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While Trump cuts food stamps, USAID bankrolls Venezuela regime change with half a billion in tax dollars

The Trump administration has spent $654 million in “aid” to try to overthrow Venezuela’s government, including $435 million through USAID and $128 million directly to Juan Guaidó and his corrupt coup gang — all while imposing crippling austerity at home.

by Ben Norton

Part 3 - USAID funding of Juan Guaidó’s corrupt coup cabal

In its December statement, USAID claimed, “No funds are provided directly to elected National Assembly members, high-level officials of the Guaidó Administration, Ambassadors, or the interim President himself.

But in the same breath, just one sentence prior, the agency acknowledged, “USAID is providing compensation, travel costs, and other expenses for some technical advisors to the National Assembly and the interim Guaidó Administration through assistance funds.

USAID’s denial of direct funding appears to be bald-faced lies. In October, The Grayzone reported that, through USAID, US taxpayers are paying the salaries and expenses of Venezuelan opposition leaders from Guaidó’s shadow regime.

The Grayzone contributor Leonardo Flores noted that USAID signed an October 8 agreement with Guaidó’s ersatz administration that included $98 million in assistance allotted for Venezuela.

The Los Angeles Times obtained an internal government memo which showed that approximately $42 million of that funding was taken from aid that had originally been proportioned to assist desperate Central American migrants. Instead, the money was re-routed to “Guaidó and his faction… to pay for their salaries, airfare, ‘good governance’ training, propaganda, technical assistance for holding elections and other ‘democracy-building’ projects.

Even more scandalous is how Guaidó’s coup cabal has spent these huge sums of US taxpayer money.

In June, a right-wing Miami-based website edited by a hardline anti-Chavista Venezuelan revealed that Guaidó’s coup cabal had embezzled enormous amounts of aid money, blowing it on wild parties and luxury goods.

The original plan, backed by Washington, was to use the “aid money” to bribe Venezuelan soldiers to defect over to the Colombian side and launch an armed uprising against Maduro. In reality, senior members of Guaidó’s US-backed party, Voluntad Popular, instead used the money to live it up in Colombia.

In just a few weeks, the Venezuelan coup-mongers flushed well over $125,000 down the drain, spending wildly on swanky hotels, expensive dinners, nightclubs, and designer clothes. (In Colombia, where the minimum wage is just $268 per month, this is an unimaginable sum of money.)

Guaidó later publicly acknowledged the corruption, but attempted to deflect the blame onto Maduro.

And this well documented corruption did not stop USAID from giving Guaidó’s political wrecking crew tens of millions more in US tax dollars to play with.

In September, USAID head Mark Green announced an additional $52 million in so-called “development assistance” for coup leader Guaidó and his fictitious parallel government, which controls no actual assets inside Venezuela and is not recognized by the United Nations.

USAID referred to the Venezuelan government of elected President Maduro, which is recognized by the UN, as the “illegitimate Maduro regime.” It reiterated that the money would go to funding opposition media outlets and anti-government civil society groups, as well as Guaidó’s shadow regime and the National Assembly.

Green announced the new funding while standing next to the Venezuelan coup regime’s unrecognized ambassador to the United States, Carlos Vecchio, a former lawyer for the corporate oil giant Exxon who has himself been involved in a series of corruption scandals.

This September’s pledge of $52 million to help fund Venezuela coup leaders stands in stark contrast to the measly $4 million in humanitarian assistance that USAID pledged just two weeks before to help the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian.

USAID Mark Green, a former Republican politician from Wisconsin, has openly cheered on the rightist Venezuelan opposition.

Green regularly travels to Colombia to meet with right-wing Venezuelan opposition activists and discusses ways to overthrow what he calls the “illegitimate, authoritarian regime in Venezuela.

USAID’s direct involvement in US coup efforts continued well past the failed putsch in February. In November, the US embassy in Madrid paid to promote photos on Twitter showing Ambassador Duke Buchan with USAID on the Colombian border with Venezuela. “It is time for Maduro to leave,” he declared.

Buchan, a right-wing Trump ally and former businessman, speaks miserable Spanish, but has used his role as US representative in Spain to aggressively lobby for regime change in Venezuela.

The line between USAID’s putative aid work and Washington’s coup-mongering abroad has always been blurry. Liberal presidents like Barack Obama sought to preserve USAID’s image, while still using its aid and activities as a form of soft power to advance US foreign-policy interests. Under Trump, however, any pretense of independence or commitment to humanitarianism has been dispelled, and USAID has become a blunt weapon of regime change.

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