The Danger of USAID and the NGOs Serving it

How the support of progressive academic, political and social sectors that lend themselves to bring forward the model of looting and numbness is obtained.


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is an office attached to the Department of State of that country, which is presented to the world as an entity of international cooperation for promoting economic development and democratic institutionalization particularly in developing countries requiring economic and political stability. A kind of philanthropic good conscience.

From the economic point of view, its concern is that the development models adopted by the countries where it intervenes, correspond to the free market philosophy; likewise, from the political point of view, it favours forms of liberal democracy accepted and blessed by Washington. The above mentioned is related to the continental and global settings in sound with North American hegemony. USAID would never offer cooperation to a country that works outside the neoliberal dictates of the IMF, World Bank, WTO and OECD, and less to political processes working on alternative models of democracy.

When its interested generosity is directed to one of the latter countries, its cooperation, as demonstrated by repeated historical examples at different ends of the planet, will have as its exclusive purpose destabilization, promotion and support of internal forces which will be responsible for subvert and overthrow the order being built. Its long work against Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua, among others, serves as a sample.


As to the Colombian case, USAID assumes another face. Colombia is considered a bastion of North American influence on the continent, and it is known that the United States played it all with Plan Colombia, in order to slow down and even defeat the advance of the FARC and other guerrillas in the South American country. However, despite the closed support of the George Bush to his Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe Velez, to the cost of making the country a model of state terrorism, that great military effort was insufficient.

Finalizing Uribe’s second term, the discrediting of Colombian institutions was worrying, amid a process of political renewal and anti-neoliberal transformations on much of the continent. The position of the fundamentalist right in power even threatened to start an external armed confrontation that could plunge the region into chaos with unpredictable consequences.

The United States, even more so with the coming to power of Obama, opted for a change of strategy. They found it necessary to seek an end to the internal conflict in Colombia by a different route. In the view of North American analysts, drug trafficking played a leading role in the continuation of hostilities, and to this it had to be added the loss of territorial control on the side of the state in favour of the guerrillas and criminal gangs. Besides, it was essential to address the situation of the most vulnerable social sectors, prone to the guerrilla and left discourse which would acquired great influence in neighboring countries.

The Colombian State, in parallel with the deepening of neoliberal policies guaranteeing that its economy would turn according to the interests of transnational capital, should propose itself to restore security, i.e. territorial control, fight back drug trafficking and win to its project the most vulnerable social sectors through social aid, particularly in infrastructure, health, education, basic services, creating economic alternatives, included environmental projects.

The idea was to harmonize these policies with macroeconomic plans of large mining and exporting agro-industry, to ensure stability in the domestic level. The contradiction was obvious. The big mining and agribusiness exports were based on the dispossession of land to millions of peasants. This plunder had to be legitimized, for which the law of victims and land restitution was issued, which has given much room to manoeuvre to various non-governmental organizations working for its implementation. Large-scale mining, designed for much of the country, involved an environmental disaster of major proportions, so different projects, with an ecological face would try to dissimulate this natural predation. In order to do that they would found NGOs.

At the same time, attention to the indigenous population, Afro-Colombian and peasants would aim at neutralizing nonconformity. More so with the prospect of guerrilla reincorporation into legal politics. Should guerrillas demobilization not occur and disperse, it would be necessary to foresee how to lower its influence in their traditional areas of operation. Even in the best-case scenario, it was necessary to foresee how the new political structure to remain in rural areas, would be linked to the implementation of the neoliberal model, through the implementation of humanitarian aid and social projects that generously would be left to the new structure.

Here is where appears, in all its significance, USAID’s face. It would make sure that millions of dollars provided through non-governmental organizations and various national and international bodies would be at the service of this model. Under the coverage of extending democracy and popular participation, the NGOs reach hundreds of departments and municipalities subjected to major macroeconomic projects, with the specific mission to capture the collaboration of communities. Thanks to the humanitarian discourse and thousands of support contracts with mayors and governors, USAID gets the support of academic, political and social sectors of progressive areas, which, consciously or not, lend themselves, motivated by appealing positions and contracts, to take forward the model of looting and numbness.

Simply reading one of the many internet news items published by one of the portals that serve USAID allows us to infer how the system works:

Once the Colombian government established the General System of Royalties in 2012, USAID launched the Program for Management of Royalties to support communities in Montelíbano, Tierralta, Puerto Libertador, Valencia, Riohacha, San Juan de Arama, Mesetas and Vistahermosa in the various stages involved in the process of access and execution of the resources of royalties; from the socialization of the current regulation, including the design and formulation of projects to training of public officials and community citizen control. For the years 2012 and 2013, the eight municipal governments that received technical support from USAID through the Program for Management of Royalties improved their index of overall municipal performance, an indicator with which the National Planning Department (DNP) assesses public territorial governance.


The question is clear, transnational companies arrive to an area to exploit its natural resources. They have first obtained the legal renewal of the royalty regime. Many NGOs would be responsible for training the communities in this new legal regime, to teach them how to obtain advantage of the situation. How to develop, design and present social projects financed with money from the royalties, how to hire and oversee their implementation. Communities participate in this way with their local or regional government throughout the process, prevent politicians from making parties with the resources and get the ultimate benefit of the work. Without questioning the fact that this will be indeed only the poor alms left by the multinational, which has loathed and destroyed the environment and, while at it, domesticated their non conformity.

All Colombia is being currently the subject of thousands of contracts and projects of this nature, which it is already clear would multiply geometrically as soon as the signing of the Final Peace Agreement in Havana occur. USAID and other US intervention agencies look at this with hope, while many NGOs are rubbing their hands thinking about how they will benefit at the fair called post-conflict.

It is therefore necessary that honest people from social, popular and alternative policies organisations turn on all alarms, lest by dreaming of bringing development and prosperity to the regions, they finish serving a model that aims to destroy them. A similar call has to be made to the guerrillas: struggle will continue in all areas. What is really important is to preserve the independence of criteria in all circumstances. What is expecting us ahead equates to throwing ourselves in a grown river whose tide threaten to drown us in a powerful current swirling. We’ll have to swim in its murky waters, with talent and skill, to successfully reach the other side. The enemies trace their paths, but on their way they meet a people and their organizations who can, if they commit themselves to it, lead events to a different destination. There is no danger that cannot be beaten.

May 20, 2016.