Revealed: UK Foreign Office has spent nearly half a million pounds in aid setting up anti-governmentArchived Message
Posted by sashimi on October 21, 2020, 2:48 pm
By Matt Kennard and John McEvoy - Declassified UK
(quote) The British government has surreptitiously given £450,000 from its overseas aid budget to establish an 'anti-corruption' coalition in Venezuela through a controversial fund which claims to 'tackle instability and to prevent conflicts that threaten UK interests', it can be revealed.
* UK appears to be the sole government funder of the new Coalición Anticorrupción
* Group was established last year by transparency organisation linked to key opposition figures, some supporters of the 2002 attempted coup against President Chávez
* The coalition's coordinator has said Venezuelans 'must continue the fight in the streets' against the Maduro government
* Group's partners include the 'Thatcher Centre', whose website was registered days before the new coalition
* UK ambassador to Venezuela - who was in place when project began - has been named as a 'strictly protect' US informant
* British embassy in Caracas briefed 'every three months' on the coalition's progress, Declassified told
* UK Foreign Office and British embassy in Caracas stonewall Declassified's questions about individuals involved in coalition
The UK government has given £450,000 to "Transparencia Venezuela"- a local branch of the international non-governmental organisation Transparency International - to set up a coalition headed by an outspoken opponent of the government of Nicolás Maduro, Declassified can reveal.
In information released to Declassified, the UK Foreign Office stated that it awarded £250,000 in 2019 to establish the "Coalición Anticorrupción", which it describes as "an anti-corruption coalition of civil society and free media actors, to help them tackle corruption and organised crime in Venezuela".
The Foreign Office disbursed a further £200,000 to Transparencia Venezuela for the period from March to December 2020 "to strengthen the sustainability of the coalition".
Declassified has found that the coalition is run by - and partners with - some of the country's most outspoken individuals and groups opposed to Maduro's leftist government. The UK and US governments recognise opposition figure Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's "interim president" and have openly sought to remove Maduro from office.
The coalition, whose sole external funder appears to be the British government, already includes 781 organisations and promotes 243 "initiatives". Transparencia Venezuela calls the new group a "citizens' movement" which hopes to achieve a "real transformation" and a "new Venezuela".
Transparencia Venezuela told Declassified that they "present progress and project management reports every three months" to the UK embassy in Venezuela's capital, Caracas.
The funds were awarded by the UK's £1.26-billion Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), which, according to the government, "works to build peace and stability in countries at risk of instability".
The UK government previously refused Declassified's requests to detail who it is funding in Venezuela. In response to two recent Freedom of Information requests, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) said it was "withholding details of those organisations we are supporting inside Venezuela" on health and safety grounds. It is not clear what relevance health and safety has to the requests.
The UK government has not openly publicised its funding for the coalition, which has been added to an existing CSSF programme titled "Peru/Colombia Serious Organised Crime".
A programme summary for this project, dated March 2020, is the government's only public reference to the Venezuelan coalition that Declassified could find. It states that £0.3-million in aid money was allocated in 2019-20 for a "Venezuela anti-corruption project".
The document adds that "the programme is also for the first time funding activity in both Panama and Venezuela" and that the CSSF anticipates "increased activity" in both countries with the Venezuelan project "focusing on civil society's resilience to corrupt State practices".
The funding raises questions about the government's commitment to transparency since the project does not appear to be mentioned on the government's "DevTracker" website, which is meant to list all the UK's international aid projects.