A network of academics and activists, assembled by a civil society organization based in Canada, will monitor this year’s presidential election cycle in Latin America, including the Brazilian presidential election in October.
Their aim is to denounce publicly what they regard as "political intervention" by the United States and multilateral agencies, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, in these contests.
The non-governmental organization (NGO), Pueblos en Camino, presented a panel at the 6th World Social Forum, which ended on Sunday, January 29, in Caracas, Venezuela, to demonstrate how a US and European foreign policy approach referred to as the "promotion of democracy" disguises support in Latin America for political projects to combat leftist mass movements that oppose the economic interests of large multinational corporations.
In 2006 the "promotion of democracy" is expected to cost US government coffers US$ 2.5 billion, according to Jonah Gindin, director of the project, which is called "In the Name of Democracy."
What the NGO intends to show over the course of the year, he explains, is that, through international organizations and foundations which are apparently independent (but which, in fact, receive funds from the US government), these funds are directed to groups considered friendly to big business interests, such as free trade.
Elections are scheduled to be held in over ten Latin American countries this year, Pueblos en Camino estimates. Federal government authority is up for grabs in countries like Mexico, Peru, and Nicaragua, and presidents Hugo Chávez, of Venezuela, and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, of Brazil, may attempt reelection.
According to the NGO, the organizations that serve to mask support for groups that espouse liberal positions include the National Endowment for Democracy (active in 80 countries), as well as various institutes that are supposed to promote democracy and republican values in developing countries.
These organizations act as intermediaries. At the receiving end are parties and candidates aligned with liberal ideals.
Two months before each election Pueblos en Camino plans to issue reports on the links discovered between fund transfers and the candidates and parties involved in the elections.
"We are not only academics; we are activists. We desire to denounce this inappropriate interference," Gindin says.
He explains that, although the perception of outside meddling is well publicized in Latin America, it is largely ignored by the public in the United States and Europe.
"There is no debate about it there. People believe they are helping their ‘little brothers’ in the South to become better organized and more democratic. That is why we have an educational task. People are being used without knowing it," he observed.
The members of Pueblo en Camino offer the following examples of countries where activities for the "promotion of democracy" worked decisively against leftist governments: Nicaragua (against the Sandinistas), Venezuela (against Hugo Chávez), and Haiti (against Jean Bertrand Aristide).
In Brazil, according to Gindin, given the country’s dimensions and the number of interests involved in this year’s election, an adequate team has still not been formed to do the monitoring.