The National Endowment for Democracy in Venezuela


As protests have been taking place in Venezuela the last couple of weeks, it is always good to check on the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Empire’s “stealth” destabilizer.  What has the NED been up to in Venezuela?

Before going into details, it is important to note what NED is and is not.  First of all, it has NOTHING to do with the democracy we are taught in civics classes, concerning one person-one vote, with everyone affected having a say in the decision, etc.  (This is commonly known as “popular” or grassroots democracy.)  The NED opposes this kind of democracy.

The NED promotes top-down, elite, constrained  (or “polyarchal”) democracy.  This is the democracy where the elites get to decide the candidates or questions suitable to go before the people—and always limiting the choices to what the elites are comfortable with.  Then, once the elites have made their decision, THEN the people are presented with the “choice” that the elites approve.   And then NED prattles on with its nonsense about how it is “promoting democracy around the world.”

This is one of the most cynical uses of democracy there is.  It’s notable even in what my friend Dave Lippmann calls “Washington Deceit.”

The other thing to note about NED is that it is NOT independent as it claims, ad nauseum.  It was created by the US Congress, signed into US law by President Ronald Reagan (that staunch defender of democracy), and it operates from funds provided annually by the US Government.

However, its Board of Directors is drawn from among the elites in the US Government’s foreign policy making realm.  Past Board members have included Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, General Wesley K. Clark, and Paul Wolfowitz.  Today’s board can be found at http://www.ned.org/about/board; most notable is Elliot Abrams of Reagan Administration fame.

In reality, NED is part of the US Empire’s tools, and “independent” only in the sense that no elected presidential administration can directly alter its composition or activities, even if it wanted to.  It’s initial project director, Professor Allen Weinstein of Georgetown University, admitted in the Washington Post of September 22, 1991, that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

In other words, according to Professor William Robinson in his 1996 book, Promoting Polyarchy, NED is a product of US Government foreign policy shift from “earlier strategies to contain social and political mobilization through a focus on control of the state and governmental apparatus” to a process of “democracy promotion,” whereby “the United States and local elites thoroughly penetrate civil society, and from therein, assure control over popular mobilization and mass movements.”  What this means, as I note in my 2010 book, AFL-CIO’s Secret War against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage?, “is that instead of waiting for a client government to be threatened by its people and then responding, US foreign policy shifted to intervening in the civil society of a country ‘of interest’ (as defined by US foreign policy goals) before popular mobilization could become significant, and by supporting certain groups and certain politicians, then channel any potential mobilization in the direction desired by the US Government.”

Obviously, this also means that these “civil society” organizations can be used offensively as well, against any government the US opposes.  NED funding, for example, was used in all of the “color revolutions” in Eastern Europe and, I expect, currently in the Ukraine as well as elsewhere.

How do they operate?  They have four “institutes” through which they work:  the International Republican Institute (currently headed by US Senator John McCain), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (currently headed by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright), the Center for International Private Enterprise (the international wing of the US Chamber of Commerce), and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), the foreign policy operation of the AFL-CIO, with Richard Trumka the head of its Board of Directors.

As I documented in my book, ACILS had been indirectly involved in the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela by participating in meetings with leaders later involved in the coup beforehand, and then denying afterwards the involvement of the leaders of the right-wing labor organization (CTV) in the coup, leaders of an organization long affiliated with the AFL-CIO.  We also know NED overall had been active in Venezuela since 1997.

The NED and its institutes continue to actively fund projects in Venezuela today.  From the 2012 NED Annual Report (the latest available), we see they have provided $1,338,331 to organizations and projects in Venezuela that year alone:  $120,125 for projects for “accountability”; $470,870 for “civic education”; $96,400 for “democratic ideas and values”; $105,000 for “freedom of information”; $92,265 for “human rights”; $216,063 for “political processes”; $34,962 for “rule of law”; $45,000 for “strengthening political institutions”; and $153,646 for Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE).

Additionally, however, as found on the NED “Latin American and Caribbean” regional page, NED has granted $465,000 to ACILS to advance NED objectives of “freedom of association” in the region, with another $380,000 to take place in Venezuela and Colombia.  This is in addition to another $645,000 to the International Republican Institute, and $750,000 to the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

The irony of these pious claims for “freedom of association,” etc., is that Venezuela is has developed public participation to one of the highest levels in the world, and has one of the most free media in the world.  Even with massive private TV media involvement in the 2002 coup, the government did not take away their right to broadcast afterward.

In other words, NED and its institutes are not active in Venezuela to help promote democracy, as they claim, but in fact, to act against popular democracy in an effort to restore the rule of the elite, top-down democracy.  They want to take popular democracy away from those nasty Chavistas, and show who is boss in the US Empire.  This author bets they fail.

Kim Scipes, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Purdue University North Central in Westville, IN, and is author of AFL-CIO’s Secret War against Developing Country Workers:  Solidarity or Sabotage?, and KMU:  Building Genuine Trade Unionism in the Philippines, 1980-1994.  He can be reached through his web site at http://faculty.pnc.edu/kscipes.

Weekend Edition
November 28-30, 2015
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxembourg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving