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 NGOs to carry out its plans, which often appeal to cherished liberal-left values and sentiments. The agents of these revolutions seem just like us, with our Western liberal values. Left aside are the actual social and economic plans they will implement – it is all a rush to win democracy, then all else will later fall into place. As a result, many people opposed to US military interventionism are taken in, many often willingly.
The progressive Latin American governments are targets 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, NED, IRI, NDI in financing 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 which align themselves to 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 (GLW) ran a series of articles on continuous US efforts to get rid of Correa, even before he came into office. 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 an oppressed “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 and Federico Fuentes 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.
A key part of the US anti-Correa and anti-Evo Morales campaign involves using indigenous and environmental groups to attack their governments. Unfortunately, consciously or not, this campaign is furthered in various alternative media centers, and can be seen in UpsideDownWorld [USDW], NACLA, and recently even Real News Network.
Too often, when liberal-left alternative media, such as NACLA, USDW, In These Times, ROAR, even Naomi Klein, address Latin America, we find articles representing and defending the perspectives of these same US influenced environmental NGOs and related indigenous groups. This media has to some extent become transmission belts for US propaganda, as willing or unwilling participants in soft coup operations against these countries.
We find these alternative media outlets 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 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.”
Achtenberg avoids presenting the evidence of US government of 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.”
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 Upside Down World’s “The Politics of Pachamama: Natural Resource Extraction vs. Indigenous Rights and the Environment in Latin America.”
Contrast this with a website 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.”
Federico Fuentes brings to light what Achtenberg and Dangl seek to conceal:
“neither of the Internet statements [an anti-Evo Morales Avaaz petition and September 21 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.
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 in the West, thereby undermining progressive opposition in the West to their engineering a “soft coup” in these countries.
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. No mention is made of the US role in the protests, the fact that Evo’s government had a number of the police responsible for abuse fired, or that Evo agreed to the protesters’ demands.
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.
In 2013, one of the leaders of these TIPNIS protests, defended by Western based alternative media, announced he was joining a rightwing party. This was conveniently not mentioned in this alternative media.
Someone educated about Latin America knows it is ludicrous to think the US plays no role in coups and protests 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 as well as US Infiltration of Indigenous and Environmental Groups
Hypocrisy on the Yasuni, Concealing US Fundacion Pachamama, NGOs, CONAIE, Pachakutik
As in Evo’s Bolivia, a central ingredient of the US anti-Correa campaign involves using indigenous groups and environmental NGOs to attack the Correa government, a campaign reflected in alternative media outlets such as Upside Down World, NACLA, sometimes even in Real News Network.
In Ecuador, we can see this apologetics for the US Empire in reporting on the September 30, 2010 coup attempt against Rafael Correa. At the time, Upside Down World approvingly published CONAIE’s statement on the attempted coup against Correa, which made no mention of US involvement, gave no word of support for the elected president, and blamed President Correa for the political conflict that led to the coup. Marc Becker, a regular Upside Down World writer on Ecuador, posted a statement by Pachakutik 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, Eva Golinger and Jean Guy Allard exposed the US role in the attempted coup against Correa, Jean-Guy Allard pointed out the US infiltration of the police (who led the coup) and armed forces.
Golinger exposed the USAID/NED connections of 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:”
Golinger also pointed out 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.
Golinger showed that many Ecuadoran organizations, some linked to the indigenous movement and directed by National Assembly member Lourdes Tiban, receive funding from USAID and NED to destabilize the government of President Rafael Correa. Tiban, of the Pachakutik Party (political wing of CONAIE) 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.
Closing Down Fundacion Pachamama
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, was 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.
Where were these environmental NGOs when Ecuador advocated for the Yasuni Initiative? The Correa government of Ecuador 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.”
USAID shut down 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  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  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.”
Nevertheless, despite what is a question of Ecuador asserting its national sovereignty against foreign interference, an international campaign against Correa was organized in response. Morningstar: “
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 included, in Ecuador: Accion Ecologica, CEDENMA; in the US: 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.
The pro-imperialist inroads made into progressive movement by the US anti-Correa campaign is illustrated by who co-signed this defense of the USAID funded group: Acción Ecológica, Greenpeace International, 350.org, Amazon Watch, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Friends of the Earth US, Global Exchange, IFIP – International Funders for Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Environmental Network, Move to Amend Coalition, New Energy Economy, Pachamama Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, Soul of Money Institute, Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus, Womenrise for Global Peace, World Temperate Rainforest Network.
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.
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).”
“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).  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.”
Wain Collen, Education Director of Fundación Pachamama, explained what Western NGOs are about: ‘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.”
The Pachamama Alliance website creates an emotive hook/storyline that it was the Achuar who first decided to “reach out to the modern world”: “In the 1990’s, facing oil development on their ancestral lands, Achuar elders decided to reach out to the modern world that was threatening their very existence. They issued a call for allies who would work to ‘change the dream of the modern world’ and transform the culture of overconsumption driving the destruction of the rainforest. The Pachamama Alliance was created as an answer to their call.” The reality is slightly less poetic. 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.”
This US funding of Fundacion Pachamana was concealed in the campaign against Correa for closing it. This includes NACLA and Upside Down World, where 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.”
This was a deliberate misrepresentation to their US audience, serving 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. A completely colorless 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.”
Given the propaganda campaign directed at Correa and Evo Morales by US funded environmental NGOs and some indigenous groupings, it is necessary to note, as Linera did in his article that these non-governmental organizations 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.
Correa also shut down (temporarily) the US funded anti-Correa “environmental” NGO, Accion Ecologica. Even journalist Naomi Klein joined the campaign calling the government’s decision to shut it down as “something all too familiar: a state seemingly using its power to weaken dissent.”
NACLA and Amazon Watch on the August 2015 protests in Ecuador, 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 the government.
NACLA’s disinformation manifest itself again in summer 2015. NACLA and Upside Down World ran articles by Manuela Picq, the anti-Correa foreign journalist kicked out of the country.
Its front page had links to a Change.org petition about Manuela Lavinas Picq , 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.”
Signers included Amazon Watch.
Manuela Picq was a foreign journalist, married to a leader of the protests, Carlos Pérez, president of Ecuarunari, regional affiliate of the CONAIE, and was herself a participant in the protests. These were not peaceful protests, but violently attacked the police when they could not break through police lines to take over the presidential palace. Picq herself denied she was mistreated by the police.
The August protests were deliberately misrepresented in Upside Down World as being progressive protests by indigenous groups. 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.”
CONAIE also opposed the law nationalizing water, seeking to leave in place the 1990s law privatizing water.
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.”
This outright fabrication is belied by the actual reporter film of the events.
The Question of So-Called “Extractivism”
Correa’s Ecuador and Evo’s Bolivia are both widely criticized by Western environmental and indigenous supporting groups for practicing “extractivism,” the reliance on natural resource (oil, gas, mining) wealth to power their economies. We may search far and wide for criticisms of “extractivism” by pro-imperialist governments in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Nigeria, Indonesia, Mexico, Alberta, the Congo. In these latter countries, the wealth from the natural resources ends in Western banks or as corporate profits. In contrast, Ecuador and Bolivia have nationalized their national resources, and reversed the percent of the profits that go to the state vs to foreign corporations, from 10-15% before to 85-90% now, and use this wealth to fund programs benefitting the 99%. Is this what lies behind their sin of “extractivism”?
The term “extractivism” conceals the real crime: the corporate raping of the resources of the oppressed Third World and the pollution it inflicts on the environment and people living there. The 500 year imperialist pillaging of oppressed nations’ natural resources using almost slave labor conditions lies obscured. The real issue hidden by behind the term “extractivism” is who controls the natural resources of oppressed nations: the imperial powers or these nations themselves. The central class issue of “extractivism” is buried: who uses natural resources for whose interests, who benefits, who suffers. Lies buried is that Bolivia and Ecuador have taken control of their natural resources from imperialist corporations, and use the wealth produced to improve the lives of their peoples.
While Latin America has moved in a continuing anti-imperialist, anti-neoliberal direction, and the ALBA countries have implemented social programs benefiting the disadvantaged, many previous US supporters of Latin America sovereignty have moved in a direction hostile to this process.
Writers in Upside Down World, for instance, claim that the indigenous of Ecuador are opposed to “extractivism.” However, CONAIE, while opposing industrial scale mining, defend “artisan” mining. This type of mining killed 300 people at an “artisan mine” landslide in 1993. This type of unregulated mining also has unregulated environmental effects
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.”
Also concealed by this “progressive” media is the far from anti-extractivist motivations behind some of the indigenous protests in August 2015. In Macas, an area of intense protests, a key issue was actually the government’s opposition to building a road through an ecologically sensitive area.
Moreover, the previous CONAIE president, Humberto Cholango, 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.
Readers of USDW and NACLA are not informed of 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 [or Bolivia’s, or Venezuela’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. The proposal involves Ecuador agreeing to leave Amazonian oil reserves in the ground. In return, it asked Western governments and other institutions to provide Ecuador with funds equivalent to 50% of the values of the reserve, about US$3.6 billion. Ecuador was only offered a paltry $116 million.
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.
Fuentes writes elsewhere:
“Our task is to oppose imperialist [interference], but “The challenges Bolivia [and other oppressed nations] … 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 not to simply oppose “imperialist meddling” but 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.’”
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 publications to take a similar stand, even if watered down, is nothing other than apologetics for imperialist interference. For these publications 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 of an oppressed “Third World” country, whether progressive or not, 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 crimes of imperialism against the people.
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 progressive ALBA countries defending their national sovereignty by shutting down what Bolivia Vice-President Linera called “foreign government financed organization NGOs” operating in their countries.
The stated USAID budget for Latin America is $750 million, but estimates show that the secret part of the funding, partly in the hands of the CIA, may total twice that. 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.”
We find some liberal-left alternative media backhandedly cooperating with the US soft coup plotters, claiming Correa and Evo Morales are oppressing the “Indigenous,” destroying the Amazon, repressing leftwing political opponents. This alternative media paints US collaborators in Bolivia and Ecuador as defenders of free expression, defenders of nature, defenders of the indigenous. Even worse, much of this propaganda against Evo and Correa appears only in the alternative press, what we consider our press. Many of the people who were our allies, or allies on many other issues even today, are on the other side of the fence.
Now we are too often presented with this kind of material in NACLA that actually gives some cover and legitimacy to the US interventionist program in the ALBA countries. It makes clear how the US government’s “talking points” on the leaders of the progressive ALBA bloc have worked their way into supposed-to-be progressive alternative media writing on Latin America :
That the US government has used indigenous groups against progressive governments is not a new strategy. Even back in 1600s Massachusetts, it effectively using one indigenous people against another in order to destroy both to further its colonial interests.
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, but these legitimate grievances 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. This undermines their legitimate grievances.
Nil Nikandrov in his article “US Trojan Horses in Venezuela” stated “representatives of 55 Venezuelan NGOs called the international community to rise to the defense of democracy in the country at a media event in Miami, charging Hugo Chavez with threatening democracy, neglecting human rights, and igniting a civilian conflict in Venezuela.” Quite similar to the line propagated against Correa.
Amazon Watch on Bolivia
In 2011 Amazon Watch carried out similar propaganda, though not as completely baseless, against Evo Morales’ Bolivia.
“a new form of psywar has emerged in the form of false hope. With unlimited funding and organizational support from foundations like Ford, Rockefeller, Gates and Soros, U.S. Government propaganda now has a vast new army of non-profits that, along with corporate media and academia, serve as both a third wing of mass consciousness and a fifth column for destabilization campaigns worldwide.”
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.
NACLA, UpsideDownWorld, with regards to Ecuador, have often become vehicles to echo the attacks on this ALBA government of Correa made by the same bloc of organizations that have received US funds. This is not to say these media outlets may also receive USAID money.
We are not presented with explanations by government leaders, such Linera’s article on the TIPNIS. Emily Achtenberg gives a very skimpy summary in her writing on the TIPNIS conflict, but she cannot bring herself to refer to US Embassy interference and coordination in the conflict.
They are not so much defenders of the progressive countries as First World academic critics. For instance, NACLA can run an article criticizing Bolivia and Ecuador shutting down NGOs:
“Rejecting the necessity for unequivocal solidarity against imperialism, many “activists” ignore the fact that a multitude of Caribbean/Latin American states, as well as any region in the Global South that had exploitable resources, have been colonized and exploited for centuries, the very people at the forefront, condemning the “extractivists,” are the very people purchasing and using what is extracted (the “extractivist” states themselves use and emit almost nothing of what they extract, with the money being used to lift citizens out of extreme dire poverty), these states are also very much trapped within the industrialized capitalist economic system; they do not exist in a vacuum, reparations have not been made to these states who contributed essentially nothing to the planetary crisis, the leaders of these states must (usually within 1-2 terms) face the daily and very real possibility of CIA-plotted assassination, destabilization and coups while satisfying a populace seeking the most basic of life necessities and economic stability, and by siding with U.S.-financed NGOs such as Pachamama Alliance, Amazon Watch, etc., one is NOT in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples. Rather one is (yet again) reabsorbed by the very system we claim to oppose – reabsorbed by the very system and hegemonic rule that is destroying Indigenous Peoples and whole cultures across the entire globe.”
We see in the Dissent magazine article, “Beyond the Petrostate: Ecuador’s Left Dilemma,” the author, Thea Riofrancos, tries to blame Correa for his death, not the mining company. She also jumps on the bandwagon to blame Correa for “extractivism,” a “sin” evidently only committed by one country, Correa’s Ecuador. When it comes to the real issue, the real, actual crime, corporate raping of the land and environmental pollution, as with the case of Chevron, the author barely mentions it.
Nor does the article mention NED, USAID, and Western NGO funding of environmental and indigenous groups in Ecuador. Nor mention the alliance of these groups with the rightwing during the violent demonstrations in the summer of 2015. Nor question the violence of the demonstrators. The article is written as if US imperialism is not an important player in the events in Ecuador. For any serious analysis of important political events in a Third World country, the starting point has to be the role of US imperialism. Otherwise, it is covering up its role.
This is part of the very traditional arrogant Yankee attitude that many US leftists share with the US imperialists: we know better how to do things than you do, we are the best interpreters and defenders of democracy and human rights.