How the US sabotages democracy abroad

By Val Reynoso

Bolivia and Chile differ significantly in their historical relations with the United States and its enemies. These differences are caused by the neoliberal economic system and the legacies from the Pinochet era Chile has, as well as the exiting from world banks, centering of Indigenous issues and redistribution of wealth Bolivia has acted on.

Bolivia has an anti-imperialist stance in terms of relations with regional countries and the U.S. especially given the history of U.S. involvement in said regions. Declassified documents acquired by investigators Jeremy Bigwood and Eva Golinger under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has allotted over US$97 million since 2002 in decentralization of regional autonomy projects and opposition political parties in Bolivia that are typically upheld by Eastern Bolivian regional governments.

The USAID program in Bolivia began following the USAID founding of an Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI) in Bolivia in 2004. The OTIs are a subsection of USAID dedicated to providing immediate response teams to political crises within nations of strategic significance to the U.S. and only provides political issues despite the USAID being dedicated to what they define as humanitarian aid and development assistance.

OTIs also function as intelligence agencies due to their discretion and issuing of large contracts with U.S. companies, to run temporary offices in nations where OTI have to allocate millions of dollars to their political parties and NGOs that are allied with the U.S.
According to the leaked documents, the main goal of the USAID was to split Bolivia into two republics—one that would be Indigenous-governed and the other run by white and mixed Bolivians who mostly reside in areas abundant in natural resources such as gas and water. In addition to the general Bolivia program funding provided by the USAID, OTI also had an extra budget of US$13.3 million after 2007, the same year that OTI was integrated into the USAID/Bolivia’s Democracy Program. This program serves the purpose of providing resources to strengthening separatist projects in the country.

In 2007, US$1.25 million was invested in training political party members on current political and electoral processes, such as the constituent assembly and the autonomy referendum. These separatist projects backed by USAID have motivated and influenced destabilization activities in Bolivia, including USAID interventions in electoral processes, increased anti-indigenous violence and assassination attempts against Evo Morales.


Another declassified document explicates the need to provide more support to USAID and Embassy indigenous interns with the aspiration to construct a network of pro-U.S. State Department advocates. Even Morales has shed light on the corruption of several opposition groups in Bolivia, in a statement he made on the private television channel ATB, saying that the anti-referendum campaign was funded by the U.S. government. Morales furthered that the Bolivian opposition keeps regular contact with the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI) and that the U.S. Embassy suggests Bolivian opposition not make public appearances during the campaign so that it may seem like Morales’ rejection came from the public.

In addition to denouncing the U.S. and its involvement in the region, Morales has also voiced support for regional allies Cuba and Venezuela, given that he denounced U.S. sanctions on Venezuela as imperialist and as a “financial blow.” He also sought to further strengthen ties with Cuba following a meeting with First Deputy President of Cuba Miguel Diaz-Canel last year.

On the other hand, Chile has had more amiable relations with the U.S. post-Allende, which contrasts greatly with the explicit anti-imperialist stance Bolivia has under the Morales administration.

On September 11th, 1973, the U.S.-backed Chilean armed forces launched air and ground strikes against the presidential palace and assassinated democratically elected, socialist, former Chilean president Dr. Salvador Allende. Following the military coup, thousands of Chileans were tortured, hundreds of thousands of others sought refuge in other countries, and the Chilean democratic institutions were fundamentally destroyed.
General Augusto Pinochet was the fascist coup leader who maintained the military dictatorship for 17 years. Pinochet’s legacy consists of one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the world that has not drastically improved to this day, expensive higher education that has resulted in a student debt crisis in modern Chile, a large military budget in which 10 percent of annual Chilean copper exports are used to fund the armed forces and has yet to be reformed today, and the Chilean Constitution from which several other laws in contemporary Chile are stemmed from.

The crucial role 
of the U.S. State Department in the military coup that installed Pinochet is no secret, given that in April 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted that it is not a part of U.S. history that the U.S. is proud of, despite him following that statement by blaming the military coup on the Cold War and Allende’s socialist beliefs.
Likewise, in a private conversation with Pinochet on June 8, 1976, Henry Kissinger stated “In the U.S., as you know, we are sympathetic with what you are trying to do here…We want to help, not undermine you.” In addition to this, the Nixon administration also issued their support for the military coup to overthrow Allende, “The USG wishes to make clear its desire to cooperate with the military Junta and to assist in any appropriative way.’ states a classified cable from the White House Situation Room dated September 13, 1973. ‘We welcome General Pinochet’s expression of Junta desire for strengthening ties between Chile and the U.S.’
The White House directed Ambassador Nathaniel Davis to convey this position to Pinochet ‘at the earliest opportunity.’ Davis cabled back the next day: ‘Pinochet expressed most sincere appreciation and said he would like to keep privately in touch.”
It could be argued that the U.S. had no knowledge of Pinochet’s fascistic tendencies, but declassified CIA documents also debunks this claim in an Internal State Department Dissent Memo from February 1974: “A documented case can be made for the proposition that the current regime in Chile is militaristic, fascistic, tyrannical and murderous.”
In another document, the new date for the planned coup on September 11 was identified in Santiago, Chile by CIA operative Jack Devine, who affirmed that all three branches of the Chilean armed forces and the police were involved in the coup. Conclusively, Bolivia evidently has an outstanding record on anti-imperialism; however, the same cannot be said about Chile especially since it carries many legacies from the Pinochet era.
Val Reynoso is a Politics and Human Rights undergrad, journalist and Marxist-Leninist activist.

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