The NYT wrote an extraordinarily arrogant, insulting, dishonest, and hypocritical editorial attacking a series of Latin American democracies. The editorial manages to insult their democratically elected representatives and their electorates. The title of the editorial is “South America’s New Caudillos.” The editorial does not bother to define the word. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines caudillo as “a Latin American military dictator.”
The editorial claims that it was prompted by the democratic reelection of Evo Morales as President of Bolivia. The editorial concedes that he was reelected in a well-deserved, democratic “landslide.”
“It is easy to see why many Bolivians would want to see Mr. Morales, the country’s first president with indigenous roots, remain at the helm. During his tenure, the economy of the country, one of the least developed in the hemisphere, grew at a healthy rate, the level of inequality shrank and the number of people living in poverty dropped significantly. He has also given the Andean nation, with its history of political turmoil, a long stretch of relative stability.”
The obvious next sentence would be for the NYT to congratulate Morales and the people of Bolivia on another democratic election and extend the paper’s best wishes for their continued success. But, of course, the NYT has instead chosen its own burden of proof through its title – it must show that Morales and other recently reelected Latin American presidents are actually “military dictators.” The modern reality, throughout Latin America, is that the parties of the “left” have routinely and peacefully left office when they lost national and municipal elections in the last 15 years. The same is not true of the parties of the right, who have staged coups in Venezuela and Hondurasand what may have been a coup attempt in Ecuador.
How Dare Their Citizens Object to Harmful U.S. Programs!
Why is the NYT enraged at Morales, his democratically elected colleagues in other Latin American nations, and the citizens of these nations who elect their representatives, often in “landslide” elections? They have committed an unpardonable sin – they reduced “Washington’s influence” over their Nations’ policies.
“This regional dynamic has been dismal for Washington’s influence in the region. In Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, the new generation of caudillos have staked out anti-American policies and limited the scope of engagement on development, military cooperation and drug enforcement efforts. This has damaged the prospects for trade and security cooperation.”
I’ll simply emphasize that opposing bad U.S. policies is not “anti-American” and that the governments of Latin America are not hostile to Americans. What grave consequences does the NYT claim to have resulted from the “limited … scope of engagement?” Why have the citizens of most of Latin America decided to limit the scope of engagement? The NYT addresses neither question, for excellent reasons, for doing so would expose the frivolous nature of its alarm. The American policy on “development” is actually an anti-development policy known as the Washington Consensus. The Washington Consensus caused so much harm so quickly that it discredited the U.S. and IMF austerity policies throughout most of Latin America. Note that the NYT editorials have opposed austerity. Yes, the NYT’s first complaint is that the citizens of Latin America oppose anti-development policies that the NYTopposes.
The link that the editorial provided is to a story that notes that President Obama slashed total AID funding to Bolivia to $17 million, a trivial sum. At that juncture, Morales told AID to leave Bolivia. As I note below, AID is a funding conduit for John McCain’s infamous International Republican Institute (IRI), which was created expressly to take over some of the CIA’s functions in supporting coups against non-right wing democratically elected leaders. IRI has, historically, concentrated its efforts in Latin America.
The second Washington policy that has been limited is “military cooperation.” Against who? The link that the NYTeditorial provides is to a story about Ecuador telling the U.S. to remove its military officials from Ecuador. U.S. “military cooperation” is infamous throughout Latin America for its support of coups and its sordid role in widespread human rights atrocities. The U.S. has not suffered any military injury as result of the reduced scope of “military cooperation” in Ecuador.
No one thinks that we will ever suffer any injury because we have taken 20 DOD personnel out of Ecuador. This is the best the NYT can come up with! Oh, the horror. Our Southern flank is now wide open to an invasion from Peru without our 20 DOD personnel in Ecuador.
The third reduced scope of engagement is on “drug enforcement efforts.” I read an interesting editorial recently entitled “Repeal Prohibition, Again” that called for the U.S. to lead the way in taking the first major step in ending our catastrophically destructive drug wars. Come to think of it, it was by the NYT. Latin Americans overwhelmingly agree with North Americans about the idiocy of the drug wars and their elected officials frequently believe that it is harmful to “engage” with the U.S. in “drug enforcement efforts.” That is a wonderful thing for the citizens of both hemispheres.
The coup in Honduras which removed the democratically elected leader and replaced him with a far right leader was one of the greatest boons to the drug lords. The only link the NYT editorial provides to support the reduced cooperation is an article from six years ago announcing that Morales ended Bolivia’s program with the DEA. Six years later, the NYT editors could have presented us with the data showing the awful consequences of that action for the U.S. Just kidding. The NYT editorial board doesn’t even try to meet the impossible burden of proving Morales’ 2008 decision had any meaningful adverse consequences on the U.S.
To sum it up, the “reduced engagement” with the three U.S. policies the NYT cites has occurred because U.S. policies are substantively harmful and widely unpopular with the citizenry. Morales and Correa were aware that the Bush and Obama administrations shared the NYT’s visceral hostility for their governments and held as their paramount goal the removal of Morales and Correa from power. All U.S. government personnel operating in Ecuador and Bolivia can be tasked by our Embassy with aiding that effort, which must make any rational Latin American progressive leader view them as what they are – a threat to his Nation, his Nation’s democracy, and the leader’s life in a potential coup. The “reduced engagement” is good not only for Latin America but the United States.
The International Republican Institute (IRI) Poisons Relationships with Latin America
There is an easy way for the U.S. to increase the scope of its engagement with Latin America – drop our insistence on inflicting disastrously bad policies on the citizens Latin America and our support for efforts to remove democratically elected leaders from power. We need to terminate our disgraceful public-private partnership – the Orwellian and oxymoronically-named “National Endowment for Democracy” (NED) that is one of the leading enemies of democracy in Latin America. NED is the umbrella group for an “anti-communist” deal between the Republicans and Democrats designed to give the CIA plausible deniability in U.S. efforts to spur coups against foreign leaders we wished removed from office. Don’t take the “communist” label seriously – the U.S. never did. It was simply a pejorative term to justify our coups.
NED offered something to everyone on the right. The Democratic hawks of the AFL-CIO, the employers, and the Democratic and Republican Parties each got a group with federal financial support. The International Republican Institute (IRI), which Senator John McCain’s controls, chose Latin America as it primary hunting grounds and it exists to try to remove all progressives from power. The “Republican” in their name does not mean that they support republican forms of government. It means that they are the Republican Party. This means that Americans should be able to figure out some of the realities of what IRI seeks to do to Latin America. The IRI funds entities because they will attack progressives and seek to discredit and, if possible, disenfranchise them.
Your federal tax dollars go to support this effort, which was explicitly designed to outsource the CIA’s eternal campaign against democratically elected leaders that the CIA did not believe were sufficiently hard right wingers. Recall that the Republican Party leads the voter disenfranchisement effort in the U.S. through its efforts to reduce the ability of groups they view as most likely to vote for progressive candidates to register and vote. The Republican Party leads the effort to dramatically increase historic levels of gerrymandering to allow it, the party receiving a minority of the votes cast nationally in House races to have a dominant majority in the House of Representatives. The Republican Party follows a rule in the House that it will not allow any bill to be voted on unless a majority of House Republicans support the bill – even if the great majority of members of the House support the bill. The Republican Party made public its plan to prevent the President of the United States from succeeding legislatively regardless of how vital such a success was to the welfare of the Nation. The express goal was to make it impossible for him to be reelected. The Republican Party nearly forced the U.S. to default on its debt as a tactic to discredit President Obama and extort the passage of legislation that a strong majority of members of the Senate and the President opposed. The Republican Party declared that it was illegitimate for the President of the United States, with the advice and consent of the Senate to fill vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit if doing so removed the Republican’s majority control of that court (ensuring that the Republican jurists would control all en banc decisions). Recall that each of these anti-democratic measures is committed by the Party that runs IRI and that IRI operates under the aegis of the oxymoronic “National Endowment for Democracy.”
Given that track record in the United States – in the context of its declaration of unholy war on President Obama (with the citizens as “collateral damage”) – consider how IRI would act in the Latin American context. The Republicans constantly portray Obama as a raving radical and Socialist who should probably be impeached and may not be an American. Obama is a conventional liberal on social issues and a conservative “New Democrat” on finance issues. Latin America has elected leaders who are really Socialists. The IRI views that as equivalent to an admission that they are Communists. In the United States, there are political consequences when the Republican Party tries to harm the Nation by threatening debt defaults and government shutdowns. When the Democrats call their bluffs, the Republicans have to retreat. There are no such consequences when IRI operates abroad. When the Republicans spend money in the U.S. those expenditures are sometimes public and such reports have to be accurate by law. When IRI operates in Latin America it gets to help structure front groups that will nominally receive IRI’s funding but will actually pass the money on for more nefarious purposes. Does any reader doubt that IRI serves as an anti-democratic force dedicated to suppressing the vote and influence of progressives and trying to remove progressive elected leaders from officer wherever possible?
The U.S. bans foreign campaign donations in our elections. Now consider how we would feel if the government of Russia funded an effort to defeat Democrats and elect Republican candidates in the U.S. It caused a serious scandal in the U.S. when the NYT disclosed foreign government funding of U.S. think tanks.
The IRI is so crude that it put its congratulations to those that led the 2002 coup in Venezuela on IRI letterhead through an IRI Press Release boasting of IRI’s “partnership” with Chavez’ political opponents.
IRI President Folsom Praises Venezuelan Civil Society’s Defense of Democracy.
WASHINGTON — George A. Folsom, President of the International Republican Institute (IRI) praised the Venezuelan people in their efforts to bring democracy to the country. The following is a statement from President Folsom concerning last night’s events.
“Last night, led by every sector of civil society, the Venezuelan people rose up to defend democracy in their country. Venezuelans were provoked into action as a result of systematic repression by the Government of Hugo Chavez. Several hundred thousand people filled the streets of Caracas to demand the resignation of Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez. Chavez responded with sharpshooters and his para-military Bolivarian circles killing more than 12 civilians and wounding more than 100 others. In contrast, IRI commends the patriotism of the Venezuelan military for their refusal to fire on their countrymen.
“IRI also applauds the bravery of civil society leaders — members of the media, the Church, the nation’s educators and school administrators, political party leaders, labor unions, and the business sector — who have put their very lives on the line in their struggle to restore genuine democracy to their country. IRI will remain engaged for the long term with political parties and our civil society partners to help rebuild Venezuela’s fractured political system and restore elected democracy to the country.
“IRI has promoted the strengthening of democracy in Venezuela since 1994 and recognizes that Venezuela’s future is not a return to its pre-Chavez past, but instead the development of accountable, non-corrupt, and responsive government.
“Today the National Assembly is expected to meet to lay the groundwork for the transitional government to hold elections later this year. The Institute has served as a bridge between the nation’s political parties and all civil society groups to help Venezuelans forge a new democratic future, based on accountability, rule of law and sound democratic institutions. We stand ready to continue our partnership with the courageous Venezuelan people.”
IRI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing democracy worldwide. IRI’s programs span the globe and include training on civic responsibility and the legislative process, and strategies for building political parties and election campaigns. IRI is a nonpartisan organization, federally funded through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as privately funded by donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations.
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Contact: Steven Susens, IRI Press Secretary, +1-202-572-1559; cell, +1-202-253-0958; email@example.com
The lies that permeate the IRI document are the same lies that permeate the NYT editorial lauding the coup because the oligarchs and military officers that led the coup created a cover story designed to discredit Chavez and make the coup plotters sound heroic. Chavez had supposedly instructed military sharpshooters to massacre over a dozen protestors and then wanted them to murder as many protestors as required to terrorize other protestors when the military refused to kill any more civilians and decided that the only way to prevent the massacre of innocents was to remove Chavez from power. All elements of civil society supported their actions. None of this was true, but why would the NYT be skeptical of the claims made by military officers leading a coup? When had they ever been less than candid?
Latin American leaders are well aware of their history, our history of warping their history, and our funding of IRI. Latin American leaders are not being paranoid in the least when they see IRI as a threat to their Nation and their lives. The IRI is eager to remove them from power and the IRI has no compunctions about supporting coups. Instead of our current policies of trying to remove the democratically elected leaders of Latin America from power and disenfranchising their constituents we could work together on the basis of mutual respect. Instead of Washington diktat we could work together to develop programs that are mutually beneficial.
The NYT is Shocked, Shocked that Correa Agrees with the NYT about Term Limits
The NYT editorial board hates term limits, editorializing that they inherently “diminish democracy, arbitrarily deny choice, reduce accountability and squander experience.” However, if term limits would rid them of an accursed progressive like Morales by “arbitrarily deny[ing]” the citizens of Bolivia the democratic right of “choice” in their elected representatives, then anyone who gets rid of term limits is a “military dictator.” Under the NYT’sdefinition of “military dictator” there is no need to be “military” or a “dictator” to be a “military dictator.” While term limits “diminish democracy,” according to the NYT, any progressive Latin American elected representative that proposes to remove them – by democratic means – is a “military dictator.” The U.S. was exceptionally well served by its democratically elected leader who served the longest – FDR.
The NYT Asserts that Latin American Leaders “Weakened Institutions”
The editorial provides no supporting facts, but the editors are sure that democratically elected Latin American officials who oppose the Washington Consensus must have “weakened institutions.” Which institutions you might ask? Why and how were they weakened? Was it desirable? What institutions did the elected officials build? Two of the democratically elected representatives that the editorial labels “military dictators,” Morales and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, are famous for creating and strengthening the “institutions” that the NYT editors praised because they spurred growth and reduced poverty and inequality.
Didn’t the NYT Editors Support a Military Coup in Latin America?
The editorial admits that “the strength of democratic values in the region has been undermined in past years by coups.” The editorial attacking Morales fails even the most minimal test of integrity by failing to disclose that the editors publicly applauded just such a military coup as recently as 2002 in an editorial that defines the word “mendacious” (and aped the Washington Consensus). Every sentence of that disgraceful editorial was consciously crafted to deceive the reader.
The NYT opposes term limits as harmful and anti-democratic – unless removing term limits would allow democratic expressions by the electorate that would lead to the election of representatives who share the citizens’ opposition to the Washington Consensus. The NYT opposes military coups – unless they remove from office democratically elected officials who oppose the Washington Consensus. The NYT defines democratically elected representatives of the left as “military dictators” and military coups that remove such democratically elected leaders as the triumph of democracy. The NYT supports the democratic reelection of officials who have the overwhelming support of the citizens because their policies have led to strong growth and reduced poverty and inequality – unless they retain in office officials elected because they share the citizens’ opposition to the Washington Consensus. That’s what we call a “principled position” at the NYT. I would have thought that after applauding the coup in Venezuela and calling for the (real) caudillo taking power through the coup to adopt the policies of the Washington Consensus, the NYT editorial board would have been too embarrassed to lecture Latin American nations with successful democracies about who they should elect. But the NYT is incapable of embarrassment. The NYT tortures the English language in support of the return of the “military cooperation” that led the U.S. to teach generations of right-wing Latin American military officers how to torture citizens.
The NYT editorial attacking Morales and Correa as “military dictators is also an insult to the peoples of Bolivia and Ecuador that is so disgraceful that it creates an opportunity. The U.S. State Department could issue a statement explaining that it respects the democratically elected governments of Latin America and rejects the claim that the elected representatives are “military dictators” as a baseless insult. State could then lead a friendship initiative that would begin by listening to Latin America’s elected representatives and asking for their suggestions on cooperative projects.
William K. Black (J.D., Ph.D) is Associate Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Bill Black has testified before the Senate Agricultural Committee on the regulation of financial derivatives and House Governance Committee on the regulation of executive compensation. He was interviewed by Bill Moyers on PBS, which went viral. He gave an invited lecture at UCLA’s Hammer Institute which, when the video was posted on the web, drew so many “hits” that it crashed the UCLA server. He appeared extensively in Michael Moore’s most recent documentary: “Capitalism: A Love Story.” He was featured in the Obama campaign release discussing Senator McCain’s role in the “Keating Five.” (Bill took the notes of that meeting that led to the Senate Ethics investigation of the Keating Five. His testimony was highly critical of all five Senators’ actions.) He is a frequent guest on local, national, and international television and radio and is quoted as an expert by the national and international print media nearly every week. He was the subject of featured interviews in Newsweek, Barron’s, and Village Voice.