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    Revealed: UK Foreign Office has spent nearly half a million pounds in aid setting up anti-government Archived Message

    Posted by sashimi on October 21, 2020, 2:48 pm

    By Matt Kennard and John McEvoy - Declassified UK

    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

    * 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

    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.

    A spokesperson for Transparencia Venezuela told Declassified the group
    "focuses on transparency and the fight against corruption, and for
    this reason it monitors the resources that are managed or are under
    the responsibility of the current State organs".
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