There is little love lost between Venezuela President Chavez and Bush and bis band of neo-cons. Events Tuesday point to a coup being set up for next week. Bush of course will not want to be seen to be involved so we are not in the “back to the future” days when the CIA was much more obviously involved in influencing the politics of central and south America.

Next Sunday elections are due to be held for the Venezuala National Assembly. The main opposition party,Democratic Action pulled out of the election on Tuesday, claiming that the election commission is biased against them. Another minority party the Social Christian Party late followed suit. Without them, Chavez’s supporters are likely to win more than two thirds of the 167 member body. That would give them the power to alter the constitution.

While the Chavez side claims it is because the other parties are likely to lose, the DA head’s reason is interesting in the light of the disquiet in the US over Diebold. The opposition claim that the computerised voting machines fail to ensure voter confidentiality.

I am not in a position to comment about the fairness of the elections but they are being observed by both the European Union and the Organisation of American States, which the USA is a member of. While I am prepare to suspend judgement until they report, it is probably unlikely that the opposition parties will do the same. Instead they are likely to organsie “spontaneous demonstrations” against the results once they are announced. A perfect cover for any “popular uprising” against Chavez.

Chavez has often complained that the USA is trying to undermine his presidency however as the old saying goes “just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you”. The anti-Chavex movement has every reason to take this opportunity to stage a coup. As recently as Monday, Chavez signed adeal with Spain to buy $2 billion worth of military transport aircraft and patrol boats. Chavez has also signed deals for Brazilian aircraft and Russian rifles. The Russia deal is for 100,000 rifles and was criticised by Rumsfeld in March during a tour to Brazil. The deal also included a plant to manufacture more and was criticised by the US claiming they would fall into the hands of drug smugglers or the dissident FARQ in Columbia as they exceeded the numbers in the Venezuela army. A more likely destination came to light in April when Chavez initiated a plan to involve up to two millionin a newly formed local militia organisation.

Another source of aggravation to the neo-cons was the decision last month to exclude the “New Tribes Movement” (NTM) from their main areas of operation. In what might almost be a dress rehearsal for a coup the NTM site reports ten tribes “gathered” to protest this exclusion.

Like me, you may be cynical that indigenous tribes would arrange for such well printed banners to be made.

The NTM is based in Florida and purports to be nothing more than an evangelical Christian movement undertaking missionary work to native peoples. There is another side to their activities as its location in Florida might suggest. This is from a paper delivered by Prof/ Glen Morris of the Univeristy of Colorada, Denver to a working group of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on Prevention on Discrimination and Protection of Minorities in Geneva during 1988.

Although this point [religious freedom]

may seem insignificant in the face of challenges to the very

physical existence of some indigenous nations, the spiritual

continuity and well-being of our nations is an important issue

which demands continuing attention by this Working Group. Our

spirituality is central to our individual and collective

personalities, and is essential to our continued survival as

indigenous nations.

     At first glance, there is an appearance of state acceptance

of the principle of religious freedom generally, and for

indigenous peoples in particular. In practice, however, many

states hold traditional indigenous spiritual beliefs in contempt

and would welcome their demise or destruction. This is evidenced

by the collusive activities of the Summer Institute of

Linguistics, New Tribes Movement, and other Christian evangelical

sects and various governments, particularly in Latin America and


Chavez is a proponent of native peoples’ rights so a clash between him and the NTM might be expected but there are even more reasons for suspicion about what the NTM movement was up to. This report at the time of Chavez’ announcement of their exlusion details:

New Tribes, an evangelical organisation that has long had close ties with the U.S.-based Summer Institute of Linguistics, is active in a number of countries in Asia and Latin America, and in Venezuela has focused its efforts on the Yanomami, Ye’kuana and Panare indigenous groups and other ethnic communities in the southern part of the country.

The Summer Institute of Linguistics was founded in 1934 with the declared purpose of translating the Bible into indigenous languages.

Since the 1970s, New Tribes has drawn heavy criticism from many quarters, including leftist political groups, environmentalists, indigenous organisations, academics, Catholic Church leaders and even members of the military. The controversial group has been accused of prospecting for strategic minerals on behalf of transnational corporations and of the forced acculturation and conversion of indigenous people.

Sociologist and environmentalist Alexander Luzardo, who 20 years ago published a report on the New Tribes Mission’s operations in the Amazon jungle, welcomed Chávez’s decision.

He told IPS that the decision “complies with what is stipulated in the constitution of 1999, which establishes indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and to respect for their beliefs, values and customs.

He also said the expulsion of the group would be in line with the recommendations of numerous government and parliamentary reports that had warned about the group’s activities in Venezuela.

“New Tribes has westernized indigenous people by force, while spreading a sense of shame and guilt, disguised as teaching the gospel: they taught the Panares that Satan had turned into a Panare Indian and that they were guilty of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ,” said Luzardo.

However, New Tribe missionary Richard Bruce said in an interview with the local press four years ago that “we want to respect the way of life and customs of indigenous peoples, not change them overnight. This is not a corner of the United States.”

During the group’s most active period, roughly 20 years ago, New Tribes missionaries from the United States numbered close to 200, said Luzardo. They were mainly concentrated in Tama-Tama, a spot where several rivers meet in the heart of the southernmost Venezuelan state of Amazonas.

This area is believed to be rich in minerals like uranium. For many years, New Tribes built airstrips and modern installations that contrasted sharply with the rustic constructions in the indigenous communities they ministered to.

The now defunct National Identity Movement, which grouped together cultural, environmental and indigenous organisations in the 1980s, maintained that New Tribes acted as a cover for the prospecting of geological and mineral wealth coveted by corporations that provided funding for the Summer Institute of Linguistics. These included General Dynamics, a defence industry contractor, and Ford.

Update [2005-11-29 20:29:6 by Londonbear]: I may well have got the competence of the NTM wrong. Browsing around I found this at the end of their description of the UK which some may find amusing for an evangelical site:

Still, a country that gives a wig-wearing ex-junkie balladeer a knighthood must be doing something right.

Sir Elton John (that really should be Sir Reginald Dwight but never mind) announcd today he is planning a private wedding to his long term partner David Furnish in a civil partnership ceremony on December 21.

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