In wondering whether Marcy Wheeler could plausibly claim legitimate doubt about the activities of Pierre Omidyar’s NGO in Ukraine, Tarzie asked whether an NGO could ever be anything other than an arm of soft imperialism. The answer to that latter question is actually yes, conceivably and even probably, although I can’t think of any such NGOs off the top of my head. The reason to believe that an NGO can be something other than a soft arm of imperialist power is that there are just so damned many of them. To shine a light on this, we have Eyal Weizman, to whose work I will return several times in this post. He offers specifics on the explosion of NGOs in just a few slivers of the world:
‘While in 1980 there were about 40 NGOs dealing with the Ethiopian famine, a decade later 250 were operating during the Yugoslavian war; by 2004, 2,500 were involved in Afghanistan.’
One must now imagine how many NGOs are operating worldwide. They serve a wide range of purposes, receiving money from a wide range of donors. The question as it pertains to Marcy Wheeler and The Intercept more generally is not about any old NGO; it’s about an NGO funded by USAID, a worldwide organization that shares funding and partnerships with the CIA and the State Department, and, in Ukraine, an oligarch, Pierre Omidyar. Therein lies the proper question: can this specific kind of NGO ever be anything other than the soft arm of imperialism? Of course not, I say.
A ‘transparency’ NGO against a rival regime of the United States plays a very particular role, which is why I mentioned multiple locales of NGOs in my last post about The Intercept. The meaning of an NGO funded by USAID in Ukraine is quite different from the meaning of a humanitarian NGO operating in the West Bank. The first is, in Ames’ words, ‘a force multiplier’ for the goal of regime change; the second is mainly a humanitarian agent, very often nominally aligned against Israel’s military occupation, or at least against the general spirit of it, but nonetheless tolerated by Israel. In both cases, the NGOs, as I mentioned before, obscure class consciousness; the reason is that the fascist state–as an absorber of superfluous capital and, through its police forces, protector of private property–is fundamentally opposed to the emergence of the communistic movements of the societies they are tasked with governing, by which I mean controlling and containing.
I’ll begin with the Israeli case and then work back to Ukraine. In the case of Israel, NGOs exist in lieu of the military policies and architecture that have ghettoized hundreds of segments of society within historic Palestine. Palestinians have been separated from Israelis; Druze have been separated from Palestinians; Palestinians have been separated from Palestinians (think of the distance between Gaza and the West Bank); Palestinians have been separated from Ethiopian refugees, which have in turn been separated from Israeli Jews, and you are beginning to get an idea of the utter fragmentation that Israel’s divide-and-conquer strategies have produced. But one more fragmentation must be mentioned, among the most crucial: class fragmentation, which includes even the strategic placement of the Israeli working and under classes in relation to the upper classes. In physically organizing its society according to relatively modern identities it’s helped to shape, Israel has thus far successfully thwarted communistic threats to its power (albeit not very often with ease), and that success increases if these respective identity groups embrace aspolitical projects in themselves the various identities given to them by power. The political dilemma of identity cannot be ignored, as there are real differences between the marginalization of the Israeli working class and that of Palestinians under Israel’s racializing project. (As the Palestinians experience a more advanced form of alienation, it is the job of the Israeli working class to offer proper solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.)But this is not to say that the procurement of identity makes for a worthy political end goal in itself. Should these groups treat identity formation as a critique and a resistance in itself, they will, as subjects of Israeli power, from Israeli working classes to the Druze to the Palestinians, overlook the demands of their own struggles, as well as the possibilities hinted at by famed Palestinian revolutionary Ghassan Kanafani in a 1972 interview (a possibility again hinted at by the Qassam Brigades on November 17, 2012, as mentioned in the above-linked article by Max Ajl):
‘So you do see contradictions within the Israeli population which can divide them in the future, and provide the Palestinian resistance with allies within Israeli society?
‘Of course. But this will not happen easily. First of all, we must escalate the revolution to the stage where it poses an alternative to them, because up to now it has not been so. It is nonsense to start talking about a ‘Democratic Palestine’ at this stage; theoretically speaking it establishes a good basis for future debates, but this debate can only occur when the Palestinian resistance is a realistic alternative.
‘You mean it must be able to provide a practical alternative for the Israeli proletariat?
‘Yes. But at the moment it is very difficult to get the Israeli working-class to listen to the voice of the Palestinian resistance, and there are several obstacles to this. These include the Israeli ruling class and the Arab ruling classes. The Arab ruling classes do not present either Israelis or Arabs with a prospect of democracy. One might well ask: where is there a democracy in the Arab world? The Israeli ruling class is obviously an obstacle as well. But there is a third obstacle, which is the real, if small, benefit that the Israeli proletariat derives from its colonialist status within Israel. For not only is the situation of Israeli workers a colonialist one, but they gain from the fact that Israel as a whole has been recruited to play a specific role in alliance with imperialism. Two kinds of movement are required to break down these barriers, in order for there to be future contact between an anti-Zionist Israeli proletariat and the Arab resistance movement. These will be the resistance movement on the one hand and an opposition movement within Israel itself; but there is no real sign of such a convergence yet, since, although Matzpen exists, what would be necessary is a mass proletarian movement.’
Within the primarily Palestinian space of the West Bank, countless NGOs have cropped up, which leads to another Tarzie question: can’t the Israeli working class work with NGOs in the West Bank? The answer is, once again, conceivably, but that’s as far as it goes. This has not been the case, and we must account for the reasons. The first question worth asking is, why does Israel, a state that typically gets away with whatever brutality it wishes to exact, tolerate so many NGOs working nominally against it in territories under its direct military control? Answering that question requires another question: what do these NGOs do? There are two primary types of NGOs in the West Bank: humanitarian ones, those which offer general health supplies to the brutalized Palestinian population, and informational NGOs, those which provide the brutalized population with a space for political organization, things like publishing pamphlets and setting up lectures and panel discussions.
The humanitarian NGOs working in Palestine have, according to Weizman, adopted an essentially theological ethos to address the issue of suffering. (This would not be the first or only time social justice movements have adopted monotheistic tenants to meet the world’s problems; I hope to address this in a future post.) Weizman proposes that the main theological presupposition animating humanitarian impulse in an occupation situation is St. Augustine’s principle of lesser evil: lesser evils are to be tolerated when they are deemed unavoidable. More:
‘The lesser evil is the argument of the humanitarian agent that seeks military permission to provide medicines and aid in places where it is in fact the duty of the occupying military power to do so, thus saving the limited military resources. The lesser evil is often the justification of the military officer who attempts to administer life (and death) in an “enlightened” manner; it is sometimes, too, the brief of the security contractor who introduces new and more efficient weapons and spatio-technological means of domination, and advertises them as “humanitarian technology”. In these cases the logic of the lesser evil opens up a thick political field of participation bringing together otherwise opposing fields of action, to the extent that it might obscure the fundamental moral differences between these various groups. But, even according to the terms of an economy of losses and gains, the concept of the lesser evil risks becoming counterproductive: less brutal measures are also those that may be more easily naturalized, accepted and tolerated—and hence more frequently used, with the result that a greater evil may be reached cumulatively.’
So there it lies. A calculation that seeks to alleviate a suffering tacitly accepts the endurability of that suffering and ultimately prolongs it. The Israeli ruling class is, like most imperialists, not stupid; it knows that humanitarian NGOs pose zero threat, and so it tolerates them.
Informational NGOs in the West Bank are more so the hangouts of those foreigners too politically savvy to get caught up in the obvious pitfalls of liberal humanitarianism, which is really just so Daily Show and Obama ’08. Here is where young foreigners of a more radical bent can go to exchange political ideas with Palestinians, perhaps even to set up times and dates for attending demonstrations so that they can make themselves useful by obstructing an IDF’s soldier’s path when he attempts to arrest a Palestinian. And these young internationalist activists will likely help with lectures from guest speakers around the world and will help to publish pamphlets detailing the harsh realities of Israeli occupation. It is telling how these outlets are staffed so overwhelmingly with volunteers from around the world, as opposed to Israeli proles, but not necessarily surprising. This is the class makeup that can be expected in the wake of Israel’s forcible fragmentation of the society underneath it: the class makeup of the propaganda NGO is first of all a function of Israeli structure. After all, who can afford to take up life in the West Bank, an area deprived of water and job opportunities (outside these NGOs, of course) and right to movement? Not Israeli proles, generally speaking, but rather upper class students from the United States and Europe. And Israel tolerates this form of Palestinian political expression because it allows Palestinians a vent for their frustrations without forming the kinds of political bonds that can easily (if at all) upend the Zionist system. In this sense, these NGOs play the same role as state-sanctioned demonstrations in the United States, allowing people the illusion of impact because people are, at the end of the day, ‘doing something.’ There simply is no comparison between a bond formed between a Palestinian and an international student only in Palestine for a semester or two (and with a bright future to lose) and a bond formed between a Palestinian and an Israeli worker condemned to existence in Israeli society for the long haul. Not all bonds are equally dangerous.
The role of NGOs in places where the U.S. desires regime change is markedly different, because the situation is markedly different. Admittedly, when examining the situation in Ukraine, claims about U.S. regime change require more work to prove, because the policy there is less overt than was regime change in, say, Iraq. As I mentioned in a previous post, this is the main dilemma of detailing imperialism in the age of Obama. But it is worth noting still that even in those instances of overt regime change, brought about through land invasion and long-term occupation using ground troops, NGOs played an important role in U.S. policy. To quote Weizman once again, ‘After the fall of Baghdad in 2003, American NGOs funded via USAID were informed by the US Administration that “their cooperation was linked inextricably to America’s strategic goals.”‘ Weizman notes that Colin Powell referred to these NGOs operating in Iraq as a ‘force multiplier,’ which perhaps explains where Mark Ames picked up the phrase.
One way of knowing that Pierre Omidyar knew what he was getting into when he decided to share an investment with USAID in Ukraine is that USAID’s worldwide purpose is openly available knowledge, especially to those money men with a direct financial interest in USAID’s purpose. Powell and the ‘U.S. administration’ acknowledged it. If one fails to be satisfied by the open declarations of the U.S. regime, one can of course consult its ‘private’ correspondences about USAID, revealed in leaked Wikileaks cables. As with open declarations, the private dialogues of the U.S. regime are loaded with euphemism; ‘regime change’ is described as a ‘transition to democracy.’ Over at the Anti-Empire Report, William Blum quotes a cable mentioning USAID’s activities in Venezuela:
‘During his 8 years in power, President Chavez has systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and governance. The USAID/OTI program objectives in Venezuela focus on strengthening democratic institutions and spaces through non-partisan cooperation with many sectors of Venezuelan society.’
Blum goes on to describe these initiatives as ‘a transition from the target country adamantly refusing to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs to a country gladly willing (or acceding under pressure) to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs.’ These initiatives were to be taken against Chavez and ‘his attempt to divide and polarize Venezuelan society using rhetoric of hate and violence. OTI supports local NGOs who work in Chavista strongholds and with Chavista leaders, using those spaces to counter this rhetoric and promote alliances through working together on issues of importance to the entire community.’ Eventually the cable becomes mercifully frank about the efforts USAID and OTI must take against this hateful rhetoric (also know as class conscious agitation): ‘1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez Internationally.’ Sounds like a recipe for regime change to me.
As I mentioned in my previous article, NGOs participate in PsyOps. Among the most common forms of PsyOp is the attempt to convince a subject population (or potential subject population) that the United States supports it. One way this is done is by providing aid to underclass populations; the example I provided was the aid Junglas provide to rural Colombians. As these PsyOps are simple and common, one can easily learn about them–and USAID’s role in them–by doing a simple Wikileaks search. Here USAID’s PsyOps efforts in Nigeria are described:
‘Nigerians reacting to Mission-sponsored media reports June – September 2003 on U.S.-Nigeria partnership successes on health, HIV/AIDS, agriculture, education, and conflict resolution, say they are amazed at the level of support given to Nigeria by the U.S. Government. They expressed similar sentiments on their assessment of media reports on the Ambassador’s Self-Help and the Ambassador’s Girl Scholarship programs, as well as the Widernet’s university interconnectivity program. The positive impact of the success stories was clearly evident during the recent defeat of stiff conservative northern opposition to the August polio vaccination rounds. Reactions have been very positive on USAID’s contributions towards revival of agriculture, especially gum arabic trade, and the LEAP program to upgrade primary educational standards in northern Nigeria. The Basketball for Peace Project is another success story that Nigerians say they value greatly because the program targets jobless youths in the crisis-prone Kaduna State. Radio listeners, television viewers and Hausa readers in 19 northern States, including conservative Muslim radicals in Nasarawa, Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Katsina, Borno, Plateau, Zamfara, and Jigawa States, say the success stories surprised them because they never knew the U.S. was doing so much for Nigeria. Hopefully, these images may change some of their negative views about the U.S.’
I especially like this example because it includes mention of a basketball program–my Colombia example included mention of basketball courts constructed for poor Colombian youth. So because the function of USAID’s programs is so obvious, it is reasonable to say that Omidyar knew what he was getting into when he decided to collaborate with USAID in Ukraine. So reasonable that it is not necessary to assume anything. USAID’s goals in Ukraine are clearly described in other leaked cables; they are economic goals in which any sensible billionaire would interested–the most salient example being intellectual property rights to be ensured by the World Trade Organization, that is, ‘types of intellectual property rights that will be protected by the State Customs Service… or the customs regimes in which Customs will intervene to protect these rights. Customs reform that is anchored into a modern code consistent with international standards, will be critical for greater market integration.’ In other words, in order for international investors to make profits off of investments in Ukraine, the legal standards must first exist by which corporate conduits can extract those profits and deliver them to individual oligarchs. If you’re wondering how intellectual property accomplishes this, do yourself a favor and read Kevin Carson’s definitive essay on the subject.
We know what kinds of interests Omidyar held in the Ukraine, and we know even more about the means by which he tried to secure them. But even if we didn’t know these matters exactly, we’d have enough information to reach reasonable conclusions about the activities of this billionaire. That some progressive journalists think we don’t seems to me, well, counterintuitive. Either that, or the effect of a billionaire buying progressive journalists is that progressive journalists cease to be skeptical of billionaires, which rather cancels out the ‘progressive’ part. It’s a matter of rich men removing ‘Eat the Rich’ from the political program, for self-explanatory reasons. In addition to that, the employees of rich men are marshaling group acceptance and ostracizing those hungry for the rich. More on that, specifically on our favorite celebrity journalist, Glenn Greenwald, in the next and final post of this series. See you tomorrow for that one, everybody.
President Rafael Correa in Otavalo in northern Ecuador in 2011. Cables show the US embassy ‘warned our political, economic, and media contacts of the threat Correa represents to Ecuador’s future’ ahead of the 2006 elections. Photo by Miguel Romero via Wikipedia.
In the months leading up to Ecuador’s October 2006 presidential election, the US Embassy in Quito claimed to be impartial.
Rather than supporting one particular candidate, then-US ambassador Linda Jewell said the embassy only wanted to help facilitate “a fair and transparent electoral process”.
However, diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks show that behind the rhetoric of “democracy promotion”, the embassy sought to stop the election of “dark horse populist, anti-American candidate Rafael Correa”.
Correa’s support for a Citizens’ Revolution did not accord with the US’s vision for Ecuador. The US Embassy in Quito had worked to undermine Correa during his brief term as finance minister in 2005.
In an August 2006 cable entitled “Ecuador Election: What’s at Stake”, Jewell wrote: “While none of the candidates will return the bilateral relationship to the halcyon days when then-president-elect Lucio Gutierrez declared himself our ‘strongest ally in Latin America’, none of the top contenders would affect USG interests as thoroughly as Rafael Correa.”
Gutierrez may have been loved by the US government, but opposition to his neoliberal policies led to his overthrow in a popular uprising in 2005.
In regard to Correa, the embassy was specifically concerned about his promise to “cut off his hand before signing a renewal” of the US lease on the forward operating military base at Manta.
The embassy also judged that Correa was the “candidate most likely to get run out of office”, as he had promised to confront Ecuador’s unpopular Congress and powerful political parties.
However, the ambassador wrote, Correa “has staked out his harshest positions on economic issues, and his election would derail any hope for more harmonious commercial relations with the United States”.
Correa had promised to break with the neoliberal policies of his predecessors. Instead, he called for a more regulated economy and government control over the exploitation of Ecuador’s oil resources.
Moreover, he had said he would relegate the idea of a free trade agreement with the US “to the trashcan of history”.
The ambassador wrote: “We would expect Correa to eagerly seek to join the Chavez-Morales-Kirchner group of nationalist-populist South American leaders.”
A cable from November 2005 entitled “Ecuador Elections, One Year Out”, laid out the Embassy’s strategy to influence the presidential elections.
The cable cautioned that because of “political sensitivities” to US interference, “it would be neither politically wise nor programmatically effective to invest significant USAID resources in public presidential debates or other high-profile activities”.
An “election working group” had been formed by staff from the Embassy and USAID to come up with a more suitable strategy.
The embassy planned to “Monitor presidential campaigns for effects on USG interests, and build relationships with major presidential candidates and staffs”. Over the next year, embassy officials met frequently with Ecuadorian political parties, business leaders and academics to share views on the election and the prospects of a Correa victory.
To “encourage sound economic policies”, the November cable suggested “sponsoring forums for candidates to participate in to discuss economic issues/policies”.
The cable also suggested that “Focusing USG efforts on promoting voter education and public awareness about congressional candidates could help encourage Ecuadorians to elect more effective and responsible representatives”.
Several cables emphasised the importance of trying to influence Ecuador’s “lower classes”. Poorer Ecuadorians, according to the ambassador, “by virtue of their numbers, will select Ecuador’s next government at the polls in October”.
She suggested that “effective Embassy outreach to the lowest classes could conceivably help blunt the appeal of anti-American candidates”.
In August 2006, the ambassador wrote, “there are few signs that Ecuadorians or their candidates understand the dangers of supporting ‘populist politicians who promise magic solutions that haven’t worked anywhere.’
“We will be alert to signs that Ecuador’s poorest voters break toward Correa in the final weeks of the campaign.”
Another cable written by the ambassador said the US planned to spend a total of US$884,000 on the presidential elections. This included $384,000 to “fund civil society civic education and debates and monitor campaign spending”.
A further $300,000 was allocated to fund “domestic observation and quick counts”, and $200,000 to Ecuador’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
According to its website, the US Congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) spent more than $1 million in Ecuador in 2006.
The largest portion of this, $350,000, was allocated to the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. It was to provide “technical assistance” to Ecuador’s “largest and most representative political parties”, which opposed Correa.
The NED was founded during the Cold War in 1983 to give the veneer of legitimacy to “political operations” previously carried out secretly by the CIA.
While claiming to be “dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world”, the group is better known for destabilising democratically elected government that threaten US interests.
Recent examples include the Ukraine, where NED projects helped foment opposition to ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.
Concern over avoiding a backlash against open interference in Ecuador’s presidential election did not stop the US Embassy trying to work against Correa behind the scenes.
In August 2006, the ambassador wrote: “Beyond supporting a clean electoral process … we have few levers to influence Ecuadorian voters. Ecuador’s media elite is hyper-sensitive to perceived internal meddling, so overt attempts to influence voter decisions is fraught with risk.
“Privately, however, we have warned our political, economic, and media contacts of the threat Correa represents to Ecuador’s future, and have actively discouraged potential alliances which could balance Correa’s perceived radicalism.”
In October 2006, banana billionaire Alvaro Noboa won the first round of voting with 27% of the vote. Correa came second with 23%, followed by Gutierrez’s brother, Gilmar Gutierrez.
US diplomats tried to persuade the Gutierrez brothers and their Patriotic Society Party to back “right-of-center alternative” Noboa in the second round run-off, in order to defeat Correa.
In contrast to Correa, Noboa promised that if elected he would sign a free trade agreement with the United States and would not seek enhanced relations with Venezuela or Cuba.
Noboa also said he would negotiate a settlement with US oil company Occidental Petroleum, whose contract had been terminated and assets repossessed by the outgoing Palacio administration in May 2006.
The US ambassador met with the Gutierrez brothers on October 30 to “gauge potential Patriotic Society Party (PSP) support for Alvaro Noboa’s candidacy”.
According to a cable about the meeting, the ambassador warned the Gutierrez brothers that “a Noboa victory, while possible, was by no means a certainty” and a “Correa victory would threaten progress made under the Gutierrez government to put Ecuador’s economy on a solid footing”.
The cable reported that the ambassador had told Lucio Gutierrez that he could “protect this legacy by helping Noboa consolidate his lead in the polls, and break the cycle of political instability Gutierrez fell prey to by working together in the new Congress”.
The embassy’s deputy chief of mission added that the Gutierrez brothers “could make an enormous contribution by helping to counter Correa rhetoric and educate voters about the benefits of market-based economic principles and the FTA with the U.S.; PSP interests were clearly more aligned with Noboa”.
However, US overtures were to no avail. The Gutierrez brothers, according to the embassy, were too “consumed with their revenge agenda”.
Lucio Gutierrez was demanding legal action be taken against those who deposed his government in exchange for his party’s support in the second round of voting. According to the cables Noboa publicly agreed to this but refused to include Palacio among those to be prosecuted. This left the Gutierrez brothers feeling “miffed”, and they ultimately declined to endorse either Noboa or Correa.
[This article is the third of an ongoing series exploring diplomatic cables from the US Embassy in Ecuador published by WikiLeaks. The articles are based on about 1000 cables that have mostly not been reported on in English before.]
The power of moral sanction is something Wall Street takes very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that over the last two decades, hostile takeovers of authentic civil society organizations, known for exercising moral sanction (i.e., Sierra Club and Pacifica Radio Network), have evolved into full-fledged displacement by corporate false fronts (i.e., Avaaz and 350).
While the membership-based Sierra Club and Pacifica Radio Network fought back and reclaimed their boards of directors, false fronts and compromised NGOs (i.e. Amnesty International USA) have become what is known as imperial civil society. Used to justify privatization, austerity, and military aggression by NATO and the US, they reflect a perversion of moral sanction.
As Maximilian Forte writes in Civil Society, NGOs, and Saving the Needy, the main purpose of the burgeoning civil society fad – that comprises the international bureaucracy of neoliberalism – is to legitimate anti-democratic politics. In order to take over basic functions and powers of the state, this bureaucracy – engaged in development, governance and aid – justifies itself by creating a “need,” thereby cornering the market on “humanity.”
With corporate and government funding, often laundered through banks and foundations, international NGOs inspire pathos by constantly producing images of despair—thus allowing them to dominate discourse from an emotional vantage point. As a market-oriented institutional apparatus, this vast bureaucracy works hand in hand with military and finance authorities, thus functioning as Trojan horses on a par with transnational organized crime.
As a fifth column of fascism, imperial civil society – funded by such entities as Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Ford Foundation, and Soros Open Society Institute – operates worldwide (in tandem with official false fronts like USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, and U.S. Institute for Peace) to subvert sovereignty and derail democracy in favor of US hegemony.
Overthrowing and destabilizing governments, using NGOs like Avaaz as provocateurs, puts authentic non-profits and journalists at risk. Indeed, the imperial network of financiers like Soros makes NGO entrepreneurs in the pro-war champagne circuit accomplices in crimes against humanity. As frontline opportunists in the psywar waged against public consciousness, these false fronts legitimate “humanitarian warfare” and “free-market environmentalism,” employed against indigenous peoples and independent states.
With help from Ford, Rockefeller, Gates and Soros, imperial civil society is admittedly a formidable foe, but not an invulnerable one. Built on a foundation of fraud, the power of moral sanction they have hijacked can effectively be turned against them. While false fronts are able to dominate social media, they do not own our minds; they are merely social engineers operating under false pretenses that we can reject at will.
[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal, and a featured columnist at IC Magazine. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]
Who is this man, and why does the CIA fear him? Because they thought he was one of theirs, and it turns out he’s quite the opposite. And now he’s spilling the beans on them. Read on:
In a recent interview in Havana, a former CIA collaborator, Cuban Raúl Capote, revealed the strategy of the CIA in Venezuelan universities to create the kind of destabilizing opposition student movement the country is currently facing. He also discusses media manipulation, and alleges that one of the U.S. diplomats that President Maduro expelled from Venezuela last September was in fact a CIA agent. The following translation and notes were made by Sabina C. Becker. Original interview in Spanish here.
Raúl Capote is a Cuban. But not just any Cuban. In his youth, he was caught up by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). They offered him an infinite amount of money to conspire in Cuba. But then something unexpected for the US happened. Capote, in reality, was working for Cuban national security. From then on, he served as a double agent. Learn his story, by way of an exclusive interview with the Chávez Vive magazine, which he gave in Havana:
Q. What was the process by which you were caught up?
It started with a process of many years, several years of preparation and capture. I was leader of a Cuban student movement which, at that time, gave rise to an organization, the Saiz Brothers Cultural Association, a group of young creators, painters, writers, artists. I worked in a city in southern-central Cuba, Cienfuegos, which had characteristics of great interest to the enemy, because it was a city in which an important industrial pole was being built at the time. They were building an electrical centre, the only one in Cuba, and there were a lot of young people working on it. For that reason, it was also a city that had a lot of young engineers graduated in the Soviet Union. We’re talking of the last years of the 1980s, when there was that process called Perestroika. And many Cuban engineers, who arrived in Cuba at that time, graduated from there, were considered people who had arrived with that idea of Perestroika. For that reason, it was an interesting territory, where there were a lot of young people. And the fact that I was a youth leader of a cultural organization, which dealt with an important sector of the engineers who were interested in the arts, became of interest to the North Americans, and they began to frequent the meetings we attended. They never identified themselves as enemies, or as officials of the CIA.
Q. Were there many of them, or just always the same person?
Several. They never presented themselves as officials of the CIA, nor as people who had come to cause trouble, or anything.
Q. And who do you suppose they were?
They presented themselves as people coming to help us and our project, and who had the ability to finance it. That they had the chance to make it a reality. The proposal, as such, sounded interesting because, okay, a project in the literary world requires that you know a publisher, that you have editorial relations. It’s a very complex market. And they came in the name of publishers. What happened is that, during the process of contact with us, what they really wanted became quite evident. Because once they had made the contact, once they had begun frequenting our meetings, once they began to promise financing, then came the conditions for being financed.
Q. What conditions did they demand?
They told us: We have the ability to put the markets at your disposal, to put you on the markets of books or sculpture or movies or whatever, but we need the truth, because what we’re selling in the market, is the image of Cuba. The image of Cuba has to be a realistic one, of difficulties, of what’s going on in the country. They wanted to smear the reality of Cuba. What they were asking is that you criticize the revolution, based on anti-Cuba propaganda lines, which they provided.
Q. How big was these people’s budget?
They came with an infinite amount of money, because the source of the money, obviously, we found out over time from whence it came. For example, there was USAID, which was the big provider, the overall contractor of this budget, which channeled the money via NGOs, many of them invented just for Cuba. They were NGOs that didn’t exist, created solely for this type of job in Cuba, and we’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars. They weren’t working on small budgets. To give you an example, at one time, they offered me ten thousand dollars, just to include elements of anti-Cuba propaganda, in the novel I was writing.
Q. What year are we talking about?
Q. How many people could have been contacted by these people, or captured?
In reality, their success didn’t last long, because in Cuba there was a culture of total confrontation with this type of thing, and the people knew very well that there was something behind that story of them wanting to “help” us. It was nothing new in the history of the land, and for that reason, it was very hard for them to get to where we were. In a determined moment, around 1992, we held a meeting, all the members of the organization, and we decided to expel them. They weren’t allowed to attend any more of our meetings. Those people, who were already coming in with concrete proposals, and also preconditioned economic aid they were giving us. What happened is that at the moment we did that, and rejected them, we expelled them from the association headquarters, then they started to particularize. They began to visit with me, in particular, and other comrades as well, young people. With some they succeeded, or should I say, they succeeded in getting some of them out of the country as well.
Q. What kind of profile were they looking for, more or less, if any kind of profile could be specified?
They wanted, above all at that time, to present Cuba as a land in chaos. That socialism in Cuba had not managed to satisfy the needs of the population, and that Cuba was a country that socialism had landed in absolute poverty, and which, as a model, no one liked. That was the key to what they were pursuing, above all, at that time. Q. How long were you an agent of the CIA?
We were in this initial story until 1994. Because in 1994, I went to Havana, I came back to the capital and here, in the capital, I began to work for the Union of Cultural Workers, a union which represented the cultural workers of the capital, and I became more interesting yet to them, because I went on to direct — from being a leader of a youth organization with 4,000 members, to directing a union with 40,000 members, just in the city of Havana. And then, it gets much more interesting. Contacts followed. In that period there appeared a woman professor from a new university who came with the mission of kick-starting the production of my literary work, to become my representative, to organize events.
Q. Can you give her name?
No, because they used pseudonyms. They never used real names. And that type of work, promoting me as a writer, was what they were very interested in, because they wanted to convert me into a personality in that world. Promoting me now, and compromising me with them in an indirect manner. And then, in 2004, there arrived in Havana a person well known in Venezuela, Kelly Keiderling. Kelly came to Havana to work as Chief of the Office of Press and Culture. They set up a meeting. they arranged a cocktail party, and at that party I met with 12 North American functionaries, North Americans and Europeans. They weren’t only North Americans. All of them people with experience, some also inside the Soviet Union, others who had participated in training and preparation of the people in Yugoslavia, in the Color Revolutions, and they were very interested in meeting me. Kelly became very close to me. She began to prepare me. She began to instruct me. I began to receive, from her, a very solid training: The creation of alternative groups, independent groups, the organization and training of youth leaders, who did not participate in the works of our cultural institutions. And that was in 2004-5. Kelly practically vanished from the scene in 2005-6. And when I started to work, she put me in direct contact with officials of the CIA. Supposedly, I was already committed to them, I was ready for the next mission, and they put me in touch with Renee Greenwald, an official of the CIA, who worked with me directly, and with a man named Mark Waterhein, who was, at the time, the head of Project Cuba, of the Pan-American Foundation for Development.
This man, Mark, as well as directing Project Cuba, had a direct link to Cuba, in terms of financing the anti-revolutionary project, as well as being involved in working against Venezuela. That is, he was a man who, along with much of his team of functionaries of that famous project, also worked against Venezuela at that time. They were closely connected. At times it took a lot of work to tell who was working with Cuba, and who was not, because many times they interlocked. For example, there were Venezuelans who came to work with me, who worked in Washington, who were subordinates of the Pan-American Foundation and the CIA, and they came to Cuba to train me as well, and to bring provisions. From there arose the idea of creating a foundation, a project called Genesis.
Genesis is maybe the template, as an idea, of many of the things going on in the world today, because Genesis is a project aimed at the university youth of Cuba. They were doing something similar in Venezuela. Why? The idea was to convert universities — which have always been revolutionary, which have produced revolutionaries, out of those from which many of the revolutionaries of both countries came — and convert them into factories for reactionaries. So, how do you do that? By making leaders. What have they begun to do in Venezuela? They sent students to Yugoslavia, financed by the International Republican Institute (IRI), which was financed by USAID and by the Albert Einstein Institute, and sent them, in groups of ten, with their professors.
Q. Do you have the names of the Venezuelans?
No, we’re talking of hundreds being sent. I spoke with the professor, and watched one group and followed the other. Because they were working long-term. The same plan was also in place against Cuba. Genesis promoted, with in the university, a plan of training scholarships for Cuban student leaders and professors. The plan was very similar. Also, in 2003, they prepared here, in Havana, a course in the US Interests Section, which was called “Deposing a leader, deposing a dictator”, which was based on the experience of OTPOR in removing Slobodan Milosevic from power. And that was the idea, inside the Cuban university, to work long-term, because these projects always take a long time in order to reap a result. For that reason, they also started early in Venezuela. I believe as well — I don’t have proof, but I believe that in Venezuela it began before the Chávez government, because the plan of converting Latin American universities, which were always sources of revolutionary processes, into reactionary universities, is older than the Venezuelan [Bolivarian] process, to reverse the situation and create a new right-wing.
Q. Did the CIA only work in Caracas?
No, throughout Venezuela. Right now, Genesis has a scholarship plan to create leaders in Cuba. They provide scholarships to students to big North American universities, to train them as leaders, with all expenses paid. They pay their costs, they provide complete scholarships. We’re talking 2004-5 here. It was very obvious. Then, those leaders return to university at some time. They’re students. They go to end their careers. Those leaders, when they end their student careers, go on to various jobs, different possibilities, as engineers, as degree-holders in different sectors of Cuban society, but there are others who go on constantly preparing leaders within the university. One of the most important missions of the university leaders was to occupy the leadership of the principal youth organizations of the university. In the case of Cuba, we’re talking about the Union of Communist Youth, and the University Student Federation. That is, it was not to create parallel groups at that time, but to become the leaders of the organizations already existing in Cuba. Also, to form a group of leaders in the strategies of the “soft” coup. That is, training people for the opportune moment to start the famous “color revolutions” or “non-violent wars”, which, as you well know, have nothing to do with non-violence.
Q. What were they looking for in a professor, in order to capture them?
Professors are very easy. Identify university professors discontented with the institution, frustrated people, because they considered that the institution did not guarantee them anything, or didn’t recognize their merits. If they were older, even better. They didn’t specify. Look for older persons, so you can pick them. If you send a scholarship plan, or you send it and, first crack, they receive an invitation to participate in a great international congress of a certain science, they will be eternally grateful to you, because you were the one who discovered their talent, which has never been recognized by the university. Then that man you sent to study abroad, if you’re from his university, and participating in a big event, and publish his works, and constructing him a curriculum. When that person returns to Cuba, he goes back with a tremendous curriculum, because he has participated in a scientific event of the first order, has passed courses from big universities, and his curriculum reaches to the roof, then the influence he could have in the university will be greater, because he could be recognized as a leading figure in his specialty, even though in practice the man could be an ignoramus.
Q. And how effective were these types of captures, that type of missions they came to accomplish here?
In the case of Cuba, they didn’t have much of a result. First, because there was a most important reason, because I was the one directing the project, and I, in reality, was not an agent of the CIA, I was an agent of Cuban security, and so, the whole project passed through my hands, and they thought I was the one who would execute it. And the plan always passed through the work I was able to do, and what we did was slow it down as much as possible, knowing right away what was being planned. But just think, the goal of their plan, they were calculating for the moment in which the historic figures of the Revolution would disappear. They were figuring on a five- or ten-year term, in which Fidel would disappear from the political scene, and Raúl, and the historic leaders of the land. That was the moment they were waiting for, and when that happened, I was to leave university, with all the support of the international press and that of the NGOs, USAID, and all the people working around the CIA’s money, and that there would arise an organization which would present itself before the light of the public, as an alternative to what the Revolution was doing. That is what was to have happened with the Genesis Foundation for Freedom.
Q. What is that Foundation?
The Genesis Foundation for Freedom was to have a discourse, apparently revolutionary, but the idea was to confuse the people. The idea is that they would say they were revolutionaries, that what they wanted was to make changes in the government, but, when it comes to practice, when you get to the essence of the project, when you ask yourself “What is the project?” the discourse was, and the project was, exactly the same as those of the traditional right-wing. Because the changes they promoted, were the same that the right-wing, for a long time, has been promoting in the country. In practice, they almost had their big opportunity, according to their criteria, in 2006, when the news came out on TV that Fidel, for health reasons, was stepping down from his governmental responsibilities, and they have always said that the Cuban Revolution would die when Fidel died. Because the Revolution was Fidel, and on the day Fidel was no longer there, either by dying or leaving government, the next day the Revolution would fall. And they calculated that there would be internal confrontations, that there would be discontent with this or that. Calculations that I don’t know where they got them from, but they believed it. And in that moment, they believed that the time had come to act.
Q. We’re talking about 2006. What was the plan?
They called me automatically. We met, the CIA station chief and I, here in Havana. Diplomatic functionaries also showed up, and one of them said to me, we’re going to organize a provocation. We’re going to organize a popular uprising in a central neighborhood in Havana. There will be a person going there to rise up for democracy, and we’re going to execute a group of provocations, in different locations, in such a way that Cuban security forces will be forced to act against these people, and later we’ll start a big press campaign and start explaining how all of this will function. The interesting part of that, what really caught my attention, was this: How was it possible that a functionary of the US Interests Section could have the power to call upon the principal media, and that those people would obey with such servility? It was really attention-getting. The idea was — and I even told them this — what you’re telling me is just crazy. This man you mentioned to me, called Alci Ferrer — the guy they picked, a young agent, a doctor — they picked him to be the ringleader of the uprising. I told them, that guy won’t budge anyone. No one is going to rise up in the centre of Havana. The date they picked was none other than Fidel’s birthday, and they told me that day! And I said, Look, buddy, if that man, on that day, decides to go make proclamations, or to start some kind of uprising in the middle of Havana, the people are going to respond harshly. It’s even possible that they might kill him. Why, how could you put him in a humble working-class neighborhood to start those things, the locals…And he told me, flat out, the best thing that could happen for us is if they kill that man, it would be perfect, and they explained to me what would happen. All he had to do was provoke. They would go into the street, and there would be a clash there. If that happened, the press would do the rest, and they told me, we’re going to start a huge media campaign to demonstrate that there is chaos in Cuba, that Cuba is ungovernable; that in Cuba, Raúl is unable to hold the reins of government; that the civilian population is being killed; that students are being repressed in the street, and the people in the street, that the police are committing crimes. What a resemblance to Venezuela! It’s not a coincidence. It’s like that.
Q. So, what was supposed to happen in those circumstances?
Once all the opinion matrices were created, and all the media matrices had constructed that image, the whole world was supposed to have the image of Cuba as a great disaster, and that they’re killing the people, that they are killing them all. Then, my organization was to complete the final task.
Q. What was the final task?
Well, to gather the international press, in my capacity as a university professor, and as a writer, and as a leader of that organization, that I go out publicly to ask the government of the United States to intervene in Cuba, to guarantee the lives of the civilians and to bring peace and tranquility to the Cuban people. To speak to the country in the name of the Cuban people. Just imagine that!
That plan fell apart on them. It gave them no result, but as you could see, later, the way the war in Libya went, and the way it was set up. More than 80% of the information we saw, was fabricated. They’re doing the same in Syria, and they’ve done the same in Ukraine. I have had the opportunity to converse with a lot of Ukrainians, since they were in the bases. People in favor of uniting with Europe. I tried to talk with them these days. Trying to find out, what are those processes like? And they were surprised at the images which were transmitted around the world. What happened in Miami, and they themselves said so, but we’ve been protesting there, but those things that appear on TV, that was a group, or rather, there were sectors, there were places where there were right-wing groups, of the very far right, where there were incidents of that type, and where they burned things, but the greater part of the demonstrations didn’t have those characteristics. Or that this is, once more, the repetition of the scheme, using all the communication media.
Q. The relationship between the CIA and the embassies, in the respective lands, are they direct, then?
Yes, completely direct. In every embassy in Latin America, all the US embassies have CIA officials, working within them, using the façade of diplomatic functionaries.
Q. From what you know, is there a greater CIA presence in the region?
Well, at a certain moment, Ecuador was a major power in that, it had a strong concentration of them, and of course, Venezuela, because in 2012, when I attended the Book Fair in Caracas, all those people who had worked with me against Cuba, all the CIA officials, including Kelly Keiderling, were in Caracas at that time. And I was on a TV show, on VTV, where we talked about this subject, being very careful, because we were talking about two countries who have relations. That’s not the case with Cuba, or rather, Cuba has no relations with the United States. That’s a declared enemy. But we were talking about functionaries who had diplomatic relations, and it was very awkward to do it, without having concrete proofs you could present. However, the interview happened, and the denunciation was made of what was going on. Kelly Keiderling is an expert in this type of war. I have not the slightest doubt. When one follows the itinerary she has, in the countries where she’s been, and when I was in that type of conflict.
She has toured a series of countries in the world where very similar situations have occurred, like what she tried to do in Venezuela. And when you analyze Venezuela, and what has happened nowadays and the way in which she has acted, I think that in Venezuela, the characteristic that has been that they are tremendously aggressive in the manipulation of the information. Tremendously aggressive. To the point where you say it’s a blunder, because there are images which are so obviously not from Venezuela. I saw a very famous one, in which a soldier appears with a journalist, with a camera.They are Koreans. It’s an image from Korea. They’re Asian. They don’t look like Venezuelans at all. Also, the uniforms they wear. They’ve been very aggressive with that image which has projected what’s going on in Venezuela to the world. The greater part of the world’s people, this image is the one they’re seeing, of what they’re trying to say.
Q. They control the media. Do you know any case of any journalist which has been, as you have seen, known or unknown, which you have seen in the process of training?
Q. CNN, for example?
No, there was a guy who had a lot of ties to me at the time here, who served as a link for meeting an official from the CIA., Antony Golden, of Reuters. But, all right, he was an element independent of Reuters. CNN has always been very closely linked to all these things. CNN, from its first moments of operation, above all this latest step, and above all, CNN en Español, has been an indispensable tool for these people, but the problem is that you have to understand one thing: to understand what’s going on, and to be able to mount a campaign, you have to understand that nowadays, there is no TV station that acts on its own. There are the conglomerates, and the communications conglomerates — who directs them? Because, for example, Time Warner and AOL, and all those big communications companies — cable TV, movie TV, TV in general — who is the boss, in the end? Here it’s Westinghouse, there it’s General Electric. The same who build warplanes, the same US arms industry, the same people who are the owners of TV networks, movie studios, publications, book publishers. So, the same guys who produce warplanes, the cookie you’ll eat at night, that presents an artist to you, are the same who rule the newspapers of the entire world. Who do these people answer to?
Q. When you see what’s happening in Venezuela, and you compare it with what you did here [in Cuba], what conclusion can you draw?
It’s a new strategy, which they’ve been developing based on the experience they’ve had all over the world, but I see, I’m convinced, that they’ve only gotten results when people in those places don’t support the revolution. They managed it with Milosevic, because Milosevic was a Yugoslavian leader whose image had fallen far, thanks to things that happened in Yugoslavia. The same happened in Ukraine, because Yanukovych was a man with very little popular support, and it has given results in other places where the governments had little support from the people. Wherever they have a legitimate government, a solid government, and people disposed to defend the revolution, the plan has failed on them.
Q. And what phase do they enter when the plan fails?
They’re going to keep on doing it, they’ll go on perfecting it. We are the enemy. That is, Venezuela, Cuba, everything going on in Latin America as an alternative. We are the dissidents of the world. We live in a world dominated by capitalism. Where that new capitalist way of being dominates, so that now one can’t even call it imperialist, it’s something new, something that goes way beyond what students of Marxism wrote in history years ago. It’s something new, novel. It’s a power, practically global, of the big transnationals, of those megalopolies they’ve created. Therefore, we are the enemy. We are presenting an alternative project. The solution that the world proposes to us, is not that. We know how to do it, and Cuba, Venezuela, the ALBA countries, have demonstrated that it can be done, that one or two days more are nothing. The Cuban revolution has been in existence for 55 years, and with political will, it has achieved things that the US government, with all the money in the world, has been unable to do. So that’s a bad example.
And I’ve told my students: Can you imagine that the Indignants in Spain, the thousands and millions of workers out of work in Spain, that the Greeks, that all those people in all the world, know what we’re doing? Can you imagine that these people get to know who Chávez is? Or who Fidel is? Or of the things we’re doing here? Or the things we’re doing with so few resources, only the will to make revolution and share the wealth? What will happen to capitalism? How much longer will capitalism last, which has to spend billions of dollars, every day, to build its image and fool the people? What would happen if the people knew who we really are? What is the Cuban Revolution, really, and what is the Venezuelan Revolution? Because, if you talked to a Spaniard and asked him about Chávez, and he gives you a terrible opinion of Chávez, because it’s what they’ve constructed in his mind/ And you meet an unemployed person who tells you that Chávez is a bad guy, because the media have convinced him of that, but if these people knew how things really were! So they can’t allow that such formidable enemies as ourselves should be there, at the door.
Q. From the viewpoint of the national sovereignty of our people, how can we stop the CIA? We’ve already talked about the consciousness of the people, which is fundamental in these types of actions, but, in the concrete, how does one foresee the CIA’s work? What can be done? What recommendations do you have?
I think of a thing that Chávez said, and that Fidel has always said, that is the key to defeating the empire, and that is unity. It’s not a slogan, it’s a reality. It’s the only way you have of defeating a project like that. A project that comes from the Special Services and from capitalism. One can only do it with the unity of the people.
Q. Are we talking about the civilian-military?
Yes, unity in all senses. Unity based in diversity, in the peoples, but unity as a nation, unity as a project. Wherever the people are divided, there is another reality.
Q. Where do they have to concentrate? In what area must they concentrate forces to defend us from this type of actions, this type of attacks?
The army to defeat that is the people. I believe that the Cuban experience has taught that very well. There are experiences in the world which mark you very clearly. What has happened in the world, when the people have not been protagonists in defence of the Revolution? And when the people have been protagonists, what happened? And there’s the case of Cuba. We have managed to defeat the CIA and the empire millions of times, because the people have been the protagonist.
Q. Does the CIA use the databases of the social networks, and that sort of thing, to define their plans?
They’re the masters. They’re the masters of that. Fine, there are the denunciations of Snowden and all that has come out of Wikileaks, and all those things that are no secret to anyone, because we suspected, but it’s been demonstrated. It’s been demonstrated that the servers, the Internet, are theirs. All the servers in the world, in the end, die in the North Americans’ servers. They are the mother of the Internet, and all the networks and services are controlled by them. They have access to all the information. And they don’t hesitate to record it. Facebook is an extraordinary database. People put everything on Facebook. Who are your friends? What are their tastes, what movies have they seen? What do they consume? And it’s a source of firsthand information.
Q. Have you been in contact with Kelly Keiderling, after what happened in Venezuela?
No, I haven’t had contact with her. I don’t know what was her final destination, after what happened (she was expelled from Venezuela for meeting with and financing terrorists).
Q. With the experience she has, how far was she able to penetrate into Venezuela, and Venezuelan universities?
I am certain that she got quite far. She’s a very intelligent agent, very well prepared, very capable, and very convinced of what she’s doing. Kelly is a person convinced of the job she is doing. She is convinced of the justness, from her point of view, of what she is doing. Because she is an unconditional representative of capitalism. Because she comes from capitalism’s elite. She is organic of the actions she is doing. There is no contradiction of any kind. And, based on the experience of her work, of her capability, I am sure that she managed to get very far, and gave continuity to a job which is not just for now, it’s a job she will go on doing for a long time, to reverse the process in Venezuelan universities. What’s going on is that up to whatever point they can reach, in the long term, that is what will show the Bolivarian process, in the measure of which the people are aware of what could happen. If that fascist right wing becomes uncontrollable, it could get into power again.
Q. What kind of person who has contacts, who could reach the people, such as by being an activist in a movement, could be captured by the CIA?
They will find them, they will try to do it. If it’s a young person and a leader, they will try to capture them for their interests. We have to train our leaders. We can’t leave that to spontaneity, we can’t leave that to the enemy. So, if we leave them to the enemy, those are spaces which the enemy will occupy. Any alternative project that we leave unattended, any alternative project that we don’t realize the necessity of getting close to, that is a project that the enemy will try, by all means, to take advantage of. Using the enormous amount of money they have for that, which has no limits, in terms of resources to be used, because they are playing with the future and, above all, the young are the key.
The good thing is that the young are the present of Latin America. The Latin American revolution which is there, which is everywhere, is of the young. If not, fine, it will never have results, and if you manage to make young people think differently, if you succeed in getting these youngsters to believe that savage capitalism is the solution to all their problems, then there will be no revolution for Latin America. It’s that simple.
Outsourcing Empire, Privatizing State Functions: NGOs
First, we need to get a sense of the size and scope of the spread of just those NGOs that work on an international plane, or INGOs, many of which are officially associated with, though not part of, the UN. Estimates of the number of INGOs (such as Care, Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières) vary greatly depending on the source, the definition of INGOs used, and the methods used to locate and count them. In broad terms, INGOs numbered roughly 28,000 by the mid-1990s, which represented a 500% increase from the 1970s; other estimates suggest that by the early years of this century they numbered 40,000, while some put the number at around 30,000, which is still nearly double the number of INGOs in 1990, and some figures are lower at 20,000 by 2005 (Anheier & Themudo, 2005, p. 106; Bloodgood & Schmitz, 2012, p. 10; Boli, 2006, p. 334; Makoba, 2002, p. 54). While the sources differ in their estimates, all of them agree that there has been a substantial rise in the number of INGOs over the past two decades.
Second, there is also evidence that INGOs and local NGOs are taking on a much larger role in international development assistance than ever before. The UK’s Overseas Development Institute reported in 1996 that, by then, between 10% and 15% of all aid to developing countries was channeled through NGOs, accounting for a total amount of $6 billion US. Other sources report that “about a fifth of all reported official and private aid to developing countries has been provided or managed by NGOs and public-private partnerships” (International Development Association [IDA], 2007, p. 31). It has also been reported that, “from 1970 to 1985 total development aid disbursed by international NGOs increased ten-fold,” while in 1992 INGOs, “channeled over $7.6 billion of aid to developing countries”.1 In 2004, INGOs “employed the full time equivalent of 140,000 staff—probably larger than the total staff of all bilateral and multilateral donors combined—and generated revenues for US$13 billion from philanthropy (36%), government contributions (35%) and fees (29%)” (IDA, 2007, p. 31). The budgets of the larger INGOs “have surpassed those of some Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) donor countries” (Morton, n.d., p. 325). For its part, the US government “gave more than twice the amount of aid assistance in 2000 ($4 billion) through nongovernmental organizations than was given directly to foreign governments (est. $1.9 billion)” (Kinney, 2006, p. 3).
The military is one arm of the imperialist order, and the other arm is made up of NGOs (though often these two arms are interlocked, as even Colin Powell says in the introductory quote in this chapter). The political-economic program of neoliberalism is, as Hanieh (2006, p. 168) argues, the economic logic of the current imperialist drive. This agenda involves, among other policies, cutbacks to state services and social spending by governments in order to open up local economies to private and non-governmental interests. Indeed, the meteoric rise of NGOs, and the great increase in their numbers, came at a particular time in history: “the conservative governments of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher made support for the voluntary sector a central part of their strategies to reduce government social spending” (Salamon, 1994). By more or less direct means, sometimes diffuse and other times well-coordinated, the interests of the US and its allies can thus be pursued under the cover of humanitarian “aid,” “charity,” and “development assistance”.
In his extensive critique of neoliberalism, David Harvey (2005) credits the explosive growth of the NGO sector under neoliberalism with the rise of, “the belief that opposition mobilized outside the state apparatus and within some separate entity called ‘civil society’ is the powerhouse of oppositional politics and social transformation” (p. 78). Yet many of these NGOs are commanded by unelected and elite actors, who are accountable primarily to their chief sources of funds, which may include governments and usually includes corporate donors and private foundations. The broader point of importance is that this rise of NGOs under neoliberalism is also the period in which the concept of “civil society” has become central not just to the formulation of oppositional politics, as Harvey (2005, p. 78) argues, but also central to the modes of covert intervention and destabilization openly adopted by the US around the world. More on this just below, but first we need to pause and focus on this emergence of “civil society” as a topic in the new imperialism.
The “Civil Society” of the New Imperialism: Neoliberal Solutions to Problems Created by Neoliberalism
There has been a growing popularization of “civil society,” that James Ferguson, an anthropologist, even calls a “fad”. Part of the growing popularity of this concept is tied to some social scientists’ attraction to democratization, social movements and NGOs, and even some anthropologists have been inspired to recoup the local under the heading of “civil society” (Ferguson, 2007, p. 383). The very notion of “civil society” comes from 18th-century European liberal thought of the Enlightenment, as something that stood between the state and the family. “Civil society” has been universalized, with “little regard for historical context or critical genealogy”:
“this new conception (of ‘civil society’ as the road to democracy) not only met the political needs of the Eastern European struggle against communist statism, it also found a ready export market—both in the First World (where it was appropriated by conservative Reagan/Thatcher projects for ‘rolling back the state’) and in the Third World…”. (Ferguson, 2007, p. 384)
Today “civil society” has been reconceived as the road to democratization and freedom, and is explicitly promoted as such by the US State Department. Whether from the western left or right which have both appropriated the concern for “civil society,” Ferguson argues that the concept helps to legitimate a profoundly anti-democratic politics (2007, p. 385).
The African state, once held high as the chief engine of development, is now treated as the enemy of development and nation-building (especially by western elites), constructed as too bureaucratic, stagnant and corrupt. Now “civil society” is celebrated as the hero of liberatory change, and the aim is to get the state to become more aligned with civil society (Ferguson, 2007, p. 387). Not only that, the aim is to standardize state practices, so as to lessen or remove barriers to foreign penetration and to increase predictability of political outcomes and investment decisions (see Obama, 2013/7/1).
In practice, most writers conceive of contemporary “civil society” as composed of small, voluntary, grassroots organizations (which opens the door, conceptually, to the focus on NGOs). As Ferguson notes, civil society is largely made up of international organizations:
“For indeed, the local voluntary organizations in Africa, so beloved of ‘civil society’ theorists, very often, upon inspection, turn out to be integrally linked with national and transnational-level entities. One might think, for instance, of the myriad South African ‘community organizations’ that are bankrolled by USAID or European church groups; or of the profusion of ‘local’ Christian development NGOs in Zimbabwe, which may be conceived equally well as the most local, ‘grassroots’ expressions of civil society, or as parts of the vast international bureaucratic organizations that organize and sustain their deletion. When such organizations begin to take over the most basic functions and powers of the state, it becomes only too clear that ‘NGOs’ are not as ‘NG’ as they might wish us to believe. Indeed, the World Bank baldly refers to what they call BONGOs (Bank-organized NGOs) and now even GONGOs (Government-organized NGOs)”. (Ferguson, 2007, p. 391).
That NGOs serve the purpose of privatizing state functions, is also demonstrated by Schuller (2009) with reference to Haiti. NGOs provide legitimacy to neoliberal globalization by filling in the “gaps” in the state’s social services created by structural adjustment programs (Schuller, 2009, p. 85)—a neoliberal solution to a problem first created by neoliberalism itself. Moreover, in providing high-paying jobs to an educated middle class, NGOs serve to reproduce the global inequalities created by, and required by, neoliberal globalization (Schuller, 2009, p. 85). NGOs also work as “buffers between elites and impoverished masses” and can thus erect or reinforce “institutional barriers against local participation and priority setting” (Schuller, 2009, p. 85).
Thanks to neoliberal structural adjustment, INGOs and other international organizations (such as the UN, IMF, and World Bank) are “eroding the power of African states (and usurping their sovereignty),” and are busy making “end runs around these states” by “directly sponsoring their own programs or interventions via NGOs in a wide range of areas” (Ferguson, 2007, p. 391). INGOs and some local NGOs thus also serve the purposes of neoliberal interventionism.
Trojan Horses: NGOs, Human Rights, and Intervention to “Save” the “Needy”
David Harvey argues that “the rise of advocacy groups and NGOs has, like rights discourses more generally, accompanied the neoliberal turn and increased spectacularly since 1980 or so” (2005, p. 177). NGOs have been called forth, and have been abundantly provisioned as we saw above, in a situation where neoliberal programs have forced the withdrawal of the state away from social welfare. As Harvey puts it, “this amounts to privatization by NGO” (2005, p. 177). NGOs function as the Trojan Horses of global neoliberalism. Following Chandler (2002, p. 89), those NGOs that are oriented toward human rights issues and humanitarian assistance find support “in the growing consensus of support for Western involvement in the internal affairs of the developing world since the 1970s”. Moreover, as Horace Campbell explained,
“During the nineties military journals such as Parameters honed the discussion of the planning for the increased engagement of international NGO’s and by the end of the 20th century the big international NGO’s [like] Care, Catholic Relief Services, Save The Children, World Vision, and Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) were acting like major international corporations doing subcontracting work for the US military”. (Campbell (2014/5/2)
Private military contractors in the US, many of them part of Fortune 500 companies, are indispensable to the US military—and in some cases there are “clear linkages between the ‘development ‘agencies and Wall Street” as perhaps best exemplified by Casals & Associates, Inc., a subsidiary of Dyncorp, a private military contractor that was itself purchased by Cerberus Capital Management for $1.5 billion in 2010, and which received financing commitments from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Barclays, and Deutsche Bank (Campbell (2014/5/2). Casals declares that its work is about “international development,” “democracy and governance,” and various humanitarian aid initiatives, in over 25 countries, in some instances working in partnership with USAID and the State Department’s Office of Transition Initiatives (Campbell (2014/5/2).
In order for NGOs to intervene and take on a more prominent role, something else is required for their work to be carried out, in addition to gaining visibility, attracting funding and support from powerful institutions, and being well placed to capitalize on the opportunities created by neoliberal structural adjustment. They require a “need” for their work. In other words, to have humanitarian action, one must have a needy subject. As Andria Timmer (2010) explains, NGOs overemphasize poverty and stories of discrimination, in order to construct a “needy subject”—a population constructed as a “problem” in need of a “solution”. The needs identified by NGOs may not correspond to the actual needs of the people in question, but need, nonetheless, is the dominant discourse by which those people come to be defined as a “humanitarian project”. To attract funding, and to gain visibility by claiming that its work is necessary, a NGO must have “tales that inspire pathos and encourage people to act” (Timmer, 2010, p. 268). However, in constantly producing images of poverty, despair, hopelessness, and helplessness, NGOs reinforce “an Orientialist dialectic,” especially when these images are loaded with markers of ethnic otherness (Timmer, 2010, p. 269). Entire peoples then come to be known through their poverty, particularly by audiences in the global North who only see particular peoples “through the lens of aid and need” (Timmer, 2010, p. 269). In the process what is also (re)created is the anthropological myth of the helpless object, one devoid of any agency at all, one cast as a void, as a barely animate object through which we define our special subjecthood. By constructing the needy as the effectively empty, we thus monopolize not only agency but we also corner the market on “humanity”.
Anheier, H. K., & Themudo, N. (2005). The Internationalization of the Nonprofit Sector. In R. D. Herman (Ed.), The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management, 2nd ed. (pp. 102–127). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.
How a small country was able to answer the Kremlin propaganda machine
In recent months, the attention of many Europeans has focused on Ukraine, where nine months ago, political stability gave way to economic and social crisis. Reports from the Donetsk region, where the Kiev authorities are trying to suppress a pro-Russian militia, have become commonplace for European newspapers and television channels – the whole world is watching the progress of the military conflict. However, at the same time, on the internet another war has developed – an information war. In Europe, it is of interest only to a narrow circle of specialists, although it is progressing much more rapidly than the armed confrontation in the Donetsk region. Without stopping for a second, it affects a lot more people, and the financial burden of its execution may exceed the costs of Kiev’s anti-terrorist operation. Its features, tools and key players are covered in detail in a confidential report by the German consulting company Mediasoprotivlenie, which has been obtained by this editorial office.
The authors of the document provide detailed analysis of the actions of the Ukrainian side, which has allowed one of the poorest countries in Europe to lead an active propagandistic role in the Russian blogosphere, by using Russian bloggers. The financial assistance provided to Euromaidan by Ukrainian oligarchs and U.S. government funds USAID, NED, IRI and NDI has been of considerable help in backing this goal. Via these channels, organizations have conducted funding to liberal journalists, opposition members and whole parties that are popular in the Russian segment of the Internet. Ukrainian businessmen have entered into a kind of pact to achieve this goal during the political crisis.
The conveyors of Euromaidan’s values in Russia are an already existing network of Internet experts and influential speakers, whose names are also listed in the document. At the same time, the most influential figures in this group are not always known to a wide range of internet users. Thus, the name of Oleg Kozlovsky means little to an ordinary Russian citizen, but it it appears in the report as one of the central elements of the propaganda machine. A small informational note reports that he has been actively cooperating with the IRI fund for several years, and was one of the most important mayoral campaign activists for Alexei Navalny last summer. It reports that his resource Stopfake, which reveals Russian “propaganda,” also received a grant from the American foundation, beating out competitors’ projects. According to experts, the effectiveness Stopfake is at a relatively high level, although in Russia demand for it and its popularity are much lower than in Ukraine. In addition, some “fakes” denounced by the project’s experts are apparently provocations themselves created by Euromaidan activists.
As noted above, in the struggle for a counter-propaganda grant, Kozlovsky outperformed his competitors, and at this point pops up the name of another campaigner for Navalny. Maxim Katz was previously known around the world as a poker enthusiast – he was an active and successful player, and then became a backer who sponsored capable players’ participation in tournaments. However, in 2011 he became interested in politics and he began consistently promoting liberal views and criticism of Russian authorities on his blog. Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, Katz has taken an openly anti-Russian stance, and even for a time ran the Antipropaganda project. Using Katz’s own methodology, it determines the amount of informational distortion in news materials from Russian and foreign media. Antipropaganda’s research results have repeatedly been criticized by pro-Kremlin bloggers – according to its research, Ukrainian journalists did not allow themselves to manipulate the facts while stories in the Russian media studiously avoided the truth. The moment the Russian Federation’s authorities adopted amendments that impose restrictions on anonymous funds transfers, Antipropaganda suddenly closed as quickly as it had opened. Currently the opposition is considering opening a Kiev branch of its urban initiative City Projects, the funding for which is likely to have already been made by European figures.
Another name mentioned by American experts more often than others is Vitaly Shushkevich. This opposition internet technologist makes no secret that he receives funding from the IRI and is a regular at events organized by the foundation in European countries. In March this year he was one of the most aggressive critics of the annexation of Crimea, calling on Ukrainians not to repeat the mistakes of Saakashvili and kill “Russian agents” on the spot. According to information given in the report, Shushkevich is now helping to lead election campaigns of several opposition candidates for the Moscow City Duma.
However, criticism of the government by liberal activists is a rather traditional phenomenon for Russia and does not cause any surprise. What did surprise many was the support for the Ukrainian revolution from the right-wing party Democratic Choice headed by Vladimir Milov. Milov called the burning alive of several dozen pro-Russian demonstrators in Odessa “local resistance in the most vividly illustrated form.” Following this, the politician issued an appeal to the people of Donbass, in which he stated that they were “not Russian” and demanded that they “do not entangle Russia in their internal conflict.” It is noteworthy that one of Milov’s party companions – blogger Stanislav Yakovlev – criticized the liberal opposition and in describing the situation in the Donbass took a consistently pro-Ukrainian side.
According to the information provided in the report, the source of financing of Milov’s political party is structures that are close to the new president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko. This explains the sharp ideological turn taken by the party nine months ago.
The report also notes the extreme effectiveness of the opposition movement’s anonymous, humorous Twitter accounts. Due to the lack of actual control over the system of microblogging and anonymous authors, fighting their posts is practically impossible for the Russian authorities, and Ukrainians are actively taking advantage of this in Russia.
Experts note that the increase in the number of blogs and social media users in Russia to a certain point played into the hands of the liberal public, primarily because the middle class had access to it and they tend to be liberal thinkers. However, in the last few years the main growth in this area has been achieved by the inhabitants of the provinces, among whom are high numbers of supporters of the authorities. This phenomenon significantly changed the balance of opinion in the Russian blogosphere, and, according to experts, the promotion of propaganda among this section of the population is currently the most important task of Ukrainian “agents.”
Posters with portraits of five Cubans jailed in the United States – Rene Gonzalez Sehwerert, Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo, Fernando Gonzalez Llort, Ramon Labanino Salazar and Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez – are dispayed in front of the Cuba’s Consulate during a demonstration in support of Cuban revolution in Sao Pablo, Brazil (AFP Photo / Nelson Almeida)
The plight of five imprisoned Cuban counterterrorism officers, known collectively as the Cuban Five, has been the subject of a growing campaign to lobby Congress in favor of releasing the men.
The five officers were monitoring Cuban exile groups based in Miami with an established track record of orchestrating terrorist acts inside Cuba. The group had informed US authorities of their actions, and were not in possession of any weapons, nor did they engage in any act of espionage against the US or cause harm to any person.
In September 1998, the five officers were arrested by FBI agents and were accused of conspiracy to commit espionage. Their trial, which lasted over six months, became the longest in US history. Though the group was never directly accused of espionage, nor were any acts of espionage committed, the five Cuban men were sentenced to a total of four life sentences plus 77 years.
No fair trial
The men were initially kept in solitary confinement for 17 months, and were later imprisoned in five separate maximum-security prisons spread across the US without the possibility of communication with each other. Their case represents the first time in US history that life sentences were meted out on espionage charges.
The consensus among various legal experts and advocacy groups is that political and partisan considerations worked against justice and the five Cuban men were not given a fair trial. The trial was held in Miami, a region that is synonymous with maintaining open hostility toward the Cuban government, making it incredibly difficult to seat an impartial jury in such a politically charged atmosphere.
According to reports, the US government commissioned several Miami-based journalists to write negative stories to discredit the five defendants, which were widely publicized to influence public opinion. Moreover, the US government even recognized in writing that it was unable to substantiate the conspiracy to commit murder charges against Gerardo Hernandez, one of the five defendants.
During the lengthy appeals process, a three-judge panel in 2005 overturned all of the convictions on the grounds that the defendants had not received a fair trial in Miami, but Washington pressured the Court of Appeals in 2006 to reverse the decision.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also concluded that the imprisonment of the group was arbitrary, and urged the US government to correct the situation. Despite dissenting opinions from judges in the Court of Appeals, the US Supreme Court intervened in 2009 to announce its decision not to review the case of the five Cuban nationals, despite strong arguments made by their defense attorneys. →
Mass consciousness regarding the abuse of power by the U.S. Government, now in the news thanks to Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, has mostly focused on agencies that spy on innocent people using warrantless wiretaps and email intercepts. While these abuses by the National Security Agency and the Department of Justice are sometimes used against US citizens who challenge U.S. policy on such topics as imperial wars and corruption of governance by Wall Street, they are also used against elected U.S. officials, foreign diplomats, and United Nations personnel. As electronic data collection by commercial data brokers and identity theft criminals increasingly becomes a nuisance and menace, communications monitoring by the U.S. Government threatens free speech, peaceful assembly and the ability of civil society to hold government accountable.
Since the 1960s, the abuse of power by U.S. agencies like the FBI and CIA has become common knowledge. Their involvement in undermining the Civil Rights Movement at home and the human rights movement abroad is well-documented. Less well-known is the involvement of the U.S. State Department in the undermining of democracy abroad, through such programs like the National Endowment for Democracy, US Aid for International Development, and the United States Institute of Peace.
Personifying these fraudulent programs operating out of U.S. embassies in places like Bolivia, Libya and the Ukraine, is former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Armitage — who served at the State and Defense departments under George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush — is perhaps best known for leaking the identity of CIA secret agent Valerie Plame as retribution for her husband U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s contribution to the exposure of the fraudulent weapons of mass destruction rationale for the invasion of Iraq. While the yellowcake scandal was overshadowed by the Plame affair, it pointed to the systematic deception used by the State Department to justify overthrowing foreign governments. →
Anti-government protests in Venezuela that seek regime change have been led by several individuals and organizations with close ties to the US government. Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado- two of the public leaders behind the violent protests that started in February – have long histories as collaborators, grantees and agents of Washington. The National Endowment for Democracy “NED” and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have channeled multi-million dollar funding to Lopez’s political parties Primero Justicia and Voluntad Popular, and Machado’s NGO Sumate and her electoral campaigns.
These Washington agencies have also filtered more than $14 million to opposition groups in Venezuela between 2013 and 2014, including funding for their political campaigns in 2013 and for the current anti-government protests in 2014. This continues the pattern of financing from the US government to anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela since 2001, when millions of dollars were given to organizations from so-called “civil society” to execute a coup d’etat against President Chavez in April 2002. After their failure days later, USAID opened an Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) in Caracas to, together with the NED, inject more than $100 million in efforts to undermine the Chavez government and reinforce the opposition during the following 8 years.
At the beginning of 2011, after being publically exposed for its grave violations of Venezuelan law and sovereignty, the OTI closed its doors inVenezuela and USAID operations were transferred to its offices in the US. The flow of money to anti-government groups didn’t stop, despite the enactment by Venezuela’s National Assembly of the Law of Political Sovereignty and NationalSelf-Determination at the end of 2010, which outright prohibits foreign funding of political groups in the country. US agencies and the Venezuelan groups that receive their money continue to violate the law with impunity. In the Obama Administration’s Foreign Operations Budgets, between $5-6 million have been included to fund opposition groups in Venezuela through USAID since 2012. →
Images: The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) unites Latin American and Caribbean peoples against U.S. and European attempts to destroy sovereignty of Latin American nations.
“From Sachs to Kristof to Invisible Children to TED, the fastest growth industry in the US is the White Savior Industrial Complex. The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening. The banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality. The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm. This world exists simply to satisfy the needs – including, importantly, the sentimental needs – of white people and Oprah.” — Teju Cole
Revolution doesn’t always come in the form of a gun nor does enslavement always come by way of man. The 21st century version of colonialism has found a new weapon in NGOs.
In the December 11, 2013 article, Mother Earth in Chains, the author writes: “In the latest development in the struggle over nature and resources in Ecuador, the government, likely at the behest of President Rafael Correa, shut down the office of a highly respected environmental group known as Fundación Pachamama or Mother Earth Foundation last week. The group’s Facebook page now displays their green logo draped in chains.”
Yes, the Fundación Pachamama is chained – with shackles that bind to it to imperial interests.
Fundación Pachamama was set up in 1997 as the Pachamama Alliance (founded in 1995) “sister organization,” situated in Ecuador. [The origins of Pachamama Alliance and Fundación Pachamama are explored in depth later in this investigative report.]
The Pachamama Alliance is a heavily funded U.S. NGO.  Past donors include the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. [Source] 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. [“The Alliance’s main source of support is contributions, gifts and grants from foundations, corporations and individuals”] The Pachamama Alliance was founded in 1995 by Bill Twist, Lynne Twist and John Perkins. Lynne Twist is the co-founder of Pachamama Alliance and the Soul of Money Institute.  Twist is also involved in the “conscious capitalism movement” (as if there could be such a thing).  Lynne Twist serves/has served as: President of the Turning Tide Coalition, member of the Transformational Leadership Council, trustee of the John E. Fetzer Institute, board member of the Global Security Institute, board member of Educating Girls Globally, vice chair of The Institute of Noetic Sciences and board member of the Kudirat Institute for Nigerian Democracy (KIND).
In more irony, the KIND site highlights Obama rhetoric: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek. — Barack Obama” Yet, Nigeria’s problem is the west. It is U.S. imperialism: “The profits of Big Oil in West Africa, which now supplies nearly a fifth of US oil imports, has [sic] and continue to poison millions of Africans. It has turned their crops, their waters, their environment and even their children into sacrifices on the altar of corporate profit. And this horrendous price is only to bring the oil out of the ground and onto the world market, not the cost of burning it and adding its carbon to the atmosphere, but costs which are also paid by someone other than Big Oil. The long term survival of West Africa, and of humanity will only be ensured when we stop paying the homicidal and ecocidal cost of Big Oil. We believe that day is coming.” [As Gas Fires Burn, Devastated Nigeria Pays Horrific Price to Ensure Profits of Big Oil, February 7, 2012.] One thing is certain. There will be no democracy for Nigeria as long as foreign interests are present on Nigerian soil.
Twist asserts that scarcity is a myth, a product of culture. She writes: “Scarcity is a lie. Independent of any actual amount of resources, it is an unexamined and false system of assumptions, opinions, and beliefs from which we view the world as a place where we are in constant danger of having our needs unmet.”
Image: “Abundance is a fact of nature. It is a fundamental law of nature, that there is enough and it is infinite.” — Lynne Twist
Twist, whose roots lie in “The Hunger Project,” has been criticized for focusing on mindset above actually giving out food. [“As Mother Jones reported in December 1978 (Let Them Eat EST), the group had no intention of actually feeding the starving, just raising “awareness” of hunger – and est.] Twist never states that physical aid is unnecessary, only that we should try to understand the non-physical roots of poverty, a large component of which is the accepted belief in scarcity. [Source: Soul of Money Book Review] Twist believes that scarcity is more closely related to the belief that humans have limited their ability to think beyond the present, rather than lack of abundance of Nature’s resources. Although Twist may be correct to a degree, Twist’s solution appears to lie almost entirely within the mind: change the mind and reality changes.
Founder and board member John Perkins is perhaps most well-known as the “reformed” economic hit man with a newly found conscience. As Chief Economist at a major international consulting firm, John Perkins advised the World Bank, United Nations, IMF, U.S. Treasury Department, Fortune 500 corporations, and countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Arab/Islamic Regions. He worked directly with heads of state and CEOs of major companies. His books on economics and geo-politics have sold more than 1 million copies, spent many months on the New York Times and other bestseller lists, and are published in over 30 languages. [Source]
In his best-selling book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Perkins describes economic hit men as “highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources.
Imperialism and the globalization of neoliberalism have long been the iron fist that dictates both power and influence. But today there is a third way – a kinder, gentler, more beguiling way. Clandestine operations of the past are no longer necessary in our Brave New World. Most all manipulations can now be overt under the newest fifth column: the NGO.
“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.” — Jay Taber, Through the Looking Glass, September 11, 2012
Perkins is also founder and board member of Dream Change (with Eve Bruce) where Obama is featured under the banner the “champion of change” on the home page. Under the “Resources” section we find websites for applications (“buycott”), shopping and media. Under projects we find “Perma-Corporations.” [“Only when a corporation makes all of its decisions in a holistic way, valuing all ecological and societal systems in the highest regards, and considering their impacts on the entire global ecosystem, can a corporation truly be considered a perma-corp.”]
To his credit, there are subtle signs that Perkins (now appearing to be very spiritual) is simply incredibly naive when it comes to the true machinations of the non-profit industrial complex. Although such naiveté is not impossible, it certainly would be incredulous. In a video published February 1, 2013 (by Ecotrust), Perkins is incredibly forward in his assessment of Correa and in the daunting pressures that Correa must face daily. In the video, Perkins makes reference to Ecuadorian President Jaime Roldós Aguilera who was assassinated by US agents for opposing the interests of the owners of their countries’ foreign debt. It is doubtful that we will find this video highlighted on the Pachamama Alliance or Avaaz homepage anytime soon. Rather, it can be found on the very bottom of a page on the Pachamama Alliance website: “Analysis on Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, oil, and Rights of Nature from author and Pachamama board member John Perkins.” (The video has garnered 0 views this week and 748 views in total as of April 24, 2014.
Also to his credit, Perkins shares some unpopular truths that would neither be admitted nor disseminated by any NGO: “Knowing the part I had played in destroying this beautiful country was once again taking its toll. Because of my fellow EHMs [economic hit men] and me, Ecuador is in far worse shape today than she was before we introduced her to the miracles of modern economics, banking, and engineering. Since 1970, during this period known euphemistically as the Oil Boom, the official poverty level grew from 50 to 70 percent, under- or unemployment increased from 15 to 70 percent, and public debt increased from $240 million to $16 billion. Meanwhile, the share of national resources allocated to the poorest segments of the population declined from 20 to 6 percent.”
Although Perkins may be correct that “widespread international resistance to this wanton waste of the rainforest is growing vehemently,” he fails to mention the fact that the “wanton waste of the rainforest” is a direct result of the industrialized capitalist system and insatiable consumption by the West. There is no widespread international campaign for voluntary austerity/mobilization for Annex 1 Nations, for the 1% creating 50% of the global GHG emissions. It’s all too easy for the privileged to place the blame on the Ecuadorian Government alone as they plan their next vacation while sipping on Starfucks lattes.
Pachamama Alliance/Foundation campaigns and alliances (Awakening the Dreamer, Soul of Money Institute, Bioneers, UpToUs, Generation Waking Up, Four Years. Go) are lauded by author and spiritual guru Paul Hawken  (founder of Natural Capital Institute, which was renamed WiserEarth as of January 1, 2011, and Highwater Research LLC / HighwaterGlobal Fund) who believes the Pachamama Alliance is “the most important single NGO in the world right now.” (November 2008 Pachamama Fundraising Luncheon) Hawken is also a “very special friend and advisor of Pachamama.” [Source]
“New Age spirituality would seem to be a strong candidate for the future of religion because its individualistic consumeristic ethos fits well with the spirit of the age.” — Steve Bruce, 2006
Dream Change, Awakening the Dreamer, Soul of Money, Thrive Pioneers, are part and parcel of a growing New Age Environmentalism network with fairly subtle cult-like undertones. This movement, building on a foundation of “capitalist spirituality,” is a separate subject on its own and is currently being explored and deconstructed by Michael Barker, who writes: “Unfortunately, such magical thinking tends to flourish in times of dire economic crisis, and so one can only hope that concerned individuals who value the principles of the Enlightenment will continue to step forward to vigorously refute Hawken and his ilk’s widely disseminated nonsense.”
“…[I]t is imperative to analyze NGOs’ complicity with capital and coloniality, especially in the current global crisis of neoliberalism. Perhaps most innovative is the argument … that NGOs are not external to state, market or society. Rather, in the early twenty-first century, they have come to constitute ‘one more institutional form through which class relations are being contested and reworked.'” — Sonia E. Alvarez, Leonard J. Horwitz Professor of Latin American Politics and Society, in a review of NGO-ization: Complicity, Contradictions and Prospects, by A. Choudry and D. Kapoor
The Origin of Pachamama Alliance: Ecotourism
“[C]ultural capital of travel manifests itself through the contribution [that] independent travel brings to the forging of a ‘planetary consciousness’ – the global bourgeois subjectivity launched during the era of exploration to fit the new stage of global capital expansion (Pratt, 2002:9). Thus, to the extent that cultural capital plays a role in travel it is mostly because of the ability of Western travelers to capitalize the embodied components of cultural capital: racial, sexual, religious and linguistic differences thus become the ultimate objects of desire.” [Source]
Fundación Pachamama was set up in 1997 as the Pachamama Alliance (founded in 1995) “sister organization,” situated in Ecuador.
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.
The exclusive tourism development was to be located in pristine Indigenous territory in Ecuador.  The development was conceptualized in 1990 by Carlos Pérez Perasso (now deceased), Ecuadorean newspaper mogul/heir (El Universo) and founder of the tour operator Canodros SA, along with Daniel Koupermann, Amazon guide (at EcoTrek, later to be an executive at Canodros) and Pachamama co-founder. 
When Carlos Pérez Perasso died (in 2002), his son, César Pérez Barriga assumed responsibility as President of Canodros, as well as for fulfilling the promise of developing Hotel Kapawi and positioning it in the international tourism market.
El Universo is the oldest and one of the most powerful newspapers in Ecuador, representing one of the most conservative economic forces in the country. Its editorial writers are active supporters of the neoliberal policies of the right-wing political parties (i.e., Partido Social Cristiano and Partido Roldosista Ecuatoriano). Of all coastal newspapers in Ecuador, El Universo enjoys the support of the most traditional and elite members of the coastal oligarchy. [Source: Making Ecuadorian Histories: Four Centuries of Defining Power, 2010]
Upon the death of Carlos Pérez Perasso in 2002, El Universo was taken over by his sons: Carlos Pérez Barriga (director), César Pérez Barriga (bequested the role of president of Canodros) and Nicolás Pérez Lapentti (both César and Nicolás as deputy directors).
On February 16, 2012 Ecuador’s Supreme Court upheld a sentence against El Universo, rejecting an appeal filed by the newspaper, as well as upholding a three-year prison sentence against Carlos Pérez Perasso’s sons, including a fine of $40 million for libel against President Correa. (Correa sued El Universo owners/directors along with Emilio Palacio, a former columnist of the newspaper and author of an El Universo opinion piece “No to the lies,” in which he called Correa a “dictator” and held him responsible for the deaths of civilians during the attempted coup on September 30, 2010.) 
Also on February 16, 2012, shortly after the sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court, Panama granted asylum to Carlos Pérez Barriga. (Correa: “We’re surprised… because these men are not politically persecuted but common convicted criminals.”) César Pérez Barriga, Nicolás Pérez Lapentti (who has US nationality) and Emilio Palacio had already taken up residence in Miami.
On February 27, 2012, President Correa pardoned these three executives and the journalist Palacio from the newspaper El Universo, along with two authors who also lost a separate libel suit. Correa also referenced El Universo in his LETTER TO MY PEOPLE, OUR AMERICA, AND THE WORLD, stating “We must learn from the present and history, to fight for a real social communication in which private businesses are the exception and not the rule, where freedom of speech is the right of all and not a privilege for the oligarchies that inherited a printing press and put it in shell companies in the Cayman Islands.”
It is critical to note the history and ideologies of El Universo, because between Carlos Pérez Perasso and his son, César Pérez Barriga, they have upheld a two-decade-plus influence upon the Achuar communities, developed through the Kapawi ecotourism development/partnership and very exclusive relationship that commenced in 1990 and continues to this day. It is doubtful that the ideologies espoused by the powerful Pérez family have been beneficial to building any kind of a reciprocal/respectful relationship between the Indigenous Peoples and the state.
“[T]he overall effect of sustainable tourism is negative, where, like ecotourism, philanthropic aspirations mask hard-nosed immediate self-interest.” — Stabler, M.J. (eds.) Tourism and Sustainability: Principles to Practice
“The practice of eco-tourism development is a political-economic fantasy in which the violent capacities of transnational capitalism are denied and confirmed; capitalist authoritarianism is excused as backward yet re-established in seemingly decentralized forms; and the rapacious destruction of nature and genocidal destruction of the colonized is repressed from memory as it returns in the dislocations of a market-driven conservationism.” — Managing the Other of Nature: Sustainability, Spectacle, and Global Regimes of Capital in Ecotourism [Source]
In 1993, under the auspices of Canodros, a contract with FINAE (Federación Interprovincial de Nacionalidades Achuar del Ecuador) was signed after much negotiation. [Created in 1991, FINAE comprised eight Achuar associations, which altogether represented 58 Achuar communities of 5,000 people in an area of 7,000 square kilometers.]
The development was financed largely by a USAID loan of US$1.9 million.
The Kapawi ecotourism development (referred to as The Kapawi Ecolodge and Reserve; also referred to as Kapawi Ecological Reserve) would debut as the highest capital investment in the Ecuadorian Amazon, opening for business in April of 1996. One hundred and fifty Achuar contributed their labor to build the Kapawi lodge over a full two-year period.
Other similar projects in Latin America were simultaneously being developed under the marketing of a very vogue, ecotourism niche including Chalalán (1992, Madidi National Park, Bolivia) and Posada Amazonas (1996, southeastern Peru). All sparked intense interest from such divergent groups as the World Bank, the Japanese government and corporate NGOs like Conservation International (CI). Culture, as capital, would be commodified under the guise of eco tourism. Kapawi, a “social experiment” , would serve as the ultimate model in the 20th century commodification of cultural capital. Posada partnered with Rainforest Expeditions (financing for construction and set-up of the lodge was obtained from the Peru-Canada fund) while Chalalán was a project of Conservation International. (“CI received grant funding from the Multilateral Investment Fund, an affiliate of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), to begin the project.”)
“Some NGOs act as facilitators between other players in the ecotourism context, e.g., communities and the tourism industry, and protected area managers and communities. This role is a particularly valuable one since NGOs are frequently seen as neutral players among competing interests that have had difficulty collaborating before.” — Ecotourism Development: A Manual for Conservation Planners and Managers, The Nature Conservancy / USAID, Volume 1, 2002
The primary purpose of what was to become known as the Pachamama Alliance for the Kapawi development was to “bring down ‘purposeful’ tourists and enhance their role as partners with the Achuar” and to “provide access to technical expertise and funding to support them with the design and implementation of a variety of projects.” [Source: Kapawi Lodge: A Model of Local Participation & Sustainable Ecotourism in Ecuador, 1999] [“Both parties, Canodros and the Achuar, view the Pachamama Alliance as a third, informal partner to the agreement.”]
Shared similarities among these projects are the framing of the projects: conceptualized and sought out by the Indigenous peoples, rather than by tour operators, interests of capital, carbon hunters, etc. … isolated tribes and shamans (with little to no contact with the outside world) seeking foreign assistance with outsiders, and corporate NGOs miraculously responding to the “calls.” Note the similar framing/language on the Conservation International webpage:
“The Chalalán Ecolodge is a joint ecotourism initiative of the community of San José de Uchupiamonas and CI. In 1992, a visionary group of San José villagers realized that they needed an economic alternative…. Eager to improve their livelihood, community leaders sought out CI’s assistance in pursuing ecotourism. CI was receptive to the idea of using ecotourism as a tool to link biodiversity conservation with community development. Thus, CI set out to convince Bolivian authorities of the economic value of protecting and keeping Madidi’s forests intact. In 1995, CI received grant funding from the Multilateral Investment Fund, an affiliate of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), to begin the project. With grant funds from IDB and technical assistance from CI, 70 families volunteered at least 20 days of labor to build the ecolodge….”
The corporate prowess of many conservation NGOs cannot be overstated. As an example, Conservation International corporate partners include several polluting industries such as ArcelorMittal, Barrick Gold, BP Foundation, Cargill, Chevron, Coca-Cola, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, Monsanto, Newmont Mining Corporation, Rio Tinto, Shell, Toyota Motor Corporation, Walmart, among many others. [Source: Some Key REDD+ Players]
The common business approach that suppresses any/all outcry against accusations of colonialism and exploitation is that all of these “eco-tourism” developments are co-owned and/or eventually owned in full, by the Indigenous communities. As an example, Kapawi was to be given entirely to the Achuar in the year 2011. By that time, Canodros would fulfill a contract to pay the Achuar $664,959 in rent (a rate later renegotiated/increased), and $150,000 in accumulated tourist fees to the Achuar ($10.00 per tourist).
Initially, the task was not easy (1992). Members of the Achuar community where the project would settle feared running out of land and were reluctant to start the construction of the grand hotel. After a year of discussions and difficult negotiations between representatives of Canadros (operator of tourism) and representatives of the Achuar people, a green light was given to the project in 1993…. With the building of the hotel and the jobs that were created, the Achuar community abandoned its subsistence economy (shifting cultivation, hunting, fishing and barter provided most resources) to consolidate the monetary economy. — April 13, 2008, The Achuar work hard for your business [translated from the Spanish]
One must note that although a main theme for the “reaching out” by the Indigenous to Pachamama is oil development, according to a World Bank resource document, written by Nature Conservancy in partnership with USAID, “logging, oil exploitation and intensive agricultural projects had not been developed in the area when the Kapawi project was initiated in 1994 (Koupermann, 1997). However, the Achuar had started to change their way of life over the last 20 years, as a result of the influence of missionaries, the government, and interaction with other cultures….” Further, a 1999 document cites an interview with Pachamama co-founder Bill Twist who stated that the Achuar territory was specifically selected/sought after (by Koupermann) precisely because it was NOT under threat of oil exploration. [“Daniel wanted an area completely remote and not under threat of oil exploration.” [Source]
Ample documents clarify that it was Dan Koupermann who requested of John Perkins that a group of “purposeful tourists” be brought to discuss the Kapawi development. It is not clear, however, how the relationship developed between Koupermann and Perkins, or, if the request for the assistance of John Perkins was directed by Pérez of Conodros, the newspaper heir/deputy director of El Universal. It is a question worth asking considering John Perkins served as an instrumental “economic” hit man. [“According to Perkins, he began writing Confessions of an Economic Hit Man in the 1980s, but ‘threats or bribes always convinced [him] to stop.’ According to his book, Perkins’ function was to convince the political and financial leadership of underdeveloped countries to accept enormous development loans from institutions like the World Bank and USAID. Saddled with debts they could not hope to pay, those countries were forced to acquiesce to political pressure from the United States on a variety of issues.” Source]
It is worth remembering Rousseau’s quote “Men are born free, but everywhere they are in chains,” recognizing that prior to the “invasion” of missionaries and non-profits on Achuar territory, the Achuar would have been among the very, very few people on the entire Earth’s surface that were the true exception to Rousseau’s prophetic words.
Video: The white savior industrial complex meets the global industrialized capitalist system: [Running time: 2:21. Created by Oren Ginzburg and narrated by David Mitchell for Survival International] 
We need to remind ourselves that the institutional concept of partnership is founded first and foremost on what can be acquired – not simply on what can be given. If it were not for the pursuit of monetary accumulation, or accumulation of capital, there would be no interest in such institutional partnerships whatsoever.
Like today’s false solutions such as bio-fuel and the “green economy,” ecotourism (under the guise of sustainable development) has provided/provides a sophisticated esthetic and appeasing discourse to modern-day free-market environmentalists capitalists. Via such “solutions,” the non-profit industrial complex, led by brilliant marketing squads, has succeeded in creating a solid, almost impenetrable, public discourse on environmental solutions. Reinforcing, legitimizing and accelerating further creation and expansion of markets and capital are wholly embraced as the key solution to collapsing ecosystems of unprecedented scale.
The Kapawi development is discussed at length further in this investigative report.
It is critical to point out that all the ecotourism schemes above share a common denominator – swaths of pristine forest ripe for certification schemes and environmental markets. The communities to which the corporate NGOS extend their “expertise” and “generosity” are not impoverished communities or barrios in or outside of cities, they are the world’s last sustainable peoples, who, most, until very recently, had no need or want for money, nor outsiders.
In this quote by co-founder John Perkins, it is clear that there is no distinction between Pachamama Alliance and Pachamama Foundation. (As well, it is difficult not to notice in the following quote that Perkins “doth protest too much” – to put it mildly….)
“This is an outrage! The Pachamama Alliance organization, that I co-founded in 1995, has been brutally and violently attacked by the Ecuadorian government because of pressure from international oil companies and the corporatocracy.” — John Perkins [Source]
In 2005, David Tucker, Executive Director of Pachamama Alliance, was trained by the elite Rockwood Institute.  Pachamama Alliance’s Yeshi Neumann (Consultant – Principle Educator) “trains social change leaders from the non-profit, philanthropic, labor and socially responsible business sectors in the Art of Leadership at Rockwood Leadership Institute.” Rockwood Institute is financed by NoVo Foundation (via Warren Buffett), George Soros’s Open Society Institute, the Ford Foundation, and many others institutions of hegemony.
The closure of Fundación Pachamama, a U.S. non-governmental organization (NGO) operating in Ecuador, could be aptly described as a sovereign state breaking a significant link in the chain of imperialism, enslavement and indoctrination of Western ideologies.
The closure of Fundación Pachamama could also be described as an example of protecting one’s own country and her people from destabilizations and coups – a constant threat that the Western mindset refuses to acknowledge.
“Of all our studies, it is history that is best qualified to reward our research.” — Malcolm X
It is of little surprise that this news of the closure was first reported by Wall Street Journal. Another nod to history repeating itself, this announcement by the Journal demonstrates that the yellow journalism of William Randolph Hearst is alive and well. The rallying cry of “Remember the Maine” has been replaced by any effective means of sloganeering to seduce a jingoistic Western citizenry to partake in a global demonization campaign. The behavioral economics of hatred creates a collective acquiescence that can lend itself to a possible war effort at worst or economic sanctions at best. It has never taken much hoodwinking to give Americans a rationale for not only commandeering resources, but destroying everything in their wake. The only difference between then and now is that we do not have one hundred years to change the historical discourse regarding the truth, since the sophisticated machinations today are much more serious and the outcome much more destructive – to not just a segment of the population, but the human species itself.
Pachamama Alliance co-founder/CEO Bill Twist continues to “guide the work in Ecuador” through their “sister organization,” Pachamama Foundation (or Fundación Pachamama), which has forged a strong relationship with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as an official monitor of UNDP investment in the Amazon region (i.e., carbon market mechanisms, false solutions, climate colonialism).
“USAID, NED, NDI and other US agencies operate multimillion-dollar programs in Ecuador to fund and train political parties, organizations and programs that promote US agenda throughout the country. During both the 2002 coup in Venezuela against President Hugo Chavez and the 2009 coup against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, groups perpetuating the destabilization received US funding and support.” — Eva Golinger, October 7, 2010 Ecuador: What Really Happened
The Pachamama Foundation is also a partner of USAID-WCS (U.S. Agency for International Development – Wildlife Conservation Society) [Source: Report: USAID-WCS “Integrated Management of Indigenous Lands”] 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).
Throughout Latin America, USAID has earned the reputation of an organization whose offices are, in fact, intelligence centers scheming to undermine legitimate governments. Further, USAID is known to have contributed to the recent failed coup in Ecuador, during which President Correa narrowly escaped an assassination attempt.   It is critical to point out that strong relationships with communities are very much encouraged by foundations. Building credibility, legitimacy and loyalty is a vital component of foundation funding. Building alliances in communities is integral to the success of imperial interests. Where divisions do exist in the community, or the state as a whole, they are exploited, honed and sharpened. Where divisions do not exist, they are created.
One only has to look at the @PachamamaOrg twitter account to recognize that this organization does not rely on the guidance of Indigenous peoples nor do they promote Indigenous ideologies and wisdom. Rather, for the most part they “follow” white neoliberals, thus promote neoliberal ideologies/policy under the guise of “spiritual capitalism.” Note that Al Gore of Generation Investment Management and Generation Foundation is their second “follow.”
An inconvenient truth arises when one learns that Gore, with partner/co-founder David Blood (from Goldman Sachs) is focused on “environmental markets” and “sustainable capitalism” (more pleasant euphemisms for the commodification of the commons). The U.S. NGO, Amazon Watch (Rockefeller and Ford are just two of its financiers) follows shortly thereafter at number 5.
“Only when one recognizes the manner by which capitalist elites proactively manipulate civil society and co-opt agents of progressive social change can progressive citizens present an effective challenge to elite domination. This challenge will involve undermining the legitimacy of all aspects of elite power, most especially in those areas which are least understood, like that of liberal philanthropy.” — Michael Barker
The most vital role of the non-profit industrial complex in the 21st century is to implement behavioral change amongst the global populace. More precisely, at this time, it’s to create a populace that will acquiesce to an illusory “green economy” – meaning the commodification of Earth’s final remaining resources – under the guise of environmental stewardship. The corporate capture of Earth’s natural commons will represent the greatest, and most cunning, coup d’état in the history of corporate dominance – a fait accompli extraordinaire of unparalleled scale. With unparalleled repercussions for humanity and all life.
The popularity of the individual (e.g., Gore) or the group (e.g., 350.org) is the determining factor in whether something is socially acceptable. NGOs are viewed as good or irrelevant depending on the popularity of their particular leaders, as determined by the number of “followers” he or she may have in social media. This is merely the continuation of Western global structures that were honed at the domestic level, such as the Freedmen’s Bureau for freed slaves or the Dawes Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes in the U.S., now being carried over to the international level.
There is not only no inclusion of the Indigenous in the decisions, but the question is never raised as to whether or not it should be ENTIRELY up to Indigenous populations to decide whether to have their resources disturbed at all. This would be self-determination, which is the 2000-pound elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss. Leaving rights with the Indigenous and their land base is anathema to the West today, just as it was yesterday.
White Savior Industrial Complex
Photo: Lynn Twist Gallery: The Soul of Money Institute
“The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.” — Teju Cole
Charity Navigator shows the CEO of Pachamama Alliance, Basil Twist (son of founders Bill and Lynn Twist) earned $102,475 in 2011, not including travel, consultation, etc. However, this is somewhat paltry for the white savior industry, considering Ricken Patel, co-founder of Avaaz pulls in almost $190,000, not including travel, expenses and consulting. Yet, in the elite non-profit industrial complex even Patel’s income is paltry compared to Frances Beinecke, CEO of Natural Resources Defense Council at $376,317.00; CEO Mark Terek of the Nature Conservancy at $561,278.00; CEO Frederic D. Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund at $433,510.00; CEO Carter S. Roberts of WWF at 495,806; and CEO Steven E. Sanderson, of aforementioned Wildlife Conservation Society (USAID partner) topping the chart at $1,015,701 in compensation (Source). “Saving” the planet (for capitalists) is big business.
Pachamama Alliance is infamous for its annual lavish luncheons and symposiums sponsored by Pacific Gas and Electric Company/PG&E Corporation and other corporate entities. The company e2k has produced the annual luncheon for the Pachamama Alliance for more than five years. In 2011, the form 990 reports that $96,875.00 was paid by Pachamama Alliance to e2k, which is owned by Michael Olmstead, who serves as a director of Pachamama Alliance. In 2012, “the Government of Botswana and Conservation International co-hosted the Summit for Sustainability in Africa, bringing together African heads of state and leaders from the private and independent sectors in a focused effort to explore how understanding, valuing and managing Africa’s natural capital can secure its future. e2k and Events for Change worked with Chris Wayne & Associates to produce this important gathering of African heads of state. The Summit immediately preceded the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, just a month later.” [Source]
The “white savior industry” is itself an oxymoron, as these NGOs actually endanger the citizens’ lives in most every country they enter – in this instance, all Ecuadorians. This is much like the original white savior industry: the missionary system that was used to save the “wretched souls of the savage native.” This absolved the European from guilt since he was doing God’s work. Thus, genocide and its accompanying depopulation and cultural destruction was righteous. Of course, resource accumulation as a natural byproduct of the “saving” performed by these self-described saviors was mere happenstance. In the same way that the missionary system was supported by the state as a means of making the way for industry, NGOs are the refined apparatus supported by the state as an initial intermediary toward the ultimate goal, which is global economic domination.
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.
So the question as to why we defend the modern day missionary must be asked. It appears that the conditioning/acceptance of white paternalism has been driven so deep into our collective psyche that we no longer recognize it. The early day missionaries enforced the belief of an illusory, fair haired Jesus with turquoise eyes. Today’s modern day missionaries force the belief of illusory carbon markets, sustainable tourism and Western ideologies. The liberal left cries “Correa is bad!” Is it acceptable to allow NGOs with well-established ties to western influence and hegemonic interests to set up house in states we do not like? Why? Because we are white and we say so? Euro-Americans have largely acquiesced to the rape and pillage of an entire planet, now passing planetary boundaries – surely we are in no position to lend advice.
A simple and logical question is why any US NGO needs to work outside of the most fucked up state on the planet – a police state quickly turning fascist … a pathological state that leads in the steady eradication of the Earth via insatiable consumptive patterns and addictions, creating perpetual illegal wars and occupations for plunder. Any sane American can understand there is no need to criticize elsewhere when you live within the most dangerous state on the planet. People in glass houses best not throw stones.
The fact that the Pachamama Alliance expresses outrage by the closure of Fundación Pachamama in Ecuador is yet another glaring example of how white privilege expects non-whites to not only bow down to their demands, but for all Euro-Americans of privilege to join them in their outrage. How dare “brown” leaders dispose of this “elite” organization! How dare their ties to white “expertise” not be respected! It never crosses their indoctrinated and commodified minds that it is they, themselves, that have everything to learn from the Indigenous – in a real sense, not in a branding or marketing exercise and self-serving alleviation of white guilt sense.
The Powerful of Marketing and Brand
Pachamama Alliance is a TckTckTck partner. TckTckTck was created by Havas Advertising, United Nations, and the world’s most powerful corporations. In 2010, the non-profit industrial complex, under the umbrella of TckTckTck, grossly and deliberately undermined the most powerful positions on climate change put forward at COP15 (the 15th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), led by the State of Bolivia, G77 and ALBA. Thus, TckTckTck groups were vital in securing current power structures – a certain path to oblivion for humanity and all life. At times a Venn diagram is needed to show the different characters and groups that are used as a tool of Western imperialism, but at the heart of all the connections is capitalism itself.
Prior to COP15, in March 2010, the Pachamama Alliance launched the “Four Years. Go,” campaign. A global communications and commitment brought to fruition by the Pachamama Alliance with Wieden + Kennedy (the world’s largest independent advertising agency network). This represents yet another campaign that serves to shift all focus from the root causes of climate change to the individual (“consumer”), thus protecting the industrialized capitalist economic system. Hundreds of allied organizations worked in unison to spread this campaign globally. The two other Pachamama Alliance campaigns of focus at present are Generation Waking Up and Jungle Mamas (the three campaigns together having received $924,599.00 in 2011 as reported in the form 990).
Such NGOs of hegemony are manipulative. They serve to implement the neoliberal policies sought by the elites that finance them via foundation funding. Don’t be fooled. They are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem – a massive and very integral part. The NGOs (financed to the tune of billions of dollars annually) within the non-profit industrial complex are the cement wall between society and the radical systemic change so urgently needed.
 “The Hawken-connection is pertinent to this article because although he has authored a number of pioneering books on green capitalism, what is less well-known is the topic of Hawken’s first book, The Magic of Findhorn (Souvenir Press, 1975), which explored the role that angels can fulfill in revising humankind’s destructive relationship with planet Earth. This book accomplished this stunning feat by eulogizing the early history of the Scottish-based Findhorn Community, a group that presently describes itself as ‘a spiritual community, ecovillage and an international centre for holistic education, helping to unfold a new human consciousness and create a positive and sustainable future.'” [Source]
 “Contract with the FINAE was signed in 1993, construction on the lodge began in ’94, and by mid ’95 Daniel Koupermann asked a group of ‘purposeful tourists’ to come down and help organize support for the project. Among the first group were Lynne and Bill Twist, who became the founders of non-profit NGO, The Pachamama Alliance, which established a partnership with the Achuar (Bill Twist 1999). Construction was completed in ’96 and began operation in April of that year.” [Source]
 “Our Guide Daniel Koupermann, is the Ecuadorian co-founder of the Pachamama Alliance and Fundacion Pachamama, where he’s currently board Vice-President. He, along with his longtime friend and colleague, John Perkins, organized and guided Pachamama’s founding trip to the Achuar territory in 1995. Daniel is also the founding visionary of the acclaimed Kapawi Lodge, in partnership with the Achuar.” [Source]
 In Ecuador, Correa was briefly taken hostage inside a police hospital by rebellious police in 2010. Correa later won a libel suit against El Universo, one of Ecuador’s largest newspapers, for running an op-ed that called him a “dictator” who was guilty of “crimes against humanity” for having ordered an assault on “innocent civilians” to break him out of the hospital. Would such an op-ed in a very high profile outlet appear in Canada under similar circumstances? Judging by the Canadian corporate media’s hostility to non-violent student protestors in Quebec, I think we can safely assume that high profile corporate pundits would not libel a Prime Minster who had been taken hostage by armed students. [Source]
 Paper: Community-Based Ecotourism in Ecuador and Its Contribution to the Alleviation of Poverty
”Some groups, such as Survival International, the London Mining Network and Intercontinental Cry, manage to keep involvement at arm’s length while trying their best to keep news channels open and information as objective as possible. Survival’s work as an advocacy group is most definitely via mainstream channels, and often using symbolic methods. In contrast to this, a glance at their website makes it horrifically clear where work is needed protecting some of the last remaining pure communities and also those that are seeking to re-assert their independence. That should be the motivation. Direct and relentless, if non-lethal, attacks on those parties carrying out such abominations seems perfectly justified; although in truth, unless the root causes, i.e. industrial civilization and its market forces, are undermined as well, then such point efforts will seem like pissing in the wind.” [Source: Underminers]