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Venezuela’s Information Office hires Michael Shellenberger

By Aleksander Boyd

London 22 June 2004 – Information about the Venezuelan Information Office (VIO) continues to arrive. Today I have received a message from the Foreign Agent Registration Unit whereby details of the latest lobbyist in the payroll of Hugo Chavez are disclosed. On May 20, 2004 Lumina Strategies filled a short-form registration on behalf of the VIO for Mr Michael Shellenberger. The budget for his work will be $60.000 not including out of pocket expenses.

This is what I found about Lumina Strategies; “is a consulting and communication firm working in the public interest. We seek to harness the immense power of the marketplace to advance human equality and protect the environment.” Its mission is cited “to help foundations, NGOs and corporations save the environment, grow the economy, and improve the quality of life for people worldwide through campaigns that change policies, transform attitudes, and shift markets.” It does not strike me as the kind of venture that would get dirty defending the indefensible, pardon me, Hugo Chavez’ revolution that is.

According to Lumina’s web site “Michael Shellenberger is a media and communications consultant to nonprofits, foundations and businesses. Michael was the co-founder and Executive Director of Communication Works, the largest public interest PR firm in California. In 2001 Communication Works merged with Fenton Communications where Michael served as Western Division Director and Chief Operating Officer. His recent clients include the National Mental Health Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Urban Health Initiative, and the Goldman Fund.” Schellenberger is also Executive Director of The Breakthrough Institute, an organization advancing bold solutions that strengthen progressive values.” He is quoted as consultant for the Business Ethics Network “a think tank focused on business and economic issues.” And the icing on the cake is Schellenberger’s advocacy for a foreign-oil independent America, as founder of the Apollo Alliance. I would like to encourage readers to visit the Ten Point Plan proposed by the said alliance. In September 2003 he penned, in collaboration with Ross Gelbspan, an article titled “Getting Tough On Oil.” One of his concerns is:

“how do we move toward oil independence without increasing unemployment in the Middle East -- and exacerbating the conditions that breed terrorism? To answer this question the president's critics must go beyond the rhetoric of energy patriotism and independence. They should explain that the oil economy never has been good for ordinary people in the Middle East because it concentrates wealth and power in the hands of a few ultra-rich families while fueling religious extremism and violence.”

I’m I getting paranoiac here? So the oil economy has never been good for ordinary people in the Middle East, nor has it been for ordinary Venezuelans whose oil wealth has been concentrated in the hands of few, yet new comer, mega-rich Hugo Chavez fuels his extremism and violence with oil money that belongs to all of us and that’s fine? What is the source of Shellenberger’s salary if not oil money that could have been used to benefit ordinary people?

The article continues:

What's needed is not energy isolationism but rather a Clean Energy Partnership, one that brings together the United States and Europe to help the oil producing nations of the Middle East make the transition to hydrogen, solar and wind. This Clean Energy Partnership would, like the post-World War II Marshall Plan in Europe and Japan, promote both political democracy and economic development.

The United States and Europe helping oil producing nations to make the transition to hydrogen, solar and wind? Who has an energy deficit here? Is it Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela? Nigeria perhaps? That paragraph encapsulates, rather grossly, an evident and condescending imperialist message. How are developing nations to become industrialised with hydrogen, solar and wind solutions? Will we power our industries with methane coming out from Shellenberger’s mouth? Is there not an obvious conflict of interests in the case of the new recruit, taking into consideration that the person he advocates for is: 1) responsible for the dismissal of technical personnel from PDVSA which has translated in unnecessary unemployment, numerous and to date unseen ecological disasters in Maracaibo Lake and excessive and polluting burn off of toxic gases in Venezuelan refineries; 2) head of the country that provides 15% of the foreign gasoline to the US --free America from foreign oil...-- and; 3) embodies the criticised oil wealth, that centred in an individual allows for the latter to fund all sorts of demoniac adventures in detriment of the people? How does Schellenberger’s goal to “re-establish America’s global economic leadership” marry with the vitriolic and antagonistic hate campaign of Hugo Chavez against the US? The convincing power of $60.000 petrodollars ought never be underestimated.

One of the successful case studies cited by Lumina Strategies has to do with Global Exchange, isn’t that the joint where VIO's alter-defender Deborah James works? It makes for interesting reading for it lays the bases of the campaign that will surely ensue to prep up the image of that uncomprehended messiah called Hugo Chavez.

So the VIO’s staff is composed of human rights defenders, environmentalists, missionaries, professional lobbyists, media analysts, feminists, policy researchers, real state agents, high military officers… One must wonder what will come next would it be a hit rap song of Eminem featuring Jay Z and the Fugees?

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