Srđa Popović

Last week two countries experienced coup attempts in which the United States played some part, Ukraine and Venezuela. While Ukraine’s leader Viktor Yanukovych was forced to flee Kiev to a location still unknown, Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has managed to survive.

There are plenty of similarities between these two nations that could explain why regime change would be a desirable for the United States. First, both nations have had strong ties to Russia, and to a lesser extent China. Both nations have had some form of socialist government, although Ukraine has been moving toward capitalism. Perhaps more importantly, one nation, Venezuela, has vast oil wealth, while the other, Ukraine, sits at the crossroads of oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing between Russia’s oil fields and consumers in Western Europe.

There is one other important similarity that has had a bit of attention in alternative media. A group called the Center for Applied Non Violent Action Strategies (CANVAS) has helped train the opposition groups marching in the streets of both Kiev and Caracas in how to effectively start a revolution.

CANVAS is funded by the United States Congress through the National Endowment for Democracy and by United States Agency for International Development through Freedom House and the International Republican Institute. One of the founding members of CANVAS, Srđa Popović is reportedly close to Michael McFaul, ambassador to Russia and formerly NSC’s advisor on Russia. Popović has reportedly participated in two meetings of the NSC.

What’s more, Popović was an asset for Stratfor, the intelligence firm hacked by Anonymous that provided the documents contained in Wikileaks Intelligence Files. Leaked emails from the Intelligence Files include information on CANVAS’ plans to exploit weaknesses in the Venezuelan government to effect regime change.

Are you with me so far? Because here is where the story gets really interesting.

Two important agriculture companies buy intelligence services from Stratfor, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). In January, it was announced that Cargill bought a 5% stake in Ukrlandfarming, Ukraine’s agricultural giant, in order to help produce corn exports to China. Recently, China had rejected corn coming from the US due to genetic modification of crops but has agreed to accept corn from Ukraine. Now that is very interesting timing for Cargill to buy an agricultural interest in Ukraine, just weeks before Yanukovich is deposed. And, it’s quite a coincidence that Cargill buys intelligence services from the same organization that employs the head of CANVAS during the time that CANVAS is involved with advising the political opposition in Ukraine.

ADM also has a facility in Ukraine. In fact, ADM entered Ukraine in 2004, the same year that CANVAS was advising the Orange Revolution (Popović joined Stratfor several years later). Thing is, ADM has gotten into some trouble recently for bribing officials in Ukraine with $21 million that it recorded as insurance payments and other business expenses.

The subsidiaries artificially inflated commodities contracts with a Ukrainian shipping company to provide bribe payments to government officials. In another scheme, the subsidiaries created phony insurance contracts with an insurance company that included false premiums passed on to Ukraine government officials.

ADM’s subsidiary pled guilty to the charges and the parent company signed a non-prosecution agreement with DOJ admitting it had failed to prevent bribery from occurring in Ukraine and a joint venture in Venezuela.

To repeat, ADM was bribing officials in not just Ukraine but in Venezuela as well.

From at least in or around 2004 to in or around 2009, when customers in Venezuela purchased commodities through ADM Venezuela [a joint venture between ADM Latin America (ADM Latin - a wholly owned subsidiary of ADM) and several individuals in Venezuela], the customers paid for the commodities via payment to ADM Latin. During this time period, a number of customers overpaid ADM Latin for the commodities by including a brokerage commission in the cost of the commodities. At the instruction of ADM Venezuela, including Executive A [a high-level executive at ADM Venezuela] and ADM’s Latin’s customers, rather than repaying these excess amounts to the customer directly, ADM Latin made payments to third-party bank account outside of Venezuela, which, in many instances, were used to funnel payments to accounts owned by employees or principles of the customer.

So, customers were overcharged, and the excess fees were transferred into third party bank accounts overseas and then back to accounts belonging to employees or colleagues of those customers.

Now I don’t know about you, but the bribery operation of ADM sounds an awful lot like the scheme cooked up by the Iran Contra spooks to overcharge weapons customers and then divert the excess funds to rebel groups. I’m not saying that’s what’s going on here — regular bribery may be all there is — but the similarities raise some concerns.

Off topic is welcome and lurkers are encouraged to chime in. See you in the comments.

Photo by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, used under Creative Commons license