Friday, September 30, 2011

Correa Bashes U.S. 'Pro-Democracy' Fund

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Ecuador President Rafael Correa blames U.S. non-profit the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for playing a role in the attempted coup against him in 2010. The NED finances opposition groups in Ecuador, Correa said, and “probably financed the movements behind the 30th of September.” The NED, which says its stated mission is the “strengthening of democratic institutions around the world,” has denied Correa’s accusations. Correa goes on to address other issues in the interview, like his $40 million lawsuit against newspaper El Universo, and his general ill feeling against the Ecuadorean press outlets that argued Correa was responsible for the September upheaval.

The Correa administration has continuously maintained that the uprising was not a series of police protests that got out of hand, but was in fact a pre-meditated attempt to topple the president. On one hand, mentioning the NED falls in line with the government’s thesis that other forces were responsible for bringing about September 30, rather than Correa’s governing style, which the opposition has criticized has confrontational and undemocratic.

Notably, name-dropping the NED is Correa’s most explicit comparison yet to the 2002 coup which briefly deposed Venezuela President Hugo Chavez. The NED, established in 1983, played a key role in supporting anti-Sandinista groups during the Nicaragua civil war, providing up to $10.5 million in funding. Leading up to Venezuela’s 2002 political crisis, the NED was the principle channel which funded opposition organizations like Sumate, one of the Chavez government’s most detested political rivals. An internal review by the U.S. State Department, which examined NED actions related to the Venezuela coup, found there was no evidence supporting accusations that the outfit directly contributed to the putsch. Nevertheless, this did not prevent the Chavez administration from arguing that the U.S. had all but endorsed the attempt to force him out of office.

There is appears to be little basis to Correa’s claims in the Herald. He does appear to have a supporter in Eva Golinger, the fervent pro-Chavez supporter who published a book in 2004 on the NED’s operations in Venezuela, which sparked an uproar among Chavez’s supporters. It is possible to interpret Correa’s words as more political maneuvering. Nevertheless, even if Correa’s intention was as simple as looking for another outfit to blame for September 30, he probably could not have picked a more convenient target besides the NED.


News briefs
  • The LA Times has a feature on the Alien Transfer Exit Program, in which illegal immigrants caught near the U.S. border are deported back to Mexico, far from their original entry point. Hence, immigrants caught trying to cross into California are shipped to Texas, and vice versa; Arizona deports immigrants to both states. Authorities say the operation is supposed to break up smuggling rings, because if immigrants are repatriated to the same Mexican border city where they originally tried to enter the U.S., this allows them to easily reconnect with familiar smugglers. As the Times points out, dropping immigrants in northeast border towns could be potentially deadly. In these areas, the Zetas tax the “coyotes” who move groups of migrants through their territory, and take brutal action against the vulnerable migrants if the payments aren’t made.
  • Two Twitter users in Mexico almost ended up spending years in jail because of alleged Tweets maintaining that primary schools in Veracruz were under attack. Now, criminal gangs have apparently moved one step closer to carrying out that threat just outside Monterrey, where four banners appeared yesterday announcing intentions to attack local schools. The threats could be related to ongoing extortion demands against teachers, who, while poorly paid, nevertheless could provide an attractive source of income for criminal gangs looking for new influxes of cash.
  • The mystery deepens over the state of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez’s health. On one hand, the president appeared on television yesterday shrugging off rumors that he’d been rushed to the hospital with kidney failure. El Nacional briefly details a meeting Chavez reportedly held with the National Assembly president during the late afternoon, discussing party politics. Government backed paper Correo del Orinoco makes no mention of Chavez’s illness, asides from reporting on his rejection of the rumors. In counterpoint, Miami Herald quotes unnamed sources who say Chavez was rushed to the military hospital Tuesday “in very serious condition,”as a result of kidney problems from his fourth round of chemotherapy.
  • Plaza Publica has a fine analysis, complete with multiple graphics, on some of the trends made clear in Guatemala’s September 11 elections. The Partido Patriotica, which many predict will capture the presidency via candidate Otto Perez Molina, won the most seats in the more violent municipalities, and proved popular among middle-class, non-indigenous voters. Rival party LIDER performed better in rural areas among the poor.
  • IDL Reporteros asks why the Peruvian state is set to spend about $22 million on buying new software tracking the sale of precursor chemicals used to make cocaine, when the government reportedly already has the technology which can do the job. The further restriction of the precursor chemical trade may yet become a central part of President Ollanta Humala’s narcotics strategy. The administration has previously signaled it may move away from a strategy that prioritizes the elimination of coca.
  • The Economist profiles Ricard Teixeira, Brazil’s larger-than-life head of the national football league, who has been chasing accusations of corruption and graft for years. The intersection between football and other, shady activities is not exclusive to Brazil: in Colombia, Bogota football club Santa Fe has had to face down accusations that drug traffickers laundered money via the team. For sports fans, the magazine features other football-themed articles for Ecuador and Colombia.
  • For its October issue, the Atlantic tracks the career of Mexican politician Enrique Peña Nieto prepping for his 2012 presidential run. One of the main questions facing Nieto’s campaign is how much he will seek to distance himself from his PRI colleague, President Felipe Calderon.
  • In Brazil, the investigation into the death of state judge Patricia Acioli is making ripples. Yesterday the head of Rio de Janeiro state police resigned, following the arrest of eight military police detained in connection to the murder.
  • Verdad Abierta describes how rival guerrilla groups the FARC and the ELN finally brokered a peace pact in 2010, afters years of bitter fighting in the oil-rich Arauca department. This was one of the last regions in Colombia where the FARC refused to acknowledge their truce with the ELN. The pact was originally negotiated in partial recognition that if the two groups continued to fight each other, they could not withstand further offensives from the security forces and neo-paramilitary groups.