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Even without Iran’s help, Chavez has been attempting to export chaos to America for years. While the U.S. government was taking a beating in the media for its post-Katrina relief efforts, Chavez attempted to embarrass the Bush administration by providing aid to the Katrina-hit Gulf Coast.
Chavez had already been running a “public diplomacy” campaign in the U.S. to help bolster American support for his regime. The propaganda effort involved funneling discounted home heating oil to the nonprofit group Citizens Energy Corp., which is run by former Congressman Joe Kennedy II (D-MA). The nonprofit then distributed the oil to poor people, and useful idiot Kennedy was able to pose as a humanitarian. Kennedy went on TV a few years ago to berate the Bush administration, which he said “cut fuel assistance.” Kennedy praised his benefactor Chavez, claiming that Venezuelan socialism had helped to ease suffering in America. In a commercial, he said that “CITGO, owned by the Venezuelan people,” had helped poor Americans while their own government stood idly by.
While he was still a leftist, recovering community organizer Brandon Darby took a trip to Venezuela that quashed his remaining radical impulses. Darby traveled to Caracas in 2006 as part of a delegation from his own nonprofit, Common Ground, which was created to help rebuild New Orleans after it took a devastating hit from Hurricane Katrina. Darby wanted to have the Chavez government provide funding to keep the organization afloat. “I had this idea of having ‘Chavez trailers’ for displaced residents to live in. This would embarrass FEMA into supplying trailers,” he said. Darby said he didn’t realize when he came up with the concept that using money from abroad to influence the U.S. government might be illegal, but Chavez government officials he met with insisted it would violate U.S. law. “They told me I would get in trouble, and they wanted to work out a way to make the project happen,” he said.
During the month Darby was in Venezuela, government officials introduced him to executives working for PDVSA. They pressured Darby to journey to neighboring Colombia to meet with a group aligned with the narco-terrorists of FARC and to visit another revolutionary group in Maracaibo, Venezuela.
According to Darby, Chavez wanted to create a terrorist network in rural Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Senior officials in the Chavez government and in PDVSA told him they wanted him to create a revolutionary army of guerrillas in the swamps of Louisiana. Aghast, Darby refused, returned to America, and soon abandoned radicalism.
Instead of using the Red Cross in his post-Katrina relief efforts, Chavez called on radical left-wing charities, including the Vanguard Public Foundation and the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund. Apparently an informal charity, Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund maintains a MySpace page filled with rabidly anti-American propaganda. “Katrina put a spotlight on the horrors of racism, sexism, national oppression, poverty and environmental destruction in the U.S.,” the page lectures. It also demands that “the American Government [be put] on trial for its Katrina related crimes against humanity.”
As part of his outreach campaign in the U.S., Chavez has given $1.5 million to Casa de Maryland, a Washington, D.C.-area charity that advocates for illegal aliens. The grant is being paid by CITGO.
As we have seen, Chavez has already engaged in soft tactics aimed at undermining the United States. With a little help from his Islamist terrorist friends in Iran, he may one day soon decide to take his mischief to the next level.
Matthew Vadum is a senior editor at Capital Research Center, a Washington, D.C. think tank that studies the politics of philanthropy. His book on ACORN and its infiltration of the Obama administration will be published in mid-2011.
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