Is the US Grooming Next Year's Anti-Chávez Presidential Candidate?
Democracy vs Bush-o-cracy in Venezuela
Wednesday, Jun 01, 2005
By: Jonah Gindin - Venezuelanalysis.com
From an ad hoc podium Maria Corina Machado addresses the gathered reporters sprawled out on the White House lawn before her. "Good morning. Yes, I had a meeting with Mr. President just now," she says, "and we were invited [to the White House] because he's very interested to know the perspective of civil society about democratic values and the spread of democracy in particular in my country, Venezuela." Machado is the founder and director of Súmate (Join Up), a Venezuelan non-governmental organization (non-Venezuelan government, that is). Her close ties to the White House, however, have been cause for concern in Venezuela for some time, where Súmate's alleged neutrality has been called into question ever since it was founded in 2002.
According to Machado, Súmate is an objective non-partisan civil association. Súmate is the third NGO founded and directed by Machado, including one that worked with Venezuelan municipalities in the 1990s to privatize homeless shelters. To date, Súmate's only political experience has been to agitate for the removal of Chávez by way of a recall referendum last August, though Chávez won nonetheless with 60 per cent of the vote. Their controversial role conducting flawed exit polls during the referendum—specifically criticized by the Carter Center and OAS observation missions in Venezuela—and their subsequent rejection of the referendum results, though both the Carter Center and the OAS declared them to be free and fair, have cast doubt on Súmate's professed "neutrality." When asked why Súmate has worked exclusively with the Venezuelan opposition since its inception in 2002, Machado said that their overtures to the government were regularly rebuffed. She did not specify whether her presence at the swearing-in of the illegal government of Pedro Carmona during a short-lived April 2002 coup may have sullied her reputation with Chávez's government.