LA Times wonders why foreign countries resent US-funded “democracy promotion” programs

The LA Times‘ Paul Richter has written a rather flawed article that ponders why nations such as Bolivia, Russia and Egypt do not enjoy having USAID and US government-funded NGOs engage in political activities within their borders. The suspicions of Bolivian president Evo Morales and the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas about USAID are presented as paranoid rantings that lack any reasonable basis. It even quotes an unnamed “senior Obama administration official” disparaging the widespread legal backlash against these groups as “the empire striking back.”

Strangely, the article doesn’t mention the National Endowment of Democracy, one of the key US tax-payer funded NGOs that supposedly promote democracy around the world. The co-founder of this group, Allen Weinstein, once stated that, “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” It also neglects to mention the in-depth role played by the briefly-mentioned International Republican Institute in the temporary 2002 coup in Venezuela the permanent 2004 coup in Haiti. Both of these coups overthrew democratically elected leaders who were widely supported by the impoverished majority in their respective countries. In Haiti, individuals and groups funded and trained by the IRI actually associated with illegal militias made up of ex-death squad members in order to make their regime change successful.

Since the article mainly deals with USAID, it is inexcusable that it fails to cite a Wikileaked State Department cable from 2006 which plainly shows how USAID was utilized to undermine the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez:

The cable, signed by then-Ambassador William Brownfield, outlines a five-point strategy that includes “penetrating Chavez’s political base,” “dividing Chavismo,” “protecting vital U.S. business” and “isolating Chavez internationally.” Those goals are to be obtained by strengthening “democratic institutions,” according to the cable.

“During his 8 years in power, President Chavez has systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and governance,” Brownfield wrote in the memo detailing how the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Transition Initiatives helped those goals. Strengthening democratic institutions, he wrote, “represents the majority of USAID/OTI work in Venezuela. Organized civil society is an increasingly important pillar of democracy, one where President Chavez has not yet been able to assert full control” (The Hill, 5 April 2013).

The harshest criticism voiced in the LA Times article comes from a Brookings Institution analyst named Ted Piccone:

“If this were flipped — if Egypt were funding groups in the United States — it would hit a real wrong chord […] As evenhanded as we try to be, this is the most sensitive kind of assistance out there. We are intervening directly in their political affairs.”

This is relatively mild criticism when one considers the documented cases of “democracy promotion” being used as a fig leaf for political intervention defending US interests.

Chamber of Commerce affiliate received $100 mil. in US tax dollars to promote free market policies abroad (26 November 2010)