Books & Culture

The Venezuelan Collusion of
Danny Glover

In 2007, Hugo Chávez’s oil-rich Venezuela paid one of its Hollywood supporters tens of millions of dollars to produce a film. Thirteen years later it remains unmade and the money is unaccounted for. 

Much has been made of the alleged (and now disproven) “Russian collusion” of Donald Trump campaign associates Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and George Papadopoulos during the 2016 election. We now know that, of those investigated, none had direct ties to Russia (Manafort’s were to pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine), and the prosecution of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn recently imploded. 

Yet Democrats continue to insist some sort of behind-the-scenes “Rick and Morty” relationship exists between Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Add to that the current trend of Democrats such as Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) refusing to appear at the conference of the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, or attacks by Democrats on Trump’s “deference” to Saudi Arabia, and one could be fooled into thinking that the party is serious about rejecting foreign influence in the American political system. 

Don’t be.

This attitude does not extend to one of Sanders’ most long-standing supporters and surrogates, actor and activist Danny Glover (“The Color Purple,” “Lethal Weapon”). 

An examination of Glover’s public record and positions within nonprofit organizations shows that his ties to multiple foreign governments in Latin America rise above those of any of the Trump aides. The relationship on the surface appears to be no more strange than the standard celebrity progressive international activism such as that of Michael Moore who lauded Cuba’s healthcare in the 2007 film “Sicko.” 

For Glover, however, there were paid visits and an actual transfer of funds for a movie to be produced. And most conspicuously, this film has never been made.

South of the Border

How did the connection start? Glover’s political opinions have always been reliably left-wing, but given his prominence in Hollywood blockbusters like “Saw” and “The Shooter,” his central role in many far-Left organizations has been ignored. 

In 2004, Glover paid a visit to Venezuela where the nation’s Marxist President Hugo Chávez welcomed him. Joining him was AFL-CIO senior official Bill Fletcher and Patricia Ford, an executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the largest public-employee union in the United States. 

Later that year he would be appointed goodwill ambassador to the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), following his frequent castmate Whoopi Goldberg who held the post in 2003. Glover and Fletcher at the time were, respectively, the chairman and president of the TransAfrica Forum. In 2005, according to its own disclosure, he was also the co-chair of the board of directors of Vanguard Public Foundation, a major anti-war organization led by Hari Dillon. This organization would later collapse as a result of an investment scam run by fraudster Samuel “Mouli” Cohen. 

Glover’s visit to Venezuela would initiate a long and tight friendship with the Chávistas in Venezuela that continues to this day. 

Glover returned in 2006 with friends Harry Belafonte and Cornel West to tout a 40 percent discounted heating oil program. Less than a month later, CITGO, the American subsidiary of Venezuela’s PDVSA oil conglomerate, would conclude an agreement to bring 2.5 million gallons of home-heating oil to the state of Vermont with a then largely unknown congressman: Bernie Sanders. Later that year, Sanders would be elected to the Senate. 

Lights, Camera, Inaction

It appeared that Glover would take part in efforts by Venezuela to create its own film industry to compete with Hollywood starting with a $42 million studio known as Villa del Cine. But the role he would play was perplexing. 

Nominally, according to Chavista journalist Nikolas Kozloff writing for venezuelaanalysis.com, the new studio would aim to help filmmakers native to Venezuela. “By spurring local film production, Chávez and the staff at Villa del Cine hope to counteract the pervasive influence of Hollywood and to promote Venezuelan history and culture,” Kozloff wrote. 

It must have come as a surprise, therefore, when in May 2007 the Caracas government gave Glover $17.8 million to have him produce an historical epic about Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture. In April 2008, it was announced that another $9 million was granted to the project, with Chavista politician Simon Escalona saying the film would be part of “our ideological canon against Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM).” 

Glover would even form a movie production company known as Louverture Films. Partners of his include Susan Cohn Rockefeller, the second wife of the oil heir David Rockefeller, Jr. who is on the board of the megacharity Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and has chaired both the larger Rockefeller Foundation and Rockefeller Capital Management. Another partner is the Bertha Foundation, an overseas charity headed by South African pharmaceutical billionaire Tony Tabatznik. Their names are important, as Glover would eventually claim he failed to raise enough money to produce the film, despite the funding from the Venezuelan government and aid from his well-heeled partners. Nevertheless, Louverture had a hand in the production of 34 other titles

Glover said in July 2008 that the film was not attracting producer funding because it had no “white heroes.” 

Despite this setback, a mere three months after Chávez’s second tranche of petrodollars, Glover claimed in 2015 and 2017 that he was still trying to produce the film. One might have asked at that point, to what purpose, as “Toussaint Louverture” was released in 2012 by France 2 television as a two-part miniseries directed by Senegalese French filmmaker Philippe Niang? Perhaps Glover feels that the film was too generous in its treatment of L’Ouverture’s French masters, who are depicted in the movie throwing a chained slave into the harbor and watching him drown.

Interlocking Obligations

Glover’s ties to Venezuela would be strong enough based on the $27 million the Chavistas invested in the aborted film. It’s not known whether that money was ever returned. But Glover’s relationship with the socialist regime goes deeper.

In April, my exposé of The Real News Network, a supposedly independent news organization on whose board Glover serves, showed how the group is a Venezuelan government mouthpiece. In addition, Glover has a number of professional associations with Venezuelan or pro-Venezuelan bodies:

  • Glover and Belafonte were named to the advisory board of TeleSUR English, a TV network owned by the governments of Venezuela and allies like Ecuador and Argentina. Hosting a show on TeleSUR was Bill Fletcher, who in 2015 interviewed . . . Danny Glover. Fletcher’s show “The Global African” was shared unedited on The Real News Network’s website in June 2015.
  • In 2004, a group called the Venezuela Information Office registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The VIO reported directly to the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C. The group’s 2005 FARA disclosure lists Glover receiving a phone call from the VIO on October 4. The logs of VIO staff member Jo Ellen Chernow disclosed in the FARA report show eight calls, meetings, or emails to Bill Fletcher in his capacity as president of TransAfrica. Another TransAfrica board member, James Early of the Smithsonian Institution, also received several calls from VIO. Early is known as a “friend of Cuba” and like Glover has been a board member at The Real News Network.
  • Glover serves on the board of another pro-Venezuela organization, the Center for Economic Policy Research. In 2013, CEPR’s co-director Mark Weisbrot wrote an op-ed for The Guardian titled “Sorry, Venezuela haters: this economy is not the Greece of Latin America.” In 2014 the country’s economy crashed as oil prices shrank.
  • According to the Washington Free Beacon, the PR Firm MCSquared paid $500,000 to Glover and actress Mia Farrow on behalf of the government of Ecuador, then led by Venezuelan ally Rafael Correa, in order to visit and promote a lawsuit against Chevron.
  • Glover in 2017 signed a letter along with Noam Chomsky condemning the Ajuste (austerity) policies of new Argentine President Mauricio Macri. Macri’s predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirschner, was a major ally of Venezuela and her government helped fund TeleSUR.
  • Glover has also contributed articles to the Institute for Policy Studies for which James Early has served as a board member. One such article was in advocacy of his long campaign to free the “Cuban 5,” a group of Florida men arrested in 1998 who admitted to spying for the Castro government against Cuban exiles.

Caracas Central Casting

Added to this is Glover’s position as a surrogate on both of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns. 

In 2016, Sanders and Glover were interviewed by The Real News Network CEO Paul Jay. Fletcher had written editorials in The Progressive in 2014 and an essay for Jacobin in 2016 supporting Sanders before he became a national phenomenon. After Sanders folded that year, Glover was named a board member and fellow of the Sanders Institute, which was headed by the senator’s stepson, David Driscoll

Unlike Our Revolution, a 501(c)(4) lobbying group headed by fellow Sanders acolyte Nina Turner, the lesser-known Sanders Institute is a fully tax-exempt 501(c)(3) and is exclusively devoted to promoting Sanders’ legislative proposals. In April, former Our Revolution political director David Duhalde described the difference in a Jacobin article, and proclaimed that the group “failed to live up to its potential.” But as for the Sanders Institute, in less than three years of existence it produced very little literature and largely served to share reports by the IPCC and Obama-era federal departments before being shuttered in 2019.

With Bernie’s movement now effectively over, Chávez dead, and Venezuela selling off its gold reserves to Iran, will Danny Glover finally get around to making that movie with the $27 million that Chávez gave him? Did he or will he give the money back, like Brett Favre now has agreed to do with the $1.1 million he received from the state of Mississippi for speaking engagements he did not honor? Something tells me former co-star Mel Gibson would not have had trouble finishing a movie that was so well-funded by now.