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Lantos Bill Defends Activities in Venezuela of the NED

Democratic Office Press Releases - November 2004

November 22, 2004 | Washington, DC – Congressman Tom Lantos, (D-CA) the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, has introduced a bipartisan bill (H. Res. 867) expressing support for the work of the National Endowment for Democracy and protesting the unjust prosecution of a Venezuelan group for using NED funds for voter education.

"The National Endowment for Democracy and its local grant recipients have labored under the harshest of conditions to promote democratic institutions and processes worldwide," Lantos said. "Only a few months ago, millions of Venezuelans affirmed their thirst for democracy by waiting in line for hours just to vote. It is tragic that senior Venezuelan government officials now are letting an overzealous public prosecutor squander the government's reaffirmed mandate by going after a NED grant recipient."

Súmate, a Venezuelan civic organization, and its leaders have been charged with conspiracy to overthrow the Venezuelan government because the group received a $53,400 grant from the NED to conduct voter education. The government's prosecution of Súmate is likely to have a chilling effect on other groups in Venezuela that promote transparency in the electoral process.

"The NED is widely known for a variety of activities that have brought more democracy and justice to this world, from supporting conflict-resolution training sessions in South Africa's historically black universities during the horrid apartheid regime to funding the publication and distribution in communist China of a monthly magazine documenting human rights abuses in that country," Lantos said. "I am dismayed that President Chavez would allow this effort to suppress free speech, on the flimsy excuse of a group's association with the NED."

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