from 2006 in which, in the words of RT, then “ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, outlines a comprehensive plan to infiltrate and destabilize former President Hugo Chavez’ government,” including through programs of the USAID and its Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI).

On May Day, Bolivian President Evo Morales informed the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia that he wanted USAID to leave Bolivia because he (quite reasonably) suspected USAID of trying to subvert his own government as well.


The 2006 Wikileaks cable makes for fascinating reading. (1) In the cable, Ambassador Brownfield explains that, among its many goals, the destabilization “program fosters confusion within the Bolivarian ranks . . . .” And, he describes a key component of this program as follows:

OTI supports local NGOs who work in Chavista strongholds and with Chavista leaders, using those spaces to counter this [Chavista] rhetoric and promote alliances through working together on issues of importance to the entire community.

OTI has directly reached approximately 238,000 adults through over 3000 forums, workshops and training sessions delivering alternative values and providing opportunities for opposition activists to interact with hard-core Chavistas, with the desired effect of pulling them slowly away from Chavismo. We have supported this initiative with 50 grants totaling over $1.1 million.

Brownfield concludes the cable by stating: “Through carrying out positive activities, working in a non-partisan way across the ideological landscape, OTI has been able to achieve levels of success in carrying out the country team strategy in Venezuela. These successes have come with increasing opposition by different sectors of Venezuelan society and the Venezuelan government.”
One of the major recipients of USAID monies in the Andean Region, which includes Venezuela, is the AFL-CIO’s international wing, the Solidarity Center. The Solidarity Center was quite embarrassed in 2002 when the union it was working with and funding in Venezuela — the anti-Chavez CTV — actively participated in the coup against President Hugo Chavez.
However, the Solidarity Center was not embarrassed enough to relent from continuing to support the CTV and to even support the management-led strike against the Venezuelan oil company (PDVSA) which greatly damaged the Venezuelan economy.
And, the Solidarity Center is still working in Venezuela, thanks to a recent grant of $3 million from the USAID for its work in both Venezuela and Colombia. While seemingly innocuous in isolation, the Solidarity Center’s own description of its work in Venezuela, when read in light of the above-described Wikileaks cable, is revealing of the Solidarity Center’s imperial role.
Thus, the current description of this work on the Solidarity Center website is as follows:

Over the past 13 years, the Solidarity Center has worked with a broad range of national labor centers and unaffiliated worker organizations in Venezuela. . . . Given the political fragmentation and divisions between unions in Venezuela, Solidarity Center activities work to help unions from all political tendencies overcome their divisions in order to jointly advocate for and defend policies for increased protection of fundamental rights at the workplace and industry levels. The Solidarity Center currently supports efforts to unite unions from diverse political orientations (including chavista and non-chavista, left and center) to promote fundamental labor rights in the face of anti-labor actions that threaten both pro-government unions and traditionally independent unions. This emphasis on core union rights such as freedom of association and collective bargaining helps unions transcend their political fissures to address the basic needs of working people in Venezuela. (2)

Sound familiar? The program of the Solidarity Center in Venezuela is exactly that of the U.S. State Department and USAID; that is, to bring Chavistas together with non-Chavistas into alliance over a common cause — a process which the U.S. hopes will dilute Chavismo, or, in the words of former Ambassador Brownfield, to have “the desired effect of pulling them [the Chavistas] slowly away from Chavismo.”

Read more here.

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