Tagged ‘Freedom House‘

US-Funded NGO in Ecuador Accused of ‘Political Meddling’


September 10, 2015


A composite image shows a number of tweets issued by Fundamedios that Ecuadorean official allege show the political nature of the work by the NGO.

A composite image shows a number of tweets issued by Fundamedios that Ecuadorean official allege show the political nature of the work by the NGO. | Photo: El Telegrafo

Ecuadorean officials allege that Fundamedios has engaged in “partisan political activities.”

The U.S.-funded non-governmental organization Fundamedios received notice that a state regulator in Ecuador has begun the process for the dissolution of the organization, saying the organization was not sticking to its mandate.

The National Secretariat of Communication, known as the Secom, claims that Fundamedios has deviated from its stated mission, intervening in political matters; something that is prohibited by Ecuadorean law and the organization’s own internal statutes.

Fundamedios says on its website that its “main task is to support media and journalists through its network of monitoring threats to freedom of expression and association.” The organization began its activity shortly after Rafael Correa took the presidency in 2007.

According to the Secom, Fundamedios engaged “partisan political activities” by sharing material on its social media accounts, publishing articles unrelated to its stated mission and inserting itself into political debates in the country.

On repeated occasions Fundamedios has declared its support for political organizations and personalities opposed to the government of Rafael Correa on matters completely unrelated to freedom of expression.

Decree 16, issued by the Ecuadorean government, states that organizations that deviate from their mission are subject to dissolution. The organization has 10 days to argue its case.

“Fundamedios is a political actor in this era that the country is living in,” Orlando Pérez, director of public newspaper El Telegrafo, told the Andes news agency.

However, in an interview with El Comercio, the organization’s director denied the charges, saying, “We did not deviate a millimeter from our statutes, we are fulfilling our objectives.”

Fundamedios’ Impartiality Questioned

The work of the organization mostly consists of issuing “alerts” regarding alleged attacks against journalists in Ecuador.

The organization is funded in part through a US$84,000 grant from the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy. U.S. Ambassor to Ecuador Adam Namm told El Telegrafo that Fundamedios received US$300,000 in 2012 from USAID, which receives its funds from the U.S. government.

In a press conference called to denounce the decision by the Secom, the director of Fundamedios, Cesar Ricaurte said that the decision to dissolve his organization constituted an “attack against the press.”

However, Ricaurte is openly hostile toward journalists who work for public media outlets, on one occasion calling a journalist an “agent of the state” who was guilty of “persecution” by virtue of her work for a public outlet.

Many of the alerts regarding alleged “attacks” on the press involve directives issued by a state regulatory agency known as the Supercom, which is tasked with ensuring that outlets respect Ecuadorean media laws. The law ensures that sensitive material is broadcast at appropriate times and that outlets report news accurately.

When media outlets contravene the law, Supercom has the authority to mandate the outlet comply by publishing corrections.

Fundamedios is also selective about the cases it chooses to champions, only coming to the aid of journalists who work for private media outlets and declining to support journalists who work for state-run media.

Several journalists were the victims of physical attacks by demonstrators during often-violent opposition protests that took place in Ecuador in August. The situation was so dire that several journalists called a press conference to denounce the attacks, Fundamedios declined to support these journalists and failed to issue any “alerts” regarding these aggressions.

The organization issued an “alert” over alleged attacks against Fernando Villavicencio, a former opposition politician now working as a journalist. Villavicencio was a fugitive from justice for over a year after being found guilty of slandering president Rafael Correa, accusing him of orchestrating the 2010 coup. Villavicencio was caught on camera physically assaulting Jose Luis Quinteros, a journalist with a public TV outlet. Fundamedios remained silent on this issue.

A number of other NGOs hostile to the government of Rafael Correa, such as Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, have come to the defense of Fundamedios.


September 13, 2015:

Journalists in Ecuador Back Decision Against US-Funded NGO

September 16, 2015:

Media Experts Criticize Ecuadorean NGO for Political Posturing

September 26, 2015:

US-Funded Media NGO Given Reprieve by Ecuadorean Authorities

Further reading:

March 12, 2015:

How the US Funds Dissent against Latin American Governments

Stranger Danger: The Infiltration of Dissident Communities by Freedom House’s Sarah Kendzior

Anti Social Media


Stranger Danger - Not A Game

I can forgive you if you can’t recognize a hustle when you see one, let alone identify when you yourself are being targeted by that very hustle. Con artists, after all, rely on your confidence and trust in order to get what they want from you.

Cons, however, are something I know a little bit about; I once made my living playing poker – a game where exploiting the confidence of your opponents is crucial to survival.  To win at poker, you need your opponents to have confidence in their own hands, to overestimate their odds against you and to believe so much in your weakness that they’ll actually put their own survival on the line against you – when, in fact, you’re actually in a position of strength. You want to “get it in good;” to manipulate your opponents to ensure that you do and then hope your odds hold up. There is no other way to win. Eventually, everyone has to go “down to the felt.”

In poker, recognizing the tricks, feints and gambits that your opponents use against you, as well as, of course – their “tells” – is an indelible part of the game. Constant observation is key to differentiating a trick from a tell and also discerning their meaning. After all, trusting the way an opponent presents oneself is never a good barometer of who they are or what they’re doing. The only thing one knows for sure is that everyone is an enemy. A good poker player, then, is always asking herself, “What does that mean? What is my opponent trying to tell me?”

Overwrought flattery, wry smiles, winks, trembling hands, a tremulous voice, belabored breathing, heavy sighs, the shuffling of chips and other tells (both deliberate and incidental) are all part of the mystifying tapestry collectively woven at a table that a player must rend – thread by perplexing, individual thread – if they’re intent on winning the game. The woman in the Cartier bracelet spinning yarns about her wealth may be overplaying a bad hand with the very last dollars to her name, while the guy with dirty fingernails in the grungy hoodie who hasn’t said shit all night is often a professional shark sitting on a monster hand and waiting for his chance to clean you out. It takes studied observation over time to identify who is trying to trick you and who is telling you information you can use to win.

Performance of identity is an integral aspect of poker itself – and that performance is all about deception. Who am I today? Am I presenting as the brash, overconfident rube – the backwards-hat-wearing frat boy that I’m not – but am performing in order to agitate my opponents so they go “on tilt?” Or am I really that asshole? Who is to tell? A good player will keep you guessing.

While deceit is an inextricable part of poker, poker players have agreed on certain parameters; secret collusion amongst players is forbidden, for example. Furthermore, the goal of the game is apparent to everyone playing at the outset: win the last pot and take home everyone else’s money. There’s no confusion there. That’s why everyone came to the table to begin with.

Activists and organizers who use Twitter or other social media tools as part of their strategy to organize against power aren’t so lucky. The myriad ideological or personal goals of the many players involved in this space aren’t openly agreed upon or even known and, in fact, they may actually be in very real conflict, even if they don’t seem so at first glance. Let’s face it – we’re not all here for the same reason. There are, as there always have been, strangers amongst us on the internet.

So, without conclusive evidence that a player in the game isn’t playing above board – that they may, in fact, be working against your interests – it’s crucial to consider the patterns of behavior and the results of those behaviors themselves rather than to speculate about the motives behind them. Of course, if a player at the table openly says they work for the fucking casino itself, it’s probably important to consider that information, too.



“All these scattered Uzbek dissidents began having blogs, began using social media, began having all these political conversations they’d never been able to have in a public space before and so I thought that was, you know, that was very interesting, and I wanted to continue to track that.– Sarah KendziorWe’re not playing a game, here, folks – this isn’t poker – and those who continue to treat online organizing as a game (or merely as something to paternalistically observe, “track” and comment on exclusively when it services their personal, career trajectory) put those of us arrayed against the state at very real risk. Their professional distance and detachment from struggle itself and their far-too-often, far-too-cavalier attitudes about our collective security (our reputations, our ideological coherence, our pseudonymity and our ability to effectively organize) should be cause enough for alarm.

This alarm, the spine-tingling feeling that something is amiss – that someone is out of place and is doling out social capital or public discipline to obscure that simple fact – is a phenomenon I’ll call “stranger danger.” If you’ve felt this feeling, a gut-wrenching unease I’ve felt about Sarah Kendzior for some time now, it’s time we actually heed that alarm.

Sarah Kendzior has consistently tugged on the heartstrings, flattered the egos and promised (or actually delivered) real, material aid to an entire cadre of misguided, naive and demonstrably dangerous flacks whose personal investment in the public artifice of “Sarah Kendzior” has too often led them to viciously slander anyone they deem a threat to her unassailable #brand. This brand investment, one that seemingly leads otherwise intelligent folks to abandon all critical reason, is something we need to constantly examine in these spaces and a task OLAASM always committed ourselves to exploring.

Members of “Generation Like,” it seems sadly, can now seemingly be bought off for trifles like “Retweets” or “Favs,” and this cheap dispensation of social capital has been Kendzior’s stock and trade as long as I’ve followed her on Twitter. If you are in her social media orbit and have been instrumentalized by Kendzior to defend her on this or any of the patternized occasions where she relied on others to help obscure her politics, I urge you to reflect on one question: is it possible you’ve been hustled? What did you get for it? How cheap was your own complicity for her purchase?

This shouldn’t be a cause for shame, of course. In Edward Bernays’ seminal text Propaganda, Bernays – the master manipulator – observes:


“If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway.”


Bernays continues:


“The group mind does not think in the strict sense of the word… In making up its mind, its first impulse is usually to follow the example of a trusted leader.”


If Kendzior selected you for flattery, cajolery or any of the other promises a stranger will often use to curry your future favor – it probably means, as a propagandist, she has identified you as a “leader.” Don’t be ashamed. It’s a compliment! Of course it’s embarrassing to get fooled, but we all get hustled eventually. Every poker player has once been fooled and it’s almost always their own ego that fools them in the end.

This is, unfortunately, a demonstration of how power always operates: carrots are dispensed for the select few who play along, sticks are wielded against the recalcitrant masses – swung all the more harshly against those whose very existence alone threatens power the most. Kendzior’s recent, scurrilous and unprincipled attack on the character of Doug Williams should serve as a clarion call to anyone committed to using social media spaces toward collective organizing. The attacks on him have been unscrupulous lies and ignoring those lies in deference to her well-cultivated, essential “victimhood” seems now nothing but the boilerplate deflection tactic of a well-coordinated PR blitz.

We must confront this behavior – a well-documented history of gossip, slander and character assassination – before it hurts anyone else, or before it further impairs our ability to organize ourselves against the greatest power known in human history: the kyriarchy that maintains the US empire itself. To that end, it’s important to consider the source of so many left-bashings in this space herself – Sarah Kendzior.

How have I come to think Sarah Kendzior is a lynchpin in this always-left-obliterating superstructure of social capital dispensing/destroying Twitter fuckery? Why am I singling her out? Studied observation. Again, this isn’t my first poker game.


– – – –


I used to support Sarah Kendzior’s work. As Williams himself keenly observed recently in The New Inquiry, her “discourse is wrapped in the language of concern and the language of the ally.” This a seductive affectation for anyone who believes intercommunal solidarity is essential to all our struggles. It’s also effective simply because I fucking care and can be confused by others who seemingly do, too.

I have come, however, to see Kendzior’s adept use of this discourse as little more than “mirroring;” a fraudulent co-optation of language insidiously employed only to insinuate herself within dissident communities. This is all the more dangerous because it obscures her very dangerous, reactionary politics.

Remember: Sarah Kendzior is – by her own admission in a recent interview  – a professional infiltrator of online, dissident communities. Her extensive, PhD-level career training as an anthropologist itself may very well reinforce what Diane Lewis called Anthropology’s “professional exploitation of subject matter” that itself is “an academic manifestation of colonialism.”

What does Kendzior do to actually challenge – let alone subvert – this inherently colonial power dynamic in her field? As a white Western observer, reporting through the very real “white gaze”, Kendzior occasionally gestures at inclusivity in media. That’s nice. But let’s remember: she does this while occupying an elite-and-whiteness-enabled perch within mass media herself – and while also seemingly never deconstructing how she herself got to that position or stepping back from her own privilege in any way to actually make space for others.

Disagreeing with how she wields her inordinate privilege is one thing, of course, but it strains credulity to believe that someone who earned a PhD studying a Uzbek dissident group’s use of social media can continue to be the source of so much strife within our own, dissident online community without knowing exactly what she is doing. That an “awww, shucks” cacophony continues to accompany Kendzior’s near-constant, bad faith provocations in this space belie her obvious intelligence and abundant, scholarly training in this very field.

Kendzior has proven herself immensely capable of utilizing social media spaces and wielding them to serve her will, to promote her own work and those of others whose politics she wants centered. That Kendzior is, yet again, not to be held accountable for her lies, manipulations, smears, state-serving politics and neoconservative-think-tank-funded red-baiting because she is a “she,” is a perilous position for any radical to take. How are her politics and how she embodies them not to subject to the same scrutiny we’d give a Brandon Darby?

Further, regardless of whether the wreckage Kendzior consistently creates in her wake is a result of naive disregard or willful sabotage, it should still be enough to just look at the wreckage itself and move to distance ourselves from a very obvious wrecking ball. So, let’s look at that wreckage.



The first time I became aware of Sarah Kendzior, she had written perhaps one of the most unethical, slanderous and unprofessional hatchet jobs ever posted, even to a mere blog. She got a lot of clicks for what is essentially little more than cherry-picked, blog-mining libel of another woman struggling to raise a family and share her own struggles. Kendzior decontextualized everything “Anarchist Soccer Mom” had written about over years of blogging, slapped it down under her own masthead to serve her own, finger-wagging narrative and essentially demanded her readers despise their author rather than empathize with her struggle. Is this the ethical stuff our media heroes are to be made of?

I don’t know anything about the subject of motherhood, so I didn’t really delve into it then – but what fascinates me now is not the subject of that kerfuffle itself, but rather how Kendzior responded to the inevitable pushback against her horrifyingly libelous screed:


The Mommy Blogger community has a threat problem...

Anonymous email threats. Go on an unethical, smeary attack – then retreat into the sanctity of unquestionable victimhood. Remember that. It might be relevant later.

So, I continued to follow Kendzior on Twitter, like some 31 thousand others, because she covers topics of interest to me and has a concise style that resonates there. It’s actually hard to avoid her in that space, so widespread is her reach. Anyway, I usually like smart people, particularly ones who seem to have an inclination toward leftist politics and (seem to) articulate the same. It wasn’t until May of 2014 that I was given real cause to suspect her politics weren’t at all what I had been led to believe they were.

On May 21, 2014 – the SEIU held a large demonstration at McDonald’s headquarters as part of their “Fight for Fifteen” campaign. That campaign, however, has taken real criticism from comrades like Scott Jay, who observed that while assuring “low-wage workers in Oakland, and elsewhere, are very likely going to get a long overdue raise,” the SEIU’s organizing tactics themselves seemed “to weaken such struggles and not further them.”

To compound suspicion, as the arrests themselves were unfolding that day, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry took to Twitter to thank police for their “diligence and service” in arresting workers! Labor historians don’t need to dig too deep to tell you that the police are the historical antagonist of collectivized, worker action. But as Jay had previously noted, it seemed obvious that SEIU was once again manufacturing “the veneer of struggle while limiting the power and political consequences of their actions.”

Enter Kendzior, who had written a middling, Jacob Riisian effort to propagandize the SEIU’s “Fight for Fifteen” campaign in April and hopped on Twitter to promote her previous work, as any brand manager might. There’s nothing wrong with that. Nobody took issue with her over boosting the minimum wage workers’ struggle while the SEIU action was unfolding. It’s an important fight and it’s good that it’s getting attention.

Then, as part of a series of tweets promoting her article from April (ostensibly to generate page-views in conjunction with the ongoing SEIU action that day), Kendzior tweeted this:

"Not All Corporations"

I’m not a scholar™ – but I’m pretty sure many of my comrades might take issue with this individualistic/moralistic pablum delivered as a grossly imprecise, absolutist pseudo-platitude. Criticism of the tweet was swift and ran the gamut from my own, “height of liberalism” riposte to more measured, anticapitalist exposition. What happened to the more engaging, left criticism – you might ask? Kendzior went on an immediate uninformed, disingenuous and eventually ad hominem attack:

Multi-generational, East Coast elite says worker only  supports "labor as an abstraction."

Now, I don’t know where Kendzior got the notion that “Emma Quangel” only supports “labor as an abstraction” or that disagreeing with Kendzior’s liberal assessment of corporations meant she did “not appear to support workers.” From my vantage point, both of these were bad faith attacks that grossly misrepresented Quangel’s position and cast doubt on her legitimacy as a worker. If I were Quangel, I would’ve been furious. This, of course, would only prove more absurd coming from Kendzior after I investigated her highly privileged background, but I digress. Glass houses and whatnot…

But this back-and-forth is when the “rape threat” of Jacobingazi legend apparently was emailed to Kendzior. Now, I’m not concerned with whether she got a threat or not. I imagine she did because she says she did and prominent women are continually harassed in ways meant to silence them. But I do want to address two things that weren’t adequately addressed during that Social Media upheaval.

First, what purpose would threatening Kendzior serve to anyone trying to actually get her to go on the record with what are clearly, at best, her atrocious liberal, “#NotAllCorporations” politics? Threats of violence are attempts to silence people. Nobody I know wants Kendzior silenced. I want to know exactly what her politics are – and threats of violence, particularly gender violence in this space – undeniably prevent that from happening.

Second, and this is important: by Kendzior’s own account, she received an “anonymous email.” Keep in mind that she had just written (in April) a piece uncritically lauding the SEIU’s “Fight for Fifteen” and was arguing on behalf of fast food workers when she was threatened. And yet immediately, she identified the source of the threat to who? “Brocialists”:

Mocking threats

Now, overlooking the “mocking” tone that Kendzior herself first employed above (for her own, political purposes), anyone with even a cursory understanding of counterintelligence knows that “anonymous letters” were the bread and butter of the US’ COINTELPRO operations against domestic dissidents in the 1960s and 1970s. I’d be hard-pressed to imagine similar strategies aren’t at work today in these spaces. Kendzior, however, a PhD whose focus was on Uzbek dissidents using social media, took the allegedly leftist (anonymous) author at their word and began mocking “brocialists.” And that was that. A star was born.

The “left” now had a wholly manufactured “rape threat” problem (which, of course it does have – because the world has a rape problem), despite the utter impossibility of assigning an anonymous email to anyone (of any political ideology) at all. And, despite giving her space, nobody ever got Kendzior to further articulate her “not all corporations” inanity. Then “Bro Bash” was published and the shitstorm of lies went “full tilt.”

Why nobody stopped to ask how anyone knew the rape threat had emanated from a leftist, I’ll never know. What I do know is that I observed, dishearteningly, as many organizers and activists stoked fires of outrage against my hated/beloved “left” over an anonymous, wholly-unsourceable email. At the outset, assigning it to a “brocialist” was unverifiable. This, of course, was the first thing that rang my “stranger danger” alarms about Kendzior. It didn’t (and still doesn’t) add up.

So I started doing research and kept paying attention.

– – – –


“The performative anti-sexist is certainly capable of learning and navigating those very same grammars to his advantage. It’s many a “good leftist guy” who has done all the reading, learned all the terminology, and used it as evidence of his harmlessness.” – Amber A’Lee Frost, Bro Bash


Having now seen a few of Kendzior’s “tells” up close, I stepped back. I observed. At Molly Crabapple’s private urgings, I publicly denounced “rape threats.” (Who wouldn’t?) But as I sat back and watched, I thought a lot about Frost’s words: “capable of learning and navigating those very same grammars” struck me as particularly significant. I wondered if they could be applied to other folks touring in anti-oppression communities. Scholars? Activist Journalists? Over-hyped doodlers?

I kept an eye on the Celebrity Left and, as always, engaged them – as I would and have anyone, really – whenever their rhetoric struck a discordant note. The way radical language and ideas are churned up by power, stripped of their revolutionary potential, sanitized and then redeployed by liberals has always interested me, so I pay attention to it. Further, any “anarchist” can tell you what it’s like to spar with “Libertarians” or “Anarcho-Capitalists” who continue to encroach on our identifying words, “Libertarian Socialism” and “Anarchism.” It’s a constant struggle against the churning machine of appropriation.

Then in early August, Mike Brown was brutally murdered by the pigs in Ferguson and the people rose up. I hate cops, so I paid rapt attention.

Doug Williams, the target of Kendzior’s most recent libel, apparently noticed some of the same things I saw as events unfolded in Missouri. Kendzior (among many others, to be sure) dropped any pretense of gesturing at leftism and began parroting dangerous, historically racist language and even cited white supremacist websites to back her claims. She “othered” anarchists, exposing my comrades to more scrutiny by the hyper-violent state (and the self-appointed “peace police”) at a time when the focus should’ve been wholly on the cops and the white supremacist system they undoubtedly serve.

Williams, of course, openly addressed similar concerns in both Jacobin and The New Inquiry. So as Kendzior wrote “After Ferguson,” sang “We Shall Overcome” and ushered folks into her friend Antonio French’s Democratic Party Premature Healing Campaign while National Guard soldiers still patrolled its streets, Williams articulated observations I myself could all but stammer angrily on Twitter.

In Love Me, I’m A Liberal, he wrote:


As seen in the responses to Ferguson, many liberals today excel at aping leftist aesthetics in order to earn trust into a community while simultaneously resurrecting anti-leftist slurs like “outside agitator.” They pulverize words like “intersectionality” into a meaningless oblivion, and turn them into signals that, yes, they have also taken a Sociology 201 class. They “get it.”


Williams’ words reminded me, almost immediately, of Frost’s “performative anti-sexist,” only with Kendzior “aping leftist aesthetics in order to earn trust into a community” instead of a “good leftist guy.” Could Kendzior be “capable of learning and navigating those very same grammars” in order to insinuate herself into our dissident communities, online and in Ferguson? Well. Isn’t that exactly what her PhD trained her to do?

I think now, upon further study, that Kendzior’s knee-jerk reversion to state-supporting narratives at the height of the rebellion in Ferguson betrayed her neoconservative, colonial tourism that is otherwise so expertly swaddled in left-gesturing niceties. This is of concern to me, because as Williams observed in Nothing Short of A Revolution, I agree that:


Language matters. The forces of reaction, repression, and revanchism have long understood this, and they have used it to their advantage. Let us use our own language, that of liberation, working-class power, and revolution, to ensure that Michael Brown’s death was not in vain.

Sarah Kendzior knows language matters. She’s a PhD who had to learn a relatively obscure, Central Asian language out of necessity during the course of her studies in order to gain access to Uzbek dissidents on social media. She hails from a long line of Ivy-educated, Connecticut Yankees who have had important, government careers defending police from charges of wrongdoing and murder. Her grandfather worked for Wendell Willkie, the founder of Freedom House – a notorious, neoconservative NGO Kendzior would later work for that was expressly founded to propagandize US imperial adventures… Wait, what?

%22Opportunistic Communist%22 torch

Yup. Sarah Kendzior, who openly bashed communists in Ferguson worked for Freedom House, an organization that “took up the struggle against the… great twentieth century totalitarian threat, Communism” and is widely considered “a flak producing machine”, “an infamous CIA/State Department outfit” and “nothing but a façade for the special services of the United States.”

Is it possible she’s learned our radical Twitter language, too? Mastered hip, liberal white feminist “intersectionality” to either study it or destroy it, or just use it as a tool to further her career as a colonial observer? I can’t imagine leftist Twitter jargon is as difficult to learn as Uzbek, is it?

Now know this: I don’t want any harm to come to Sarah Kendzior of any kind and I definitely don’t want her “silenced.” I want her to actually start talking. As Joe Macaré has said, “be accountable.” If the damage she has done was accidental, she could start by apologizing to the hardworking comrades she has smeared relentlessly for the past year and acknowledge the issues raised above. She could start with Doug Williams and work her way back to Jacobingazi.

She could explain how working for Freedom House didn’t challenge her ethics, but writing under revised editorial guidelines at Al Jazeera did. She could address working for Freedom House at all. She could articulate any politics whatsoever other than a general, progressive headnod. She could explain what “Not All Corporations” means. She could explain why she linked to white supremacist website to smear communist organizers. She could explain why she seems so driven to get on to the healing in Ferguson, despite Gary Younge’s observation after the Zimmerman verdict that “Those who now fear violent social disorder must ask themselves whose interests are served by a violent social order in which young black men can be thus slain and discarded.”

She could do all of this, but I doubt she will. Because she isn’t a part of our community and doesn’t feel a need to be accountable to it. Because it isn’t “infighting” if you’re questioning the political opportunism of a libel-spewing neocon. And her neoconartist brand has not yet once apologized for any of its abuses.

And if she won’t be more forthright, the wreckage she has created and the troubling fact that she has openly played for the casino itself is enough for me to cash out of this game and to tell all my comrades to avoid playing with her or anyone who continues to play with her. Is she a paid, government provocateur? I can’t say for sure. But I, for one, won’t get hustled by someone playing at the table with house money. I know those are terrible odds.

It’s not a game.

ERITREA: The Modern Day Carpetbaggers and Scalawags-Final

From Where I Sit…

September 13, 2014

Sophia Tesfamariam

On 5-7 September 2014 Jay Taber’s Counterpunch article, “Imperial Civil Society, False Fronts for Wall Street”, Taber writes about “compromised NGOs” such as Avaaz and Amnesty International, the foundations and other entities that fund them,  and how they have become “imperial civil society” cow towing to Wall Street, and being used to “justify privatization, austerity, and military aggression by NATO and the US”.

In his article, Taber writes about the relationship between these international NGOs, Corporate America and the Government. The two salient points presented are:

  1. “…With corporate and government funding, often laundered through banks and foundations, international NGOs inspire pathos by constantly producing images of despair—thus allowing them to dominate discourse from an emotional vantage point. As a market-oriented institutional apparatus, this vast bureaucracy works hand in hand with military and finance authorities, thus functioning as Trojan horses on a par with transnational organized crime…As a fifth column of fascism, imperial civil society – funded by such entities as Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Ford Foundation, and Soros Open Society Institute – operates worldwide (in tandem with official false fronts like USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, and U.S. Institute for Peace) to subvert sovereignty and derail democracy in favor of US hegemony…”
  1. “…Overthrowing and destabilizing governments, using NGOs like Avaaz as provocateurs, puts authentic non-profits and journalists at risk. Indeed, the imperial network of financiers like Soros makes NGO entrepreneurs in the pro-war champagne circuit accomplices in crimes against humanity. As frontline opportunists in the psywar waged against public consciousness, these false fronts legitimate “humanitarian warfare” and “free-market environmentalism,” employed against indigenous peoples and independent states…”

So the reader might be asking what or how that has anything into do with Eritrea and in this sitting, the author will present the facts and allow the readers to make their own determinations…

The Carpetbaggers

Carpetbaggers and Scalwags collage 2The bulk of the articles, reports, books that advance the narrative on Eritrea disseminated through academia, media and policy making institutions in the United States and Europe have been generated by a handful of individuals and the “NGOs” that they are associated with. There may be others, but these are the repeat offenders…and the “wonks” who have made Eritrea their forte-lucrative one at that…and who work and collaborate with each other on the Eritrean Project…

  • Tricia Redeker Hepner– Funded by the Social Science Research Council and the Wenner-Gren Foundation began her research of Eritreans in the Philadelphia area and today, as Eritrea expert at Amnesty International has been at the forefront of the anti-Eritrea campaign. Her involvement with Eritrean politics is fishy from the get go. How is it that a young American college graduate on her very first trip to Eritrea finds herself entangled in Eritrean politics?
  • Dan Connell– Grassroots international, RootsNet and the Cape Ann Forum and Freedom House-Recipient of several grants including the MacArthur Foundation. This is the same Foundation that funds Human Rights Watch and other “NGOs”.
  • Frank Smyth-Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ)-Too numerous to list here-Annual Report[1] has details of the individuals and corporations that fund this outfit-with Dan Connell, is a staple in the Eritrean political scene
  • David Bozzini-self professed expert on Eritrea- Funded by the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, which is funded by the federal and the 16 state governments of Germany
  • Victoria Bernal– Bernal has been the recipient of grants and fellowships from Wenner-Gren, Fulbright, the Rockefeller Foundation and others
  • Maryan Van Reisen-European External Policy Advisors (EEPA)-self professed expert on Eritrea-Clients include the European Parliament, various organs of the UN, various NGOs[2] including Caritas, Human Rights Watch, Action Aid, Save the Children etc. etc. Might explain the reluctance of the UN to conduct an independent investigation into the trafficking of Eritrea’s youth. As we shall see later, Van Reisen, like her counterparts, also has an interest in prolonging the agony of asylum seekers and Eritrean migrants.
  • Jennifer Riggan-Came to Eritrea through the Peace Corps as an “English Teacher” in 1995-but now is an expert on Eritrea, and like the others “prepares affidavits and testifies on behalf of asylum seekers. Eritrea’s education system is her main target
  • Sara Dorman-Came to Eritrea as an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Asmara.  The new graduate claims “They needed a political scientist and I needed a job. It seemed like a great way to bridge the transition from student-hood to the real world”.  Today, she “studies” the behavior of Eritreans in social media and judging from the papers produced about Eritrea in the past, she will insist on painting a bleak picture of Eritrea and its leadership.
  • Kjetil Tronvoll-A Norwegian researcher with the  Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights (OCPHR) is in a new “Struggle for Freedom in Eritrea”, and has worked closely with the EQL-His papers, books and articles on Eritrea are too numerous to list here. He is also one of the first western anthropologist to enter Eritrea in 1991-to conduct “research”. An avowed anti-EPLF westerner, he insists on defining Eritrea and the needs of her people.

Those who have followed developments in Africa and especially the Horn of Africa for the last 25 years are familiar with these agencies and their “work” in Africa, but none has experienced as an aggressive campaign by groups funded by the “false fronts”, as the State of Eritrea and its people…(Zimbabawe comes close)

The carpetbaggers, dual hatted researchers, “anthropologists” by day, and “hired intellectuals” by night, have become a staple at every conference, forum, meeting, seminar, workshop etc. held about Eritrea. The many “by invitation only” conferences and presentations are made at academic institutions and forums and are never known with the Eritrean people in Eritrea or in the Diaspora. The idea is to “sensitize” the American and European public so that any actions of their governments will then become easily accepted.

Sometimes, one gets the feeling that Eritrea is a European state… as those around the table are almost always Caucasians, with the members of the Eritrean Quislings League (EQL) serving as the “Eritrean faces”. Most of the papers are placed in “academic journals” and other repositories not easily accessible to the general public, and if they were, the Eritrean public was not aware of their existence. Heck, even the Eritrean Studies Association is run by scalawags and carpetbaggers…hence its slow demise.

Matthew McClearn of the Canadian Business Magazine Attacks Eritrea – White Washes Slavery

In Depth Africa, Zimbabwe

April 30, 2014

By Sophia Tesfamariam,

Who is this Matthew McClearn and what is it that he presumes to know about Eritrea, the people and leadership? Labeling their hard work and sacrifice as “slavery”, a term used only by those who want to white wash slavery and all that it entails, says more about him than it does about Eritrea or her people.

The gallant Eritrean young men and women are not slaves and should never be labeled as such-by anyone, least of all by those responsible for the decades long pain and suffering of the Eritrean people.

WHEN an acquaintance at the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry sent me an advance copy of the article, “The Slaves of Eritrea”, written by Matthew McClearn for the Canadian Business Magazine (understand he also sent a copy to the Canadian Embassy in Ethiopia), I did not find anything new… at least not something worth sharing. My acquaintance labeled the journalist as another “dedeb ferenji” – dumb foreigner – taken for a ride by the Woyane regime. I disagree with that label. I believe Matthew McClearn knew what he was writing and should be held to account by “every tax-paying Canadian citizen”.

The article’s intentions are transparent and McClearn is certainly not doing this because he gives a hoot about Eritrea’s youth, rather, he seems to be doing the bidding on behalf of the minority regime in Ethiopia and others who are intent on vilifying the government of Eritrea and its people for ulterior political agendas.

It should be recalled that a recent document leaked by from the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry calls for an increase in anti-Eritrea propaganda and activities to strengthen the illegal sanctions against Eritrea. Eritrea’s mining sector has been targeted by the regime in Ethiopia and its handlers who have left no stones unturned to stop its development. McClearn attempts to use unsuspecting “tax paying Canadian citizens” to do its bidding by claiming they are profiting from “slavery in a far off land”.

USAID Subversion in Latin America Not Limited to Cuba



April 4, 2014

by Dan Beeton

A new investigation by the Associated Press into a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project to create a Twitter-style social media network in Cuba has received a lot of attention this week, with the news trending on the actual Twitter for much of the day yesterday when the story broke, and eliciting comment from various members of Congress and other policy makers. The “ZunZuneo” project, which AP reports was “aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government,” was overseen by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). AP describes OTI as “a division that was created after the fall of the Soviet Union to promote U.S. interests in quickly changing political environments — without the usual red tape.” Its efforts to undermine the Cuban government are not unusual, however, considering the organization’s track record in other countries in the region.

As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot described in an interview with radio station KPFA’s “Letters and Politics” yesterday, USAID and OTI in particular have engaged in various efforts to undermine the democratically-elected governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Haiti, among others, and such “open societies” could be more likely to be impacted by such activities than Cuba. Declassified U.S. government documents show that USAID’s OTI in Venezuela played a central role in funding and working with groups and individuals following the short-lived 2002 coup d’etat against Hugo Chávez. A key contractor for USAID/OTI in that effort has been Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI).

More recent State Department cables made public by Wikileaks reveal that USAID/OTI subversion in Venezuela extended into the Obama administration era (until 2010, when funded for OTI in Venezuela appears to have ended), and DAI continued to play an important role. A State Department cable from November 2006 explains the U.S. embassy’s strategy in Venezuela and how USAID/OTI “activities support [the] strategy”:

(S) In August of 2004, Ambassador outlined the country team’s 5 point strategy to guide embassy activities in Venezuela for the period 2004 ) 2006 (specifically, from the referendum to the 2006 presidential elections). The strategy’s focus is: 1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.

Among the ways in which USAID/OTI have supported the strategy is through the funding and training of protest groups. This August 2009 cable cites the head of USAID/OTI contractor DAI’s Venezuela office Eduardo Fernandez as saying, during 2009 protests, that all the protest organizers are DAI grantees:

¶5. (S) Fernandez told DCM Caulfield that he believed the [the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Corps’] dual objective is to obtain information regarding DAI’s grantees and to cut off their funding. Fernandez said that “the streets are hot,” referring to growing protests against Chavez’s efforts to consolidate power, and “all these people (organizing the protests) are our grantees.” Fernandez has been leading non-partisan training and grant programs since 2004 for DAI in Venezuela.”

The November 2006 cable describes an example of USAID/OTI partners in Venezuela “shut[ting] down [a] city”:

11. (S) CECAVID: This project supported an NGO working with women in the informal sectors of Barquisimeto, the 5th largest city in Venezuela. The training helped them negotiate with city government to provide better working conditions. After initially agreeing to the women’s conditions, the city government reneged and the women shut down the city for 2 days forcing the mayor to return to the bargaining table. This project is now being replicated in another area of Venezuela.

The implications for the current situation in Venezuela are obvious, unless we are to assume that such activities have ended despite the tens of millions of dollars in USAID funds designated for Venezuela, some of it going through organizations such as Freedom House, and the International Republican Institute, some of which also funded groups involved in the 2002 coup (which prominent IRI staff publicly applauded at the time).

The same November 2006 cable notes that one OTI program goal is to bolster international support for the opposition:

…DAI has brought dozens of international leaders to Venezuela, university professors, NGO members, and political leaders to participate in workshops and seminars, who then return to their countries with a better understanding of the Venezuelan reality and as stronger advocates for the Venezuelan opposition.

Many of the thousands of cables originating from the U.S. embassy in Caracas that have been made available by Wikileaks describe regular communication and coordination with prominent opposition leaders and groups. One particular favorite has been the NGO Súmate and its leader Maria Corina Machado, who has made headlines over the past two months for her role in the protest movement. The cables show that Machado historically has taken more extreme positions than some other opposition leaders, and the embassy has at least privately questioned Súmate’s strategy of discrediting Venezuela’s electoral system which in turn has contributed to opposition defeats at the polls (most notably in 2005 when an opposition boycott led to complete Chavista domination of the National Assembly). The current protests are no different; Machado and Leopoldo López launched “La Salida” campaign at the end of January with its stated goal of forcing president Nicolás Maduro from office, and vowing to “create chaos in the streets.”

USAID support for destabilization is no secret to the targeted governments. In September 2008, in the midst of a violent, racist and pro-secessionist campaign against the democratically-elected government of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Morales expelled the U.S. Ambassador, and Venezuela followed suit “in solidarity.” Bolivia would later end all USAID involvement in Bolivia after the agency refused to disclose whom it was funding in the country (Freedom of Information Act requests had been independently filed but were not answered).  The U.S. embassy in Bolivia had previously been caught asking Peace Corps volunteers and Fulbright scholars in the country to engage in espionage.

Commenting on the failed USAID/OTI ZunZuneo program in Cuba, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) commented that, “That is not what USAID should be doing[.] USAID is flying the American flag and should be recognized around the globe as an honest broker of doing good. If they start participating in covert, subversive activities, the credibility of the United States is diminished.”

But USAID’s track record of engaging in subversive activities is a long one, and U.S. credibility as an “honest broker” was lost many years ago.

How Oppositionist Organizations Act Worldwide – From Egypt to Venezuela

The American Revolution

The American Revolution (June 18, 2012)  | Written by Natalia Viana of Pública | Republished in English on the website  In Serbia by Vladimir Stoiljkovic on  Nov 24, 2013.

[*This article has been translated by a volunteer translator. Read the original article in Portuguese here. ]


In one of the Wikileaks leakage – in which Pública (not-for-profit investigative journalism center in Brazil, founded by a team of women journalists) had access – shows the founder of this organization communicating often with analysts from Stratfor, an organization that mixes journalism, political analysis and espionage methods to sell “intel analysis” to clients such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Coca-Cola and Dow Chemical – who monitored environmentalists’ activities who opposed them – as well as U.S. Navy.

Greenbacks for Blue Buckets: USAID Support for Instability in Russia

Strategic Culture Foundation

January 13, 2014

By Wayne Madsen

One «themed revolution», for which the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its allied operatives of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the George Soros Open Society Institute have become so infamous, went virtually unnoticed in the English language Western media.

In 2010, anti-Russian government provocateurs, financed by Western non-governmental organizations (NGOs), staged a number of protests featuring plastic blue buckets. The buckets were meant to symbolize the portable flashing blue lights, known in Russian as migalki, used atop many vehicles for Russian VIPs, including government officials and private businessmen.

The themed blue bucket protests were directly linked to the «pro-democracy» activities of USAID in Russia. American-backed provocateurs began placing blue buckets on top of their cars to mock the use of blue lights by officials. In response, three parties represented in the State Duma, United Russia, A Just Russia, and the Liberal Democratic Party, proposed a bill to crack down on the use of the blue buckets by protesters who were intent on causing traffic problems, sometimes resulting in vehicle accidents.

U.S. NGO support for the «blue bucket» revolution preceded by a year the nomination by President Barack Obama of anti-Russian activist Michael McFaul as the U.S. ambassador to Russia. McFaul began his tenure in Moscow by opening up the U.S. embassy to all sorts of anti-Russian political activists, provocateurs, and troublemakers.

Getting It Right: Hugo Chávez and the “Arab Spring”

Zero Anthropology

April 14,  2013

by Maximilian Forte


“The new Libya has apparently placed racist atrocity in the pantheon of “human rights.” All those who wash their mouths with terms like “genocide prevention” have apparently left the room. With a new Libya come new spelling conventions: the correct way to spell “oppression” is now liberation. What part of this Arab Spring do you support?”



Some opening vignettes might set the right tone for properly appreciating the question of “who was right” about the so-called Arab Spring. (The notion of there having been an “Arab Spring,” a term first coined by U.S. neoconservatives such as Charles Krauthammer back in 2005, is one that has been subject to radically diverse interpretations, from marking in generic terms some sort of struggle for “freedom” and “democracy” [as if there is only one kind of democracy], to views of a covertly directed process of U.S. political intervention, and direct military intervention. Nonetheless, this article is aimed at those who, even now, are still enchanted with the positive aura of the Arab Spring idea.) As usual, my focus will be on Libya.

Capital-driven Civil Society

Capital-driven Civil Society


Originally published on State of Nature, May 19, 2008.

Republished by Michael Barker with additional links.

by Michael Barker

“It is the more subtle support that democracy manipulators provide to progressive activist organizations that are the most important yet least understood part of their activities.”

According to, the once progressive, now neo-conservative commentator, David Horowitz, Professor Stephen Zunes is a member of a select group of leftist activists that he refers to as The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America (2006). Horowitz is infamous for co-founding the Center for the Study of Popular Culture – which has been ominously renamed as the David Horowitz Freedom Center. More recently though, in 2005, this Center launched DiscoverTheNetworks, an online project that has been accurately referred to as “Horowitz’s Smear Portal”. The relevance of this background is found in the fact that I have also assessed Zunes’ connections to the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (where he chairs the board of academic advisors). While both I and Horowitz have criticised Zunes’ background and affiliations, needless to say Horowitz’s “Smear Portal” attacks Zunes for very different reasons than my own. [1] Nonetheless, it is interesting to note that DiscoverTheNetworks approach to investigating Zunes is very similar to my own, as it identifies the “individuals and organizations that make up the left and also the institutions that fund and sustain it”. The crucial difference, between these two parallel analyses, however, is that I criticise the Left in an attempt to strengthen it by causing it to reflect on the elite manipulation and co-option of civil society, while DiscoverTheNetworks simply aims to undermine the Left. [2]

FLASHBACK | The Velvet Slipper And The Military-Peace Nonprofit Complex

The following excerpts are from the article The Velvet Slipper And The Military-Peace Nonprofit Complex written by Michael Barker. The article in its entirety can be read at Swans Commentary where it was published February 18, 2011.

The political clout of the military-peace nonprofit complex is growing apace, and too many people at home and abroad are in danger of being lulled and then crushed by an oligarchy capable of wearing both the velvet slipper and the iron heel. Such anti-democratic developments hold no surprises to opponents of the oligarchy, but apologists for the velvet slipper who seek to teach anti-democratic intelligence agencies about the power of nonviolent activism must be identified and excluded from further involvement with progressive social movements. A good example that springs to mind is Lester Kurtz, who — in addition to residing on the advisory board of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict — recently responded to an article that challenged the fact that he had given a lecture to the CIA, by “arguing”: “I spoke as an independent academic and in no way as a representative of the ICNC when my government asked me to dialogue with members of its intelligence community. I feel that it is my duty as a citizen to educate others…” and “was glad to give my modest input…” (17)

In his timeless novel The Iron Heel (1907), Jack London was all too aware of John D. Rockefeller and his plutocratic ilk’s desire to crush humanity “under the iron heel of a despotism as relentless and terrible as any despotism that has blackened the pages of the history of man.” Yet London recognized the other dangers that capital posed to an increasingly powerful revolutionary movement, as he warned how the oligarchy complemented their violence against organized labor by providing selective subsidies to conservative unions much as the Rockefeller Foundation went on to do in the wake of the Ludlow Massacre of 1914. (1) But in 1907, when London first published his book, the art of capitalist philanthropy was not fine-tuned, and so if he were writing today, London might well have authored a second book titled The Velvet Slipper.