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Tagged ‘USAID‘

WATCH: Vanessa Beeley Exposes the White Helmets

Corbett Report

February 7, 2018

 

“For the past two years, Vanessa Beeley has been doing on-the-ground reporting in Syria exposing the lies of the NATO powers and their terrorist proxies. Her work on the White Helmets in particular has drawn the ire of the warmongers and their media mouthpieces. Today we talk to Beeley about the true nature of the White Helmets and the well-funded PR campaign that seeks to defend them.” [Corbett Report]

 

Bolivia’s TIPNIS Dispute: Example of How Liberal-Left Alternative Media Becomes a Conveyor Belt for US Regime Change Propaganda

Counterpunch

December 4, 2017

By Stansfield Smith

 

Pro-road CONISUR march

As has become a standard operating procedure, an array of Western environmental NGOs, advocates of indigenous rights and liberal-left alternative media cover up the US role in attempts to overturn the anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal governments of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Evo Morales in Bolivia.

This NACLA article is a recent excellent example of many. Bolivia’s TIPNIS (Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Secure) dispute arose over the Evo Morales government’s project to complete a road through the park, opposed by some indigenous and environmental groups.

As is NACLA modus operandi, the article says not one word about US and rightwing funding and coordination with the indigenous and environmental groups behind the TIPNIS anti-highway protests. (This does not delegitimize the protests, but it does deliberately mislead people about the issues involved).

In doing so, these kinds of articles cover up US interventionist regime change plans, be that their intention or not.

NACLA is not alone in what is in fact apologetics for US interventionism. Include the Guardian, UpsideDownWorld, Amazon Watch, so-called “Marxist” Jeffery Webber (and here), Jacobin, ROAR,  Intercontinentalcry,  Avaaz, In These Times, in a short list of examples. We can add to this simply by picking up any articles about the protests in Bolivia’s TIPNIS (or oil drilling in Ecuador’s Yasuni during Rafael Correa’s presidency) and see what they say about US funding of protests, if they even mention it.

This is not simply an oversight, it is a cover-up.

What this Liberal Left Media Covers Up

On the issue of the TIPNIS highway, we find on numerous liberal-left alternative media and environmental websites claiming to defend the indigenous concealing that:

The leading indigenous group of the TIPNIS 2011-2012 protests was being funded by USAID. The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian East (CIDOB) had no qualms about working with USAID — it boasted on its website that it received training programs from USAID. CIDOB president Adolfo Chavez, thanked the “information and training acquired via different programs financed by external collaborators, in this case USAID”.

 

The 2011 TIPNIS march was coordinated with the US Embassy, specifically Eliseo Abelo. His phone conversations with the march leaders – some even made right before the march set out — were intercepted by the Bolivian counter-espionage agency and made public.

 

“The TIPNIS marchers were openly supported by right wing Santa Cruz agrobusiness interests and their main political representatives, the Santa Cruz governorship and Santa Cruz Civic Committee.” In June 2011 indigenous deputies and right wing parties in the Santa Cruz departmental council formed an alliance against the MAS (Movement for Socialism, Evo Morales’s party). CIDOB then received a $3.5 million grant by the governorship for development projects in its communities.

 

Over a year after the TIPNIS protests, one of the protest leaders announced he was joining a rightwing anti-Evo Morales political party.

 

The protest leaders of the TIPNIS march supported REDD (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). The Avaaz petition (below) criticizing Evo Morales for his claimed anti-environmental actions also covered this up. As far back as 2009 “CIDOB leaders were participating there in a USAID-promoted workshop to talk up the imperialist-sponsored REDD project they were pursuing together with USAID-funded NGOs.”

REDD was a Western “environmental” program seeking to privatize forests by converting them into “carbon offsets” that allow Western corporations to continue polluting. That REDD would give Western NGOs and these indigenous groups funds for monitoring forests in their areas.

These liberal-left alternative media and environmental NGOs falsely presented the TIPNIS conflict as one between indigenous/environmentalist groups against the Evo Morales government. (e.g. the TIPNIS highway was “a project universally[!] condemned by local indigenous tribes and urban populations alike”) Fred Fuentes pointed out that more than 350 Bolivian organizations, including indigenous organizations and communities, even within TIPNIS, supported the proposed highway.

CONISUR (Consejo de Indígenas del Sur), consisting of a number of indigenous and peasant communities within TIPNIS, backed by Bolivia’s three largest national indigenous campesino organizations, organized a march to support of the road. They argued that the highway is essential to integrating Bolivia’s Amazonia with the rest of the country, as well as providing local communities with access to basic services and markets.

The overwhelming majority of people in the West who know about the TIPNIS protests, or the Yasuni protests in Ecuador, where a similar division between indigenous groups took place, never learned either from the liberal-left media or the corporate media, that indigenous groups marched in support of the highway or in support of oil drilling.

Therefore, this liberal-left media is not actually defending “the indigenous.” They are choosing sides within indigenous ranks, choosing the side that is funded and influenced by the US government.

The TIPNIS conflict is falsely presented as Evo Morales wanting to build a highway through the TIPNIS wilderness (“cutting it in half” as they dramatically claim). There are in fact two roads that exist there now, which will be paved and connected to each other. Nor was it wilderness: 20,000 settlers lived there by 2010.[1]

 

Anti- highway march leaders actually defended industrial-scale logging within TIPNIS. Two logging companies operated 70,000 hectares within the national park and have signed 20-year contracts with local communities.

 

They often fail to note that the TIPNIS marchers, when they reached La Paz, sought to instigate violence, demanding Evo Morales removal. Their plot was blocked by mobilization of local indigenous supporters of Evo’s government.

If we do not read Fred Fuentes in Green Left Weekly, we don’t find most of this information. Now, it is true that some of the media articles did mention that there were also TIPNIS protests and marches demanding the highway be built. Some do mention USAID, but phrase it as “Evo Morales claimed that those protesting his highway received USAID funding.”

Avaaz Petition Attacking Evo Morales over TIPNIS

The TIPNIS campaign, which became a tool in the US regime change strategy, was taken up in a petition by Avaaz. It included 61 signing groups. Only two from Bolivia! US signers included Amazon Watch, Biofuelwatch, Democracy Center, Food and Water Watch, Global Exchange, NACLA, Rainforest Action Network.  Whether they knew it, whether they wanted to know it, they signed on to a false account of the TIPNIS conflict, placed the blame on the Bolivian government, target of US regime change, and hid the role of the US.

US collaborators in Bolivia and Ecuador are painted as defenders of free expression, defenders of nature, defenders of the indigenous. The US government’s “talking points” against the progressive ALBA bloc countries have worked their way into liberal-left alternative media, which echo the attacks on these governments by organizations there receiving US funds.  That does not mean Amazon Watch, Upside Down World or NACLA are themselves funded by the US government – if it somehow exculpates them that they do this work for free. Even worse, much of this propaganda against Evo and Correa appears only in the liberal-left alternative press, what we consider our press.

The USAID budget for Latin America is said to be $750 million, but estimates show that the funding may total twice that. Maria Augusta Calle of Ecuador’s National Assembly, said in 2015 the US Congress allocated $2 billion to destabilize targeted Latin American countries.

This information, how much money it is, what organizations in the different countries receive it, how it is spent, ought to be a central focus of any liberal-left alternative media purporting to stand up for the oppressed peoples of the Americas.

Yet, as Fuentes points out:  “Overwhelmingly, solidarity activists uncritically supported the anti-highway march. Many argued that only social movements — not governments — can guarantee the success of [Bolivia’s] process of change…. with most articles written by solidarity activists, they] downplay the role of United States imperialism…. Others went further, denying any connection between the protesters and US imperialism.”

Why do they let themselves become conveyer belts for US regime change propaganda?

Why did this liberal-left media and NGOs let themselves become conveyer belts for US propaganda for regime change, legitimizing this US campaign to smear the Evo Morales government?

Some of it lies in the liberalish refusal to admit that all international issues can only be understood in the context of the role and the actions of the US Empire. As if conflicts related to countries the US deems hostile to its interests can be understood without taking the US role into account. Some liberal-left writers and groups do understand this, just as they do understand they may risk their positions and funding by looking to closely into it.

It seems easier to not see the role the Empire plays and simply present a liberal-left “critique” of the pluses and minuses of some progressive government targeted by the US. That is how these alternative media sources end up actually advocating for indigenous groups and environmental NGOs which are US and corporate funded. They even criticize countries for defending national sovereignty by shutting down these non-governmental organizations, what Bolivian Vice-President Linera exposes as “foreign government financed organizations” operating in their countries.

Some of it lies in the widely held anti-authoritarian feeling in the US that social movements “from below” are inherently good and that the government/the state is inherently bad. The reporting can be informative on social movements in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia where the people struggle against state repression. But when these social movements in Ecuador or Bolivia were able to win elections and gain hold of some real state power, reporting soon becomes hostile and misleading. “Support social movements when they struggle against governmental power; oppose them once they win government power,” they seem to say. Their reporting slides into disinformation, undermining our solidarity with other struggles, and covering up US regime change efforts. UpsideDownWorld is an excellent example of this.

Some of it lies in what many who call themselves “left” still have not come to terms with: their own arrogant white attitude they share with Western colonizers and present day ruling elites: we know better than you what is good for you, we are the best interpreters and defenders of your socialism, your democracy, your human rights. They repeatedly critique real or imagined failures of progressive Third World governments – targets of the US.

Genuine solidarity with the peoples of the Third World means basing yourself in opposition to the Empire’s interference and exposing how it attempts to undermine movements seeking to break free from the Western domination.

Some of it lies in deep-rooted white racist paternalism in their romanticizing the indigenous as some “noble savage” living at one with nature in some Garden of Eden. Providing these people with schools, health clinics, modern conveniences we have, is somehow felt not to be in their best interests.

A serious analysis of a Third World country must begin with the role the West has played.  To not point out imperialism’s historic and continuing exploitive role is simply dishonest, it is apologetics, it shows a basic lack of human feeling for the peoples of the Third World.

A function of corporate media is to conceal Western pillaging of Third World countries, to cheerlead efforts to restore neocolonial-neoliberal governments to power. However, for liberal-left media and organizations to do likewise, even if halfway, is nothing other than supporting imperialist interference.

Notes.

[1] Linda C.  Farthing, Benjamin H. Kohl Evo’s Bolivia: Continuity and Change (2014: 52)

 

[Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity Committee, recently returned from a SOA Watch, Task Force on the Americas delegation to Venezuela.]

Accomplishments of Eleven Years of the “Process of Change” in Evo Morales’ Bolivia

Chicago Alba Solidarity

January 4, 2018

by Stansfield Smith

 

Evo Morales will soon have been the president of Bolivia for 12 years, heralding the ascent of the indigenous social movements to governmental power. This ended the apartheid system against the indigenous that existed for 500 years in Bolivia. Evo won in 2005 with 53.7% of the vote, followed by re-elections in 2009 with 64.2% and 2014 with 61.3%.

The country has made great strides in economic development, national sovereignty, women’s and Original Peoples’ rights, respect for Mother Earth, raising the people’s standard of living, level of education, and health care.

His presidency, which has brought an era of relative social peace and economic growth, has been the longest in Bolivia’s history. Since 1825 Bolivia has had 83 presidents with 37, almost half, by means of coup d’etats. Previous presidents typically lacked social legitimacy, representing a political system that excluded participation of the indigenous peoples, plagued by social and economic inequality, subjugated to foreign interests, and complicit with the looting of natural resources. By 2002, after years of neoliberal regimes serving foreign, mostly US corporations, the proportion of the rural population living in extreme poverty had risen to 75%.

The election of Evo, a campesino movement leader and head of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), began what his government describes as the “Process of Change” that shifted power away from Bolivia’s traditional elite, the mostly white owners of industry and agriculture, and towards the majority, the mostly indigenous workers and campesinos.

Reflecting on the historic significance of the changes underway in Bolivia, Morales declared: “We are the indigenous blood of Mother Earth. Until now Bolivia has been ruled by a few families that have all the political and economic power. They despise, humiliate, marginalize and hate the majority of the indigenous population.” “After 525 years of colonization, we indigenous peoples are part of the construction of a new Plurinational State and we have full particpation in international political organizations and forums.” 

Why Has Economic Development Been so Successful During the Process of Change

The MAS government undertook an anti-neoliberal  program, which has enabled the economy to grow an average 5% per year since 2006, compared to 2.8% during the years 1951-2005. As a result, the Gross Domestic Product has grown four-fold from $9 billion in 2005 to  $36 billion today.  Bolivia has become the fastest growing economy in Latin America.

Economic strategy focused on regaining national sovereignty over the country’s natural resources and using this wealth not to enrich foreign multinationals but to raise the standard of living of the neglected people of Bolivia. In 2006 Evo Morales asserted public ownership over the country’s gas and oil resources, making foreign companies turn over extractive industry resources to the state. The state now fully controls  sales, transport and distribution as well as key decisions regarding the extraction and refining of raw materials. The nationalization decree also forced foreign oil companies to renegotiate contracts with the new administration. Today, foreign corporations still extract most of Bolivia’s natural gas, but do so as contractors hired by the state, on the state’s terms.

Prior to the nationalizations (not only of gas and oil, but telecommunications, water, electricity, and a number of mines), foreign corporations pocketed about 85% of the profits generated by natural gas production. Morales increased the country’s profit share from gas from about 15% before his presidency to between 80-90%.[i] In 2005, before nationalization, government gas revenues totaled $0.6 billion; in 2015 it was over four times as much, $2.6 billion – in fact down from $4.5 billion in 2014.

In 2015 all gas and oil revenues yielded $4 billion, making up nearly half of Bolivia’s export earnings.

Over ten years, Evo’s Bolivia has gained $31.5 billion from the nationalizations, compared to a mere $2.5 billion earned during the previous ten years of neoliberal policies. This vastly increased revenue, largely used to benefit the people, starkly exemplifies the extent the people have been robbed to serve foreign corporate interests.

By the end of 2013 the state-owned portion of the economy reached 35%, double that of previous neoliberal governments. The state has become the main generator of wealth, and public investment amounted to over $5 billion in 2016, compared to a mere $629 million in 2006.  Much of this new revenue funds the country’s impressive development, infrastructure, community projects, such as schools, gyms, clinics, roads, and subsidies for agricultural production. It is spent on the people’s health and education, on price controls for staple foods, on wage increases, and social security benefits.

This humane redistribution of national wealth away from corporate interests to serving the poor majority has allowed one in five Bolivians, two million people, to escape a life of poverty. Even the World Bank has recognized the country as world champion in income growth for the poorest 40% of its population.

In the US, the government is taking the opposite course, turning its back on the poor. Here the poverty has grown over the same period, from 12.3% to 12.7%.[ii] Vacant homes number 18,600,000  – enough for each homeless person to have 6. The government cut food stamps by $8.7 billion in 2014,  cut 500,000 poor from the program in 2016, with plans to slash $19.3 billion per year for ten years. Yet Washington increases the military budget this year by $80 billion, an amount that could make public college free.

For Bolivia to industrialize and diversify the economy, to move away from dependence on natural resource exports, is a difficult long-term task. The country did create 485,000 jobs in the productive sector between 2006-2010, and developed industries to process natural resources.[iii] It advanced significantly its agricultural production, now providing 95% of the country’s food.  Yet raw materials still account for  90% of Bolivia’s exports.

Big investments are underway in infrastructure construction, hydrocarbon exploration, industrialization of natural gas (for fertilizers and plastics), more lithium production, and electric power for export. “Here we have the presence of China, with cooperation without pre-conditions, with credit without conditions,” Evo Morales said, contrasting Chinese aid to Western aid.

New Social Programs to Eliminate Poverty

In Bolivia under Evo, poverty has declined from 60.6% of the population in 2005 to 38.6% in 2016. Extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.25 per day) fell from 38% to 16.8%. The real minimum wage has risen from 440 bolivars a month to 2,000 a month, (from $57 to $287) Unemployment stands at under 4%, the lowest in Latin America, down from 8.5% in 2005.

Here are some of the measures to combat poverty:

  1. Electricity has been brought to 66% of rural homes by 2015, up from 25% in 2001.
  2. Over 127,000 homes have been created for low income Bolivians who lack housing. Another 23,000 homes will be built in 2018.
  3. The Juancito Pinto program aims to increase school attendance and reduce child labor. It presently reaches 2 million children, who each receive $28 annually upon finishing their school year.
  4. The Juana Azurduy program combats maternal and infant mortality, as well as malnutrition in children under two years old. Mothers can receive up to $266 from the program. UNICEF has pointed out the effectiveness of these social programs. Chronic undernourishment in children under wo has sharply fallen from 27%, when the program started in 2009 to 16% now, and infant mortality has been cut in half just since 2008.
  5. The Renta de la Dignidad is a payment to the 900,000 Bolivians over 60 years old, who would otherwise receive no pension. Incapacitated and disabled people now receive 250 bolivianos ($36) monthly and guaranteed job placement in public and private institutions.

More than 4.8 million Bolivians – in a country of just over 10 million – today benefit from these  programs, progams which not just combat poverty, but  improve public health and education.

Meanwhile in the US the bottom 90% of households are poorer today than they were in 1987.

Bolivia has cut income inequality by two-thirds, with the share of income of the top 10% vis-à-vis the poorest 10% has dropped from 128 to 1 in 2005 to 37 to 1 in 2016.

In the US, after years of neoliberal programs, we have the shocking fact that the three richest US citizens have more wealth than the bottom 50% of the population.

Gains for Rights of Original Peoples

The country, after a national discussion initiated by Bolivia’s five main indigenous campesino organizations, adopted a new constitution. The new document recognized Bolivia as a Plurinational State, with equal status and autonomy for Original Peoples, and also reclaimed control over natural resources. The new government has even established a Ministry of Decolonization (with a Depatriarchalization Unit) to further the uprooting of the previous apartheid system. By 2011, 90 of the 166 elected representatives of the national assembly came directly from the ranks of the progressive social movements. [iv]

Gains in Education and Health Care

Bolivia had an illiteracy rate of 13% when Evo Morales became president. After a mass literacy campaign that used Cuba’s YES I CAN program, 850,000 were educated and by 2008 Bolivia was declared free of illiteracy.  The country is second to Cuba in Latin America in terms of funding education. There are now 16,000 educational establishments in the country, 4,500 of them were built since 2006 with the funds from the nationalized gas industry.

Life expectancy of Bolivians during Evo’s presidency has increased from 64 years to 71 years. This is partly the result of the almost 700 members of the Cuban medical brigade working in the country. Cuba’s Operation Miracle has also enabled 676,000 Bolivians to have had their vision restored. Moreover, around 5,000 Bolivians have obtained their medical degrees in Cuba, going back to their country to provide their services. The country now has 47 new hospitals and over 3,000 health centers being built.

Land Distribution and Food Self-Sufficiency

Before Evo became president, 5% of property owners owned 70% of the arable land.[v] From 2006-2010 over 35 million hectares of land (1/3rd of Bolivia), was handed over to Original Peoples’ peasant communities to be run communally. This included government lands, large estates, and forest. Another 21 million hectares previously occupied illegally by large landowners were declared public lands, mostly protected forests.[vi] The land reform law expropriated underutilized lands, and permitted seizure of property from landowners employing forced labor or debt peonage. In all, approximately 800,000 low-income peasants have benefited. Of those who received titles to their land, 46% have been women. For the first time since the European conquest, smallholders control 55% of all land. The government ensures that these small producers receive preferential access to equipment, supplies, loans, and state subsidized markets, key factors in enabling the country to become self-sufficient in food.

US Interference and Regime Change Attempts

As John Perkins points out in Confessions of an Economic Hitman, any government pursuing anti-neoliberal economic policies or its own foreign policy independent of the US, as the case with Rafael Correa’s Ecuador and Evo’s Bolivia, becomes a US target for overthrow.

Evo Morales has become one of Washington’s most disfavored leaders in the Americas.  Washington continues to be concerned about Evo revolutionizing the indigenous movements in the region, and  tries to tarnish his reputation as an indigenous movement leader.

Wikileaks documents show that the US tried to undermine the presidencies of Evo Morales and Rafael Correa even before they were elected. Right after Evo’s inauguration, the US ambassador made it clear to him that funding by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank and IMF depended on his “good behavior,” [vii] that is: back off nationalizing Bolivia’s petroleum resources. When Morales rejected these “orders,” including naming government ministers and military leaders without seeking prior US embassy consent, Washington began financing Bolivian opposition groups seeking to overthrow the indigenous government.

Washington  used USAID, NED [National Endowment for Democracy], IDB, World Bank, and IMF, to take punitive measures such as vetoing multilateral loans, postponing talks on alleviating Bolivia’s foreign debts, and discouraging international loans and grants. US Ambassador Greenlee wrote in a cable, in January 2006, just months after Morales’ election, “U.S. assistance, the largest of any bilateral donor by a factor of three, is often hidden by our use of third parties to dispense aid with U.S. funds.” He noted “many USAID-administered economic programs run counter to the direction the GOB [Government of Bolivia] wishes to move the country.”

US embassy cables showed Washington sought to create divisions in the social and indigenous movements that make up the support base of the country’s first indigenous-led government. Despite recognizing these were “traditionally confrontational organizations” vis-a-vis the US, Greenlee believed that “working more closely with these social sector representatives” who expressed dissent towards Morales “seems to be most beneficial to [US government] interests”.

USAID poured at least $85 million into Bolivia. Initially, the US hoped to destabilize the government by training the separatists in the richer Santa Cruz area in the eastern lowlands. USAID money flowed to groups in these opposition-based areas, as part of “USAID’s larger effort to strengthen regional governments as a counter-balance to the central government.” [viii]

Soon these eastern regions, the Media Luna, were in open rebellion, demanding a referendum on autonomy. Resulting protests led to the killing of at least 20 MAS supporters who had mobilized to crush the rebellion. The separatists’ goal was to divide Bolivia into two separate republics: a poor one governed by an indigenous majority and a much wealthier one run by European descendants in the areas home to the gas transnationals and large agribusiness.

The US never denounced opposition violence, not even after the massacre of the MAS supporters. Moreover, the US Embassy knew in advance of the opposition plans to blow up gas lines, but did not report it, nor even attempt to dissuade the opposition from doing so.[ix]

Evo was soon to expel US Ambassador Goldberg for his interference. Nevertheless, USAID  “still channeled at least $200 million into the country since 2009.”  USAID was eventually expelled in 2013.

Once the Media Luna separatist plan collapsed,[x] USAID switched to courting indigenous communities by using environmental NGOs. The Aymaras – Evo is one — and Quechuas, Bolivia’s two largest indigenous peoples, live mostly in the highlands and central regions. The east is home to the remaining 34 indigenous peoples. In 2011 new anti-government protests in the east again arose, this time around a planned TIPNIS highway.

Protests against the Government around the TIPNIS (Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory)

The Bolivian government planned to build a highway — actually to widen, pave and connect two roads with a 20-40 mile new connector — going through the TIPNIS. Western funded NGOs along with some local indigenous groups organized an international campaign against the MAS government, claiming Evo was repressing the indigenous and destroying untouched nature. This campaign was partly funded by USAID  and received sympathetic reporting in NACLA, UpsideDownWorld, Amazon Watch, and other liberal-left alternative media, which either omitted or discounted the US role. Avaaz [xi] and allied NGOs in solidarity with the protest groups organized international petition of protest. This foreign interference served to exacerbate a resolvable internal Bolivian dispute.

Fred Fuentes and Cory Morningstar wrote several exposés of this Western campaign against Evo, the covering up of the facts surrounding the TIPNIS road and the protests, including the USAID funding.[xii]  Evo Morales even revealed transcripts of phone calls between the anti-highway march organizers and U.S. embassy officials, including calls right before the march set out.

That the TIPNIS protest leaders supported the REDD (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), which would give Western NGOs and these indigenous groups funds for monitoring TIPNIS forests, was also not mentioned by liberal-left alternative media. REDD uses poor nations for carbon offsets so corporations in rich countries can continue polluting.

Many Western solidarity activists uncritically supported the anti-highway march. Many of their articles about the issue downplayed and made no mention of connections between the protest leaders and Washington and the Santa Cruz right wing.

Eventually the issue was resolved through a consultation process, and 55 of the 69 TIPNIS indigenous communities agreed to the road.[xiii]

US Manipulation Helped Cause Evo’s Loss in the 2016 Constitutional Referendum

The US again intervened to influence the February 21, 2016 referendum to change the constitution to allow Evo Morales to run again for the presidency. A smear campaign against him took place, including false stories of his corruption, nepotism, and fathering a child with a lover, which led to him losing the vote. The day is now recognized as the “Day of the Lie.” On the 2017 anniversary, mobilizations around the country backed the Process of Change and rejected the previous year’s vote. Washington is already at work to block his renomination in 2019.

USAID and NED Funding of Oppositional Forces

According to Bolivia’s Cabinet Chief Juan Ramon Quintana, from 2006-2015 NED funded around 40 institutions in Bolivia including economic and social centers, foundations and non-governmental organizations, for a total of over $10 million. For 2013, the combined NED and USAID allocations for Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia totaled over $60 million, with the bulk of these funds destined to Cuba and Ecuador.

The Issue of  “Extractivism” in Bolivia

Linda Farthing notes that in world colonial and neocolonial history,  “the exploitation of [Bolivia’s] considerable natural resources has also been nearly unparalleled.”  It included Spain’s richest gold and silver mine, one the richest tin mines, two of today’s  largest silver and iron ore mines, half of the world’s lithium,  and South America’s second largest gas reserves.  She adds, “It comes as no surprise that Bolivia’s history and environment have been dominated by relentless extraction.”

A central challenge facing Latin American governments is overcoming this dependency on raw material exports to a world market controlled by Western powers. This issue, who some present as “extractivism,” has become one of the main points of liberal-left and environmental NGO criticism of the positive changes in both Evo’s Bolivia and Correa’s Ecuador.

 “Extractivism” is a deliberately politically neutral and ahistorical term that conceals the brutal history that created the present First World-Third World system. “Extractivism” glosses over what has been 500 years of mass murder of Original Peoples, their slavery and semi-slavery for the purpose of plundering their gold, silver and other natural resources.

The Third World remains dependent on raw material exports, with their economies fragmented into specialized extractive industries geared towards a world market controlled by the First World, alongside backward, low-tech domestic industries and a bloated informal sector.

Bolivia cannot compete in industrial production with countries with more modern institutions, citizens with a higher educational level, developed infrastructure, and with access to the sea. To break free from being a low-cost provider of raw materials, whether mineral or agricultural, will be a long process.

As Fred Fuentes notes,  the question of “extractivism” centers on how a Third World country like Bolivia can overcome centuries of colonialism and neocolonialism to provide its people with basic services while trying to respect the environment. The main culprits are not Bolivian, but  the Western governments and their corporations. Defenders of the indigenous and Bolivia  must demand the West pay its ecological debt and transfer the necessary technology for sustainable development to countries such as Bolivia. “Until this occurs, activists in rich nations have no right to tell Bolivians what they can and cannot do to satisfy the basic needs of their people. Otherwise, telling Bolivian people that they have no right to a highway or to extract gas to fund social programs (as some NGOs demanded), means telling Bolivians they have no right to develop their economy or fight poverty.”

Environmental Achievements

Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Linera points out that Bolivia contributes 0.1% of the world’s greenhouse gases, but its trees clean 2% of the world’s carbon dioxide, resupplying that as oxygen. He attacks the Western “colonial, elitist environmental NGOs” for imposing their environmental demands on the Third World, saying they are blind to the Third World’s right to development.

Fuentes called out Western so-called defenders of Bolivia’s environment who attack Evo Morales over extractivism, for not devoting a single article on how the government has drastically cut deforestation 64% between 2010-2013. He asked, “why have media outlets, seemingly so concerned about Bolivia’s environment, failed to investigate what might be the steepest reduction in greenhouse gas emission per capita of any country in the world?”

They also do not mention that in South America, Bolivia has the greatest number of trees per inhabitant. Peru has 1,500, Brazil 1,400, Argentina 1,200, Colombia 1000, Ecuador, 600, Paraguay 2, 500. Bolivia has 5,400. And this year they will plant another 5 million.

Misrepresenting the Morales government’s environmental record often aims to delegitimize Morales’ position not only as a leading spokesperson for the indigenous but  in the global fight against climate change. Evo has rejected the carbon offset REDD schemes many Western environmental NGOs supported and clearly blames global warming on the  First World’s capitalist operations. “I’m convinced that capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity and the environment, enemy of the entire planet.”  He has demanded the Western rich countries repay their climate debt by transfer of technology and funds to the Third World.

Bolivia as a center of anti-imperialist social movements

The Bolivian government has sought to build political alliances with other governments and social movements in order to help strengthen the global forces for fundamental change. Liberal-left critics of Evo Morales, who attack him around TIPNIS, “extractivism,” even for being a neoliberal, so often willing to offer  a checklist of measures for how Bolivian socialism should be built, so often willing to portray Evo Morales as backtracking after he took office,  tend to go mum on his anti-imperialist measures, conferences, and statements.

Evo Morales has become an outspoken world leader against US hegemony and has pushed hard to make Bolivia a center of anti-imperialist social movements. Bolivia organized a number of international conferences: People’s Summit on Climate Change (2010), Anti-imperialist and Anticolonial Summit of the Peoples of Latin America and the World (2013), Anti-Imperialist International Trade Union Conference (2014),  the G77 Summit of 133 Third World nations (2014), the key promotor of the United Nations’ World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (2014), World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Defense of Life  (2015), World Conference of the Peoples For a World Without Borders towards Universal Citizenship (2017).

He has called for rich countries to pay climate reparation to those poorer ones suffering the effects of climate change. Warning of a coming “climate holocaust” that will destroy parts of Africa and many island nations, he called for an international climate court of justice to prosecute countries for climate crimes.

In 2016 he inaugurated a military “Anti-Imperialist Commando School,” saying “We want to build anti-colonial and anti-capitalist thinking with this school that binds the armed forces to social movements and counteracts the influence of the School of the Americas that always saw the indigenous as internal enemies.”

Besides expelling the US ambassador and USAID for their roles in coup plotting, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was expelled in 2009 for its actions against social organizations and for interfering with the actual struggle against narcotrafficking.

Evo Morales’ anti-cocaine program has resulted in land used for coca production being reduced by one-fifth since 2005. [xiv] The OAS considers Bolivia’s program “a best practice…[worthy of] replication”; it is also praised by the UN Office of Drug Control. The DEA’s military base was transformed into the Cochabamba airport and renamed Soberania [Sovereignty].

“I am pleased to have expelled the U.S. ambassador, the Drug Enforcement Administration and to have closed the U.S. military base in Bolivia. Now, without a U.S. ambassador, there is less conspiracy, and more political stability and social stability.” And in reference to the IMF and World Bank, which had served to force Bolivia to divert funds away from social welfare programs, he added “Without the International Monetary Fund, we are better off economically.”

Speaking of the US’ $700 billion military budget, Evo said “”If that money was used for cooperation or to fight poverty, we could solve so many [of the world’s social and environmental] problems.” Instead, “The US creates and perpetuates international conflicts for profit….The capitalist system that [it] represents is not a policy that embodies the people of the United States but a policy of the transnational corporations, especially those that commercialize weapons and push for an arms race…they use any pretext against the anti-imperialist countries to subdue and dominate them politically and rob them economically. They’re after our natural resources.”

Challenges Facing The Process of Change

Evo has said that “the retreat of the left in Latin America is due to the incapacity of progressive governments to face a media war and the lack of political training of the youth”. Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera also pointed out that progressive governments have failed to promote a kind of cultural revolution alongside the political revolution; social programs have successfully lifted many out of poverty, creating a new middle class with new consumerist attitudes, without promoting a corresponding new value system; progressive governments must do more to tackle the entrenched corruption of the neoliberal years; the question of the continuity of leadership remains a challenge; and Latin American economic integration remains a weakness despite considerable advances in political regional integration.

Three factors may cause Bolivia’s Process of Change to stagnate and be partially reversed. It has not moved beyond anti-neoliberalism policies, that have brought great benefits to the people, in a more anti-capitalist direction.  While the MAS government has democratized the traditional Bolivian state, it has modified this bourgeois state but not replaced it with a new one that would be a superior tool for the indigenous campesino and working people to advance their struggle. It has not built an organization of activists committed to leading this struggle with the people.

Now coming on 12 years of the Process of Change, Bolivia is a new country under the leadership of Evo Morales and Garcia Linera. Each passing year is one more of social, political and economic transformation, of opening up national decision-making to the indigenous communities, peasant and worker social movements. Not only have the faces of those who govern radically changed, but the country itself. From one of the poorest countries in Latin America, it has become the leader in sustained economic growth. From a country founded on social exclusion to the point of apartheid, it has become a country of inclusion for all, where more than half the Congress consists of women, where illiteracy is eliminated, where the people have free health care and education, and  have gained much greater control over the wealth of their natural resources.

 

[Stansfield Smith maintains ChicagoALBASolidarity.wordpress.com, produces the AFGJ Venezuela and ALBA Weekly, and is active in the movement against US interference in Latin America. He co-founded the Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5 in 2002 and was active in that campaign through their freedom in 2014. He administers the Facebook groups ‘Friends of Evo’s Bolivia/ Amigos de la Bolivia de Evo,” “Stand with Venezuela,””Friends of Ecuador- North America,” among others. His Masters thesis at the University of Chicago was ‘The Development of the Labor Theory of Value in Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx.”]

[i]  Linda Farthing gives different figures: “the total government take shot up to about 70 percent of production, making gas its primary income source with annual revenues jumping from $332 million before nationalization to more than $2 billion today.”

[ii] These figures understate the actual figure as they exclude the 12 million undocumented, who are disproportionately poor.

[iii] Federico Fuentes, “Bad Left Government” vs “Good Social Movements”? in Steve Ellner (ed.) Latin America’s Radical Left, Maryland:Rowman & Littlefield (2014) p. 110

[iv]  Federico Fuentes « Bolivia’s Communitarian Socialism », Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions, Halifax, Winnepeg:Fernwood Publishing; London, NewYork: Zed Books (2013) p. 86

[v] Dangl, Ben, “The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia,” California: AK Press (2007) p.95

[vi] Federico Fuentes,  Federico Fuentes « Bolivia’s Communitarian Socialism », Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions, Halifax, Winnepeg:Fernwood Publishing; London, NewYork: Zed Books (2013) p. 85

[vii] The Wikileaks Files: The World According to US Empire, London, New York: Verso (2015) p. 504

[viii] Ibid., p. 507; quote is from a US government cable. See also https://sputniknews.com/latam/201602191035028066-bolivia-wikileaks-us-funding-separatists/

and El informe de 2007 de la USAID

[ix]  The Wikileaks Files: The World According to US Empire, (2015: 508).  “The US had full knowledge of opposition groups’ terrorist plans, and yet did not denounce them,” Eirik Vold [author of Ecuador In the Sights: The WikiLeaks Revelations and the Conspiracy Against the Government of Rafael Correa] told Prensa Latina, adding that the US had prior knowledge of a planned attack on a natural gas pipeline, which resulted in a ten percent decrease in Bolivia’s in gas exports to Brazil.”

[x] The Media Luna attempted coup broke under the pressure of several Latin American anti-neoliberal governments (Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, El Salvador, Ecuador y Nicaragua) issued a declaration in support of Bolivia’s constitutional government. Nevertheless the US continued to maintain constant communication with the leaders of the separatist movement.

[xi] It included 61 signers, only two from Bolivia. US signers included Amazon Watch, Biofuelwatch, Democracy Center, Food and Water Watch, Global Exchange, NACLA, Rainforest Action Network.

[xii] Fred Fuentes, “Bad Left Government” versus “Good Left Social Movements”? in Latin America’s Radical Left  (2014) pp. 120-121

[xiii] Linda C.  Farthing, Benjamin H. Kohl Evo’s Bolivia: Continuity and Change, Austin, University of Texas Press (2014) pp. 52-54

[xiv] Drug seizures have almost tripled under Evo,  Informe Presidencial, 22 de enero 2017 http://www.embolivia.org.br/UserFiles/File/PDFs/emb_inf2017.pdf p. 12

 

Avaaz Goes to Myanmar

Avaaz Goes to Myanmar

September 8, 2017

by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

 

“Good fucking luck with the World Bank ‘supporting’ your transition to democracy. Soon, the ADB (Asian Development Bank) will come and do the same – if it hasn’t already. Everyone falls for the utterly stupid. Mad world.” – Philippine citizen/activist Kristine Alvarez in response to the announcement “World Bank OKs first Myanmar aid in 25 years”, November 2, 2011

Andrea Woodhouse poses for a portrait on the new bridge on Sule Pagoda road, downtown Yangon. (C) Chiara Luxardo

 

In the book NGOs – The Self-Appointed Altruists (written in 2002 and updated in 2011) the author observes:

“NGO’s in places like Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Albania, and Zimbabwe have become the preferred venue for Western aid – both humanitarian and financial – development financing, and emergency relief. According to the Red Cross, more money goes through NGO’s than through the World Bank. Their iron grip on food, medicine, and funds rendered them an alternative government – sometimes as venal and graft-stricken as the one they replace.”

 

“The elites like this model, but it’s fragility is evident. Cancun itself can only take so many more category 5 hurricanes before it will be retired like Mazatlan or Atlantic City. When this happens, new frontiers of commodified leisure, whether in Colombia, Sri Lanka or Myanmar, will be developed, but even so the economic and political costs of the 2 degree Celsius average temperature rise that the world leaders have deemed acceptable are staggering.” — Normalizing Catastrophe: Cancun as Laboratory of the Future, Dec 18. 2010

In the March 3, 2017 article Yangon, Myanmar: World Bank Specialist Goes Back to Beginnings the Financial Times published a full feature on Avaaz co-founder Andrea Woodhouse. The article covers the following events.

In 2008 Avaaz co-founders Andrea Woodhouse and her husband David Madden went to Myanmar. According to Woodhouse, she carried out post-disaster work for nine months following Cyclone Nargis for “a body comprising the government, the UN, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations”. During this time, Woodhouse states there were “no credit cards, no ATMs and a SIM card for a mobile phone cost roughly $1,500.00.”

Former United States President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Aung San Suu Kyi and her staff at her home in Rangoon on November 19, 2012. Source: (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Neoliberalism would soon follow. In 2012, Woodhouse would relocate to central Yangon “to settle as a social development specialist for the World Bank, which was re-engaging with Myanmar after an absence of more than 20 years” with her spouse and Avaaz co-founder David Madden. Not so coincidentally, Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, US and EU sanctions began to lift and “market liberalisation” was under way. Between 2011 and 2015 the cost of renting a typical apartment more than doubled with landlords catering to the wave of foreign money by demanding a full years rent up front.

In the Montessori school where Woodhouse’s child attends (“one of maybe two expats in a class of about 15 to 20 children”) the school teaches in English rather than Burmese. Living in one of the poorest countries in Asia, wealthy expats (inclusive of Woodhouse and Madden) and Myanmar elites travel abroad for medical treatment and child birth. Woodhouse acknowledges her children are  “extremely privileged”.

August 18, 2017, The FINANCIAL — “The Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the World Bank today signed a US$200 million credit for a First Macroeconomic Stability and Fiscal Resilience Development Policy Operation…. The terms for the IDA credit include a repayment period of 38 years…” [Source]

“In 2012 if we went to a restaurant popular with expats, we would probably recognise everyone there. Now we wouldn’t know a single person.”— Andrea Woodhouse

The vast majority of expats rent. Typical two-bedroom, serviced apartments in the capital cost about $5,100 per month. Parliament passed a new condominium law, which gives foreigners rights to purchase flats, in January 2016.

Avaaz Co-founder David Madden in Myanmar

  

Avaaz and Purpose co-founders Jeremy Heimans (l) and David Madden: “Jeremy Heimans and David Madden founders of Get Up! Action for Australia, at Old Parliament house in Canberra on Friday, 29th July, 2005.” THE AGE NEWS Picture by PENNY

“After years of isolation, Myanmar is opening up. Opportunities abound. However international companies have little experience here and local firms have little experience working with them. Parami Road meets this need.” — Parami Road Website

As first noted in the 2014 article, SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire, David Madden, co-founder of both Avaaz and New York consulting firm Purpose, has also co-founded the marketing firm Parami Road in Myanmar (“Our clients are mostly international companies entering Myanmar and they demand an international standard of work”) as well as the tech firm Phandeeyar – a 6000 square foot ICT hub in the heart of downtown Yangon. Launched with the support of several sponsors in 2014, including Internews and Phandeeyar (previously operated as Code for Change Myanmar), it is important to note that the key partners of Phandeeyar are USAID, the US State Department, U.S. Mission to ASEAN, and the  US-ASEAN Business Council. [Source]

“A serial entrepreneur who co-founded the global campaigning website Avaaz.org and U.S.-based digital strategy agency Purpose, among others, the Harvard-educated Madden believes technology is essential for Myanmar’s development.” — July 8, 2015, Myanmar Now

Simply stated, Madden plays a vital role in bringing western ideologies and foreign investment to the doorstep of Myanmar. As a co-founder of Avaaz, an NGO that specializes in behavioural change, Madden’s hashtag for his tech firm (“human Capital Development”) sums up the goal: social impact (#socialimpact MM). Of course, Madden cannot achieve this alone, thus he is joined by thousands of NGOs that comprise the non-profit industrial complex:

“Estimates vary widely on the number of local NGOs in Myanmar. An article claimed more than 10,000 such groups, while another study conducted in 2003 by Save the Children—the first detailed look at civil society in Myanmar—estimated there were 270 local NGOs at that time. Regardless of the number, there is a vibrant and growing nongovernment sector encompassing a range of interests and approaches throughout the country. International NGOs are increasingly active in Myanmar, working in humanitarian response and longer-term development in a multitude of sectors, including the environment, health, education, livelihoods, rule of law, advocacy, and civil society capacity building. International NGOs, present in small numbers since the 1990s, have entered Myanmar in two recent waves: in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, and since the forming of the new government in early 2011.” — Civil Society Briefs Myanmar

A key function of Madden’s tech firm is not unlike that of MoveOn.org (a co-founding NGO of Avaaz) and its relationship with the US Democratic party, which is to focus on building Myanmar’s voter registration. It’s other key function is to pitch business opportunities to investors. In September of 2016, the tech firm launched the “Phandeeyar accelerator”.  According to Forbes (October 31, 2016), the “accelerator” provides $25,000 in seed funding, mentoring and free office space in Phandeeyar’s 6,000-square-foot building. Participants also receive “$200,000 worth of strategic services, including access to Amazon Web Services, free English classes and a range of other benefits. They’ll also have the opportunity to pitch investors who Madden describes as ‘serious about the Myanmar market.'” Madden foresees startups that establish themselves “could be poised for explosive growth in the next several years as the economy continues to accelerate.”

“Madden said that some had been hesitant, waiting to see how State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s rise to power would play out. But confidence is growing following the peaceful political transition, and the U.S.’ decision to ease sanctions in recent years has inspired much interest in the country. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that Myanmar’s economy has the potential to reach $200 billion in 2030, more than tripling from $45 billion in 2010. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, run by the U.S. government, issued the first installment of $250 million loan to the telecommunication company Apollo Towers Myanmar in June. Microsoft is working with the Myanmar Computer Company to help 100,000 people develop IT skills within the country. And the country saw a strong performance from its first listed stock earlier this year, indicating potential for future growth. Investment opportunities abound, with deep needs across the energy, tourism and infrastructure markets, according to the British Chamber of Commerce.” —This Tech Accelerator Is Betting That Myanmar’s Startup Scene Is Set To Explode, Forbes, October 31, 2016 [Emphasis added]

In 2017, the Phandeeyar Accelerator’s Demo Day hosted over 200 local and international investors. The list included 70 venture capital investors (VCs) and mentors including Red Dot Ventures, Digital Ventures, and Omidyar Network. Note that although the official language of Myranmar is Burmese, spoken by 70-80% of the population, all Burmese speaking in the Phandeeyar demo day video are speaking English. Far be it for Anglo “leaders” to make any concerted effort to speak Burmese, let alone learn the language. This of course is colonization in one of its most accepted and blatant forms. This point is further validated by the fact that Edulink Australia (specializing in English proficiency) is a strategic partner of Phandeeyar.

Madden is not the only expat poised for explosive growth in Myanmar. With the global capitalist economic system hovering close to stall speed, the world’s most powerful corporations are desperately searching for new markets. Myanmar is the “new sweet spot” for the most egregious corporate entities:

“Still, the country’s young, inexpensive workforce and low living standards offer huge potential for growth. GE, on its website, describes Myanmar as a “new sweet spot” for growth in Southeast Asia. Some other major U.S. brands got a head start, including Coca-Cola, which has a factory producing for the local market. Ball Corp. has a factory in Yangon’s Thilawa Special Economic Zone making cans for Coca-Cola. MasterCard is expanding in the area of ATM cards. GE is active in energy and other sectors and leases Boeing 737-800s to the country’s national airlines. ConocoPhillips and Chevron have stakes in oil and gas exploration and development. Some U.S. businesses, like Caterpillar, have distribution tie-ups in Myanmar with local or other foreign companies.” [October, 2016, Source]

 

Above: Phandeeyar headquarters

On June 3, 2016 it was announced that Phandeeyar secured a $2 million follow-on investment from Omidyar Network. [Source: Deal Street Asia] Omidyar Network first invested in Phandeeyar in 2014 with other investors and aid givers including the Schmidt Family Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, USAID and Google. Deal Street Asia also reports that “[A]part from Phandeeyar, Omidyar Network has invested in Proximity Designs, Open Myanmar Initiative (OMI), Myitmakha news agency, Yangon Journalism School, Global Witness and Namati in the country.”

Financiers of Madden’s entrepreneurial tech operations and innovations also include Internews, Facebook, the United States Embassy, Hewitt Packard, Samsung, the US State Department, Pact, Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID), The Asia Foundation, KBZ Bank and Red Dot Ventures. Strategic partners include (but are not limited to) telenor, wave money (telenor, Yoma Bank), Fb Start, AWS Activate (Amazon), JobNet, Microsoft BizSpark, Today Ogilvy Myanmar (“we make brands matter”), Edulink Australia (specializing in English proficiency) and PwC.

The Innovation Marketplace is a joint initiative by Phandeeyar and FHI 360, and supported by USAID in which a primary focus is “mobilization of popular support for social change.”

And while the rich get richer:

“Land laws were changed in 2012 and 2013 to make it easier for the government to facilitate land grabs and many segments of the rural population have seen their homes demolished and their paddy fields ruined to make way for foreign development projects. Farmers like Umya Hlaing have been left without land with, “no conversation, no replacement land, no adequate compensation.” [January 30, 2017, Source]

The Ultimate Balancing Act

Here one must note that while Myanmar opens its arms to neoliberal foreign policy, it simultaneously transitions into a playground for the rich – all while the tensions and killings between the Muslim Rohingya, the Buddhist Rakhine, the Burmese authorities, Burmese government and its military escalate. As the so-called human rights NGOs (which are actually in servitude to empire) turn up the volume on this crisis, we must acknowledge there is much more going on behind the scenes that we, in the west, are not cognizant of. For example, terrorist factions such as Islamic State and Al Qaeda have embedded themselves into various Rohingya organizations such as the Rohingya Liberation Organization and the Rohingya Solidarity Organization. The well-documented atrocities and killings of Buddhist Rakhine by the Rohingya go unreported by mainstream media. This has undoubtedly been orchestrated, at least in part, by foreign interests. Exploiting existing divisions is key to controlled chaos and destabilization. Where divisions do not already exist – they are created.


Above: Avaaz campaign

Above: Avaaz training Buddhist Monks:A young student and monk take part in a non-violence training program – they cannot show their faces for fear of being identified by the military.” Source: Avaaz website

The said contention surrounding the Rohingya is the issue of legal citizenship (sovereignty and nationality) verses refugee/migrant status. This ongoing crisis is then conflated with the religious components. The fact that this is a basic human rights issue is then lost. Further, “Harsha Walia, a social justice activist and journalist, tells us that borders are constructs and that they serve an imperialistic purpose. Borders represent practices used to legally coerce displaced migrants into precarious labor and criminalized existence. In her work, Undoing Border Imperialism, Walia offers a framework termed ‘border imperialism,’ which is a system that controls the flow of people, themselves fleeing the military or economic violence of empire, who are racialized and economically exploited by their illegalization.” [Source: Borders: Imaginary Lines, Real Exploitation]

What is notable here is that fact that although Avaaz has produced a campaign to bring attention to this tragedy, never do they ask for the world to demand the implementation of a no-fly zone as they have done in countries that reject imperial dominance. It appears as though, if Myanmar does not continue to kowtow sufficiently to foreign interests, an intervention with a no-fly-zone on could easily be the next campaign demand for NGOs to rally behind. However, this is most unlikely as the full transition of Myanmar to western ideologies is already well underway with foreign investment now pouring in. Regardless of the geopolitics involving China and Asia as a whole, the fact is the World Bank has already sunk it’s teeth in. There is simply too much to risk with a full raze of the landscape. Indeed, the Myanmar crisis will prove to be a problematical balancing act of sabotaging Chinese interests while simultaneously attracting foreign investment from western corporations. If necessary, a coup is far more likely to be orchestrated by foreign interests. The crisis being highlighted by international NGOs should be seen as more of a threat – pressure upon Aung San Suu Kyi to ensure complete subservience more than anything else. The key factor is this: interventions by imperial states are never based on protecting human rights.

Also, to be taken into account, is the power struggle between the declining United States and new superpower China. First, consider the massive investment into Myanmar by China:

 “But the total $248 million U.S. companies have committed since 1988 amounts to less than 1 percent of total foreign investment of about $60 billion. China has invested more than $25 billion, according to Chinese figures.” [October 2016, Source]

Secondly, consider the crucial energy aspect:

 “After the massive Rakhine energy reserves were discovered in 2004 they attracted China’s attention. By 2013 China completed oil and natural gas pipelines, which connect Myanmar’s port of Kyaukphyu with the Chinese city of Kunming in Yunnan province.” [Source]

Dmitry Mosyakov, director of the Centre for Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, sums it up as follows:

“First, this is a game against China, as China has very large investments in Arakan [Rakhine] Second, it is aimed at fueling Muslim extremism in Southeast Asia…. Third, it’s the attempt to sow discord within ASEAN [between Myanmar and Muslim-dominated Indonesia and Malaysia]. — [Source]

Myanmar-to-China Crude Oil & Gas Pipelines

The Myanmar-China crude oil and gas pipelines were designed to carry more than 22 million tons of oil and more than 420 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year was to commence operations in 2013. On April 11, 2017, the Financial Times announced that China and Myanmar would open long-delayed oil pipeline after being suspended for years, fraught with delays and conflict. “Once fully operational, the pipeline from Made island in Rakhine state can supply almost 6 per cent of China’s crude oil imports. The gas line is already in use.” On May 20, 2017 India of Times reported that “China-Myanmar oil pipeline opens enhancing tie: The oil reached Ruili, a border city of in China’s Yunnan Province at 4 p.m. on Friday according to the state owned China National Petroleum Corporation, which built the pipeline.”

Map: Oil & Gas Journal, 2012

Near-term pipeline plans grow, longer-term projects sag – Oil & Gas Journal, February 6, 2012:

“Myanmar awarded China National Petroleum Corp. exclusive rights to construct and operate the proposed Myanmar-to-China crude oil pipeline. This line and a companion natural gas pipeline would transport hydrocarbons from the Bay of Bengal across Myanmar to southwestern China (Fig. 4). Plans call for the 440,000-b/d crude pipeline to run between Maday Island in western Myanmar through Ruili in China’s southwestern Yunnan province and on to a new 200,000-b/d refinery in Anning. Both the pipeline and refinery are to begin operation by 2013. CNPC began building a large oil import port at Kyaukpyu, Myanmar, in October 2009 to serve as the pipeline’s input point. The port will be able to receive vessels up to 300,000 dwt and will have storage capacity of 600,000 cu m.”

The natural gas pipeline is scheduled to begin carrying 12 billion cu m/year to southwestern China in 2013. Route preparation began in mid-2010, with the first pipes welded in August 2011. The pipeline will parallel the route of the crude pipeline to Ruili. From there it will run to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, before extending to Guizhou and Guangxi in South China.

The crude line will transport oil carried by tanker from the Middle East, while the gas line will carry material from Myanmar’s offshore A-1 and A-3 blocks. Total estimated project costs are $1.5 billion for the oil pipeline and $1.04 billion for the gas pipeline.

The new pipelines will give China better access to Myanmar’s resources and will speed deliveries and improve China’s energy security by bypassing the congested Malacca Strait, which currently ships most of China’s imported crude oil.”

Here it is important to note that 90% of the crude oil going through the Myanmar-to-China pipeline is designated for China – while the bulk of the ecological devastation and social impacts/displacement, has been placed on the Myanmar ecosystems and most vulnerable populations.

The Strategic Expansion of Globalization & Capitalism

In this Friday, Oct. 7, 2016 photo, a sign of KFC’s grinning Colonel Sanders and his goatee is lit outside its outlet in Yangon, Myanmar. The end of most U.S. sanctions against Myanmar is raising hopes western businesses will join the rush to invest in Myanmar that up to now has been dominated by China and other Asian countries. But much hinges on how the government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, reshapes the country’s outdated laws and other policies. (AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

 

Here it is critical to acknowledge that empire’s strategic plans for expansion are designed years and even decades in advance. Consider that the co-founder of Avaaz Ricken Patel has been involved in Burmese activism since 2001 – 6 years prior to the founding of Avaaz – and also prior to co-founding Res Publica (a founding NGO of Avaaz) with Avaaz co-founder and former U.S. Representative Tom Perriello:

“…I have worked for years in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, and Afghanistan for international organizations, and I first got involved in Burma activism in 2001, so I had some experience to bring to understand the dynamics and the groups involved.

 

From the start, we recognized that granting money well, monitoring its expenditure, and following up is a demanding activity that requires professional support. Avaaz is a campaigning organization and not in this business. So we chose a foundation partner with long experience supporting the Burmese people to advise and administer our community’s donation. That group is the Open Society Institute, one of the largest and most respected foundations in the world. OSI is taking no overhead on the funds we are granting to Burmese groups, and has also increased its own support to this cause in 2008.” [Source]

It is also vital to recall George Soros (a key financial backer of Avaaz at its inception) has long had his eye on Myanmar.  The 2003 Council of Foreign Relation’s report titled “Burma: Time For Change,” (“Report of an Independent Task Force Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations”) summarized the intentions: “[T]hese recommendations are intended to inform U.S. government actions as well as to increase U.S. cooperation with other countries, especially in Asia, to bring about a long overdue political, economic, and social transformation of Burma.” The independent task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations included 21 task force members (inclusive of George Soros) who were representative/associates of the following organizations, corporations and institutions:  Human Rights Watch, Goldwyn International Strategies (an international consulting firm focusing on the geopolitics of energy), the Unocal Corporation (oil and gas), liaisons for Vanity Fair, New York Times, New Republic, U.S News, World Report, The Economist,  the Open Society Institute and the Soros Foundations Network, Soros Fund Management, the World Bank, Amnesty International, National Security Council, the Millennium Development Goals, Psychiatry and Public Health, Refugee NGOs, and National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

The seven organizations/institutions represented by eight task force observers were The Century Foundation, The Asia Foundation, U.S. Department of State, Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. House of Representatives, International Crisis Group and the United Nations Department of Political Affairs.

As a side note, the report also demonstrates the extent to which the international NGOs work hand in glove with imperial states, funneling funds through NGOs rather than governments. This demonstrates the blatant paternalism unabashedly embedded in the policy of Western governments:

“According to the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, current U.K. policy is to deliver “targeted, transparent, and accountable assistance to ordinary Burmese people through the UN, international NGOs, and not through the Burmese authorities,” — The Council of Foreign Relation’s (CFR) 2003 document entitled “Burma: Time For Change,” [Source]

And while those in Ivory Towers, who have succeeded in decimating the natural environment in their own countries, transform Myanmar into a country that will reflect not only Western values but also the vapid western waste and consumption… and while rich expats rent apartments for USD $3,000 – $8,000 per month… consider the residents of 555:

“Like many others, he moved to Yangon to look for work in the sprawling shantytowns that have grown up on the outskirts of the city. The suburbs are centers of industries that have begun to boom since Myanmar opened to the world in 2011. Factories cordoned off behind iron gates produce everything from salt to garments. But with a new government in power since April, the 555 residents are among hundreds of thousands of informal settlers facing an uncertain future as displacement looms on the horizon again.

 

Nay Shwe moved to Hlaing Tharyar in 1996 as a construction worker employed to build the upmarket Pun Hlaing Golf Course — a gleaming image of wealth right next door to the slums. He rifled through a plastic wallet to pull out a crumpled, yellowed letter granting permission for himself and several other laborers to live near the grounds. At the time, there was little more than vacant scrubland. “We have endured hardships since that time until now,” he says. “We had to pump much sand from the river to live here.” Subsequent years brought tussles over the land. In 2012, he spent six months in prison for organizing protests against a planned forced eviction that was eventually suspended…

 

“When we describe the slums we always describe the negative things,” says Slingsby. “We never look at the positive things. These people are great survivors. … Somehow they manage to survive. Somehow a lot of them send their children to school and even to university. Who built the houses? The people built houses themselves.”

 

When their kids were turned away from the official schools, the 555 residents simply built their own. They recruited their own volunteer teachers. On a recent morning, a group of village elders, all men, stood outside and admired their handiwork. Like most of the structures in the area, the single-story school is propped up on wooden stilts to protect it from the rising water.

 

“So flooding is a problem here, but we can build a concrete road, so flooding for two or three hours is OK for us,” says Hla Htay. 555 might not exist, officially, and it might not be good land, but it is home.

 

“We prefer living here because it is the nearest place to our work, to the factories, so here we can build everything by ourselves,” he says. “We can build our houses. If we need to move somewhere provided by the government it will be expensive. … It will be a lot of rules.” [July 18, 2016, Evicting the Residents of 555]

The word Avaaz apparently translates to “voice”. Unfortunately, Avaaz is a voice for the elite power structures that keep the world at large enslaved. Avaaz is a slap in the face to the self-determination of citizens in sovereign countries everywhere. It must be recognized that those who continue to support this organization, with full knowledge of its elite formation, share these paternalistic Western values.

 

 

Further reading:

  • China Kunming to Myanmar Kyaukpyu DWP pipelines to open in June 2013, January 23, 2013
  • Myanmar, la Cina assetata di petrolio costruisce un porto e un gasdotto: in fuga migliaia di pescatori locali e 23 villaggi fantasma, February 5, 2015
  • Geopolitics of Rohingya Crisis, September 3, 2017
  • The Rohingya Crisis: Conflict Scenarios And Reconciliation Proposals, September 7, 2017

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

Propaganda: How Neocolonial Progressives Support Western Imperialism

Libya 360 | Tortilla con Sal

January 7, 2017

20 July 1979: Nicaraguan leftist Sandinista rebels exult in Managua after entering the city and overthrowing Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. General Somoza whose family ruled Nicaragua since 1933, finally surrendered 20 June to the Sandinista rebels. Somoza left a country devastated by civil war, with thousands of people killed in June and July 1979 and half a million, one-fifth of the country’s population, displaced from their homes. Somoza was assassinated in exile in Asuncion, Paraguay in 1980 by a left-wing Argentinian Trotskyst rebel group. Picture: AFP/Getty

 

Across the region, the legitimate struggles of indigenous peoples are being coopted by Western NGOs and media to serve the psychological warfare offensive of the US government and its allies against progressive governments in Latin America.

 

Almost all Western reporting of foreign news constitutes a permanent drip-feed of poisonous disinformation accumulating into a deep, broad, toxic propaganda wave drowning out rational critical analysis. That process has been very clear in reporting of international affairs from Libya to Ukraine, to Venezuela and Syria – anywhere the interests of Western elites encounter resistance. The collaboration of alternative media in that process has been evident in Libya, Syria and Ukraine and is certainly very evident in the case of Nicaragua.

Here, the constant underlying false message is that President Ortega is a dictatorial leader crushing dissent in Nicaragua to impose an anti-democratic regime run by his family. This false message creates a context justifying arbitrary measures by the US authorities and their allies, like the recent NICA legislation, attacking Nicaragua’s economy and intervening heavily in the country’s internal affairs in favor of Nicaragua’s right wing opposition. To flesh out that keynote psychological warfare message, Western media attacks focus on whatever current events they can manipulate to align with the overall falsehood.

All through 2016, the attacks consisted mainly of distorted or downright false reports covering the 2016 national elections. But two other associated media offensive fronts have been established, namely, developments relating to the proposed Interoceanic Canal and also continuing land conflicts in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Coast. A good example of the complete collapse of conventional reporting standards in Western progressive media is this headline news summary from Democracy Now of a recent protest demonstration against Nicaragua’s Interoceanic Canal:

“In Nicaragua, activists say federal police attacked a campesino caravan heading to the capital Managua Wednesday, opening fire with both live and rubber bullets and throwing tear gas. The caravan was heading to the capital to protest the construction of a $50 billion canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Campesinos say the project could displace up to 120,000 people.”

Democracy Now’s editors ran this classic psychological warfare propaganda beneath a photograph supposedly of a rural worker wounded in an allegedly peaceful protest. Democracy Now omits that six police officers were reported to be wounded after being attacked by violent protesters. The summary report also omits that the “activists” are militant anti-Sandinistas of the misnamed MRS Sandinista Renewal Movement, funded by the US and allied governments and associated NGOs. Likewise, the suggestion that 120,000 people may be displaced by the proposed Canal is completely false, the real figure is under 10,000 people, all of whom are entitled to complete indemnification.

A flurry of reports in corporate and alternative media alleged that the government of Daniel Ortega tried to repress national protests against the Canal timed to coincide with a visit to Nicaragua’s capital Managua by Luis Almagro, right wing Secretary General of the Organization of American States. In fact, it seems that only the incident in Rio San Juan involved violent exchanges between protesters and the police. The national demonstration itself passed off peacefully, with a modest total of several thousand people demonstrating in Managua’s center against the proposed Canal.

The incident in Nicaragua’s south-western Rio San Juan department provoked angry condemnation from the local bishop Socrates René Sándigo, certainly no friend of the Sandinista government. Bishop Sándigo remarked, “The MRS has always been out there manipulating our rural families and non governmental organizations who involve our rural workers in demands that may well be legitimate but they take these rural workers and put them at the head of their attacks...” Given that context, Democracy Now’s headline summary can be seen as all of a piece with its similarly false reporting, for example, of the conflict in Syria, favoring anti-Russian US government propaganda.

Much less prestigious than Democracy Now, the Intercontinental Cry web site purports to represent the views and interests of indigenous peoples around the world. But in the case of Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Coast its reports are written in the worst neocolonial tradition by North American academics and writers with a very clear anti-Sandinista agenda . One of these writers is the PhD anthropologist Courtney Parker whose widely published inaccurate report in July 2016 carefully omitted relevant information inconvenient to her account. International Cry later supplemented Parker’s July report with a disingenous, misleading attack on us at Tortilla con Sal, evading our criticism that they recycle propaganda of the local Yatama political party, effectively covering up Yatama’s own role in the violent events Parker and others fail to report fairly and honestly.

To make their phony case against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, Intercontinental Cry’s reports consistently omit two essential facts. Firstly, Nicaragua’s Sandinista government under Daniel Ortega is the first administration since the revolutionary Sandinista government of the 1980s to guarantee indigenous people’s land rights. As a result, indigenous peoples in Nicaragua now have statutory land rights to a third of Nicaragua’s national territory. So it is completely counterfactual and deceitful of Intercontinental Cry to publish reports implicitly claiming that the Sandinista government deliberately seeks to deprive indigenous peoples of their land. Intercontinental Cry’s reports are based on allegations of Yatama political party supporters whose leadership themselves have faced serious allegations of complicity in the illegal sale of their own peoples’ land.

The second fact obscured by Intercontinental Cry’s reports is that Yatama is not the only representative of the region’s Miskito and other indigenous peoples. In 2013, a large group of the region’s Miskito population rejected the Yatama leadership and now support the Myatamaran political movement allied with the Sandinista government. That omission indicates just how skewed and neocolonial Intercontinental Cry’s reporting on Nicaragua really is by creating an inaccurate, image of a united Miskito people, hapless victims of relentless alien oppression. The history of the Miskito people itself shows up that kind of account as a ridiculous neocolonial construct. Reports in Intercontinental Cry seem to deliberately omit the fact that extremist Miskito groups have attacked and murdered rural workers’ families in the area in conflict.

Historically, some components of the Miskito people allied with British colonial forces and were themselves cruel oppressors preying on weaker ethnic groups to sell them as slaves to British plantation owners in Jamaica and other British Caribbean colonies. Furthermore, Miskito groups in Jinotega along the Rio Wangki, have a somewhat different history to that of Miskito groups along Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast. So even in historical terms it is false to suggest that the Miskito indigenous people share a uniformly homogenous history and cultural identity. None of that is reflected in the neocolonial accounts rendered by the writers for Intercontinental Cry.

To the contrary, despite the complicated political reality in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Coast, Courtney Parker’s July report and Brett Spencer’s November 11th report both falsely suggest that Yatama is the only organization representative of Miskitos in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Coast and the only opposition movement to the Frente Sandinista Front for National Liberation. In fact, the right wing Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) has always had significant support in the interior of the northern Caribbean region area and won a seat in the legislative elections along with Yatama’s caudillo Brooklyn Rivera. The third seat was won by the FSLN.

Both Courtney Parker and Brett Spencer write essentially as propaganda shills for Yatama, portraying Yatama’s violent supporters as victims. Spencer manages that difficult task even in his report on how Yatama destroyed and looted the offices of the regional authority in Bilwi and violently intimidated local people and businesses. Spencer in particular implicitly tries to justify those attacks by alleging that Yatama caudillo Brooklyn Rivera “was ousted from office in September of 2015, following a rise in violence over an endemic land conflict between the Miskito and Sandinista settlers known to the Miskito as colonos.”

Spencer neglects to mention that Rivera was stripped of his status as a legislator following very serious allegations that he and his Yatama colleagues were illegally selling Miskito land. Spencer turns that reality on its head by alleging that the rural farming families trying to settle Miskito land sold to them illegally are “Sandinista”. Intercontinental Cry have no factual basis at all for publishing that kind of malicious smear which is pure Yatama propaganda diverting attention away from the questionable dealings of their leadership. For her part Courtney Parker published another pro-Yatama propaganda piece exploiting the terrible murder of three members of a family on their isolated farmstead. Parker suggests on the basis of hearsay that the murder was committed by marauding settlers, arbitrarily excluding the possibility of inter-ethnic violence by Yatama extremists or some other sinister interests.

Despite Intercontinental Cry’s very clearly biased coverage of the complex conflict in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Coast, their team of writers has still managed to co-opt other alternative media so as to broaden the reach of their attacks on Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. Influential progressive Western alternative outlets like Truth Out and the Ecologist published Parker’s flawed reports which break just about every rule of academic rigor and basic reporting. Intercontinental Cry’s editors have finally explicitly acknowledged their anti-Sandinista agenda, overtly attacking Telesur, and openly avowing their sympathy with US and allied government funded Nicaraguan anti-Sandinista NGOs and media like Confidencial and CENIDH.

Given that clear ideological alignment it was perfectly natural for the neocolonial progressives at the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) to publish yet another propaganda attack on Nicaragua’s Sandinista government this time authored by International Cry writer Brett Spencer and US anthropologist Laura Hobson Herlihy. Their NACLA article repeats every main talking point of the US sponsored centre right Nicaraguan opposition as follows:

 

NACLA, Brett Spencer and Laura Hobson Herlihy offer precisely zero evidence for their claims of electoral fraud apart from the claims of Yatama leader Brooklyn Rivera. The apparently authoritiative link by the foreign funded CENIDH human rights outfit leads to a fact-free opinion piece by veteran anti-Sandinista Carlos Tunnerman Bernheim. NACLA’s article alleges inconsistencies in results published in Nicaragua’s official La Gaceta and the Electoral Council’s web site apparently in ignorance of the Electoral Council’s reporting procedures which consists of presenting first preliminary results, then provisional results and, only when all challenges have been processed, the final results.

Here are the final results from the Electoral Council’s web site which enables visitors to scrutinize results right down to those of the local voting centres. The Yatama party for which Laura Herlihy Hobson and Brett Spencer propagandize is a regional party which only participates in Nicaragua’s departmental elections for the National Assembly. The results completely contradict Yatama’s claims of electoral fraud. In the three municipalities where indigenous people predominate, Yatama prevailed easily against a strong minority vote in favor of the Sandinista Front for National Liberation.

But only in Prinzapolka did Yatama get a really overwhelming vote of over 60%. In the region’s interior so-called mining municipalities, Siuna, Rosita and Bonanza, Yatama was wiped out. The main opposition there came from Nicaragua’s national right wing parties led by Maximino Rodriguez’s Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) which maintained its traditional support, including winning overall in the municipality of Mulukuku. Here are the departmental legislative election results for Nicaragua’s North Caribbean region in which Yatama participated:

Bilwi Waspan Prinzapolka Rosita Siuna Bonanza Mulukuku Average

Yatama

51 57 63 6 0.6 4 1.4 30.26

FSLN

42 38 27 72 68 85 43 55.33

PLC

2.9 2 1 17 29 7 51 9.81

 

In the other elections where the Yatama party was not involved, the Yatama vote went mainly to the traditional right wing parties, especially the PLC, which may or may not indicate Yatama’s broader ideological position:

Presidential elections: FSLN 73%; PLC 19%; Other right wing parties 8%.

National legislative elections: FSLN 65.86%; PLC 15.3%; Other right wing parties 18.89%.

Central American Parliament elections: FSLN 74.3%; PLC 18.86%; Other right wing parties 6.84%.

Yatama claim to have an important presence in the Nicaragua’s Southern Caribbean region but in the municipalities Yatama contested there, they were wiped out by support for the right wing PLC as the departmental legislative election results for the region where Yatama participated clearly indicate:

La Cruz
Grande
Laguna de Perlas Bocana de Paiwas El Tortuguero Bluefields Kukra Hill Average

PLC

65 25.06 62.93 81.77 16.56 20.81 45.35

FSLN

30 52.85 32.61 16.75 59.9 73.54 44.27

YATAMA

0.65 18.89 0.2 0.19 15.46 3.05 6.4

 

That was the reality of the elections beyond NACLA’s vague, hazy propaganda message and the predictable complaints of Nicaragua’s inept, dishonest political opposition parties, duly parroted by Western media.

A look at NACLA’s other anti-Sandinista allegations reveals how disingenuous is the case they are trying to make. The allegation that the National Assembly abolished term limits in 2014 is categorically false. The link in the NACLA article leads to an ill-informed, factually incorrect report from the pro-US government Qatari news outlet Al-Jazeera which writes “The latest reform would allow President Daniel Ortega to follow in the footsteps of his ideological ally, late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and a string of other Latin American nations to give presidents power extending beyond their traditional limits.”

In fact, the term limits for almost all Nicaragua’s institutions, the Presidency, the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Electoral Council and the Auditor General’s office all remain unchanged at five years. Rather than checking their facts, NACLA and Al Jazeera have lazily recycled the false accusations of Nicaragua’s miniscule centre right social democrat movements who have proved incapable of developing a credible political opposition to Nicaragua’s Sandinista government under Daniel Ortega. By linking to this inaccurate Al Jazeera report, NACLA, Laura Herlihy Hobson and Brett Spencer show up the categorical falsity of their argument.

Equally false is their accusation that no foreign observers took part in Nicaragua’s electoral process. In fact, a group of extremely prestigious foreign electoral specialists accompanied the whole process starting in May 2016. Their reportthoroughly vindicated the professionalism and impartiality of Nicaragua’s electoral authorities throughout the electoral process as well as the efficiency and transparency of the elections on November 6th. The neocolonial demand by Western progressives for foreign electoral observers is one not raised in the case of the United States or other Latin American governments like  Mexico, Argentina and Uruguay whose example Nicaragua has now followed by excluding a role for interventionist electoral observation missions.

Similarly, the accusation that Daniel Ortega effectively ran unopposed is belied by the NACLA report itself and the election results too. Nationally the total opposition vote would have been well over 30% if the right wing parties had overcome their petty internecine divisions, thus enabling a much more effective opposition in the legislature. As has been the case for years now, the weakness of political opposition to the FSLN government in Nicaragua resides in the right wing’s own divisions and their inability to mount a credible political program capable of matching the success of President Ortega’s Sandinista government’s National Development Plan.

Turning to the falsehood that President Ortega’s family occupy high governmental positions, the reality is again completely different from NACLA’s mendacious assertion. Four children from Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo’s family work in posts associated one way or another with the government. None of them occupy ministerial positions. Rafael Ortega works as a personal assistant to Daniel Ortega. Daniel Edmundo Ortega heads the Sandinista media outlet El 19 Digital. Camila Ortega is a personal assistant to her mother Rosario Murillo. Laureano Ortega is an executive of Nicaragua’s investment promotion authority ProNicaragua. None of them has an executive position at the head of any central government Ministry. NACLA’s accusation is completely false.

Laura Herlihy-Hobson and Brett Spencer follow up the falsity of their broad accusations against President Ortega’s Sandinista government by repeating the claims made by Courtney Parker and Spencer in Intercontinental Cry’s series of articles through 2016. They even allege that “settlers have invaded and now illegally occupy half of the Muskitia rainforest region”. The link there is to a New York Times article that offers nothing to support the claim in Herlihy Hobson’s and Spencer’s NACLA article.

To the contrary, the New York Times article shows the Nicaraguan government is trying to combat the violent land conflicts in the northern Caribbean Coast but with limited success. Nor does NACLA offer any other support for their article’s false allegation. More clearly than in the Intercontinental Cry series of psy-warfare articles, Laura Herlihy Hobson and Brett Spencer cursorily acknowledge the controversial role of Yatama leader Brooklyn Rivera. But they play down the political opportunism that has marked Rivera’s career ever since his days as a collaborator with the US government funded Contra terrorist campaign in the 1980s.

An interesting point from the NACLA article which will certainly figure in similar future psy-warfare attacks is the effort to link the land conflicts in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Coast with opposition to the proposed Interoceanic Canal, even though the Canal lies many hundreds of kilometres to the south of Yatama’s strongholds. The NACLA article and its writers studiously avoid noting that the Nicaraguan authorities have already reached agreement with indigenous people’s organizations in the areas likely to be affected by the route of the Canal. But the efforts to connect Yatama to the Canal protests tie in with Democracy Now’s dishonest coverage of the most recent Canal protest, representing a coordinated alternative media agenda similar to that of Western corporate media. That agenda is very clearly one of neocolonial divide and rule, fomenting violence in any countries with a progressive government, not just Nicaragua but in the other Bolivarian Alliance countries like Bolivia, Ecuador and, most notoriously perhaps, Venezuela.

NACLA’s and Intercontinental Cry’s blatant propaganda in defense of Yatama’s repeated aggressive violence promotes Yatama’s sectarian political agenda in a self-serving, sensationalist way evidently calculated to maximize the potential for conflict. This is very much in line with the experience of the Ecuadoran government, faced with vicious attacks from the CONAIE indigenous people’s organization or the experience of the Bolivian government faced with murderous attacks by indigenous mining cooperative organizations.

Across the region, the legitimate struggles of indigenous peoples are being coopted by Western NGOs and media to serve the psychological warfare offensive of the US government and its allies against progressive governments in Latin America. That is why it is entirely correct to characterize as neocolonial the psychological warfare role of supposedly progressive alternative media that recycle propaganda material like that of Intercontinental Cry.

Soft Coups in Latin America: How Left-Liberal Alternative Media & Environmental NGOs Help the US in Bolivia & Ecuador

Chicago ALBA Solidarity

October 9, 2015

by Stansfield Smith

 

ALBA Chicago

The US now engineers “regime change” not so much by using the military, in part because of their military quagmires in the Middle East, in part because Obama has sought to give a new face and new credibility to the Empire after the damage it suffered during Bush years. The US relies on soft coups: media campaigns and mass demonstrations against “corruption,” for “human rights,” “democracy,” “freedom,” aimed at the target government. The US makes skillful use of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to carry out its plans, which often appeal to cherished liberal-left values and sentiments.  The leadership of these soft coups and color revolutions are made to seem just like us, with our liberal Western values. Overlooked or concealed are the actual political and economic plans the leaders of these movements will implement – first defeat the dictatorship and then all else will later fall into place.  As a result, many people opposed to US military interventionism are taken in, many often willingly.

Progressive Latin American governments are one target for soft coups engineered by the US.  The US seeks to overthrow democratically elected presidents through media campaigns of lies and half-truths, inciting social discontent, delegitimizing the government, provoking violence in the streets, economic disruptions and strikes.

For those opposed to all US intervention, particularly those of us living in the US, we are called upon to expose these new methods of soft coup interference. The standard practice involves the role of USAID, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI) in helping to finance NGOs to do their dirty work.  NGOs have become the humanitarian face of imperialist intervention.

Behind the rhetoric of “democracy promotion,” Washington aims to impose neoliberal regimes that open their markets to the US without conditions and align themselves with US foreign policy. While these goals are known by the leaders of the US backed “color revolutions,” they are not shared with, let alone accepted by their followers. When these takeovers do succeed, citizens soon rebel against the new policies imposed on them, but it is too late to turn back.

The US government has long sought to overthrow socialist Cuba and the anti-neoliberal and anti-imperialist ALBA governments of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, and re-establish neocolonial governments. In the cases of President Correa of Ecuador and Evo Morales of Bolivia, this goes back to before their first runs for presidency.  Green Left Weekly ran a series of articles on continuous US efforts to get rid of Correa, even before he came into office.[1] No serious article on the conflicts in Correa’s Ecuador can omit the ten year US effort inside Ecuador to get rid of Correa.

Any serious analysis of what is happening in a Third World country, whether a progressive one or not, must start with the role Western imperialism has played. Otherwise, the analysis does not clarify the causes of the problems, but just indirectly gives cover to US imperialism.

The work of Eva Golinger (until recently*) and Federico Fuentes of Green Left Weekly, are models of progressive intellectuals, defending the peoples and countries of Latin America. They have exposed the role of USAID and NED in corrupting particular indigenous groups in Bolivia and Ecuador: during Bolivia’s TIPNIS protests, with Pachakutik, Conaie and the Yasunidos in Ecuador. They have exposed the role of the US financed environmental NGOs in these countries, such as Fundacion Pachamama, Accion Ecologica, Amazon Watch. [* She now seems to have more in common with the liberal-left alternative media criticized  below. https://chicagoalbasolidarity.wordpress.com/2017/08/19/correcting-eva-golinger-on-venezuela/]

This does not mean some indigenous and environmental groups have legitimate concerns. The problem occurs when the US funds leaders of groups to manipulate their members in order to exacerbate the problem. In the 1980s, the US used the Miskito Indian groups in Nicaragua to foment armed conflict with the Sandinistas. This does not mean the Miskitos did not have legitimate grievances, they had, but these were manipulated by the US to further its goal of overthrowing the Sandinistas. Likewise, indigenous peoples in Ecuador and Bolivia have legitimate concerns about development projects in the TIPNIS or Yasuni, for instance, but are deliberately used by US agencies to foment rebellion against their governments.

Using indigenous and environmental groups to attack their governments is a key part of the US government’s anti-Correa and anti-Evo Morales campaign. Unfortunately, consciously or not, this campaign is furthered in various alternative media centers, and can be seen in UpsideDownWorld, NACLA, In These Times, ROAR, CommonDreams, Jacobin, WagingNonViolence, Alternet, MintPressNews, even Naomi Klein, and recently Real News Network.

Too often, when liberal-left alternative media [2] address Latin America, we find articles legitimizing the views of these same US influenced environmental NGOs and related indigenous groups. This media has to some extent become a transmission belt for US propaganda, as knowing or unknowing participants in soft coup operations against these countries.

We find these alternative media outlets voicing and even being mouthpieces for US connected indigenous organizations and environmental NGOs, defending their protests against Evo Morales and Rafael Correa. For instance, Upside Down World has criticized Evo over TIPNIS, discounted the 2010 coup against Correa as not being a coup (the same line as the US government), defended the rightwing protests against Correa, and objected to the closing of US backed NGOs.

Covering up US Interference in Bolivia

In NACLA Emily Achtenberg wrote over ten articles on the Bolivian TIPNIS highway conflict and barely mentioned the close coordination of the protest leaders with the US Embassy. This is not simply an oversight, it is a cover-up.

“It’s not the first time that Morales has accused protest movements—including the TIPNIS marchers—of links to outside forces (such as the U.S. Embassy and right-wing opposition groups) who are seeking to destabilize his government. Protest leaders view these allegations largely as a tactic to undermine their credibility and mobilize support for the government.”[3]

Achtenberg avoids presenting the evidence of US government interference, and instead points the finger at Evo Morales.

She goes further in another article:

“A few telephone calls [between the US Embassy in Bolivia and the protest leaders] hardly prove a conspiracy, and many familiar with WikiLeaks cables accept that Embassy personnel routinely maintain contact with diverse social sectors. Serious concerns have been raised about the government’s potential violation of privacy laws in obtaining telephone records without a court order” [4]

Exposing the US role in the march takes a back seat to repeating US concerns over the Bolivian government’s alleged violations of privacy laws.

Ben Dangl follows Achtenberg in similar apologetics for the US role in the TIPNIS protests in his article in Upside Down World, “The Politics of Pachamama: Natural Resource Extraction vs. Indigenous Rights and the Environment in Latin America.” [5]

Contrast this with an article by Nil Nikandrov defending Bolivian sovereignty:

“According to journalist and author Eva Golinger, USAID poured at least $85 million into destabilizing the regime in the country. Initially, the US hoped to achieve the desired result by entraining the separatists from the predominantly white Santa Cruz district. When the plan collapsed, USAID switched to courting the Indian communities with which the ecology-oriented NGOs started to get in touch a few years before. Disorienting accounts were fed to the Indians that the construction of an expressway across their region would leave the communities landless, and the Indian protest marches to the capital that followed ate away at the public standing of Morales. It transpired shortly that many of the marches including those staged by the TIPNIS group, had been coordinated by the US embassy. The job was done by embassy official Eliseo Abelo, a USAID curator for the Bolivian indigenous population. His phone conversations with the march leaders were intercepted by the Bolivian counter-espionage agency and made public, so that he had to escape from the country while the US diplomatic envoy to Bolivia complained about the phone tapping.” [6]

Federico Fuentes noted USAID funding behind the TIPNIS protests:

“The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian East (CIDOB), the main organisation behind the march, has no such qualms [about its connection to the US]. It boasted on its website that it received training programs from the US government aid agency USAID. On the site, CIDOB president Adolfo Chavez, thanks the “information and training acquired via different programs financed by external collaborators, in this case USAID”.

He brought to light what Achtenberg and Dangl seek to conceal:

“neither of the Internet statements [an anti-Evo Morales Avaaz petition and September 21, 2011 letter to Morales signed by over 60 environmental groups]  mentions the protesters’ support for the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program. REDD is a grossly anti-environmental United Nations program that aims to privatise forests by converting them into “carbon offsets” that allow rich, developed countries to continue polluting.

 

Some of the biggest proponents of this measure can be found among the NGOs promoting the march. Many of these have received direct funding from the US government, whose ambassador in Bolivia was expelled in September 2008 for supporting a right-wing coup attempt against the elected Morales government.

 

Rather than defend Bolivia’s sovereignty against US interference, the letter denounces the Bolivian government for exposing connections between the protesters and “obscure interests”.

 

These “obscure interests” include the League for the Defense of the Environment (LIDEMA), which was set up with US government funds….

 

Secret US diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks and declassified US government files have conclusively shown that USAID directly targets indigenous communities in a bid to win them away from support for Morales and towards supporting US interests.” [7]

Western financed NGOs, such as Avaaz, Amazon Watch and Democracy Center, serve to provide a “left” cover to the global 1% campaign for “regime change” in Bolivia and Ecuador. They seek to demonize Evo Morales and Rafael Correa, thereby undermining the opposition of progressive people’s in the West to their engineering a “soft coup” in these countries.[8]

In 2011 Amazon Watch carried out an even more vociferous and dishonest propaganda campaign against Evo Morales’ Bolivia, claiming to defend the TIPNIS and indigenous rights in Bolivia. Again, no mention is made of the US role in the protests, nor that Evo’s government had a number of the police responsible for the unauthorized violence of the protest marchers fired, nor that Evo agreed to the protestors’ demands.[9]

Funders of Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network (RAN) include: Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (which works with NED), Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, The Overbrook Foundation, Moriah Fund (directors connected with USAID and Bill Clinton’s administration), Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation.[10]

In 2013, Pedro Nuni, one of the central leaders of these TIPNIS protests, defended by much Western alternative media, announced he was joining a rightwing party.[11] This, this alternative media conveniently forgot to mention.

Passing knowledge of Latin American history informs us it is ludicrous to think the US does not play a role in coups and protest movements against progressive governments. We ask how any writers and websites considering themselves honest, would not bring these US connections to light.

US coups and attempted coups pose are as constant in Latin America today as they were decades ago:  Chavez in Venezuela (2002, 2003), Aristide in Haiti (2004), Evo Morales in Bolivia (2008),  Zelaya in Honduras (2009), Correa in Ecuador (2010), Lugo in Paraguay (2012), Maduro in Venezuela (2013, 2014), and a wave of coup attempts this past summer (2015) in Ecuador, Bolivia,  Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and Christina Fernandez in Argentina, Sanchez Ceren in El Salvador. US coup-plotting remains a continuous constant threat to the sovereignty of the Latin American peoples.

Ecuador: Covering Up the US Role in the 2010 Coup and US Infiltration of Indigenous and Environmental Groups

As in Evo’s Bolivia, a central ingredient of the US anti-Correa campaign involved using indigenous groups and environmental NGOs to attack the Correa government, a campaign reflected in media outlets such as Upside Down World, NACLA and NGOs like Amazon Watch.

In Ecuador, we can see these apologetics for the US Empire in reports on the September 30, 2010 coup attempt against Rafael Correa. At the time, Upside Down World approvingly published CONAIE’s (Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador) statement on the attempted police coup against Correa, which made no mention of US involvement, and blamed President Correa for the political conflict that led to the coup.[12]

Marc Becker, a regular contributor on Ecuador for Upside Down World, posted a statement by, Pachakutik (the political wing of CONAIE) delegate Lourdes Tiban of Ecuarunari, which he called “maybe Ecuador’s most radical indigenous movement.” Tiban’s Ecuarunari statement, issued during the attempted coup, actually called for overthrowing President Correa: “the only revolutionary alternative is to fight against supporters of the [Correa] dictatorship.”

In contrast, Evo Golinger and Jean Guy Allard made clear the US role in the attempted coup against Correa. Allard pointed out the US infiltration of the police, who led the coup, as well as the armed forces.[13]

Golinger exposed the USAID and NED connections with indigenous groups such as CONAIE and in particular Pachakutik, which backed the coup:

“During the events of September 30 in Ecuador, one of the groups receiving USAID and NED financing, Pachakutik, sent out a press release backing the coup-plotting police and demanding the resignation of President Correa, holding him responsible for what was taking place.  The group even went so far as to accuse him of a “dictatorial attitude.”  Pachakutik entered into a political alliance with Lucio Gutiérrez in 2002 and its links with the former president are well known:” [14] [15]

Golinger also publicized the School of Americas graduate involved in the coup, the role of the high level CIA agent Norman Bailey, and that of indigenous leader Lourdes Tiban’s ties with Norman Bailey, USAID/NED and the Ecuadoran business class.[16]

Golinger showed that many Ecuadoran organizations, some linked to the indigenous movement and directed by National Assembly member Lourdes Tiban, received funding from USAID and NED to destabilize the government of President Rafael Correa. Tiban, of the Pachakutik Party, is part of the Indigenous Enterprise Corporation, an organization that “actively” receives funding from USAID.

Yet even today Upside Down World remains a strong defender of these two USAID connected indigenous groups in Ecuador, even after their participation in the violent right-wing protests against Correa in summer 2015.

Ecuador ‘s Closing Down of Fundacion Pachamama NGO

In 2014 NACLA and Upside Down World supported the campaign in defense of Fundacion Pachamama, a US funded NGO in Ecuador. This NGO, involved in opposing oil drilling in the Yasuni National Park, had been shut down by the Ecuador government.

In the Yasuni, the Correa government proposed opening a mere 200 hectares (the actual size to be affected contested by some) to oil drilling, within the million-hectare park. In comparison, Canada’s tar sands mining/strip-mining will destroy 300,000 hectares of the Canadian Boreal Forest, 1500 times the size of the land to be affected in the Yasuni. Canada is now the world’s leading country in deforestation.

President Correa offered to refrain from exploiting the oil reserves within the Yasuni in exchange for 50% of the value of the reserves, or $3.6 billion. During the six-year history of the initiative, only $336 million had been pledged, and of that only $13.3 million had actually been delivered.

Cory Morningstar notes, “The fact of the matter is, if NGOs had campaigned for Yasuni …rather than working behind the scenes with corporate interests and leading greenhouse gas emitting  states … perhaps our situation today would be far different. But of course, this is not why the non-profit industrial complex exists.”[17]

USAID shut down its offices in Ecuador in 2014, a year after it was expelled from Bolivia. Even mainstream newspapers gave a more or less factual account:

“Correa in June [2013] was granted wide-ranging powers to intervene in the operations of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which often receive funding from USAID. The decree also created a screening process for international groups wanting to work in the country.

 

In early December [2013] the government shut down environmental NGO Fundación Pachamama after it was alleged that the group disrupted public peace while protesting oil drilling in the Amazon region. Pachamama was receiving funding from USAID.”[18]

Nevertheless, despite what is a question of Ecuador asserting its national sovereignty against foreign interference, an international campaign against Correa was organized in response.[19] Of this Cory Morningstar wrote “It is essential to note that none of the NGOs (over 100 at this point) participating in the Pachamama “solidarity” campaign disclose the fact that the Pachamama Foundation is financed by US interests.”

Signers of the international petition addressed to Correa by defenders of this USAID funded Foundation included Ecuador’s Accion Ecologica and CEDENMA. In the US it included 350.org, Amazon Watch, Citizens Climate Lobby, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Friends of the Earth US, Global Exchange, Move to Amend Coalition, Oakland Institute, Pachamama Foundation, Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace International, International Funders for Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Environmental Network, New Energy Economy, Womenrise for Global Peace.

We find environmental NGOs operating in the US in a similar manner. For instance, the Huffington Post reported in 2014 that the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, Environmental Defense Action Fund, and the League of Conservation Voters actually donated tens of thousands of dollars to pro-Keystone XL pipeline politicians. It also became known that Sierra Club secretly took $25 million from the fracking industry.[20]

Who Funded Fundacion Pachamana?

Morningstar explains: “Fundación Pachamama was set up in 1997 as the Pachamama Alliance (founded in 1995) “sister organization,” situated in Ecuador. The Pachamama Alliance is a heavily funded U.S. NGO. Past donors include the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Revenue has increased from U.S. $1,911,036.00 in 2006 to U.S. $3,461,600.00 in 2011 (2011 form 990) with over $1 million focused exclusively on both Ecuador and Bolivia (grantmaking $706,626.00 / program services $391,622.00) in 2011.”

Pachamama was not just a US financed NGO, but served as a business:

“The Pachamama Alliance was created as a partnership with the Achuar to help organize and support a new multi-million dollar tourism development for which Indigenous Peoples needed to be trained in western commerce, the service industry, the English language and marketing. In essence, the Achuar were to be carefully integrated with the modern world.

 

The exclusive tourism development was to be located in pristine Indigenous territory in Ecuador. The Pachamama Foundation is also a partner of USAID-WCS (U.S. Agency for International Development – Wildlife Conservation Society) whose interests lie in “the growing markets and opportunities derived from environmental services including the REDD initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries)…” (2009).”[21]

 

“Robin Fink is the Program Director at Fundación Pachamama (since November 2009) and Board Member at the Runa Foundation (Fundación Runa) (May 2012 to present). [22] In her role at Pachamama Alliance, Fink works closely with the Indigenous Achuar of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The associated Runa Corporation president [Tyler Gage] said “… we also receive about $500,000 from USAID, from the US government, the Andean Development bank, the German government, a couple other NGOs who were very impressed by our model.”  [23]

Wain Collen, Education Director of Fundación Pachamama, explained the function of these Western NGOs: ‘NGOs who aim to help indigenous communities most often end up causing more problems than they solve, ‘Our advisors and industry experts continue to remind us that above all, we need to run a successful business, regardless of how social it is. Without a strong, successful business we can’t generate any benefits for anyone.”[24]

“The Pachamama Alliance was created as a partnership with the Achuar to help organize and support a new multi-million dollar tourism development for which Indigenous Peoples needed to be trained in western commerce, the service industry, the English language and marketing. In essence, the Achuar were to be carefully integrated with the modern world.”[25]

This US funding of Fundacion Pachamana was concealed in the campaign protesting Correa’s shutting it down. NACLA and Upside Down World were participants, and one writer, Marc Becker, referred to the Fundacion as a “fair trade group.” NACLA still refers to Fundacion Pachamama as an “environmental and human rights organization.”[26] This was a deliberate misrepresentation to their US audience, and serves the interests of those seeking to smear Correa and turn sentiment against the Citizens Revolution.

The USAID-environmental NGO connection in Ecuador was known years before the failed 2010 coup against Correa. An institutional, academic research study, entitled Globalization, Philanthropy and Civil Society: Protecting Institutional Logics Abroad  had pointed out USAID and US corporate NGO funding of these Ecuadoran NGOs – before any actions had been taken against them by the Ecuadoran government:

“Nature Conservancy’s Amazon Program, both based in Brazil; or CDES (the Centro para Desarrollo Economico y Social) and Fundacion Pachamama, both Ecuadorian-based partner organizations of U.S. NGOs…. They collaborate on a regular basis with U.S. organizations, however, and remain dependent on funding from Northern sources- from the World Bank or Global Environment Facility, from US foundations, from USAID, or from their American mother/partner NGO. US NGOs have also influenced the development of new organizations in the Amazon region by influencing the agenda of USAID and large foundations such as the Ford and Moore foundations, which have become some of the most important sources of financing for new NGOs and grassroots organizations in the Amazon.”[27]

Given the propaganda campaign directed at Presidents Rafael Correa and Evo Morales by US funded environmental NGOs and some indigenous groupings, it is necessary to note, as Alvaro Linera did in his article on TIPNIS that these NGOs operating in these countries are not non-governmental organizations, but foreign government organizations, and that any government defending its national sovereignty needs to control them, or face the consequences of further coup-plotting.

 Accion Ecologica

Correa also shut down – temporarily– the US funded anti-Correa “environmental” NGO, Accion Ecologica. Even journalist Naomi Klein joined this other anti-Correa campaign, calling the government’s decision to shut it down as “something all too familiar: a state seemingly using its power to weaken dissent.”[28]

Painting the  Summer 2015 Rightwing anti-Correa protests as Progressive, and the case of Manuela Picq

The Accion Ecologica website, like Amazon Watch and NACLA, presented a deliberately distorted account of the violent right-wing protests in Ecuador in the summer of 2015, falsely blaming violence on the government.[29]

NACLA and Upside Down World ran articles by Manuela Picq, the anti-Correa foreign journalist kicked out of the country. NACLA’s front page had links to a Change.org petition about Manuela Lavinas Picq[30], the professor alleged to be beaten up and arrested by Ecuadoran police during the August 13 Quito protests.

The petition said:

“We the undersigned demand that Manuela Lavinas Picq’s order for deportation from Ecuador be rescinded immediately. Manuela Lavinas Picq was beaten and arrested in Quito on Thursday, August 13.  Manuela was participating in a legal, peaceful protest as a journalist.  At the time of her arrest, she was in the company of other journalists and photographers and was unarmed.”[31]

Signers included Amazon Watch.

Manuela Picq was a foreign journalist, married to a leader of the protests, Carlos Pérez, president of Ecuarunari, organization of Lourdes Tiban, and was herself a participant in the protests. These were not peaceful protests, but violently attacked the police in attempts to break through police lines to take over the presidential palace. Picq herself actually denied she was mistreated by the police.[32]

The August protests were deliberately misrepresented in Upside Down World and similar left-liberal websites as being progressive protests by indigenous groups.[33] In fact, they were violent protests in alliance with the Ecuadoran right-wing, part of fight against the proposed increase in inheritance tax on the rich. Concealed was the fact that CONAIE leaders supported the June 2015 right wing protests against Correa’s proposed inheritance tax on the rich.

In an interview published on June 17, 2015 in the context of a right wing uprising against the inheritance taxes, CONAIE’s president falsely claimed “this inheritance law affects the majority of the Ecuadoran population, it is not true that it is directed only at two percent of the population.” [34] CONAIE also opposed the law nationalizing water, seeking to leave in place the 1990s law privatizing water.[35]

Amazon Watch’s falsifications of the August 2015 protests surpassed what could be expected on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page with an article subtitled “While police massacre indigenous protesters and citizens, the Government of Rafael Correa dances in the Presidential plaza”:

“The discourse it promoted for eight years at national and international levels, which favored its image as a socialist government and defender of rights for indigenous peoples and Mother Nature, has proven to be a sham.”

 

”All of the rights won by the indigenous nationalities have been repealed, just as the system of bilingual intercultural education, indigenous health services, economic funds, and political organization.”

 

”During the March for Peoples Dignity on August 13, 2015, the Government prepared an impressive display of security forces, police, and military. Violent confrontations with citizens ensued and resulted in numerous people disappeared, imprisoned, tortured, and dead across the country.”[36]

This outright fabrication is belied by the actual reporter film of the events.[37]

 The Issue of  Extractivism in Ecuador and Bolivia

Correa’s Ecuador and Evo’s Bolivia are both widely criticized by Western environmental and indigenous supporting groups for practicing “extractivism,” the reliance on exporting natural resources (oil, gas, mining) as a tool for development. We may search far and wide for a similar stream of criticisms of “extractivism” taking place in pro-imperialist governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Nigeria, Indonesia, Mexico, the Congo, or even Alberta. In these latter countries, the wealth from the natural resources ends up as corporate profits or in Western banks. In contrast, Ecuador and Bolivia have nationalized their national resources, and reversed the percent of the profits that go to the state vs foreign corporations, from 10-15% before to 85-90% now, and use this wealth to fund programs benefitting the 99%.  Is this the real reason they have become targets for the evils of “extractivism”?

The very term “extractivism” conceals the real crime: imperialist countries’ raping of the resources of the  Third World and the destruction it inflicts on the environment and people living there. The 500 year Western pillaging of oppressed nations’ natural resources using semi-slave labor conditions lies obscured. The real issue, deliberately unclarified by the term “extractivism” is: Who controls the natural resources of oppressed nations — the imperial powers or these nations themselves? The fundamental class issue of the term “extractivism” is buried: who uses natural resources for whose interests, who benefits and who suffers.  The term “extractivism” ignores that Bolivia and Ecuador have taken control of their natural resources from imperialist corporations, and now use the wealth generated to improve the lives of their peoples not the bottom lines of Western corporations.

While Latin America has moved in an anti-imperialist, anti-neoliberal direction, and the ALBA countries have implemented social programs benefiting the historically disadvantaged, particularly the indigenous, many previous US supporters of Latin America sovereignty have moved in a direction hostile to this process. National development is attacked as “extractivism,” as threatening the environment and the indigenous supposedly untouched by Western civilization. Representing historically oppressed and excluded peoples in the national government is painted as “co-opting social movements.” Chinese developmental aid to these countries, now increasingly boycotted by Western banks and corporations, is painted as “submitting to Chinese imperialism.”

Upside Down World and similar liberal-left media, for instance, claim that the indigenous of Ecuador are opposed to “extractivism.” However, during the August 2015 protests against Correa, one CONAIE group actually protested because government stopped a project because of its potential environmental damage:

“in the Southeastern province of Morona Santiago, a group of Indigenous Achuar people have protested for the third consecutive day in front of the governor’s building, responding to the call by the opposition-aligned indigenous confederation CONAIE. The Indigenous group’s main complaint regards the federal decision to suspend the environmental license, preventing the province from continuing the work on the Taisha road. Earlier in June, the Ministry of Environment imposed sanctions against the provincial government of Morona Santiago, revoking its environmental license and imposing a $70,800 fine over environmental damages caused during the Macuma-Taisha road project.” [38]

Do not expect this alternative media to inform us that these indigenous were protesting Correa because of the government’s opposition to building a road through an ecologically sensitive area.

Moreover, the previous CONAIE president, Humberto Cholango,  has said  “Many nationalities of the Amazonia say “look, we are the owners of the territory, and yes we want it to be exploited.”  These agree with Correa, and the majority of Ecuadorans, that to leave valuable natural resources untouched while people go without schools, roads,  medical care, employment, hurts their own interests. [39]

Readers of Upside Down World and NACLA will not read this, and are instead told the protests were against “extractivism” and for Original Peoples’ language rights. (The Ecuador government actually recognizes fourteen separate Original People languages).

In Ecuador: New left or new colonialism? Fred Fuentes writes:

“No government, even one that comes to power on the back of an insurrection and that destroys the capitalist state, would be able to meet the needs of the Ecuadorian people while at the same time halting all extractive industries. However, it can attempt to strike a balance between protecting the environment and industrializing the country, providing free education and health care for all, empowering the people to take power into their own hands. The difficulty of such a task means mistakes will be made, but also learnt from.

 

To overcome Ecuador’s legacy of dependency on extractive industries, rich imperialist nations will need to repay their historic debts to Ecuador’s people. The lack of any willingness to do so has been shown by the response from foreign governments to the bold Yasuni Initiative launched by the Correa government in 2007….

 

Until rich countries are held to account for the crimes they have committed against oppressed Third World nations no opponent of imperialism can legitimately denounce the Ecuador or Bolivia government for using wealth from its natural resources to meet peoples’ needs.

 

Environmental concerns are valid, but so are the very real needs of people to be able to access basic services that many of us take for granted. And we should never forget who the real culprits of the environmental crisis are.

 

Rather than diverting attention from these Western powers and onto anti-imperialist Latin American governments, we should focus on the real enemies we and the peoples of the oppressed nations face in common. Their fate is intertwined with our fight at home against Western governments and their corporate bosses.” [40]

Fuentes writes elsewhere:

“Our task is to oppose imperialist [interference], but “The challenges Bolivia… they are a direct result of centuries of colonialism and imperialist oppression, which have entrenched Bolivia in its role within the world economy as a dependent raw commodity exporter. Any chance Bolivia has of moving in a post-capitalist and post-extractivist direction depends on the creation of a new global order, starting with the reshaping of hemispheric relations. This is precisely what the Bolivian government has attempted to do….the main way we can help Bolivia’s social movements is still by winning over working people in the North to a position of solidarity with Bolivia. And the best way to do this is… to build an international movement against the imperialist system…[We must focus on] explaining why, as long as imperialism exists, Bolivia’s process of change will undoubtedly continue to face tremendous obstacles and dangers…. ‘only a popular uprising of unprecedented scale will prompt nations of the Global North to take their responsibility to the rest of the globe seriously, and constrain the coercive forces that constrain states like Bolivia.’”[41]

Conclusion

We expect the corporate media to conceal the impact of Western pillaging on the oppressed Third World countries, and to participate in the West’s on-going efforts to return pro-Western neoliberal governments.  However, for liberal-left media and organizations to take a similar stand, even if watered down, is nothing other than apologetics for imperialist interference. Not to emphasize imperialism’s historic and continuing exploitive role is not simply dishonest, not simply apologetics, but also shows a basic lack of human feeling and solidarity with the peoples of the Third World.

Any serious analysis, whether progressive or not, of an Third World country must start with the role Western imperialism has played. If not, the analysis does not clarify the causes of the problems their people face, but indirectly gives cover to the criminal impact of imperialism against the country.

Too many articles are written on the events in Ecuador and Bolivia in the alternative media as if US imperialism is not an important player. These alternative media sources actually advocate for indigenous groups and environmental NGOs which are USAID and US corporate financed. And they criticize these countries for defending their national sovereignty by shutting down what Bolivian Vice-President Linera called “foreign government financed organization NGOs” operating in their countries.

The stated USAID budget for Latin America is said to be $750 million, but estimates show that the secret part of the funding, partly in the hands of the CIA, may total twice that.[42] This information, and how this money is spent, ought to be a focus of any liberal-left alternative media purporting to stand up for the oppressed peoples of the Americas.

In June 2012, unlike NACLA, et al, the foreign ministers of the ALBA countries were quite clear on the devious work of USAID in their homelands in their June 2012 resolution:

“Citing foreign aid planning and coordination as a pretext, USAID openly meddles in sovereign countries’ domestic affairs, sponsoring NGOs and protest activities intended to destabilize legitimate governments which are unfavorable from Washington’s perspective. Documents released from the US Department of State archives carry evidence that financial support had been provided to parties and groups oppositional to the governments of ALBA countries, a practice tantamount to undisguised and audacious interference on the US behalf. In most ALBA countries, USAID operates via its extensive NGO networks, which it runs outside of the due legal framework, and also illicitly funds media and political groups. We are convinced that our countries have no need for external financial support to maintain the democracy established by Latin American and Caribbean nations, or for externally guided organizations which try to weaken or sideline our government institutions.” [43]

We find some liberal-left alternative media knowingly or unknowingly giving legitimacy to US soft coup plotting,  painting US collaborators in Bolivia and Ecuador as defenders of free expression, defenders of nature, defenders of the indigenous. The US government’s “talking points” on the leaders of the progressive ALBA bloc have worked their way into liberal-left alternative media, which echo the attacks on these governments by the organizations that have received US funds.[44]  That is not to say that Amazon Watch or Upside Down World or NACLA are themselves funded by the US government – if it somehow exculpates them that they do this work for free. Even worse, much of this propaganda against Evo and Correa appears only in the liberal-left alternative press, what we consider our press. Many of the people who were our allies, or allies on many other issues today, are on the other side of the fence.

As Cory Morningstar wrote:

“In retrospect, most anyone can and will easily condemn the colonizing of natives by missionaries in the 18th and 19th centuries. Yet, today, with NGOs having fulfilled this role to continue the practice into the 20th and 21st centuries – we collectively refuse to acknowledge it. We ignore it. We even defend it. The white paternalism continues with the blessing of the liberal left. ‘Maybe they are good!’ the liberal left cries. ‘Maybe the Indigenous communities like them!’ We can observe the photos of missionaries and their ‘subjects’ in the past. There appears to be no resistance. Yet, we still comprehend that this was wrong.”

But not only do liberal-left alternative media and NGOs let themselves become conveyer belts for US regime change propaganda. It also illustrates what many who consider themselves on the left still have not come to terms with:  their own arrogant traditionally white attitude that they share with Western colonizers and present day ruling elites: we know better than you what is good for you, we are the best interpreters and defenders of  your democracy and human rights. That is why they criticize Third World governments that are progressive or independent of US control – targets for US regime change and color revolution. In contrast, genuine support for the peoples of the Third World means basing yourself in opposition to imperialism and exposing US attempts to overthrow governments and undermine movements seeking to break free from the Western domination.

 

[1] Green Left Weekly series on Correa and WikiLeaks:  https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/57531

[2] http://inthesetimes.com/uprising/entry/14202/indigenous_movements_clash_with_latin_americas_left_turn/

More liberal-left alternative media articles attacking Ecuador:

Amazon’s Female Defenders Denounce ‘Macho’ Repression and Demand Rights

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/10/19/amazons-female-defenders-denounce-macho-repression-and-demand-rights

Ecuador Moves to Close Leading Environmental Organization as Part of Crackdown on Civil Society

https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2016/12/21/ecuador-moves-close-leading-environmental-organization-part-crackdown-civil

Ecuador’s social movements push back against Correa’s neoliberalism

https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/ecuadors-social-movements-push-back-against-correas-neoliberalism/

How protests forced Ecuador’s upcoming runoff presidential election

https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/ecuador-protests-forced-runoff-elections/

People vs. Big Oil: A Mosaic of Oil and Attack Dogs

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/38240-people-vs-big-oil-part-ii-a-mosaic-of-oil-and-attack-dogs

New Witch Hunt in Ecuador Against Indigenous and Environment Defenders

http://www.alternet.org/environment/new-witch-hunt-ecuador-against-indigenous-and-environment-defenders

“Beyond the Petrostate: Ecuador’s Left Dilemma,” the author raises some other issue against Correa. https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/riofrancos-beyond-petrostate-ecuador-left-dilemma           Christian Tym answers this very well in reply to Guardian smears on Correa. http://www.importantcool.com/murder-amazon-guardians-quest-correa/

Deep in the Amazon a Tiny Tribe is Beating Big Oil

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/312-16/28648-deep-in-the-amazon-a-tiny-tribe-is-beating-big-oil

http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/together-with-earth/deep-in-the-amazon-a-tiny-tribe-is-beating-big-oil

http://www.coha.org/corrupted-idealism-bolivias-compromise-between-development-and-the-environment/

(which, for instance, pushes the story  of  “the unanimous rejection by indigenous communities of a highway constructed through TIPNIS”)

Ecuador To Sell One Third Of Pristine Rainforest To Chinese Oil Companies http://www.mintpressnews.com/213663-2/213663/

[3] https://nacla.org/blog/2012/7/2/bolivia-tipnis-marchers-reach-la-paz-following-police-strike-and-coup-allegations

[4] https://nacla.org/blog/2011/8/26/bolivia-tipnis-marchers-face-accusations-and-negotiations

[5] http://upsidedownworld.org/main/international-archives-60/4816-the-politics-of-pachamama-natural-resource-extraction-vs-indigenous-rights-and-the-environment-in-latin-america  

[6] http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2012/09/26/end-to-usaid-spying-looms-in-latin-america.html

https://globalintelnews.wordpress.com/author/globalintelnews/page/8/

[7] http://boliviarising.blogspot.com/2011/09/bolivia-ngos-wrong-on-morales-and.html

[8] For instance:

“The Democracy CentreAvaaz and Amazon Watch are the main three NGOs, heavily funded by U.S. interests (Rockefellers, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Ford Foundation and Soros to name a few), who led the recent International campaign in which they denounced and demonized Bolivian Indigenous leader Evo Morales and his government. This destabilization campaign focused on the TIPNIS protests. A violent confrontation between TIPNIS protestors (influenced/funded by U.S. NGOs/USAID/CIDOB) and the police was the vital opportunity needed in order to execute a destabilization campaign that the U.S. has been strategically planning.”

https://thewrongkindofgreen.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/u-s-funded-democracy-centre-reveals-its-real-reason-for-supporting-the-tipnis-protest-in-bolivia-redd/

[9]  http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2011/09/29/about-u-s-amazon-watch-take-action-help-stop-police-repression-in-bolivia-2/

[10]  http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Amazon_Watch

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2011/09/29/about-u-s-amazon-watch-take-action-help-stop-police-repression-in-bolivia-2/

[11]  http://www.la-razon.com/nacional/Pedro-Nuni-lideres-regionales-proyecto_0_1946805357.html

[12]  http://upsidedownworld.org/main/ecuador-archives-49/2717-conaie-on-the-attempted-coup-in-ecuador

[13] https://machetera.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/quitos-police-cia-breeding-ground/

http://www.rebelion.org/noticias/2010/10/114032.pdf

[14] http://machetera.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/behind-the-coup-in-ecuador/

[15] Eva Golinger: “CONAIE blamed Correa for the coup, saying he was responsible for the crisis. By doing that while the coup is in action, it justifies it.” http://www.chavezcode.com/2010/10/evidence-of-ned-fundingaid-to-groups-in.html

[16]  http://www.cubadebate.cu/opinion/2010/10/04/veterano-de-la-cia-detras-del-golpe-en-ecuador/#.VjECqLerTIV

USAID is Behind the Ecuadorian Organizations Seeking to Destabilize the Government Coup in Ecuador – by Eva Golinger

http://www.contrainjerencia.com/?p=20735 states:

Eva Golinger, U.S. writer and researcher, told the state news agency Andes, that many Ecuadorian organizations, some linked to the indigenous movement and directed by National Assembly member Lourdes Tibán, receive financial funding from the State Department the United States, through USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and NED (National Endowment for Democracy) to destabilize the government of President Rafael Correa.

Speaking to Andes, Golinger reiterated that the Assemblyperson Lourdes Tibán, of the left Pachakutik Party (political wing of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, CONAIE) is part of Indigenous Enterprise Corporation, an organization that “actively” receives funding from USAID.
The group, of which is Tibán a founder, is  advised by a veteran of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Norman Bailey, who two years ago was head of a special intelligence mission of the U.S. government Cuba and Venezuela, said Golinger. Another group funded by USAID is “Citizen Participation,” said the researcher, who studies U.S. interference in the countries of the region.
When asked by journalist whether she repeats the accusation against Assembly person Tibán, Golinger said she found evidence that the Assemblyperson is funded by USAID.

“I found what are proofs of it. I do not know if she denies it, but it is impossible to for her to deny it when there is evidence ¨ Golinger said.

As evidence, the writer and researcher said that ¨ Tibán belongs to an organization that has received funding from U.S. agencies such as the NED, as well as the USAID, a financial arm of the Department of State. If I remember correctly, she belongs to one of these groups which has on its board a veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency, Norman Baily. He is a longtime member of the U.S. intelligence community, and is an advisor to this organization belongs (Indigenous Enterprise Corporation), of which Tiban is founder.¨

“Beyond that I do not know Tibán receives funds personally, but she does belong to an organization that receive funding from U.S. government agencies.¨

Golinger insisted that the resources Tiban receives from the State Department of the United States she uses to destabilize democracy.

“Veterano de la CIA, detrás del Golpe en Ecuador”, por Eva Golinger

http://mercosulcplp.blogspot.com/2010/10/veterano-de-la-cia-detras-del-golpe-en.html

https://machetera.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/behind-the-coup-in-ecuador/

see also Golinger and Oscar Heck in http://www.chavezcode.com/2010/10/evidence-of-ned-fundingaid-to-groups-in.html     

Violence, disinformation, outright lies and anti-government propaganda

http://www.vheadline.com/readnews.asp?id=84531

VHeadline writer Oscar Heck tells us:

In recent days, in Ecuador, there has been an indigenous movement against the Ecuadorian government’s National Assembly reading/review of Ecuador’s new Water Laws, which, as far as I know, under their constitution, obliges the Ecuadorian government to be the sole custodian of water resources.

This issue seems to be clearly understood by most Ecuadorians … yet a small group of Natives from near the Cayambe region, close to Quito, has started demonstrations (some violent or violence-provoking) accusing the Ecuadorian government of trying to “privatize” the water and seeking to pass laws to not allow local water commissions any say in the use and distribution of water resources.

The protests are organized by an indigenous group called the Confederation Of Indigenous Nationalities Of Ecuador (CONAIE). The assumptions propagated by the likes of CONAIE, that the government will privatize the water resources and/or no allow local water commissions, are completely false according to Rafael Correa.

It is as if something or someone somewhere in that region is implanting lies into the minds of the locals … just like the NED-financed Venezuelan organizations (CTV, Fedecamaras, Primero Justicia, Sumate, CEDICE, etc.) are paid by the US government to lie to the public and manipulate information in order to create unrest … and subsequent violence … to then blame or vilify local government.

So, what is CONAIE?

CONAIE was formed out of the union of two already existing organizations, ECUARUNARI and CONFENIAIE.  ECUARUNARI, the regional organization of the Sierra that has been functioning for over 20 years, and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon(CONFENIAE), formed in 1980, created that same year the National Coordinating Council of the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, CONACNIE.”

Now, since I highly suspect that CONAIE is financed, influenced, controlled or infiltrated in some fashion by the US government, I decided to go through the NED’s website.  I found the following (and more):

Grantor: NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY (NED)

Grantee: Corporación Instituto Empresarial Indígena del Ecuador (Indigenous Enterprise Institute of Ecuador) (IEIE)

Country(ies): Ecuador

Region: Latin America and the Caribbean

Subject(s): Business and Economics

Grant Awarded: 2006

Amount: 67,955

Grantor: NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY (NED)

Grantee: Fundación Q’ellkaj (Q’ellkaj Foundation)

Country(ies): Ecuador

Region: Latin America and the Caribbean

Subject(s): Youth

Grant Awarded: 2006

Amount: 91,256

So what is the, Corporación Instituto Empresarial Indígena del Ecuador?

And what is Fundación Q’ellkaj (Q’ellkaj Foundation)?

I decided to look into it and found more than I expected.  I went to the website of Corporación Instituto Empresarial Indígena del Ecuador, which is actually Corporación Empresarial Indígena del Ecuador … or CEIE … a not-for-profit organization founded in 2005 by Ángel Medina, Mariano Curicama, Lourdes Tibán, Fernando Navarro, and Raúl Gangotena.  Their website also states that Norman Bailey is one of their honorary members.

And who are the other characters involved in the CEIE? According to their website, I quote excerpts in Spanish:

ANGEL MEDINA“ … fundador y presidente de la Fundación Q´ellkaj …”

FERNANDO NAVARRO “ … Presidente de la Federación de Cámaras de Comercio del Ecuador…”

RAUL GANGOTENA  “… Tiene relación con los siguientes organismos internacionales: Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, International Forum for Democratic Studies, National Endowment for Democracy … Embajador del Ecuador en los Estados Unidos … Actuó como consejero para la Subsecreataría de Defensa en 2001 …”

LOURDES TIBAN “… Asesora del Consejo Político de la ECUARUNARI … la Declaración de los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas en Washington DC …”

Below are the connections I can find between the information found on the NED and CIEI websites and CONAIE (who are the ones organizing the anti-government protests are in Ecuador):

-Lourdes Tiban, who is one of the co-founders of CIEI worked with ECUARUNARI, which was one of the founding organizations of CONAIE.

-Both CIEI and Q´ellkaj receive NED financing. Angel Medina is/was founder and president of Q´ellkaj and co-founder of CIEI … and he works with Lourdes Tiban, who was involved with ECUARUNARI, a member organization of CONAIE.

-Raul Gangotena, another co-founder of NED-financed CIEI, has/had direct links with the NED and works with Lourdes Tiban, who has/had links to ECUARUNARI, which has/had links to CONAIE.

-Fernando Navarro, another co-founder of CIEI, was president of the Ecuadorian federation of chambers of commerce. The Federación de Cámaras de Comercio del Ecuador is the equivalent to the NED-financed Fedecamaras in Venezuela, one of the organizations which headed up the violent coup against democratically-elected Chavez in 2002 and the subsequent violent economic sabotage of the country in 2002 and 2003. Since he was probably a highly influential person, then he probably still is a highly influential person.  Since he works/worked with Lourdes Tiban, and since Lourdes has/had links to ECUARUNARI (indirectly CONAIE), then he may have influence over CONAIE.

At least one person at another Ecuadorian NED-financed indigenous organization (CIEI), has or has had links with CONAIE.  CIEI was coincidentally created in 2005, not long before Rafael Correa was elected president of Ecuador. Norman Bailey, who was present at the White House when the NED was created, is a member of CIEI.

Oscar Heck

oscar.heck@vheadline.com

http://www.vheadline.com/heck

Marlon Santi

PRESIDENT, CONAIE

Delfín Tenesaca

PRESIDENT, ECUARUNARI

Tito Puanchir

PRESIDENT, CONFENIAE

Olindo Nastacuaz

PRESIDENT, CONAICE

From Eva: “Organizations in Ecuador such as Participación Ciudadana and Pro-Justicia [Citizen Participation and Pro-Justice], as well as members and sectors of CODENPE, Pachakutik,CONAIE, the Corporación Empresarial Indígena del Ecuador [Indigenous Enterprise Corporation of Ecuador] and Fundación Qellkaj [Qellkaj Foundation] have had USAID and NED funds at their disposal.”

[17] http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/05/16/fundacion-pachamama-is-dead-long-live-alba-part-ii/

[18] http://www.minnpost.com/christian-science-monitor/2013/12/odds-ecuador-usaid-moves-leave (Interestingly, the newspaper the next day made a retraction that Pachamana was currently receiving USAID money).

[19] http://www.pachamama.org/news/we-stand-in-solidarity-with-fundacion-pachamama-in-ecuador    Amnesty International organized a similar campaign.

[20] https://orionmagazine.org/2012/03/breaking-up-with-the-sierra-club/

[21] https://intercontinentalcry.org/fundacion-pachamama-dead-long-live-alba-part-investigative-report/  (part 1)

[22]“Other foundation advisors include:  include Yolanda Kakabadse, president of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) since 2010, Trustee of the Ford Foundation, President of International Union for Conservation of Nature (1996-2004); Ann Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF (2005-2010, US Secretary of Agriculture (2001-2005), named 46th most powerful woman by Forbes in 2009; Doug Hattaway, president of Hattaway Communication since 2001, Senior Communications Adviser for Hilary Clinton (2008); Michael Conroy, Board Chair of Forest Stewardship Council since 2010, Board Chair of Fair Trade USA (2003-2010; Jacob Olander, Director of Forest Trends’ Incubator since 2008, Co-founder of EcoDecisión since 1995, Expert in conservation finance and payments for ecosystem services; Florencia Montagnini, professor of Tropical Forestry at Yale University since 2001, research advisor to the Smithsonian Institute’s PRORENA program since 2001, expert in tropical forestry and agroforesty systems.

Runa foundation advisor Yolanda Kakabadse, of WWF, just happens to also be a member of the Environmental Advisory Board of CocaCola.” (ibid.)

[23] (part 4)

[24] (part 7)

[25] Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA | Part I of an Investigative Report

[26] https://nacla.org/news/2015/11/02/criminals-or-citizens-mining-and-citizen-protest-correa%E2%80%99s-ecuador

[27] Sandra Moog: “Exporting Institutionality” in Globalization, Philanthropy and Civil Society: Protecting Institutional Logics Abroad (2009)  p. 279

[28]  Quoted in Paul Dosh and Nicole Kligerman, “Correa vs. Social Movements: Showdown in Ecuador,” NACLA Report on the Americas, (September 17, 2009), https://nacla.org/node/6124;

Naomi Klein, “Open Letter to President Rafael Correa Regarding Closure of Acción Ecológica,” March 12, 2009

[29] see http://www.accionecologica.org/component/content/article/1868-carta-a-la-comunidad- -ecuatoriana-en-relacion-al-levantamiento-y-la-represion-generada-

[30] Her Facebook page has posts supporting all the pro-business elite protests against Correa and his proposal to raise taxes on the rich.

[31] https://www.change.org/p/rafael-correa-stop-the-deportation-of-manuela-picq

[32] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Foreign-Academic-Detained-in-Ecuador-Riot-Faces-Deportation-20150816-0010.html

[33]  http://upsidedownworld.org/main/ecuador-archives-49/5422-ecuadors-new-indigenous-uprising

[34] http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=201393

[35] http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/06/23/fundacion-pachamama-is-dead-long-live-alba-part-iii/

[36] http://amazonwatch.org/news/2015/0819-ecuadorian-government-violates-human-rights-and-the-constitution

[37] http://www.elciudadano.gob.ec/la-violencia-extrema-predomino-en-manifestaciones-del-13-de-agosto/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+elciudadanogobec+%28ElCiudadano.gob.ec+-+Sistema+Oficial+de+Informaci%C3%B3n%29

Also Federico Fuentes:  https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/59776

[38] “http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Ecuador-Opposition-Unions-Call-for-National-Strike–20150819-0033.html”

[39] https://lalineadefuego.info/2014/04/11/entrevista-a-humberto-cholango-dios-la-naturaleza-y-las-fuerzas-de-los-espiritus-de-los-lideres-van-a-proteger-para-que-la-conaie-no-caiga-en-manos-de-la-derecha/

[40] https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/51353

[41] Fred Fuentes, “Bad Left Government” versus “Good Left Social Movements”? in Latin America’s Radical Left” pp. 120-121

[42] see “USAID Spying in Latin America”  http://www.globalresearch.ca/usaid-spying-in-latin-america/5306679

[43] http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/7069

[44] https://nacla.org/blog/2013/12/31/close-ngos-asserting-sovereignty-or-eroding-democracy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bob Geldof and the Aid Industry: “Do They Know it’s Imperialism?”

Under the Mask of Philanthropy

March 29, 2017

by Michael Barker

[Author Michael Barker published the following article in the activist journal Capitalism Nature Socialism in 2014 (Volume 24, No.1, pp.96-110).]

The central role that celebrities maintain within global society provides a good illustration of the essentially hollow and manipulative nature of contemporary democracies. Corporate elites literally manufacture all-star celebrities, and acting through these malleable figureheads, freely flood the world with imperialist propaganda. Much like the economic forces acting to misguide politicians, institutional pressures ensure that only right-thinking individuals become trusted celebrities. However, the main difference between celebrities and politicians is that the public cannot exert democratic control over celebrities. Bob Geldof is no different in this regard, and as the consummate celebrity-power broker, he stands clear of many contemporaries as a pioneer of celebrity-led imperialism: acting effectively in the service of capital. It is for this reason that this article critically excavates such a largely overlooked history to help unearth an explanatory framework for understanding exactly why the ongoing tragedy of famines will never be solved under a capitalist framework.

Stephanie McMillan industry

Geldof first rose to fame in the 1970s as the lead singer of the Irish band the Boomtown Rats and, having learned how to play the music industry’s game to perfection, went on to become a rare beneficiary of the stifling culture industry. However, that was not enough for Geldof, and at the peak of his musical career he attempted to give something back to the world; call it something akin to musical social responsibility. For Geldof, this time of charitable maturation arrived in 1984 when, having been shocked by a news report about the ongoing famine in Ethiopia, he sought to harness his celebrity power and to direct it toward the challenge of solving global injustice. Such good intentions are all well and good, but seeing that Geldof explicitly set upon this task in a manner that ignored any systematic critique of the politics of exploitation, his actions ending up bolstering the very same unjust capitalist system that created the problem in the first place. In fact, a good case can be made that it is precisely the imperialism-lite of ostensibly good-intentioned liberal elites—whose activities are subsumed under the kind-sounding rhetoric of “philanthropy,” “democracy,” and “human rights”—that has facilitated the institutionalization of neoliberalism.

Celebrities and the Politics of Starvation

In our interconnected world, extended famines do not occur when harvests fail, or because there are too many mouths to feed; quite the opposite, they occur with unfortunate regularity precisely because geopolitical priorities place profit before people. Scrutinizing the case study provided by the Ethiopian famine is important, as not only did it mark Washington’s “first hundred-million dollar commitment to international disaster relief,” but the intervention has also provided a “blueprint for future policymakers to follow”. Thus, to advance a realistic and useful solution to starvation, one needs to look beyond the mainstream media’s propaganda of futility, and strive to examine the role of capital in catalyzing “natural” disasters. Celebrity activists cannot be relied upon in searching for such solutions; as embedded within capitalist networks of power, they tend to be amongst those few individuals least likely to engage in such a rational approach to problem solving.

victorian

Counter to the rational nature of anti-capitalist thought, the latest tried and (media) tested method of addressing capital’s wrong-doings is to harness the angry voice of a celebrity (or better still a group of celebrities) to rant and rave about individual greed. Illustrating this is the latest iteration of a longstanding trend that has seen capitalists harness the power of philanthropy to the extension and consolidation of capitalist relations worldwide. This smokescreen approach to social change channels public attention away from any discussion of meaningful issues, and ensures that capitalists are empowered to “solve” the very same problems they caused in the first place. Geldof is singled out in particular because he took this basic formula for corporate success and then pushed this model for celebrity-led reaction to such an extent that celebrities are now a vital part of the “aid” industry.

Geldof clearly does not interpret his own actions in such a negative way, and seems to believe that the moral suasion of celebrities can force the hands of the very same political and economic elites that sustain their careers. There may be a limited grain of truth in this way of thinking, but it is to state the obvious that a celebrity campaign to expose capitalist injustice is hardly likely to be instigated by corporate-sanctioned celebrities, let alone gain active elite support in corporate circles. Hence, a good case can be made that Geldof’s entire Band Aid/Live Aid phenomenon actually shifted:

the focus of responsibility for the impoverishment of the Third World from western governments to individuals and obscured the workings of multinational corporations and their agents, the IMF and the World Bank. Worse, it made people in the West feel that famine and hunger were endemic to the Third World, to Africa in particular (the dark side of the affluent psyche), and what they gave was as of their bounty, not as some small for what was taken from the of the Third recompense being poor World…. [A] discourse on western imperialism was transmogrified into a discourse on western humanism. [1]

Geldof’s own humanitarian campaign thus exemplified itself as a stereotypical attack on governments and the existing aid industry: the visual problem was identified (famine), blame was then squarely placed on the local (foreign) government, and a “new” uncorrupted form of charity was then promoted. Along with such myths, he also pushed the equally misleading idea that foreign governments allowed the famine to continue because they were apathetic. Geldof’s serviceable response to these “problems” was obvious; he had to force Western governments to care more for distant others and rail against the existing aid industry’s inefficiencies. In both instances, this meant that Geldof dismissed the primary institutional reason for the existence of the aid industry. This is because governments do not donate food out of generosity; rather their food distribution networks are considered to be an integral weapon through which they promote their foreign policies. Critical books that Geldof might have read at the time include Nicole Ball’s World Hunger: A Guide to the Economic and Political Dimensions (1981), Susan George’s How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reasons for World Hunger (1976), Teresa Hayter’s The Creation of World Poverty (1981), and Marcus Linear’s Zapping the Third World: The Disaster of Development Aid (1985).

Geldof book

Paradoxically, writing in 1986, Geldof was evidently aware (at the rhetorical level anyway) of the strategic use of aid:

Aid is given in direct proportion to how friendly a government is towards the donor. It is used as threat, blackmail and a carrot. This is wrong …. Aid by and large benefits the donor country as much as the recipient, more so in fact as it stimulates, by trade, the donor’s economy, but leaves the recipient aid-dependent. (Bob Geldof, Is That It?, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1986, p.318.)

However, such critical words never informed his actions.

Band Aid Imperialism

Considering the exploitative nature of government food aid, the actions of the glut of “Bloody Do-Gooders” that Geldof brought together under the remit of Band Aid in 1984 certainly need to be viewed in a critical light. [2] Released in December 1984, Band Aid’s humanitarian anthem “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” quickly became the fastest-selling UK single of all time and marked Geldof’s return to the public stage as a born-again humanitarian rabble-rouser. Reflecting on his initial experiences in his autobiography Is That It? (1986), Geldof acknowledged that the result of Band Aid’s fund raising “would be so small in the context of the problem that it would be like putting a tiny plaster on a wound that required twelve stitches” (p.223).

Do They Know It's Christmas

With the benefit of hindsight, I would suggest that this is an extremely bad misdiagnosis. A more accurate description of Band Aid’s work would be to say that they put a plaster over capitalism’s body politics and sutured the public’s eyes shut. Here, Geldof would vehemently disagree as he insists that Band Aid carried out its work without involving itself in regional politics. Such claims, however, are patently false, especially given the fact that he recruited some of Britain’s leading elites to serve as trustees of the charity, the Band Aid Trust, which was set up to distribute the funds raised in the course of his activism. [3]

So how did it all start? If one returns to the initial seven-minute BBC story broadcast on October 24, 1984 that fueled Geldof’s humanitarian impulses, it turns out that the two reporters who filed the report (Mo Amin and Michael Buerk) were working under the auspices of World Vision—a well-publicized, imperialist, evangelical Christian charity. World Vision exists as just one, often overlooked part of imperial counterinsurgency efforts carried out by conservative evangelists who wage “spiritual warfare” upon recalcitrant populations. Little wonder that the television report described Ethiopia as the scene of a “biblical famine,” which was the “closest thing to hell on earth”. Thus, it is appropriate that in the early stages of Geldof’s frantic organizing efforts, the head of World Vision UK, Peter Searle, “kept phoning” Geldof in a bid to influence his activities. Having never heard of World Vision, Geldof recalled that he was “very suspicious” of Searle’s offers of help, but he seems to have been reassured when told that “they were an excellent organization but with roots in the right-wing American evangelical revival.” As Geldof continues: “Later we backed several of their projects” (p.235), [4] but to be more precise, it should be noted that as reported in May 1986, the “largest sum spent so far [by Band Aid] on a single project, dollars 1m, went to the charity World Vision” for their work in the Sudan (“The Band’s Last Big Number/The Future of Band Aid.” The Sunday Times, May 11, 1986).

Lest one forgets, the Cold War was in full swing, and Ethiopia was in the grip of a protracted civil war against rebels of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Geldof thankfully recognized the existence of this war; but when he met the officials of the Ethiopian government’s relief commission, he told them, “It seems to me that your basic problem is one of PR.” He added that while “I may not know anything about famine … I do know a lot about PR.” The narrow solution as viewed through Geldof’s celebrity eyes was that Ethiopia should see the international media as their natural ally because, he continued, “once people in the West appreciate the scale of what is going on here you won’t be able to stop them from helping” (p.249). Geldof’s naivety certainly did not make him receptive to the contrary idea presented by members of the Ethiopian government, that the Western media were part of the problem, and that it had actually consciously acted against the best interests of their country. Further, given Geldof’s gross ignorance about Ethiopian politics, it is no surprise that he missed the fact that the Ethiopian government was deliberately withholding food aid from the “huge areas of Tigray where TPLF guerrillas held sway” because, as their acting foreign minister Tibebu Bekele made clear at the time, “Food is a major element in our strategy against the secessionists”. [5]

William Hogarth the_lottery

One might note that the only aid group active in Ethiopia at the time that challenged the hegemonic imperialist discourse of the famine was Médecins sans frontiers, and for doing so, they were promptly ejected from the country. At that time, the longstanding trend of manipulating humanitarian aid to serve the donor countries’ geostrategic interests is most clearly demonstrated in the provision of aid on the borders of Pakistan-Afghanistan and Honduras-Nicaragua during the 1980s. In the former case, Fiona Terry concludes, “Whether they believed they were neutral or not, NGOs that received US funding either in Pakistan or for cross-border operations were assisting the foreign policy strategy of the US government.” With respect to Honduran “aid,” some NGOs themselves were openly critical about such manipulations, and a report by Catholic Relief Services concluded, “The border relief programs are not designed to meet the long- or short-term interests of the Miskitos, but rather are designed for political purposes as a conduit of aid to the contras”. Interestingly in Ethiopia, Catholic Relief Services appear to have maintained a somewhat antagonistic stance vis-à-vis their role in promoting US foreign policy objectives but, despite rhetorical objections, still retained their prestigious position as the largest recipient of US disaster grants.

It is, therefore, far from surprising that more recent reports demonstrate that some of the relief monies entering Ethiopia were used to buy arms for the rebels via the TPLF’s aid front group, the Relief Society of Tigray (REST). The US government was of course well aware of this situation as a now-declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report written in 1985 makes clear. The report observes, “Some funds that insurgent organizations are raising for relief operations, as a result of increased world publicity, are almost certainly being diverted for military purposes”. Geldof, no doubt dismissed such possibilities as belonging to the realm of conspiracy theories, which is perhaps the reason he did not refuse an offer of aid from the shadowy employee of a former CIA agent. As Geldof recounts in his autobiography, the influential CIA agent in question was Miles Copeland, whose philanthropic-minded boss was the longtime Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, and whose militaristic background remained unmentioned by Geldof. Thus, Geldof adds, he was informed by Miles Copeland’s son, Stewart Copeland (the drummer in the rock group The Police), that:

Khashoggi was interested in donating some planes for us to use. On the eve of my departure for Ethiopia I met up with Khashoggi’s son who was passing through London. The planes would be for famine relief in the Sudan only, he said, and a meeting would be arranged between me and President Numeiri’s personal adviser, Baha Idris. It all seemed very complex, but the offer for the planes was firm, I was assured. (p.251) [6]

Then, while on his subsequent foray to the Sudan, Geldof had lunch with Andrew Timpson of Save the Children where his briefing provided:

… one enlightening piece of information. Adnan Khashoggi was said to have oil interests in the Sudan and a special relationship with President Numeiri which led him to getting a remarkably good return on his investment. It was said that if anyone could arrange a cease-fire in the civil war which was disrupting development in the oil field which was thought to be the biggest in black Africa, it was he. (p.252)

Alan Hardman

Geldof’s follow-up sentence is increasingly curious, but as far as he is concerned, that is the end of the story as he fails to return to this intriguing subject. He does, however, mention in passing that during the preparations for the Band Aid concert, “all the Band Aid office expenses were being paid for by a Malaysian oil millionaire called Ananda Krishnan” and, contrary to Geldof’s own personal intentions for the project, Krishnan “was interested in turning Band Aid into a permanent institution” (p.266). Such curious humanitarian contacts befit a man with little enthusiasm for challenging the legitimacy of powerful political interests. In Geldof’s own words:

[A]s in England, where I didn’t want to get involved in party politics, so too in Africa. ‘I will shake hands with the devil on my left and the devil on my right to get to the people who need help,’ I would say, when I first asked questions about the political complexion of some local government. That was crucial, for you could become bogged down in the myriad moral uncertainties of dealing with an imperfect political system. (p.318)

Geldof Versus the American Government?

Despite Geldof recognizing the fact that aid is regularly used by powerful governments “as threat, blackmail and a carrot,” in 1985, Band Aid strangely sought to gain the support of the best-organized imperialist aid agency in the world, the US Agency for International Development (AID). No need to worry about such incongruous behavior though, as Geldof would have us believe “the greatest single donor in the world” did not really know what it was doing in terms of coordinating its global operations. Geldof recalls that he “was frightened” that USAID “would have the better of me or have a better grasp of the facts.” “But they didn’t” he continues, “we were all tap dancing” (p.320). [7] This seems most peculiar, and I would argue that this interpretation of events owes more to his naivety than to reality, but either way this false impression certainly gave Geldof the confidence boost he needed to argue for their help. That said, he didn’t have to argue much, as USAID already knew his plans, as he “had stipulated the agenda before” he arrived in America. He recalled, “They knew that we were not prepared to leave without firm undertakings from them that they should match us on a dollar-for-dollar basis on some of our mutually beneficial projects” (p.322). So in the end, it is not surprising that the US State Department came through for Band Aid. The Ethiopian government, on the other hand, was, as Geldof reports, “not delirious to have help from US Aid” (p.323).

usaid-humanitarian-relief

Are we really to believe that it was Band Aid that manipulated the US government and not vice versa? If we just consider the quantitative issue of food aid, the total value of US aid for Ethiopia in fiscal 1983 was around $3 million; this then increased to some $23 million the following year, and then “jumped to more than four times that amount (about $98 million) between October 1 and December 1, 1984.” Given that approximately two-thirds of this last increase was committed after the initial National Broadcasting Company (NBC) broadcast of the famine in the United States (October 24, 1984), one way of interpreting this change would be to say this boost in aid was due to the change in media coverage and the resulting public outcry. Alternatively, one could just as easily interpret this change as illustrating that the media became more receptive to the issue once the US government signaled that they were increasing, and no longer decreasing, food aid to the region. This latter argument is evidenced by the fact that in March 1984, Senator John Danforth (Republican-Missouri)—who throughout 1984 played an important role in lobbying for famine relief in Ethiopia —successfully introduced a bill (H.J.Res. 493) that provided $90 million in food assistance for emergency food assistance for Africa. This money was not, however, freed up until an earlier bill (H.J.Res. 492), which aimed to provide $150 million to famine-stricken areas in Africa (which the $90 million represented part of) stalled, passing into law in July 1984, but only when proposed amendments to add covert funding for the Contras in Nicaragua had been dropped from the bill (African Famine: Chronology of U.S. Congressional and Executive Branch Action in 1984, Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service).

Counter to Geldof’s recommendation to Ethiopian officials that they only needed better PR to get their story out to the global public, US journalists had been attempting to air stories about the famine for some time, but they simply had no takers in the mainstream media. As far as the media were concerned, “It was not ‘new’ news, for the roots of the 1984 disaster lay in conditions known for years before the disaster hit the headlines”. However, by the end of the year, Ethiopia was now considered as being an issue that deserved political attention. One wondered if this was in any way related to ongoing attempts to coerce the Ethiopian government to accept more aid from the West. For example, it is interesting to observe that just after the increase in aid and media attention (in October), Reuters reported on December 1, 1984, how “The Marxist Government of Ethiopia has agreed to move toward a free market policy to improve the country’s agricultural production…” (“Ethiopians Consider Free Market.” The Globe and Mail, December 1, 1984). Thus, extensive economic and diplomatic pressure was clearly being brought to bear on Ethiopia well before the rise in media attention. By way of another example, the Italian government had its own important role to play in ramping up the political pressure, “and the Italian ambassador is generally credited with making it clear to Mengistu in early October 1984 that Ethiopia could not continue to suppress information about the famine, but must publicize it in order to attract Western relief”.

Ethiopia was now the media’s number one story, but during the seemingly endless deluge of one-dimensional coverage, at no point did the mainstream media help the public understand what was happening by making any significant effort to explain the root causes of the famine. One would have been hard-pressed to have heard of the ambitious land reform program—launched in 1975 when the military Marxists (known as the Derg) rose to power—that was “very successful in eliminating large holdings, absentee landlordism and landlessness.” Similarly, there was no talk of how the Derg’s top-down control over their agrarian reform program had the net effect of “lessen[ing] farmer’s incentives for good natural resource management by decreasing both the security of land tenure and the profitability of agriculture”. Factors that combined with the prolonged civil war and the Derg’s massive resettlement program (which was undertaken in the wake of the 1984–1985 famine) exacerbated farmer land insecurity and mismanagement, which depressed agricultural production in Ethiopia’s time of need.

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Instead of providing historically-informed investigative journalism that explored such issues, the racist media delivered up a nightmarish story about a natural disaster of biblical proportions. This is an outcome that was entirely predictable given the propagandist nature of the mainstream media that was well aligned to celebrate the successes of the imperialist development narratives upon which the nongovernmental (NGO) aid industry operates. Thus, the media and the international aid community simply latched onto well-worn neo-Malthusian environmental degradation narratives to justify ongoing aid in the post-famine period (1985–1990). Likewise, little or no mention has been made of the deleterious effect that the Soviet Union’s policy of disengagement had on the nominally Marxist government.

Such an ill-informed development narrative was supremely useful to imperialist donors as it promoted an intervention in a geostrategically important region which “was narrowly technical, largely bypassed the Ethiopian government, was targeted directly on the rural poor and would be welcomed by the growing environmental lobby in Washington”. With respect to the utility of this massive influx of aid (for the people of Ethiopia), “in retrospect, it is clear that much of this effort was wasted or counterproductive.” It is not coincidental that it was during this golden period of “development” aid that the Derg “moved away from socialist agriculture”.

One might point out that neo-Malthusian arguments drawn upon in Ethiopia are intimately enmeshed with the ideological underpinnings of the mainstream environmental movement, which are especially in line with the environmental lobby in Washington. Indeed, since the 18th century, such specious logic has solidified yeomen service to imperial elites who falsely argue that humans simply cannot cultivate enough food to feed the entire human population. Thus, given Ethiopia’s positioning in the ongoing Cold War, it is appropriate that the leading proponents of neoliberal environmentalism played a major role in justifying the aid communities’ protracted interventions in the region. For example, from late 1984 to mid-1986, the executive coordinator of the United Nations Office for Emergency Operations in Africa was none other than , the immensely powerful former oil executive who, over the past four decades, has arguably done more than any other individual to promote the misnomer of sustainable development.

Capitalists for Just Exploitation

Old humanitarian habits die hard and, having already proved their ability to neglect the role of imperial power politics in global affairs, Geldof and his Band Aid friends have continued to act as willing implementers of capitalistic responses to capitalist-bred inequality. However, if one had to choose one Band Aid contributor who best followed Geldof’s own model of leadership on behalf of imperial elites it would have to be Bono, who in 2005 was voted TIME magazine’s Person of the Year alongside the well-known “humanitarian” couple Bill and Melinda Gates. After contributing to the Band Aid single and the Live Aid gig in 1985, Bono had even emulated Geldof’s commitment to the right-wing evangelical charity World Vision, and spent six weeks volunteering at one of their orphanages in Ethiopia. Bono’s overt commitment to Christian missionary work was then put on hold, that is, until 1997 when Jamie Drummond encouraged him to became a spokesperson for a church-based campaign known as Jubilee 2000, a group which was set up to campaign the canceling of Third World debt. Fresh from this spiritual revival, Bono then began spending weekends at the World Bank with his friend Bobby Shriver, who himself was an old colleague of the World Bank’s president, James Wolfensohn, having worked with him within the venture capital division of the Wolfensohn Firm.

Having gained his humanitarian apprenticeship under leading imperialists like Wolfensohn, it is fitting that economist Jeffrey Sachs completed Bono’s education. Bono, like Geldof, was pioneering new ground within the realm of celebrity activism, moving from the former archetypal celebrity-as-fundraiser to the realm of celebrity-as-corporate-lobbyist. With the zeal of a born-again zealot, Bono endeavored to work the circuits of power of the hallowed nonprofit-industrial complex, and in 2002 he turned to Geldof, who helped devise the name DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) to christen his and Bobby Shriver’s new group; this organization flourished with $1 million start-up grants flowing in from the likes of global democracy manipulator George Soros, software businessman Edward W. Scott, Jr., and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Once established, DATA recruited like-minded high profile corporate lobbyists, the two main ones being the Democrat AIDS activist /defense contractor lobbyist Tom Sheridan, and Scott Hatch, who formerly ran the National Republican Campaign Committee. Much like Geldof, Bono sees his work as bipartisan, that is, encompassing all political views as long as they stand firmly on the side of capitalism.

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In 2004, Bono extended his activist commitments, and with the backing of Bread for the World, the Better Safer World coalition, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he created “ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History,” which merged with DATA in 2007 and is now known as ONE Campaign. All board members of ONE are leading representatives of the US power elite, but three who exhibit outstanding service to capitalist propaganda are president and CEO Michael Elliott (who most recently served as the editor of TIME International), board chair Tom Freston (who is the former CEO of Viacom and MTV Networks), and Joe Cerrell (who presently works for the Gates Foundation, but formerly served as the vice president of the philanthropy practice at APCO Worldwide and as assistant press secretary to former US Vice President Al Gore). A significant recent addition to ONE’s board of directors is World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is active on the board of Friends Africa where he sits alongside African “friends” like Jeffrey Sachs and the chairman of De Beers, Jonathan Oppenheimer. Yet another especially interesting ONE board member is Helene Gayle, who as a former employee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is now employed as the president of the leading international “aid” outfit, CARE.

Here, it is noteworthy to recall that CARE was formed by Herbert Hoover as the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, and since its inception in 1945 has provided a valuable means of promoting imperialism via the strategic provision of food aid. Indeed, as Susan George suggests in her excellent book How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reasons for World Hunger (1976), Hoover was given the opportunity to form CARE primarily because he had demonstrated his ability to use food aid as a weapon during and after World War I. In fact, she suggests that Hoover was arguably the “first modern politician to look upon food as a frequently more effective means of getting one’s own way than gunboat diplomacy or military intervention”. As recent critical scholarship on the international role of CARE demonstrates, it still serves much the same imperial purpose that it was created to perform.

CARE thus provides a vital training ground for budding “humanitarians”; for instance, many of their former staff are involved in a relatively new venture known as Build Africa—a “charity” working in rural Uganda and Kenya that helps “young people” better themselves through learning about the wonders of “business enterprise.” One particularly significant trustee of Build Africa (who also heads their board of ambassadors/investment bankers) is the investment banker and private equity power broker Mark Florman, the CEO of the British Venture Capital Association. In addition to acting as one of the co-founders of the UK-based Center for Social Justice—a think tank that was set up in 2004 by the former leader of the Conservative party, Iain Duncan Smith [8]—Florman worked with Bob Geldof to raise $200 million to launch a private equity fund in 2012, called 8 Miles, with the aid of , which, bluntly put, aims to capitalize on Africa. According to the Financial Times:

Among others that Mr. Geldof has approached for advice on the [] venture is Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-born telecoms tycoon turned philanthropist, and Arki Busson, the founder of hedge fund EIM. He has also discussed his plans with Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who sits with Mr. Geldof on the Africa Progress Panel, monitoring donor commitments towards increased aid to Africa. [9]

To flesh out the backgrounds of Geldof’s new friends, one might note that Mo Ibrahim was soon to be a board member of the ONE Campaign and is currently chair of the advisory board for an investment firm focused on Africa called Satya Capital; its small portfolio includes Namakwa Diamonds, a mining group whose board members notably include a former executive vice president of the notorious Barrick Gold. In 2004, Ibrahim founded the Mo Ibrahim Foundation “to recognize achievement in African leadership and stimulate debate on good governance across sub-Saharan Africa and the world.” In this context, “good governance” means implementation of neoliberal reforms. [10] Hedge fund tycoon Arki Busson, like Ibrahim, is well-versed in the power of philanthropic propaganda, and on the side of his main business interests he runs an educational charity known as Absolute Return for Kids (ARK), which is one of Britain’s powerful new academy chains that run academies on US charter school lines. In 2007, at ARK’s seventh annual fundraiser, Geldof and Tony Blair were in attendance, so it is suitable that ARK’s patrons include two close associates of Geldof’s. The first is the “human rights” crooner Sir Elton John, and the second is the former World Bank economist Dambisa Moyo.

Moyo is the author of Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa (2009), and she lividly expresses her humanitarian commitment through service on the boards of Barclays, SABMiller PLC, and the global independent oil and gas exploration and production company, Lundin Petroleum. [11] With “her total unflinching faith in markets as the ultimate solution and her silence on issues of social justice” Moyo’s book sits comfortably with the ambitions of the “Bono-Bob Geldof-driven development industry that is convinced that the ingredients of lifting the wretched of the earth out of poverty include higher economic growth, liberalised markets, good governance, better-funded NGOs and, most important of all, more aid”.

A Leftist critic of the aid industry (and of Geldof in particular) reminds us:

[t]o understand the Geldof phenomenon, we need to look historically at the role that Africa has played in the European imagination and in global capitalism. Geldof’s crusade and attitude is not new. He is only the latest in a long line of European men whose personal mission has been to transform Africa and Africans. David Livingstone, the celebrity of his day, embarked on a similar crusade in the late 19th century, painting Africa as a land of “evil,” of hopelessness and of child-like humans. His mission was to raise money to pursue his personal ambitions.

In this manner, “Livingstone’s and Geldof’s humanitarianism fits well with the demands of global capitalism as they serve to obscure distinct phases in the exploitation of Africa.

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Close Your Minds and Give Your Money!

Contrary to the pleasant-sounding rhetoric accompanying the entire Band Aid phenomena, Band Aid and its offshoots have always worked closely with imperialist policy agendas. Thus, the Band Aid Trust still exists, with the most recent revival of their formula for deception being the Live8 concert, which was held in 2005, which again relied heavily upon the two most famous celebrity big hitters, Geldof and Bono. While Geldof and Bono’s initial approach to humanitarianism could at best be described as naïve, the power-struck duo are now quite obviously working hand-in-hand with neoliberal elites, not in solidarity with the poor and oppressed. So while the musicians involved in the first Band Aid project might argue that they were unaware of the means by which food aid is tied to imperialism, the same could be not true of the artists who participated in the monumental corporate aid bonanza that was Live8. After all, it was there that Geldof introduced Bill Gates to the millions watching Live8 as “the world’s greatest philanthropist”; George Monbiot appropriately observed, “Geldof and Bono’s campaign for philanthropy portrays the enemies of the poor as their saviours.”

Over the past three decades, the formidable Bono-Geldof tag-team has provided a vital propaganda service to ruling elites. On a broader level too, some argue that their celebrity activism is a natural corollary to the politics of privatization. C. Wright Mills, in his seminal book, The Power Elite (1953), dedicated an entire chapter to celebrities, observing that with the rise of national means of mass communication, “the institutional elite must now compete with and borrow prestige from these professionals in the world of the celebrity.” He thereby outlined the integral function that celebrity lives fulfill vis-à-vis the requirements of managing democracy, noting “the liberal rhetoric—as a cloak for actual power—and the professional celebrity—as a status distraction—do permit the power elite conveniently to keep out of the limelight”. Writing so many years ago, Mills was unsure as to whether the power elite would be content to rest uncelebrated; however, now, under neoliberal regimes of media and social management, the differences between interests of the jet setting crowd and other parts of the power elite have converged. Celebrities become political leaders and politicians become world class “actors,” while the real power behind these media-friendly figureheads remains in the hands of an increasingly concentrated economic elite.

Notes

1 For a musical critique of Live Aid see Chumbawamba’s album Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records: Starvation, Charity and Rock & Roll – Lies & Traditions (1986).

2 Geldof’s initial suggestion for Band Aid’s name was “The Bloody Do-Gooders.”

3 Geldof was also involved in the US version of Band Aid which under the organization of Harry Belafonte released the song “We Are the World” in March 1985, which became the fastest-selling American pop single in history. The Band Aid Trust was initially chaired by Lord Gowrie, then Minister for the Arts. Other founding trustees included Lord Harlech, the head of Harlech TV, Michael Grade, the controller of BBC1, Chris Morrison, the manager of Ultravox, Maurice Obserstein, the chairman of the British Phonographic Institute, John Kennedy, a pop industry lawyer, and Midge Ure (Geldof 1986 Geldof, B. 1986. Is That It? London: Sidgwick & Jackson. [Google Scholar], 256).

4 On his first visit to Ethiopia, Geldof bumped into another conservative religious “aid” worker, Mother Teresa (Geldof, Is That It? p.239), who according to Christopher Hitchens “has consoled and supported the rich and powerful, allowing them all manner of indulgence, while preaching obedience and resignation to the poor.”

5 One should look to Ethiopia’s recent past for similar examples that illustrate the political nature of famines. For example, “During the final two years (1973–1975) of the US-supported Haile Selassie regime, some 100,000 Ethiopians died of starvation due to drought. At least half the amount of grain needed to keep those people alive was held in commercial storage facilities within the country. In addition, Emperor Selassie’s National Grain Corporation itself held in storage 17,000 tons of Australian wheat which it refused to distribute. While commercial interests thrived by selling hundreds of tons of Ethiopian grain, beans, and even milk to Western Europe and Saudi Arabia, the Ethiopian government received 150,000 tons of free food from aid donors”.

6 Khashoggi was the arms dealer in the Iran-Contra scandal.

7 “The impact of food aid can only be understood within the context of the broader US aid programme. Two-thirds of the total aid package is security assistance: military aid and cash transfers to governments deemed ‘strategically important’ to the US national interest. So whatever worthwhile may be achieved by feeding some people or supporting some useful development efforts is far outweighed by the propping up of anti-democratic elites and regimes whose policies perpetuate inequality”.

8 It is interesting to note that the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice, Philippa Stroud, was recently employed by the charity known as Christian Action Research and Education, which is also known as CARE, and whose activities are separate from the aforementioned “aid” agency with the same acronym. The long-serving chair of Christian Action Research and Education is Lyndon Bowring, who is a council member of the conservative Christian group The Evangelical Alliance and a member of the board of reference of the equally zealous Christian Solidarity Worldwide that is very active in promoting “aid” in the Sudan.

9 The “core funding 2008–2010” for the Africa Progress Panel “comes from two sources: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).” Africa Progress Panel, available online at: http://www.africaprogresspanel.org/en/about/, accessed 11 January, 2012.

10 Mo Ibrahim is one of many elite counselors of a group called One Young World, which describes itself as “the premier global forum for young people of leadership calibre.” Bob Geldof is also counted as one of their counselors, and One Young World’s cofounder, marketing executive David Jones boasts of “work[ing] closely” with David Cameron and the Conservative Party in the UK and having been tasked to “create and lead the Tck Tck Tck, Time for Climate Justice Campaign.” For an insightful critique of this latter campaign, see Cory Morningstar’s “Eyes Wide Shut: TckTckTck Expose from Activist Insider.”

11 Lukas Lundin a board member of Lundin Petroleum serves as the chair of Lundin Mining, a corporation whose CEO, Phil Wright, is the former president of Freeport-McMoran’s Tenke Mining.

Bloodless Lies

The New Inquiry

November 2, 2016

By Lorenzo Raymond

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This is an Uprising, a widely celebrated new book about how social movements change history, distorts their histories to celebrate non-violence

The black revolt of 2014 was a turning point in how Americans discussed the use of force in social movements. In the pages of the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates acknowledged that “violence works.” Rolling Stone and the Huffington Post echoed much the same sentiment. Laci Green–a YouTube star and one of the “30 most influential people on the Internet,” according to Time–posted a popular video drawing favorable comparisons between the Ferguson riots and the revolution depicted in The Hunger Games. This sea change was led by the movement itself as African American youth in Ferguson rejected Al Sharpton and other older leaders, partly due to disagreement on strict nonviolence.

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Mark Engler and Paul Engler, This Is an Uprising. Nation Books. 2016. 368 pages.
The notable exceptions to this trend were those who spoke for the state. These parties advocated for nonviolent action in a most conspicuous way. On the eve on the announcement of the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson, the killer of Mike Brown, Attorney General Eric Holder solemnly intoned that “history has shown us that the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to non-aggression and nonviolence.” In an ABC interview on the same day, President Obama urged that the “first and foremost” responsibility for Americans reacting to the verdict was to “keep protests peaceful.”

It shouldn’t be necessary to remind people of major public discussions from two years ago, but America is a notoriously forgetful nation. And when it comes to matters of protest, politics, reform, and revolt, many people are invested in this kind of forgetting. The stated purpose of Mark and Paul Engler’s new book This Is an Uprising (2015) is to work against this historical amnesia. The Engler brothers profess to build “a healthy movement ecology [which] preserves the memory of how past transformations in society have been achieved.” This is a worthy goal, and the brothers appear well-placed to realize it: one is a professional community organizer while the other is a fixture of progressive publications including Dissent and Yes! Magazine. The book has been praised effusively by lefty celebrities, including Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein, as the new authoritative text for mass civil disobedience. Yet rather than building on the nuanced understanding of street tactics that developed in the wake of Ferguson, the Englers selectively distort social movement history in a blind commitment to a particular kind of direct action.

The opening chapters are an introduction to the modern history of tactical pacifism as embodied in the practice of Martin Luther King’s Birmingham campaign and, later in the 1960s, by the theories of political scientist Gene Sharp. The authors contend that both these figures abandoned religious nonviolence to develop a rational, realist praxis known as “civil resistance,” not “pacifism.” The principle reason for this name change is that Gene Sharp rejected the P-word, arguing that the term only applied to private individuals operating from spiritual inspiration. The Englers affirm that Sharp’s “politics of nonviolent action” are distinct from pacifism because the latter is essentially apolitical.

What the Englers fail to acknowledge, however, is that virtually all the 20th century activists whom Sharp and his school hold up as role models did call themselves pacifists. A.J. Muste, Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, and even Daniel Berrigan (who for a time defied strict Gandhism by fleeing imprisonment after an act of property destruction) all called themselves pacifists. When scrutinized, the switch from “pacifism” to “nonviolent action” appears to be a case of re-branding in response to the poor reputation pacifism had among young people by the end of the 1960s. This was hardly the first time pacifism was renamed rather than critically challenged: Leo Tolstoy referred to the use of civil disobedience without violence as “non-resistance.” Gandhi rejected that name, but employed essentially the same strategy; Tolstoy and Gandhi exchanged correspondence and agreed on practically all points.

In the 21st century, the term du jour is “civil resistance” and sometimes “people power,” yet the method’s founding father is still considered to be Gandhi. It also seems significant that in spite of “breaking from the earlier traditions of moral pacifism,” as the Englers put it, many of the major proponents of civil resistance, from Gene Sharp to George Lakey to Bill Moyer to Chris Hedges, come from highly religious backgrounds.

In addition to a re-branding, “civil resistance” is also a misbranding. The term is adopted from Thoreau’s 1849 essay “On Resistance to Civil Government,” but his use of “civil” referred to the type of domestic government being resisted, not to the method of civility deployed. Thoreau himself later said that John Brown’s violent lack of civility was the best thing that ever happened to the abolitionist movement.

These contradictions aside, the Englers trace how “civil resistance” has become increasingly accepted in mainstream political science. To demonstrate this, they introduce us to Erica Chenoweth, now one of the most celebrated social movement theorists working in the field. Chenoweth got her start producing the widely cited study Why Civil Resistance Works (2011) in collaboration with Maria J. Stephan of the U.S. State Department. According to the Englers, the study proved that “nonviolent movements worldwide were twice as likely to succeed as violent ones.” But the sample size of the study is far too narrow to prove such a sweeping claim. There are no civil rights or labor struggles included in the Chenoweth data set, which is focused exclusively on regime change. And, as Peter Gelderloos pointed out in his book The Failure of Nonviolence (2013), the outcomes of the nonviolent revolutions cited by Chenoweth have little to do with social justice or liberation. At best they replace one oligarchy with another, with no radical change in social relations or even net gains in quality of life.

At one point, the Englers note that the same political science prize that Chenoweth won–the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award–was previously bestowed on Henry Kissinger. This, for them, is the height of irony: Chenoweth is, after all, the opposite of the Kissingers of the world. But while they may represent different sides of the aisle in terms of American political divisions, Chenoweth’s work is, in many ways, just as useful to the U.S. empire.

At the height of the Cold War, the government used Kissinger’s work to justify the “hard power” of the arms race and violent intervention against communist regimes. Today Chenoweth’s work helps to justify–and in this case, mystify–Obama’s “soft power” agenda of “democracy promotion” exercised through seemingly benign agencies like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)–the former organization was recently caught covertly organizing against the Castro government in Cuba. And while direct U.S. government involvement with pacifist academics is a relatively new development–emerging in the mid-2000s, around the same time that Gelderloos first observed that “nonviolence protects the state”–their financial relationship goes back at least to Gene Sharp’s first doctoral work in the late 1960s, which was funded by the Department of Defense.

But if the American empire promotes strictly nonviolent movement-building to overthrow its enemies, wouldn’t that demonstrate that it’s as powerful a method as its proponents say it is? The short answer is no. When civil resistance works–and when the U.S. government deploys it abroad–it’s almost always in combination with more violent forms of pressure. To illustrate this, one need look no further than the Yugoslav movement to unseat President Slobodan Miloševi?, which figures prominently in Chenoweth’s famous study and takes up more than thirty pages in This Is an Uprising. In the Englers’ version, this regime change is primarily attributable to Otpor, a “leaderless” student group from Serbia. Otpor promoted nonviolence in the Sharpian model, with an official policy to submit to arrest and abjure any kind of self-defense, even when the police physically abused them. In this way, they won the sympathy of the public and even the Serbian establishment.

But Otpor didn’t operate in a vacuum. Not only did they overthrow Miloševi? in the period when he had just lost a war with NATO, but also, in the midst of Otpor’s campaign, Miloševi? was being challenged by the armed insurgency of the UÇPMB (successor group to the Kosovo Liberation Army). On top of this, militant groups in Montenegro threatened to secede if he was re-elected. The Englers quote Otpor veterans’ claims that the NATO raids undermined the opposition and strengthened the regime, but the record shows that Otpor prospered in the aftermath of the bombing. One prominent civil resistance study acknowledges that “a number of middle and higher-ranking police and army officers made secret pacts with the democratic opposition and helped the movement forward.” Furthermore, Otpor’s victory was not strictly nonviolent: Anti-Miloševi? protesters rioted in October 2000 when the president refused to concede the election. The Englers admit, in passing, that things “got a little out of hand,” but they fail to describe the full extent of the insurrection: not only was there arson and other property destruction in Belgrade, but also the fact that an Otpor supporter killed a civilian by driving over him with a bulldozer.

This cherry-picked example of civil resistance winning its demands occurred in a context where both NATO and an armed guerilla group simultaneously made the same demand. And yet, under today’s political science taxonomy, this is what’s considered a nonviolent victory. Such dubious classification is common in the civil resistance world: Peter Ackerman, the venture capitalist who has funded much of Gene Sharp’s work, once claimed that Ukraine’s Euromaidan movement should be considered nonviolent because only a minority of the protesters threw firebombs and brandished guns.

A good faith argument for pacifist success in such cases would credit the intervening factors as a diversity of tactics supporting a nonviolent core, or attribute it to what is known in social movement theory as the “radical flank effect,” which argues that the presence of radical militants in a social movement helps make the less militant actors seem reasonable and worthy of having their demands met. Yet not only do the Englers undervalue such phenomena, they actively denounce them.

In spite of primarily advocating for nonviolent direct action, the Englers express support for electioneering, stating that while it is a separate tactic, it can complement civil resistance. If they are genuinely non-ideological strategists, they should take the same position towards guerilla activity. But, while the Englers repeatedly speak of the need for movements to “escalate,” they jerk back from any overlap with property destruction. This flinching is excused with a fable of the radical environmental advocacy movement Earth First! in the 1990s. The Englers paint the picture of a movement with a macho fetish for violence that was set right by the influence of the more moderate feminist Judi Bari, who enforced nonviolence and built the populist Redwood Summer campaign of 1990, winning political victories against logging in the Pacific Northwest. This success, the Englers claim, was in marked contrast with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), the monkeywrenching eco-saboteurs who left defected from Earth First! after the rise of Bari.

The ELF is portrayed as a gang of clowns who accomplished nothing besides getting themselves imprisoned. Yet the Englers also tell us that “in the end, Redwood Summer did not produce immediate legislative gains.” The best they can claim for the nonviolent campaign is “a 78 percent drop in logging in national forests.” The ELF began carrying out its arson and sabotage attacks on the logging and tourism industries in the Pacific Northwest in 1996; these years of victory were among ELF’s peak years of activity, when it was clearly functioning as the radical flank of Earth First! But the Englers’ attitude towards militants is eliminationist, not just separatist: the ELF shouldn’t have just left Earth First!, they should have ceased to exist at all. Such absolutism is completely contrary to Bari’s actual policy: “Earth First!, the public group, has a nonviolence code,” she wrote in 1994, “monkeywrenching is done by [the] Earth Liberation Front […] Civil disobedience and sabotage are both powerful tactics in our movement.”

The double standards that the authors apply between violent and nonviolent actors undermine their claims of unbiased pragmatism. When pacifist organizers provoke violent repression, the Englers regard it as a necessary cost of the campaign–“leading proponents of civil resistance emphasize that strategic nonviolent action […] may result in serious injuries and even casualties”–but when black blocs draw repression, it’s completely unacceptable. ACT UP are praised as “desperate, aggressive, and often exceptional young men,” who had the courage to risk “potentially alienating the very people that advocates want to win over.” The ELF, on the other hand, are pictured as fanatics with no strategy. When the civil rights movement employed “often unpopular” tactics, generating “overwhelmingly negative” reaction in public opinion polls, this was admirable; when the Weather Underground and other Vietnam-era militants defied public opinion, they were simply out-of-touch adventurists (even though the latter’s action led to massive troop withdrawals and a constitutional amendment to lower the voting age).

The Englers, it must be noted, have attempted to apply their precepts, not merely theorize them. In the wake of Occupy Wall Street, they helped organize the 99% Spring campaign, a coalition dominated by Moveon.org that aimed to put “hundreds of thousands” of people in the streets to change foreclosure policy. Coalition spokesman and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) executive Stephen Lerner promised to “engage the millions of people we need to do [sic] to build the kind of movement we need at this time in history.” According to him, this was a job that Occupy was not capable of doing without their guidance. In the end, the 99% Spring mobilized a few thousand people–far less than Occupy did nationwide–and had no impact on banking foreclosure policies, which remained abysmal. More recently, the brothers were involved with a nearly identical coalition–Democracy Spring/Democracy Awakening–based around campaign-finance reform. Initially, Democracy Spring seemed more tactically ambitious with a program of organizing mass civil disobedience at the Capitol Building. However, press coverage of the arrests turned out to be so meager that most of the campaign’s supporters were left distraught.

As historians and theorists of social movement, the Englers might have been able to see this failure coming, since they actually describe a precedent for their ineffectual campaigns in This Is an Uprising. In his 1962 project in Albany, Georgia, Martin Luther King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) left a yearlong campaign with no tangible civil rights advances achieved. King had been thwarted by Chief of Police Laurie Pritchett, who capitalized on SCLC’s nonviolent strategy by avoiding any appearance of brutality and de-escalating conflict between police and protesters, thereby pre-empting any dramatic scenes that could draw national attention. King’s reputation within the movement declined until the spectacular victory of the following year’s Birmingham campaign. The Englers spend over twenty pages on Birmingham, promising to demonstrate just why it succeeded while Albany failed, but they never do.

In truth, the Birmingham campaign benefitted from having both a police force and a protest movement that was markedly less peaceful than in Albany. King wasn’t able to get consistent media coverage until after protests became, as Taylor Branch put it, “a duel of rocks and fire hoses.” One of King’s aides, Vincent Harding, later acknowledged that the black youth who came to dominate the campaign’s street action were “the children of Malcom X” and that their escalation to “a burning, car-smashing, police-battling response” marked Birmingham as “the first of the period’s urban rebellions.” Historian Glenn Eskew wrote that “the aftermath of national protest, international pressure, and inner-city riot convinced a reluctant Kennedy administration to propose sweeping legislation that, once passed as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, marked a watershed in race relations.”

Yet these events of the Birmingham campaign are never mentioned in the Englers’ book in any form. It is here that the brothers step into outright dishonesty: they know very well that the scholarly consensus on Birmingham is that the violent protesters made an invaluable contribution (Eskew’s book is one of their sources). Yet in spite of spending a tenth of their book’s text on Birmingham, they refuse to even acknowledge the violent protesters’ existence.

Such historical censorship rationalizes the choreographed civil disobedience that the Englers help organize today, which quarantines “good protesters” from “bad protesters.” This, in turn, enables the same counter-strategy that Laurie Pritchett employed so effectively against King in Albany. What the Englers call “discipline” is actually de-escalation that facilitates police crowd control. Indeed, there is now a fully developed police doctrine known as “negotiated management” based on the avoidance of direct conflict with protesters. The National Lawyers’ Guild official, Traci Yoder, has written that negotiated management “is in many ways more effective […] in neutralizing social justice movements” than overt state repression.

But while the brothers focus on the SCLC at length, they fail to discuss the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who, the brothers passingly admit, pushed SCLC into its most productively confrontational actions. This is not only because the history of SNCC began with Gandhian practice, but also because it rapidly progressed beyond it. Although its militancy is sometimes attributed to Black Power-era missteps, SNCC’s commitment to a genuinely grassroots politics led it to work with openly armed African Americans as early as 1961 in Monroe, North Carolina, as well as with more discreetly armed black peoples all over the South. By spring 1964, SNCC associates in Cambridge, Maryland were having gunfights with the National Guard and one of the group’s advisers, Howard Zinn, noted that the movement had reached “the limits of nonviolence.” But it was crucial that those limits were reached, or there wouldn’t have been a Civil Rights Act.

In spite of its name, SNCC’s principles always had less to do with nonviolence than with organizing from the bottom-up. The group’s guiding light was Ella Baker, arguably the most important African American leader of the 20th century. As many have noted, Baker preached neither strategic nonviolence nor strategic violence. Drawing from her decades of experience, Baker counseled SNCC organizers to distance themselves from institutional power; they might maintain dialogue with the establishment left–trade unions and NGOs tied into what she called “the foundation complex”–but they should be wary of entering into partnerships with them. Instead they should follow the lead of working-class communities on the ground. This repeatedly led SNCC organizers away from nonviolence. Then as now, serious movements make serious enemies (think of the shootings last year in Charleston and Minneapolis) and self-defense quickly becomes paramount for frontline activists. Baker’s longtime friend and biographer Joanne Grant recounted that as pacifism faded away in SNCC, Baker “turned a blind eye to the prevalence of weapons. While she herself would rely on her fists […] she had no qualms about target practice.” At the same time, the failure of peaceful reform logically led oppressed communities towards insurrection.

It is often said that without the guidance of an anti-authoritarian and non-ideological figure like Ella Baker, the Black Power militants of SNCC began to lose perspective. Yet it can equally be said that the pacifists lost their way as well. The cause of social justice in America has been suffering from believing the former but not reckoning with the latter for the past forty years.

 

[Lorenzo Raymond is an independent historian and educator living in New York City. Lorenzo blogs at Diversityoftactics.org]

 

A Primer: USAID and US Hegemony

New Eastern Outlook

July 9, 2016

By Tony Cartalucci

 

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Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator L. Paul Bremer III

A nation is its institutions. If those institutions are overrun and no longer exist, so too does the nation itself cease to exist. Institutions range from the offices of government, to education, to agricultural and economic development, to the management of natural resources, national infrastructure including energy and transportation, and security. These are the things we think about when we think about the concept of a modern nation-state.

Contrary to popular belief, the invasion and occupation of any particular nation is not a mere exercise of military might. It also, by necessity, involves the destruction or overrunning and eventual replacement of all the above mentioned institutions.

The most extreme modern-day example of this was the US invasion of Iraq, where Iraqi institutions from top to bottom were either entirely destroyed and replaced, or taken over by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). The CPA was literally headed by an American, Paul Bremer, who, far from being a military man, was instead drawn from the US State Department and a background of chairing corporate-financier boards of directors.

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“This image is a work of a U.S. military or Department of Defense employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain in the United States.” [Source]

The CPA assumed responsibility for all aspects of life in Iraq, from the privatization of Iraq’s economy, to “reconstruction,” to reorganizing the nation socially, politically, and economically.

The average onlooker will remember US President George Bush’s “shock and awe,” and may remember several of the more notorious battles of the invasion and subsequent occupation. What they rarely recall is the all encompassing dominion the US assumed over the nation through the CPA which was merely underpinned by US military forces. Yet despite the relatively dull nature of the CPA’s work versus security operations carried out by American forces, the CPA is what essentially “occupied” and ultimately conquered Iraq.

USAID and Co. – Low Intensity Invasion and Occupation 

Iraq and Afghanistan are extreme examples of the US exercising global hegemony, which included spectacular, full-scale military invasions, lengthy occupations, and nationwide “nation-building” carried out by various organizations utilized by the US to project power abroad.

One of these organizations is USAID. It should be, but rarely is, troubling to the world’s nations that USAID played an integral part in the invasion, occupation, and conquest of  Iraq and Afghanistan, while it also maintains an extensive presence everywhere else US interests have directed their attention.

USAID and a virtual army of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and front-companies it supports worldwide, are engaged in activities in other nations ranging from education, energy, natural resources, economic development, transportation, and security – or in other words everything foreign nations should already be attending to themselves.

USAID does not seek to genuinely partner with foreign governments, but instead, create networks that operate independently of and parallel to existing, indigenous institutions and networks. USAID and its expanding network of facilitators extends into any given nation, slowly assuming responsibility over all areas a sovereign government should be managing, leaving existing governments irrelevant, empty shells. When parallel networks gain critical mass, they can then be used as a means of removing existing governments from power, and installing a client regime in its place – one that answers to the special interests that sponsored and directed USAID’s activities to begin with.

USAID actively seeks to co-opt local talent – both individually and small groups of talented individuals. They generally target start-ups and independent NGOs which is why USAID and other US government-funded NGOs are increasingly engaged in co-working spaces – even sponsoring the creation and management of new spaces across the developing world to create a convenient poaching ground for local talent.

A Global Game of Go 

USAID does not exist to “aid” anyone. It functions solely to overrun a targeted nation by building their networks over existing indigenous ones, turning a nation’s people against itself, and making preexisting networks irrelevant.

They are essentially filling up the sociopolitical, geostrategic, technological, and information space with their own influence, displacing all else.

Unlike the Western game of chess, where players seek to eliminate their opponent’s pieces from the board in a game of strategic attrition, USAID and other organizations like it and the strategy they are pursuing is more comparable to the Eastern game of go. In go, players seek to place as many pieces as possible onto the board, assuming control over the most territory.

In this context, any nation could represent a board, with its own pieces scattered across it in areas like energy, education, healthcare, and security. USAID seeks to place its own pieces on this board, generally under the guise of charity or foreign aid. It continues placing its pieces on the board, backed with inexhaustible resources and the benefit of its true intentions often being poorly understood by the governments and the people of the nations it is operating in.

The US through USAID is essentially playing a game of go against an unskilled player who doesn’t even know the game has begun. USAID is then able to quickly and easily overwhelm the board with its “pieces” – NGOs it funds, organizations and talent it has co-opted, and entirely parallel institutions running various aspects of a targeted nation right under the nose of that nation’s government.

In coordination with other US State Department-funded political fronts and NGOs, the business of then eliminating indigenous institutions and overthrowing established governments in favor of proxy institutions run by Western interests and client regimes bent to the will of the US, can begin in earnest.

Targeted nations often realize too late that the “space” on the board has been dominated by these foreign interests with whatever remains of indigenous institutions and networks so badly neglected and atrophied, they stand little chance of putting up any resistance.

Counterinsurgency Manuals are USAID’s “Rule Book”

USAID’s version of “go” has its own rule book of sorts, found easily online as free downloads from any number of US government websites in the form of counterinsurgency manuals. In these manuals, it is described how gaining control over any given population requires controlling the basic essentials that population depends on – everything from energy production to education, to garbage collection and job creation.

By controlling these aspects in any given population, one then controls that population itself. It is the key to not only defeating an “insurgency,” it is also the key to running a successful insurgency oneself. USAID projecting its influence into any given nation is in fact a sort of insurgency – a literal attempt to take control of a government – however incremental and patient the nature of that insurgency might be.

Areas included in US counterinsurgency manuals as essential to control include (but are not limited to):

  • police and fire services,
  • water,
  • electricity
  • education and training,
  • transportation,
  • medical,
  • sanitation,
  • banking,
  • agriculture,
  • labor relations,
  • manufacturing and,
  • construction

 

When inquiring into how many of these are regularly included in USAID programs, the answer is virtually all of them.

Beating USAID’s Game 

For any given nation, USAID should be listed as a foreign agency and its activities heavily restricted. Every penny they administer, if allowed to operate at all, should go straight into government programs. USAID programs should be made subordinate to government institutions, carried out by government institutions, and its role in such programs credited subordinately to government institutions. USAID should be strictly forbidden to operate independent networks, programs, workshops, contests, and meetings anywhere beyond America’s borders.

But more importantly, nations must understand the “go” board their territory and populations represent. They must create and place their own superior pieces upon this board in such numbers and of such quality that there is no room for USAID’s pieces to begin with. By doing so, a nation is not just countering USAID and the conspiracy it represents, it is defeating it at the most fundamental level this “game” is being played.

A nation creating strong institutions and networks within their own borders to manage and move forward those areas essential to the progress of modern civilization precludes the need for “foreign aid” in the first place. It is not just a matter of pride that a nation need not rely on “foreign aid,” but a matter of its survival, as “aid” is not given freely, and as in the case of USAID, serves as a vector for hegemony’s projection into the very heart of one’s nation.

 

[Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”. ]

Enough of CIA’s ‘Enough Project’ in Africa! [Avaaz, International Crisis Group, Center for American Progress]

Libya360 | Internationalist News Agency

Cross-posted from TeleSUR

October 7, 2016

By Thomas C. Mountain

The “Enough Project” claims it’s mission is to prevent genocide in Africa, but has been conspicuously silent when it comes to the genocidal famine in Somalia.

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WKOG editor: As people finally become aware of Avaaz – as a key instrument of empire – watch for the Enough Project which could, if embraced by the public, become the new NGO assigned to create acquiescence for the destabilization of targeted countries. The Enough Project was co-founded by the Center for American Progress (see below) and the International Crisis Group in 2007. Key partners include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam and UNHCR. Enough is a project of the New Venture Fund, and is based in Washington, DC. Its co-founders are John Prendergast (former Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council) and Gayle Smith (current administrator of the United States Agency for International Development).


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“ENOUGH operates under the umbrella of the Democratic Party’s corporate funded propaganda and influence peddling operation, The Center for American Progress (CAP).” Former Democratic congressman and Avaaz co-founder Tom Perriello served as President and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and as a Counselor for Policy at Center for American Progress until July of 2015 when he was appointed Special Envoy for the African Great Lakes and the Congo-Kinshasa by the White House.

“The Enough Project focuses on Africa” – Sudan, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Uganda, and the Horn of Africa.

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The Enough Project has worked hand-in-hand with Avaaz in the past.

Perriello and Avaaz co-founder Ricken Patel also co-founded and co-directed DarfurGenocide.org which officially launched in 2004. “DarfurGenocide.org is a project of Avaaz co-founder Res Publica, a group of public sector professionals dedicated to promoting good governance and virtuous civic cultures.”Today, this organization is now known as “Darfurian Voices”: “Darfurian Voices is a project of 24 Hours for Darfur.” The U.S. Department of State and the Open Society Institute were just two of the organization’s funders and collaborating partners. Other Darfurian Voices partners include Avaaz, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), International Centre for Transitional Justice, Darfur Rehabilitation Project, Humanity United, Darfur People’s Association of New York, Genocide Intervention, Witness, Yale Law School, The Sigrid Rausing Trust and the Bridgeway Foundation. Of all the listed partners of DarfurGenocide.org, with the exception of one located in London, England, all of the entities involved are American and based on U.S. soil.

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Despite the carefully crafted language and images that tug at your emotions, such NGOs were created for and exist for one primary purpose – to protect and further American policy and interests, under the guise of philanthropy and humanitarianism.

 

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Enough of the CIA’s “Enough Project” in Africa!http://s2.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?m=02&d=20110730&t=2&i=469259260&w=580&fh=&fw=&ll=&pl=&r=2011-07-30T121232Z_01_BTRE76T0XWX00_RTROPTP_0_SOMALIA-FAMINE

EP, as it is known, was founded by senior U.S. Intel “spook” Gayle Smith, former Senior Director of the National Security Council under President Obama and now head of the USAID/CIA.

Today EP is headed by Ms. Smith’s protégé John Prendergast whose history as head of EP is one of subterfuge and lies in service to Pax Americana.

EP claims it’s mission is to prevent genocide in Africa, as in the name “Enough Project”, yet has been conspicuously silent when it comes to the genocidal famine in Somalia during the Great Horn of Africa Drought in 2011-12 where 250,000 Somali children starved to death.

Recently George Clooney was enjoying 15 minutes of fame as a humanitarian claiming to have exposed massive corruption in South Sudan when he should have been warning the world of the U.N.’s next genocide in Somalia as in 300,000 starving children. Soon the genocide in Somalia will hit its peak with hundreds, up to 1,000 children a day dying from hunger with only a deafening silence emanating from the CIA’s Enough Project.

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EP, with support from its big brother the Center for American Progress, only once in its history raised a real genocide, that back in 2007-8 when Gayle Smith was out to political pasture, she being a rabid democrat during the Bush Jr. years in office. Then she was part of the Democrat “opposition” to the Bush regime and oh so briefly raised the food and medical aid blockade in the Ogaden in Ethiopia, where the only instance of both the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders being expelled from a famine stricken region has been allowed.

Once Ms. Smith jumped on the Obama For President bandwagon, no further mention of the genocide in the Ogaden was heard.

http://i1.wp.com/richardfalk.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/somalia-famine-2011.jpg?resize=250%2C250 Today EP is proving its loyalty to Pax Americana by playing huckster for regime change in South Sudan, as in denying China access to African oil via the invasion of “peacekeepers” in the name of Responsibility To Protect of Libyan infamy. The USA has abandoned former “rebel leader” Riek Machar in favor of direct military intervention by the U.N. and the USA’s gendarme in Africa, the African Union.

The Chinese have started to expand their oil production so expect to hear louder cries of outrage from the likes of EP about various crimes and even “genocide” in South Sudan followed by demands for more foreign military intervention in the country.

With all their lies and subterfuge, don’t you think that we here in Africa have had enough of the CIA’s Enough Project?

 

 

[Thomas C. Mountain is an independent journalist in Eritrea living and reporting from here since 2006.]

 

Further reading:

Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War | Part IV

US Behind Massacres in Beni, Congo

http://www.anngarrison.com/audio/creating-south-sudan-george-clooney-john-prendergast-and-george-w-bush