Chamber of Commerce affiliate received $100 mil. in US tax dollars to promote free market policies abroad

Over the past decade, a non-profit affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce known as the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) has received more than $100 million worth of grants from the US government in its self-proclaimed mission to empower democracy in foreign countries with “private enterprise and market-oriented reform.” CIPE is one of the lesser mentioned core institutions of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is the non-profit group most often at the forefront of US “soft power” strategies in the developing world.

The NED was created by a 1983 act of Congress at the request of the Reagan administration. The intent was asserted to be the promotion of democracy and liberal values against dictatorship and totalitarianism. Since then, it has attracted negative attention from critics of US foreign policy for subverting foreign governments (including democratically elected ones) and promoting neoliberal economic policy. An oft-cited quote by NED co-founder Allen Weinstein states that, “a lot of what we [NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

The NED works primarily with four other key organizations: the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), and CIPE. The IRI has become particularly notorious for its meddling in countries such as Haiti and Venezuela. However, critical material on the other three groups is somewhat lacking.

Much about CIPE’s agenda can be gleaned by looking at its website. In a recent post on its blog, it suggests that Iraq try privatizing its utilities and other infrastructure:

The privatization of government institutions dedicated to providing services provides a path forward for the reconstruction of Iraq and rehabilitation of infrastructure. Most infrastructure has been completely destroyed, ranging from electric power plants built in the fifties, to increasingly derelict crude oil refineries, to aging hotels in Baghdad. Over and over, the last seven years have demonstrated that huge state-owned institutions are not able to yield a profit and lack professional management and strategic growth.

The first step the government can take is to step back and give the opportunity for the private sector (foreign and local companies) to invest in all these areas. The government does not have the capacity, technologies, and necessary resources for rebuilding and maintaining huge services projects. By allowing private companies to deliver services, Iraqi citizens will be able to automatically feel a tangible difference in their day-to-day lives.

Another document of interest titled The Return of the Left and the Future of Reform in Latin America details strategies for dealing with the rise of “anti-market” forces south of the border. In the process, it makes a familiar distinction between “good” and “bad” leftists in Latin America:

We should not be too alarmed by the resurgence of the Left since there are actually two Lefts. There is a progressive Left, represented by Brazilian President Lula da Silva, and another, much more radical Left that is threatening the very survival of the democratic state and economic reforms. This is the Left traditionally associated with Castro and, more recently, with the new face of the populist Left, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. (p. 7)

Apparently, da Silva’s willingness to work within the neoliberal framework does not make him a threat to democracy. Thank goodness for that.

The amount of money CIPE has received from the US government over the years can be viewed by looking at the Form 990s filled out by the organization from 2002 to 2009. The PDF files can be found here. Below is the year-by-year break down:

Oct. 2001 – Sep. 2002: $7,683,739
Oct. 2002 – Sep. 2003: $7,484,404
Oct. 2003 – Sep. 2004: $8,975,303
Oct. 2004 – Sep. 2005: $11,513,258
Oct. 2005 – Sep. 2006: $14,883,422
Oct. 2006 – Sep. 2007: $16,842,821
Oct. 2007 – Sep. 2008: $16,600,670
Oct. 2008 – Sep. 2009: $17,998,385

TOTAL FOR OCT. 2001 – SEP. 2009: $101,982,002

It is fitting to note the irony of the recent controversy over foreign funds being used to fight for GOP candidates in the recent midterms when the US government has been funding “pro-market” political efforts in the Third World for decades now. Perhaps those foreign businessmen were just returning the favor?


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