Venezuela: Who is Ben Rowswell?

Venezuelea-TeleSur-IconPresident Nicolás Maduro has alleged that the failed coup against the Bolivarian government of Venezuela was organized and financed by the United States government. Reports about the thwarted coup refer to a Canadian link, emanating from the Canadian embassy in Caracas. Furthermore, the Venezuelans have expressed real concern since mid-2014 about the nature of programs run from the embassy that can only be described as interventionist in character. The controversy parallels the arrival in Caracas of Harper’s new and still unaccredited ambassador.

Canada’s “combat diplomat” 

Canadian Assistant Deputy Minister for the Americas, David Morrison (at left), and Ben Rowswell in Caracas, July 2014

Canadian Assistant Deputy Minister for the Americas, David Morrison (at left), and Ben Rowswell in Caracas, July 2014 | El Universal

Ben Rowswell was officially appointed ambassador to Venezuela on Feb. 28, 2014, not long after large opposition-led protests began across the country and one-sided reports of protesters killed by Venezuelan authorities began being circulated by the media.

What mission was the newly fledged ambassador going to perform? Who’s interests is he going to serve? What’s the purpose of his coming to Venezuela? And actually is he really an ambassador if he ignores once traditional professional diplomatic functions, one of whih is by and large the same in all the countries: to strengthen relations between the country of accreditation and the one of your own. What do the representatives of «non-systematic» opposition have to do in the Canadian Caracas Embassy in anticipation of presidential election? Money? Moral support? Paid trips?

Rowswell is not a diplomat in any traditional sense of the word. His appointment by the Harper government is due to being heralded as the leading practitioner and theorist in the Department of Foreign Affairs of its new mantra of imperialist “direct” and “digital diplomacy” in violation of the host country’s sovereignty. The disgraceful interventionist activities organized since his deployment, condemned in Venezuela, testify to the aim of the appointment. Although he has been on his assignment for almost a year, Rowswell remains Canada’s Ambassador-designate to Venezuela as he has not been accredited by the Bolivarian government. When this occurs, the normal practice is to put forward another nominee, yet the Harper government has chosen to keep him in place, raising questions about the real aims of its foreign policy. It is all being done under the pretext of fostering contacts with ‘fighters for democracy”, the democracy of the U.S. brand that, as many Americans testify, is far from ideal, to put it mildly.

Furthermore, Rowswell’s remit includes representing the diplomatic and consular interests of Israel in Venezuela. When Venezuela broke diplomatic relations with Israel in January 2009, condemning its military invasion of Gaza which left around 1,200 Palestinians dead and over 5000 wounded, the Harper government eagerly volunteered that the Canadian embassy in Caracas would represent Israeli interests. (Venezuelan interests in Israel are represented by Spain.) Rowswell admitted to Embassy Magazine (see excerpt below) that a principal focus was the growing ties between Venezuela and Iran.

Rowswell’s previous assignment had been Director of the Gulf States and Regional Trade Division of Foreign Affairs. He speaks Farsi, Arabic, Spanish, French and English.

Described by the Toronto Star in 2010 as “a rising foreign service star” he has also been referred to as Canada’s “combat diplomat” because of his work in war/conflict zones. His resumé includes direct employment by the United States government, a leading U.S. think tank of the U.S. ruling circles whose governing board includes three past U.S. Secretaries of State, and Stanford University.

Biographical information from various sources:

Academic Studies

International Relations from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (1993) and at Oxford (2000)


1993: United Nations Contractor in Somalia during the country’s civil war.

1995-98 : Worked in the Political Section at the Canadian embassy in Cairo

2003-2005 : Canadian Chargé d’Affaires in Iraq

Center for Strategic and International Studies logo2003-2004: Senior Associate of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington, DC working on issues of homeland security in Iraq.

In November 2003, CSIS released a report on Iraq authored by Dr. Anthony Cordesman. It was “based on briefings by Paul Bremer, the U.S. de facto governor of Iraq; military commanders, unnamed intelligence officers and David Kay, the American who leads the hunt for Saddam‘s alleged weapons of mass destruction,” reported The Independent. Proceeding from the colonial premise of religious sectarianism, the CSIS report predicted that “attacks on Americans by Sunni Iraqis will continue ‘until the day the U.S. leaves.’” Titled “Iraq: Too Uncertain To Call,” it also aimed to renovate the George W. Bush administration’s purported promotion of “democracy” in Iraq, which it faulted by saying: “It is largely advocating undefined slogans, not practical and balanced specifics.” *

2007 (May): Roswell is co-editor of “Iraq: Preventing a New Generation of Conflict” (Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner Publishers, $75.38) with David Malone (high commissioner to India) and Markus E. Bouillon

• Works for the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Iraq.

The NDI is an agency of the U.S. government under the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the CIA’s principal façade in the world.The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is the official governmental agency that funded its operations in Iraq. Read about its role in Iraq here. (Also: Lisa Ashkenaz Croke and Brian Dominick, “Controversial U.S. Groups Operate Behind Scenes on Iraq Vote,” The New Standard, 13 Dec. 2004.)

(Condemned for its incessant interventions in Latin America, NDI openly finances subversion and destabilization. In Venezuela, NDI finances the Sumate NGO of Maria Corina Machado who, with Leopoldo López, is one of the most openly aggressive right-wing leaders. Sumate has also been funded by the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL), a so-called independent think tank, dedicated to finance, promote and advise political parties, NGOs and other organizations and institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean under the pretext of strengthening relations between Canada and the region. [Gindin, J. (2005) The Nature of CIA Intervention in Venezuela 22nd March 2005.)

2008-09: Deputy Head of Canadian Mission in Kabul, Afghanistan

2010: Headed a Provincial Reconstruction Team of more than 100 American and Canadian diplomats, aid workers, civilian police and correctional officers working in partnership with Canadian Forces in Kandahar

2010-11: Visiting scholar at Stanford University’s new Centre on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law in its Liberation Technology Program. Researches colour-coded revolutions (‘the way in which activists used digital media to enact political change”).

The director of this new research centre from 2005-09 was Michael McFaul, until his appointment at the end of 2011 (to 2014) as U.S. Ambassador to Russia. Prior to his nomination to the ambassadorial position, McFaul worked for the U.S. National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Russian and Eurasian Affairs (2009-12) and was the architect of U.S. President Barack Obama’s “reset” policy on Russia. McFaul is a leading theorist and practitioner of “colour revolutions” and “digitl diplomacy.” He was directly involved first and foremost in the contrived, neo-liberal “Orange Revolution” on Ukraine in 2004. He was the author of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) final report on specifics of working with the Ukrainian electorate. American non-government organizations spent total of $ 18.3 million to bring Victor Yushchenko to power. (For further information, see John Lewis, “Ambassador with diploma on ‘color revolution’,  Strategic Culture, January 8, 2012)

Larry Diamond, McFaul and Rowswell’s colleague at Stanford, was the “inspiration and executive producer” behind the fake Youtube video documentary entitled “I am a Ukrainian”, (2014), which featured an attractive woman insistently and glibly claiming that the Ukrainian maidan was solely about freedom and democracy, and was an organic protest. Diamond is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a Senior Consultant at the National Endowment for Democracy, and served as a senior adviser on governance to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

2011 (1 July): Inaugural recipient of the Palmer Prize for Diplomats awarded in Vilnius, Lithuania by the Community of Democracies, a U.S. democracy promotion organization that receives funding from Freedom House, George Soros’ Open Society Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), among others. The prize is named after U.S. ambassador Mark Palmer, who worked in Hungary during the country’s “transition to democracy.”

Cloud to Street

2011 (March — August): Led a research project at Stanford to connect democracy activists in Tahrir Square with technology support from Silicon Valley through the development of software to meet activists needs at a series of hackathons, resulting most prominently in an Arabic-language crowdsourcing platform to generate consensus over human rights protections in Egypt’s new constitution. (Rowswell’s LinkedIn profile)

Direct Diplomacy initiative

Founder of Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development’s Democracy Unit

2012 (December) — Present: 

View image on Twitter

This photo from Rowswell’s tweeter account clearly shows that the training of Canadian diplomats in “direct diplomacy” is being conducted in Washington, USA.

A campaign to use a combination of online and direct communications to engage the citizens of foreign countries directly in the pursue [sic] of Canada’s foreign policy objectives. (Rowswell’s LinkedIn profile)

2013 (May): Establishes pilot project with Peter Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto to implement ‘Direct Diplomacy.’ It targetz Iran in lead-up to 2013 presidential election,“ the project was touted as a method for bypassing Tehran and offering a platform for dissidents and human-rights activists in the country.” In January, 2015 funding was announced for a new project, “Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran.” It involves an all-sided assault on Iranian society through technology designed to overwhelm online networks. It also involves launching YouTube and Twitter accounts in Farsi.

(The photo at right, tweeted by Roswell on June 17, 2014, shows the training of Canadian diplomats in “direct diplomacy” being conducted in – not in Canada – but in Washington, DC.)

– Advisor to the Privy Council

– Worked at Permanent Mission at the UN

2014 (28 February–): Canadian Ambassador to Venezuela: Embassy Magazine wrote in March 2014 of Rowswell’s posting to Venezuela:

“Mr. Rowswell is one of Canada’s leading practitioners of digital diplomacy: he oversaw a pilot project last year on direct diplomacy for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development where he helped to establish a communications platform for Iranians and Iranian emigrants to communicate with each other, and occasionally the Canadian government, beyond the reach of that country’s censors. (emphasis added)

“He said in a phone interview he began promoting the use of digital diplomacy by the government after a break-year studying at Stanford University from 2010 to 2011, during which he researched the way in which activists used digital media to enact political change.

“His digital media skills will help him collect crucial information on the political situation in Venezuela without relying on the traditional media, he said.

“‘We want to know what’s going on in Venezuela, and because so much of the political debate and the political discussion, and frankly just the raw news about Venezuela, is happening on social media, we need to be on social media as well,’ he said.”


“‘It is important to have very good, up to date and reliable political reporting’ in a country in crisis, said John Graham, a former ambassador to Venezuela, in a phone interview. Chilled bilateral relations mean it ‘is highly unlikely [Mr. Rowswell will] be able to exert any influence on the situation’ through traditional diplomacy, Mr. Graham said.

“Mr. Rowswell’s experience engaging the Iranian population through direct diplomacy could be a sign of the government’s strategy for that country, said David Carment, a fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and professor of International affairs at Carleton University, in a phone interview.

“The Harper government is very deliberate and specific about where it picks its entry points,” he said, noting the close ties between Venezuelan and Iranian governments under former leaders Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“An Iranian delegation travelled to Venezuela and Cuba this week and voiced support for the government of Nicolás Maduro, Iranian news agencies Tasnim and Press TV reported.

“Canada’s federal government believes it has an interest in undermining the Venezuelan government, Mr. Carment said, which it sees as unfriendly to its interests.

“‘What I’m suggesting is that, why Venezuela would be a choice for this government, as opposed to a myriad of others countries you could select, is because of that connection [with Iran],’ Mr. Carment said.

“Ana Carolina Rodriguez, the head of mission at Venezuela’s embassy in Ottawa, said in an interview it would be improper for either Mr. Rowswell or herself to encourage the population of their host country to denounce or rebel against the government.

“Mr. Rowswell said he has not been instructed to engage in the sort of direct diplomacy he practiced with the Iranian population, cutting the government out of the loop, but to ‘understand the full diversity of perspectives’ and engage with all political actors.

“Canada’s government is increasing its use of digital diplomacy across the board, he said, and the two-way nature of communicating on digital media means it cannot stay silent on issues that call for it to voice an opinion.

“He will use digital media only to ‘supplement’ the more traditional tactics of diplomacy, he said.

“He said he did not yet have a clear understanding of the relationship between Venezuela and Iran, adding ‘I’ll have to just keep an eye open.’”

(Correo del Orinoco, Telesur, Noticias al Dia y a la Hora, Univision, Government of Canada, Stanford University, Globe and Mail, Embassy Magazine, Community of Democracies, Sourcewatch, LinkedIn, Strategic Culture, Wikipedia)

Source: TML Weekly Information Project, February 21, 2015. The original article has been re-organized, rewritten and expanded for this publication.

Related reading

Venezuela: More evidence of Canada’s dirty work,” February 25, 2015

Negotiations on Iran’s Nuclear Program and Canada’s ‘Digital Diplomacy’ Project,” Louis Lang, TML Weekly, January 17, 2015 – No. 3.

Canadian diplomats trained in social media … in Washington,” Tony Seed, September 14, 2014.

Venezuela: Dirty activities of Canadian embassy,” Tony Seed, August 30, 2014.

Machado ‘visit’: Harperites’ continuing subversion of Venezuela,” Tony Seed, May 10, 2014

Harper Government’s New Weapon for Subversion,” Tony Seed, TML Daily, March 28, 2014 – No. 34.

*  More about the Center for Strategic and International Studies

CSIS was founded in 1962, by Admiral Arleigh Burke and David Abshire “at the height of the Cold War, dedicated to the simple but urgent goal of finding ways for America to survive as a nation and prosper as a people.” During the war against Nicaragua, CSIS produced several documents “proving” a communist plot, etc. Today, according to the New York Times, “The center focuses much of its research on foreign policy and defense issues and has a particularly large number of donors from Asia, including China. It runs programs on topics important to many of those nations, such as trade agreements with the United States, and defense issues, in an era of growing tension between Japan and China.”

Here’s a short list of Rowswell’s CSIS contemporaries, and some interesting affiliations, from an article about one Z. Brezinski, Carter’s National Security advisor and now an adviser to Obama, who is front and centre at the CSIS:

Sam Nunn – Former U.S. Senator and head of the Senate Armed Services Committee – is a co-chairman & CEO at CSIS now. Nunn was on the board of directors of Hess oil company, Chevron Corporation, and Texaco up until just recently. Interestingly, Hess sold off its Russia operations in April 2013 to Lukoil for $2.05 billion days after Nunn retired, and just five months prior to the Euromaidan events in Kiev.

Richard Armitage – A CSIS trustee and the 13th United States Deputy Secretary of State, Armitage was part of the so-called Plame affair, admittedly having divulged classified knowledge that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA operative. Colleagues claim when he was in Vietnam, Armitage was part of the CIA’s notorious Phoenix Program. He’s been a close advisor, and has had roles from Tehran before the Shah was deposed, to Afghanistan. Armitage is currently on the board of directors of ConocoPhillips Oil Company. Conoco sold its interests in Russian oil in 2010.

Lois Dickson Rice – The mother of Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, is Director of the Think Tank Consortium at Brookings. Both have been distinguished fellows of Brookings, and Rice the junior also served as a Clinton adviser and Ambassador to the UN. Susan Rice’s long time mentor former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, was a student of Zbigniew Brzezinski, and later served under him at the National Security Council.

Henry Alfred Kissinger – This CSIS counselor and trustee literally needs no introduction. The 56th U.S. Secretary of State has been credited on the one side with recreating foreign relations intellectually and strategically. Conversely, from the Vietnam era to Senator John McCain’s defense of the dignitary at the now notorious “Get out of here you low-life scum” hearings where Kissinger was called a murderer, the aging think tank brain is part of the problem for many.

Rex W. Tillerson – The Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil is also a CSIS trustee. Tillerson came to prominence around the time the company’s holdings in Russia and the Caspian Sea grew in prominence. In 2011 he signed an agreement with the Russians for drilling in the Arctic estimated to be worth $300 billion. Exxon reportedly lost out in Siberia and in the Black Sea because of the Ukraine crisis. However, factoring in vast natural gas deals in Australia and North America, this puts Tillerson at the head of think tank curiosities, and especially given Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s vehement anti-Russia temperament.

Philip Butler, “American think tank policy: Not for or by the people”,, February 25, 2015





Filed under Americas, Canada

3 responses to “Venezuela: Who is Ben Rowswell?

  1. Pingback: Venezuela: More evidence of Canada’s dirty work | Tony Seed's Weblog

  2. The first photo screams “can you trust these two men?”

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