for Global Civil Society
with William I. Robinson
June 13, 2005
by Jonah Gindin
Over the past two decades US
foreign policy has radically changed. While the interests and
have remained more or less the same despite the fall of Communism, the
mechanisms for obtaining them have continued to evolve. Beginning
early 1980s, US policymakers began experimenting with a strategy of
democracy.” That is merely a euphemism, however, equivalent to
security” or the “war on terror.” “What the U.S.
is promoting is not
Democracy,” says William I. Robinson, Professor of Sociology at
Barbara. Robinson has been studying US “democracy promotion”
inception as a major US
foreign policy in Sandinista Nicaragua
during the 1980s.
As a journalist, and later an editor, with the Agencia
Nueva Nicaragua 1980-87 and then as an
U.S. foreign policy
Nicaraguan foreign ministry from 1987-90, Robinson witnessed US
intervention in the Nicaraguan elections in 1990 first-hand.
documented all of this in his 1992 book, A Faustian Bargain:
Intervention in the Nicaraguan Elections and American Foreign Policy in
Post-Cold War Era, and then set about from 1992-1996 to theorize
shift in U.S.
foreign policy, and to look at it around the world. Those efforts
in his 1996 book, Promoting Polyarchy:
Intervention, and Hegemony.
recent interview with Venezuelanalysis.com, ex-CIA agent Phil Agee
parallel between US
intervention in the 1990 elections in Nicaragua
and the current application of the same model of intervention in Venezuela.
The National Endowment for Democracy
and its sub-foundations the National
Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the International
Republican Institute (IRI), the Center
International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and the AFL-CIO’s “Solidarity Center”
are all involved in Venezuela—NDI and IRI have offices here.
the US Agency for International Development (AID), and a private
contract from AID called Development
International, these groups are funding Venezuela’s
Perhaps the most well known example is the alleged “civil society”
group Súmate. Súmate
director Maria Corina Machado was invited to meet personally
President Bush at the White House on May 31st—an honor Venezuelan
Hugo Chávez has yet to receive. But Súmate is only the tip of the iceberg. A
political parties, and partisan NGOs
from these and other channels as part of a multi-faceted US attempt to
left-wing President Hugo Chávez.
“Unlike earlier US
interventionism,” notes Robinson in Promoting Polyarchy,
“the new intervention focuses much more intensely on civil society
contrast to formal government structures, in intervened
new political intervention “emphasizes building up the forces in civil
of intervened countries which are allied with dominant groups in the United States
and the core regions of the world system.” Thus, civil society
key role in “democracy promotion” strategies as “an arena for
domination,” Robinson suggests.
With Presidential elections scheduled for late 2006, and Chávez’s
approval-rating recently pegged at 70.5 per cent, the US
regime-change machine will be hard at work using whatever avenues
present themselves. “This is a
overthrow the government of Hugo Chávez,”
Robinson. “The U.S.
state is going to assess all the different instruments,” it has
available to it
in pursuing that end.
Jonah Gindin: Is the promotion of
William I. Robinson: The promotion of democracy is inherently not
imperialist. On the contrary, it is inherently
progressive. But I think you’re phrasing the question in the
because what the U.S.
is promoting is not Democracy. What they are doing is
imperialist, promoting democracy is not inherently imperialist,
democracy is wonderful, it’s great!
movements are promoting democracy, social movements in both the North
South, solidarity movements in the North, mass movements in the South
promoting democracy. U.S.
foreign policy has absolutely nothing to do with promoting
How can one tell NGOs and human rights groups genuinely dedicated
promoting social, economic, and human rights apart from the NED-fed
Let me clarify that my argument in no way suggests that
movements around the world are creatures of foreign policy, on the
the argument is that changes in U.S. foreign policy and new modalities
intervention are meant specifically to challenge, and undermine, limit,
control the extent of social and political change in countries where
people—including the elite—are struggling for democracy and
Entirely to the contrary, U.S. political intervention under the
“democracy promotion” is aimed at undermining authentic democracy, at
undermining and gaining control over popular movements for
keeping a lid on popular democracy movements, at limiting any change
be brought about by mass democratization movements so that the outcome
democracy struggles will not threaten the elite order and integration
global capitalism. If by democracy we mean the power of the
people, we mean
mass participation in the vital decisions of society, a democratic
of material and cultural resources, then
a profound threat to global capitalist interests and must be
opposed and suppressed by U.S.
and transnational elites. What is new about the strategy of
promotion” is that this opposition, this suppression, is now conducted
ironically under the very rhetorical banner of promoting democracy and
sophisticated new instruments and modalities of political intervention.
Having said that, the question is very
I think what’s going on is that as every country and every community in
world becomes turned upside down by the penetration of capitalist
and the massive changes that we’ve seen in the last ten to twenty
forms of political authority—authoritarianism, dictatorship, etc.—are delegitimated and challenged from below.
It’s at that
point that the U.S.
attempts with these democratization movements to control the type of
change that’s going to take place, attempts to control the outcome of
democratization movements, and attempts to get certain groups in power
marginalize other groups. In this context, if the U.S. moves into a country such as Kyrgyzstan—which I haven’t studied in
detail as the Ukraine,
example—all different groups that are going to be involved in the
democratization struggle are going to, in some way or another, come
purview. Some will be brought into U.S. programs through
technical liaisons and advisors, and so forth, while others will be
You asked if all these different groups are stooges of U.S.
policy. Not at all; those that are struggling for a completely
vision, one contrary to U.S.
interests and global capital’s interests are going to be marginalized
can’t be bought. There are going to be alternative or parallel
organizations set up by U.S.
operatives (and their local allies and agents) and funding that are
powerful, more moderate, more centrist, more
elite-oriented. These organizations and NGOs are going to receive
international media attention, they’re going to receive funding, they’re going to liaise with other forces
we could summarize by saying that there are three different categories
groups. There are those that are clearly instruments of U.S.
policy objectives, and these are not groups that are promoting
but are trying to limit democratization and control change. There
those that are marginalized and pushed aside, and then there are those
U.S. cannot or it is
the interest of U.S.
foreign policy to marginalize or challenge, and then they attempt to
these organizations and to moderate them. Very often you get well
intentioned people and you get people who have a legitimate political
democratization, regime change from an authoritarian regime, and so
because structural or on-the-ground circumstances don’t allow anything
become sucked up in U.S.
and transnational elite foreign policy operations or interventions.
Where does the US
seek to “promote democracy”?
There are two different categories of “democracy promotion”
The first are programs in those countries that are already ruled by
in the camp of global capitalism. In these countries, political
intervention programs seek to bolster neo-liberal elites, to achieve
elite’s control over the state and to cultivate its hegemony in civil
society. Cultivating this neo-liberal
its domination and hegemony is the political dimension that complements
economic dimension, which is neo-liberal structural adjustment and
into the emerging global capitalist economy. The flip side of
is to isolate, marginalize, and discredit popular, nationalist,
and other progressive forces that may pose a challenge to the stable
of local pro-US elites or neo-liberal regimes. These types of
have been conducted in dozens of countries around the world. To
just one example, in el salvador,
“democracy promotion” programs that had been conducted throughout the
early 21st century were expanded in 2003 as presidential elections
approached. These programs provided diverse forms of support for
and political groups aligned with the ruling ARENA party and
The other is to use “democracy promotion” to overthrow regimes that
the U.S. is not
favorable towards or to bring about
a “transition to democracy” in cases where so-called “regime change” is
necessary for the country’s stability and continued integration into
capitalism. Countries that Washington
wishes to destabilize in recent years through “democracy promotion”
other forms of intervention) include Venezuela,
Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua
in the 1980s, and so on. The groups and individuals that
the destabilization of the government of Jean Bertrand Aristide and
now in power in Haiti were precisely those groomed and cultivated by
“democracy promotion” programs dating back to the late 1980s and
continuously right up to the march 2004 U.S. coup d’état. In Venezuela, the opposition to the
Hugo Chávez has been working since the
closely with the U.S.
“democracy promotion” network.
Then there are those countries targeted for a “transition to
that is, a U.S.-supported and often orchestrated changeover in
state structures. South Africa
and Eastern European countries fell into this category in the 1990s, as
the current situation in Iraq.
What is the connection between the NED and the U.S.
The fact that the NED receives its
Congress is hardly its most direct link to the government. NED
are designed in the State Department and the White House, often in
with [CIA headquarters at] Langley,
and everything is undertaken in liaison with the Embassy on the ground
particular intervened country. The officials put in charge of
operations are typically engaged in a revolving door relationship with
state. They move in and out of other government positions at the
House, the State Department, and so on. What we’re seeing is the
over global civil society, and it’s heating up, because there’s no
in the world that has not been integrating very rapidly into the global
is one of those places at the front-line of this battle.
The overt funding channels established through NED operations, which
then are not entirely above ground, generate an infrastructure of
networks, channels of influence, and so forth, that
are then available for covert funding and operations. That’s the
that we see everywhere. In Nicaragua around the 1990
elections, for every dollar of NED or AID funding there were several
CIA funding. We know that much from the tip of the iceberg we
The NED—though maybe it has gotten the most attention—is hardly the
organization involved in this kind of intervention conducted under the
of the U.S. State Department and the Executive. There are many
of the U.S. State dedicated to promoting “democracy,” and other
setting up similar branches as well. I think the weakness in
forces internationally is to see the political dynamic in the world
today as an
effort at U.S.
empire. And so the story becomes the U.S.
the rest of the world, and that’s a grave mistake. One of the
has taken place—one of the key aspects of globalization—is the rise of
transnational elite that shares an interest in attempting to preserve
current global capitalist order, in defending it and extending it, and
also share the view that “democracy promotion” is one key instrument in
advancing and stabilizing this global capitalist order. There
tactical differences and there might be strategic differences in how to
that—what happened in Iraq,
for example. In Venezuela
we see the same thing: Western
most Latin American governments would like to see Chávez
out of power and an elite order restored, but the question is how to go
it. The U.S.
strategy has largely backfired so far. So there are tactical and
strategic differences, but there is a commonality of interest among the
Do you think that the academics and policymakers behind the
promotion” strategy believe that they are promoting genuine democracy?
they cynically aware of their imperialist role?
You ask me if academics from the “democracy promotion” industry
believe they are promoting democracy. Antonio Gramsci
once pointed out that popular masses don’t have a false consciousness;
have a contradictory consciousness, due to their lived
intellectuals – who are never free-floating, always attached to the
dominant or of subordinate groups—they have a false consciousness.
Perhaps Gramsci was giving the benefit
doubt to these intellectuals. There are many respectable and
well-intentioned academics from the “First World” who unfortunately
new modalities of U.S.
intervention conducted as “democracy promotion,” and others who deceive
themselves, intentionally or otherwise, into believing they can
intellectually – or directly – in U.S. political intervention
order to somehow steer it into a wholesome or acceptable foreign policy.
We should recall that intellectual labor is never neutral or
competing and antagonistic social interests. To state this in
harsh terms, some—perhaps many—academics who defend U.S.
“democracy promotion” are
organic intellectuals of the transnational elite. Some are
opportunists who know before whom they need to prostrate themselves in
secure funding and status in the halls of global power. They are
mercenaries. Others, as I’ve said, are well intentioned.
is almost always an arrogance of power and privilege that many first
intellectuals bring to their “study” of the global South; there is an
colonial mentality at work.
Let’s face it: so-called “democracy promotion” has become a
academic industry that has numerous organic, ideological, and funding
with the U.S.
intervention apparatus. Let us recall that projects of domination
have their organic intellectuals. The prevailing global order has
attracted many intellectual defenders, academics, pundits, and
in the end serve to mystify the real inner workings of the emerging
the social and political interests embedded therein. These
have become central cogs in the system of global capitalist
Maybe they want a global capitalism with a more “human face,” but in
they not only help to legitimize this system but also provide technical
solutions in response to the problems and contradictions of the system.
How can any academic actually follow what the U.S.
does around the world in the
name of “democracy promotion” and not acknowledge the blatant
These are harsh words, but we must ask, what is the role and
intellectuals in the face of the global crisis, the crisis of civilizational proportions we face in 2005.
Based on your experiences in Nicaragua,
how serious is the U.S.
“democracy promotion” strategy in Venezuela?
This is a full-blown operation, a massive foreign-policy operation
undermine the Venezuelan revolution, to overthrow the government of
Hugo Chávez, and to reinstall the elite
back in power in Venezuela.
Within the elite, this operation seeks to cultivate a particular
group or faction so that once Venezuela’s
internal political system is once again an elite political system,
the transnationally-oriented elites will
more deeply and systematically integrate Venezuela into global
capitalism. This is a massive operation underway. And
important to emphasize that anywhere where U.S.
foreign policy is
operating—and that is a large part of the world—“democracy promotion”
operations are going to be part of a larger foreign policy
it’s not a question of whether—and this was a whole new thing for Nicaragua and the Ukraine
and so forth—it’s not a
question of whether “democracy promotion” is not being undertaken
are paramilitary operations. Rather, they’re all part of a larger
policy strategy, which is employing all instruments available to
“Democracy promotion” will continue unhindered and if the chance and
opportunity arises for paramilitary actions
opportunity will be taken. And if the opportunity arises and the
circumstances permit for Venezuela
to be isolated by international organizations such as the Organization
American States (OAS), the United Nations, and so forth, then the U.S.
ahead and promote that type of diplomatic aggression. And if the
opportunity arises to cut Venezuela
off from international financing and the international financial
will be undertaken. The U.S.
state is going to assess all the different instruments it has and look
are the international circumstances that allow them to be deployed or
deployed in any given moment. And they’re all going to be
synchronization and conjunction with one another: the internal
promotion” operations, the funding of internal opposition groups, the
intervention and trying to build up counter-hegemonic anti-Chávez
forces in civil society. All of that is going to be done in
with whatever can be done with paramilitary groups from Colombia, and in conjunction with
made to the international press and U.S. press conferences by
of State Condoleezza Rice and others. That will all be done in
synchronization with things going on on
the ground in
in synchronization with what’s going at the UN, and so forth. So
summarize once again, there is no doubt whatsoever: all of the
indicates that there are massive covert and overt, systematic,
economic, political, and ideological operations against Venezuela
completely defeat the revolution and put the elite back in power.
the telltale signs are there.
While I would never rule out an invasion by U.S. forces or attempted
assassinations of Chávez, I think it is
to see this strategy against Venezuela as a campaign of attrition
popular classes in Venezuela, to create a situation where sooner or
poor majority “gives up” and simply decides that there is no point in
continuing to resist the U.S. campaign, to continue to reject the
return of the
elite, to continue to struggle. Key to this strategy of attrition
be, first, to exacerbate economic hardships, difficulties, and
ordinary people, and second, to adroitly exploit mistakes made by the
Bolivarian revolution, weaknesses internal to the revolutionary process.
What makes Venezuela
so dangerous to the US?
There are a number of things. First, it’s the only genuinely
revolutionary process underway since Cuba in 1959 that is still
today. In the recent past there was the Nicaraguan revolution in
which was completely reversed, and there was the Haitian revolution in
and that, at this point, has also been reversed, although it’s still a
foreign policy. But Venezuela
represents a revolutionary process underway, and it comes at a
critical moment for all of Latin America
the world, in which the “Washington Consensus,”—the whole neo-liberal
program—is moribund, it’s in complete crisis. What exactly is
take the place of the neo-liberal model is not clear; that’s the
throughout Latin American and worldwide. In Venezuela
there is a revolutionary
process promoting agrarian reform, redistribution of wealth, that is
country’s resources to challenge international economic structures, and
it is a
tremendous example of this moment of transition from neo-liberalism to
whatever’s going to come next.
The Bolivarian process is taking place at a time when the
neo-liberalism in the 1980s and 90s is now discredited throughout the
region. Is Venezuela
going to tip the balance and encourage social and political forces to
beyond the “Washington Consensus”, the global capital model for Latin America? Neo-liberal elites face a
challenge from below, so this is a critical transition in Latin
America, and Venezuela
represents a revolutionary alternative to the moribund neo-liberal
So that’s why Venezuela’s
dangerous, not to mention of course that Venezuela is a major oil
supplier. Even if this had taken place in the 1980s in the heyday
neo-liberalism and neo-liberal hegemony, Venezuela
also controls a key global resource at a time when the Middle East is
turmoil, at a time when Iraq
is not going to be pumping millions of dollars of oil into the global
for a while. This is a rupture. We need to see what’s
in Venezuela both historically and also with respect to a new
century situation of globalization, because historically this is
there are permanent outbursts from below throughout Latin America and
then those outbursts actually manage to take state power and challenge
international system. Each time the U.S. has organized a
response, so we’re seeing them lay the groundwork.
How can a government like Venezuela
counter an imperialism that is articulated as the promotion of
One of the reasons this shift in U.S. policy has been so
because they’ve been able to set up this hegemonic discourse, a very
rhetoric of “promoting democracy.” But another reason is the
the Left, a worldwide democratic failure. If I were a government
targeted by U.S. political intervention—and I have to be very careful
I word this because I don’t want to be misconstrued—I would probably
heavy hand against that intervention, but I would do so while at the
exposing U.S. intervention for what it is. For instance, I would
out that U.S.
don’t allow any foreign interference in U.S. elections.
If the Venezuelan government and Venezuelan organizations attempted
to do in
the United States
what the U.S. is
doing in Venezuela,
anyone accepting money, anyone involved in this program in the United States (US
citizens or foreigners) would be
arrested and they would be tried and they would be jailed.
electoral organizations by the Venezuelan government inside the U.S.
completely prohibited, completely illegal, it would be a massive
there would be an outcry. If governments around the world that
targets of this kind of U.S. intervention simply applied the same
the U.S. state applies inside the U.S. then these operations could be
down. In the U.S. no candidate, no party, can accept foreign
no foreign government can make any donations at all to groups that are
in electoral processes. And for that matter, any organization
receiving funding from a foreign government needs to register with the
Department as an agent of a foreign government. So if I set up a
get-out-the-vote organization in California
and started receiving funding from a Venezuelan equivalent of the
Endowment for Democracy (NED), I would have to register with the State
Department as an agent of a foreign government. That means that
diverse organizations that are receiving
funding in Venezuela—if
there were an equivalent to U.S.
law in Venezuela—would
have to register with Venezuela
as agents of the U.S.
It’s a catch-22 for any popular, Left, or revolutionary force, any
progressive forces that want to challenge the global order.
way that the government of Venezuela, or that progressive forces in
are going to make a serious dent in global capital’s complete control
international flow of information and the images that are going to flow
Venezuela to South America and to the rest of the world, with regard to
so-called “democracy promotion,” with regard to the role of the elite
Venezuela and so forth. One of the key things about the global
economy is that the flow of information is very tightly controlled and
image-making is a very powerful instrument controlled by global media
which is itself transnational capital, just
a massive global
business. The most important thing is to maintain legitimacy and
base of support inside Venezuela,
with the understanding that the strength of a revolution or a process
change is ultimately going to be that internal legitimacy and that
Have you come across any examples of strategies that have
faced off against the rhetoric of “freedom,” “democracy,” “terrorism”
your studies? Do you see a strategy that Venezuela
could pursue in this
There’s really only so much that a government in a particular
country can do
to win that battle, and I’ll give you two examples in just a moment: Cuba and Nicaragua. But the
thing of course is for progressive forces worldwide, the global justice
movement, to become aware of these changes in U.S.
policy and to recognize what it actually means for the U.S.
“promoting democracy.” This should be part of our global agenda;
global justice movement, solidarity organizations, and social movements
the world. I know that last year at the World Social Forum there
workshop organized by the Focus on the Global South specifically on
“democracy promotion” as a new more sophisticated form of
So we have our work cut out for us, and complimentary to our work are
efforts by progressive forces, whether or not they take state power, to
meaningful social change, like in Venezuela.
Look at what happened in Cuba
in 2003. There were seventy-five dissidents; among them were
legitimate opposition forces, and among them there were simple
instruments of U.S.
policy—a very diverse group of seventy-five. But the thing is
seventy-five were collaborating actively with these U.S.
programs—which in just about any country in the world would be
considered felonous activity—and all of
them had met with James Casson (Chief of
Missions, U.S. Special Interests Section
Now if the head of the Cuban interests section in Washington D.C. came
California and worked with seventy-five of U.S. who are against the
Iraq, who are part of the global justice movement and so forth, if we
funding and money from the Cuban Chargés d’Affaires and met at his residency in
Washington D.C. to
plan strategy against the U.S. government, we would all be in jail
So what did the Cuban government do? They said “we’re not going
about international opinion. This is something which is illegal
country in the world, it’s a blatant violation of Cuban and
and the seventy-five were imprisoned, they were jailed. In fact
off very easy: they would have received much more serious sentences if
taken place in the US,
or in any other country in the world.
But what did the Cuban government lose? They lost a tremendous
in public opinion internationally, they
lost a lot of
ground that had been gained in the previous years. They were
the European Union, and condemned by international organizations, and
propaganda machine had a hey-day. That’s an example of a
what is necessary to respect its own political system, in exchange for
international public opinion, because they couldn’t go both ways.
was a no-win situation. The U.S.
had the military and economic power to continue to strangle Nicaragua
the point where the population couldn’t possibly stand any more.
strategy that the Sandinistas had in the late 1980s was to go ahead
electoral process and do anything and everything to appease
public opinion and to convince the world that they were a democratic
they were anyway. But that meant sacrificing a tremendous amount
internal legitimacy. It meant allowing things to happen on the
ground in Nicaragua
didn’t take place in any other country in the world. And so the
Sandinistas came away looking like wonderful democrats, in the end they
really the good guys. And then they lost power and the revolution
unraveled and Nicaragua
went back fifty years.
I think that exposing and denouncing and fighting against this new
intervention should top the agenda of the global social justice
movement and of
international solidarity work. That would be the international
Why do you think the “democracy promotion” strategy was not
applied to Venezuela
the late 1990s when Chávez’s movement was
We need to avoid thinking of U.S.
policymakers as omnipotent because they’re not in the least. On
contrary, they tend to be permanently on the defensive, permanently
social and political forces, often from below, that they can’t control,
very little foresight and very little understanding of the consequences
their foreign policy. It would be a contradiction in terms for U.S.
policymakers to identify and acknowledge the structural underpinnings
challenges to an international order that they are attempting to
defend. I mean, Condoleezza Rice is not going to come out and
say, “the problem with all this instability
popping up everywhere and the fires we’re trying to put out is the
distribution of wealth and power in the world.” That would be a
contradiction in terms. Because that can’t be recognized, even
thinkers in the CIA and intellectuals recruited to help design U.S.
policy are not going to reach that conclusion; it’s not going to enter
their radar. And so what that means is that the U.S.
policymakers have very little foresight.
The U.S. was already deeply involved in Venezuela in 1989 and beyond
early 1990s with NED programs, but they were programs for a different
a scenario in which a pro-global capital neo-liberal elite is in power
polyarchy-promotion programs were meant to assure that the
elite would continue to be groomed on an ongoing basis, to slowly
organizations in civil society continue to be favorable -towards the
transnational project. I don’t think that U.S.
policymakers saw the massive discontent in Venezuela
and saw that there were different groups that moving towards a project
would challenge the U.S.
and the international order.
In the late 1990s, the U.S.
was trying to promote controlled political change in Venezuela,
but they were doing so
at a much slower pace, because it wasn’t yet a crisis situation for
It didn’t look like a situation where there was going to be a
upheaval against the regime as you had in Marcos’ Philippines, as you
had in Somocista Nicaragua, or as you had
in Chile. In the
early to mid-1980s with Pinochet, for example, that’s exactly what
you had U.S.
policymakers witnessing an anti-dictatorial groundswell that was out of
elite’s control. U.S.
operatives and policymakers concluded, “we
potentially have a revolutionary situation on our hands here, we could
coalescing opposition forces against the dictatorship led by the
in which the outcome is not going to be a reversion to elite rule, but
something much more serious.” But it didn’t have that foresight
reasons that I think are much more complicated: there was no clear left
which was hegemonizing a mass
democratization movement, there was no
clear dictatorship or single figure
among the elite that could be the target of a popular upsurge.
thing: I don’t think it was clear to U.S. policymakers that Chávez was going to end up being a revolutionary
don’t even think it was clear to Chávez).
were a U.S. policymaker in 1997-98 leading up to the Presidential
would have said “Chávez is a maverick, but
certainly not a Fidel Castro, or a Marxist-revolutionary, and if he
he’s going to come into power we could certainly try and control him in
ways. He could turn out to be a Velasco [Peru
1968], or this could be like Bolivia
in the early 50s, but this is not a revolutionary situation.”
none of the red-blinkers going off that there were in Nicaragua
is scheduled to hold Presidential elections in 2006. Do you
Venezuelan anti-Chávez opposition to be
more or less
divided than the Nicaraguan anti-Sandinista opposition in 1989 prior to
unifying them? To what extent does the crisis of the “Washington
Consensus” that you spoke of hamper the US’ ability to “promote
I would say that the elite in Venezuela
after the referendum is probably weaker and
fractured relative to the elite in Nicaragua for a number of
By the time you have the late 1980s and the elections in Nicaragua coming in 1990, you
essentially had 10
years in which the U.S.
has been able to work on reconstituting the elite, which was totally
after Somoza’s overthrow. And the U.S. also has the military aggression
other things it could use in Nicaragua
that it hasn’t been able to do in Venezuela, particularly the
military aggression. This military aggression opened up internal
within in the Nicaraguan elite in ways that we’re not seeing in Venezuela.
The other thing about the elite is that there is some portion of the
community in Venezuela
the elite which, after the referendum, decided that they should seek
of modus vivendi with Chávez,
and that’s something that the U.S.
wants to avoid. So U.S.
“democracy promotion” operations in Venezuela are going to be
only at unifying the elite, but also making sure no one collaborates
The international situation is very different than it was in the
In the late 80s the world economic crisis had given way to the “Washington
and neo-liberalism, presenting the Sandinista government with an
difficult international situation. When we look at Latin America
there’s an opening in the GLOBAL system for an alternative, which gives
breathing room to Venezuela.
policy is going to continue. The coup in April, 2002 failed, so
the pieces and says “now what do we have on the agenda, what’s the next
what’s the next possibility, what’s the next angle we could
next one was the oil industry shutdown from December 2002 to February
2003. That petered out, so next up was the referendum, eventually
August 2004, which Chávez won with 59% of
vote. Each time the elite comes away
internally divided. But if Chávez is
or if the Bolivarian revolution continues, for forty years, for no
long, the U.S.
will still be plugging away here. It’s never going to end.
 In Promoting Polyarchy,
Robinson defines polyarchy as “a system in
small group actually rules and mass participation in decision-making is
confined to leadership choice in elections carefully managed by