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USAID refuses to release information on Venezuela

By Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 12.12.06 | Readers of this site have been treated to some interesting scoops in the past. One of them was the investigation into the conflict of interests and network of shell companies behind which, e-voting machines vendor Smartmatic, hides its real owners. It was published on 14 August 2005 and, at time of posting, all relevant links were in perfect working order. 16 months have come to pass and given the botched job that the Carter Centre did prior, during and post recall referendum in 2004 I thought I could shed light upon the contract between IFES and its subcontractor the Carter Centre, find out the amount of US taxpayers' monies paid to the Carter Centre and determine whether or not a breach of contract, read negligence, occured. My goal, how na´ve of me, was to preempt another such performance by introducing a FOIA request with USAID and pass the findings onto the press. Recently USAID replied to my FOIA request, sending an alleged copy of the contract between USAID and IFES but withholding crucial information, such as how much was the Carter Centre paid to conduct its electoral observation mission in Venezuela. Furthermore USAID states in its letter that according to USAID's Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI) "IFES has never been a contractor or grantee of OTI in Venezuela: therefore, the Carter Centre was never a sub-grantee to IFES" (sic). 16 months ago I wrote:

In June 1998, the National Electoral Council (CNE) of Venezuela contracted the International Foundation for Election Systems IFES to renew and make recommendations regarding proposals for an automated voting system in Venezuela [21, page 29 ]. IFES has been awarded (award number AEP-I-00-00-00007-00) an "indefinite quantity contract" (IQC) by USAID with the following purpose: "To support the transition to, and consolidation of, democratic governments through which citizens choose their leaders and participate in all levels of political decision-making, particularly in transition and sustainable development countries" [22, page 30 ]. According to Carter Center's America's Programme director Jennifer McCoy "President Carter had traveled several times to Venezuela, including monitoring the 1998 and 2000 elections, and he and President Chavez built a very good personal relationship" [23]. Such warm relationship may have come about due to the fact that the Carter Center is the sole subcontractor of IFES for the aforementioned purpose.

Now the interesting, and rather alarming, aspect of all this is the fact that now all the links of the preceding paragraph lead either to error pages -Carter Centre and IFES- or new version of PDF documents -USAID- that do not contain the information I quoted in August 2005. Why would USAID refuse to release financial information about its contracts? Why would USAID change PDF documents containing such information without changing URLs or links? Why would IFES and the Carter Centre remove documents related to activities in Venezuela from their websites? And finally, should USAID be telling the truth about IFES and the Carter Centre -which I seriously doubt- who funded Jimmy Carter's and his 'electoral observers'' adventure in Venezuela if not USAID?

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