Democracy Enhancement: part I
from a talk by
Z Magazine, May 1994
We are approaching the five-year mark since the fall of the
Berlin wall, which marked the definitive end of the Cold War.
At last the United States was freed from the burden of defending
the world against Russian aggression and could return to its traditional
calling: to promote democracy, human rights, and free markets
worldwide. Standard doctrine holds further that the promise has
been fulfilled. Today "American motives are largely humanitarian,"
historian David Fromkin declares in the New York Times Magazine.
The present danger is excess of benevolence; we might undertake
yet another selfless mission of mercy, failing to understand that
"there are limits to what outsiders can do" and that
"the armies we dispatch to foreign soil for humanitarian
reasons" may not be able "to save people from others
or from themselves."
The view is shared by the leading establishment critic of
Cold War policies, George Kennan, who writes that it was a historic
error for the US to reject any effort to negotiate a peaceful
settlement of conflicts with the Russians for 40 years; one of
the benefits of the end of the Cold War is that the clouds are
finally lifting on these issues. Kennan too counsels that we restrict
our foreign engagements. We must bear in mind that "it is
primarily by example, never by precept, that a country such as
ours exerts the most useful influence beyond its border";
countries unlike ours may undertake the grubbier pursuits. We
must also remember "that there are limits to what one sovereign
country can do to help another," even "a country such
as ours." Others question that stance on the grounds that
it is unfair to deprive suffering humanity of our attention, necessarily
To qualify for membership in respectable society, one must
appreciate a simple thesis: we are perfect. Therefore we need
only ask what is the right course for a saintly power, how best
we may proceed to "save people from others or from themselves"
-- not from us, surely. The tune is, in fact, a very familiar
one, an interesting topic for some other time.
Like earlier angelic powers, we are able to recognize that
there are some flaws and errors in the record. But the sophisticated
understand that history can teach no lessons about our institutions
and the ways they have functioned, surely nothing about what may
lie ahead. Review of the historical record is nothing more than
"sound-bites and invectives about Washington's historically
evil foreign policy," Brown University professor Thomas Weiss
writes with derision, hence "easy to ignore." A perceptive
comment, accurately discerning the most valued principles of the
Discussion of the fashionable topic of the moral obligation
of humanitarian intervention -- not a trivial question -- is rarely
tainted by concerns about such matters. We do not, of course,
counsel that Iran should undertake humanitarian intervention in
Bosnia, as it has offered to do. Why? Because of its record and
the nature of its institutions. In the case of Iran -- or anyone
else -- inquiry into these questions is appropriate. But not for
us, given our necessary perfection.
It follows that any departures from the path of righteousness
can only have been a reaction -- perhaps excessive, though understandable
-- to terrible dangers from which we defended ourselves, and more
recently, the entire civilized world. The Cold War provides the
favored current formula: any lapse in recent years is attributable
to the cosmic struggle with the Russians. Thus if experimental
subjects for radiation studies were chosen from Boston's Fernald
School for mentally retarded children, not an elite prep school,
that was unfortunate, but understandable in the atmosphere of
the Cold War, so it is alleged -- about as plausibly as in most
other cases. And we have now "changed course," so that
history may rest in peace.
At the critical extreme, we do find occasional notice of imperfection.
"There's something troubling about the way we select our
cases for intervention," Harvard historian Stanley Hoffmann
observed in opening a conference at Tufts university. He noted
that there has been no "international cry to intervene in
ethnic bloodshed in East Timor," the Boston Globe reported.
The example is instructive.
Let us disregard the phrase "ethnic bloodshed,"
not quite the term applied to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
or Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. That aside, some obvious questions
come to mind: just who might call for such intervention, and how
should it proceed? By bombing Washington and London, the main
supporters of Indonesia's aggression and mass slaughter? Suppose
that a commentator in pre-Gorbachev Russia had found something
troubling about Soviet intervention policy, wondering why Russia
did not intervene to prevent the imposition of martial law in
Poland or repression in Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Would we even
laugh? How could Moscow intervene to bar the policies it actively
supported? These questions cannot arise, however, in our case,
whatever the facts, given our perfection. No one laughs.
Respectable British opinion is scarcely different. Writing
in the (London) Times Higher Education Supplement, Leslie Macfarlane,
emeritus politics fellow at St. John's College in Oxford, recognizes
that the US and UK, "to their shame, failed to put pressure
on President Suharto to refrain from invasion" of East Timor.
But the 200,000 or more deaths "cannot be attributed to `the
West'," he adds, reproaching Edward Herman for his calculations
of the costs of Western state terrorism which erroneously included
this case: no "Western promotion or support for the invasion
and pacification of East Timor in the early 1980s [sic] is laid
at the West's door," Macfarlane instructs us with proper
There is no need to review the facts, familiar outside of
the doctrinal system, which not only suppressed them with great
efficiency as the terrible story unfolded but continues to do
so today. Right now, Western oil companies are plundering East
Timor's oil under a treaty between Australia and Indonesia, terror
and repression continue unabated, and new atrocities have been
discovered from the very recent past, among them, the slaughter
of many people by Indonesian doctors in hospitals after the November
1991 Dili massacre. But we must understand that the news room
is a busy place, and some things inevitably seep through the cracks
-- in a remarkably systematic way. Who can be expected to notice
prominent stories in the British and Australian press, including
even the Guardian Weekly, widely circulated here? One wonders
whether the news room would have been too busy to notice Libyan
robbery of Kuwaiti oil under a treaty with Saddam Hussein, after
he had occupied and annexed the country.
In the United States, public protest has hampered government
support for Indonesian atrocities, but not much. Congress cut
off funds for military training, but the Clinton Administration
was undeterred. On the anniversary of the US-backed Indonesian
invasion, the State Department announced that "Congress's
action did not ban Indonesia's purchase of training with its own
funds," so it can proceed despite the ban. Such training
has, after all, been quite successful in the past, including the
training of officers who took part in the highly praised slaughter
of hundreds of thousands of people, mostly landless peasants,
as the present government took power in 1965. Secretary of Defense
Robert McNamara took particular pride in that fact, informing
LBJ that US military assistance to the Indonesian army had "encouraged
it" to undertake the useful slaughter "when the opportunity
was presented." Particularly valuable, McNamara said, was
the program that brought Indonesian military personnel to the
United States for training at universities. Congress agreed, noting
the "enormous dividends" of US military training of
the killers and continued communication with them. The same training
expedited the war crimes in Timor, and much else.
Plainly, it would be unfair to deprive the people of the region
of such benefits. That is exactly the position taken by advocates
of US military training, for example Senator Bennett Johnson.
His evidence is a quote from the Commander of the US forces in
the Pacific, Admiral Larson, who explains that "by studying
in our schools," Indonesian army officers "gain an appreciation
for our value system, specifically respect for human rights, adherence
to democratic principles, and the rule of law." For similar
reasons, we must allow arms sales to Indonesia, so that we can
continue to have a constructive "dialogue" and maintain
our "leverage and influence," so benignly exercised
in the past, much as in Latin America, Haiti, the Philippines,
and other places where US training has instilled such admirable
respect for human rights.
1. Defending Human Rights
With the support of Senate Democrats, the Administration was
also able to block human rights conditions on aid to Indonesia.
Trade Representative Mickey Kantor announced further that Washington
would "suspend" its annual review of Indonesian labor
practices. Agreeing with Senator Bennett, who is impressed by
"the steps Indonesia has taken...to improve conditions for
workers in Indonesia," Kantor commended Indonesia for "bringing
its labor law and practice into closer conformity with international
standards" -- a witticism that is in particularly poor taste,
though it must be conceded that Indonesia did take some steps
forward, fearing that Congress might override its friends in the
White House. "Reforms hastily pushed through by the Indonesian
government in recent months include withdrawing the authority
of the military to intervene in strikes, allowing workers to form
a company union to negotiate labour contracts, and raising the
minimum wage in Jakarta by 27%" to about $2 aday, the London
Guardian reports. The new company unions that are magnanimously
authorized must, to be sure, join the All-Indonesia Labor Union,
the state-run union. To ensure that these promising advances toward
international labor standards would not be misunderstood, authorities
also arrested 21 labor activists.
"We have done much to change and improve," Indonesia's
Foreign Minister said, "so according to us there is no reason
to revoke" the trade privileges. Clinton liberals evidently
One effect of the activism of the 1960s was the pressure on
Congress to impose human rights conditions on aid, trade, and
military sales. Every Administration from Carter until today has
had to seek ways to evade such constraints. In the 1980s, it became
a sick joke, as the Reaganites regularly assured Congress (always
happy to be "deceived") that its favorite assassins
and torturers were making impressive progress. Clinton is forging
no new paths with his Indonesia chicanery.
Other tasks are proving harder, however, notably China, which
must have its Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status renewed by
June. As I've reviewed in earlier articles, China is not giving
poor Clinton much help in his endeavor to bypass the executive
order that he issued imposing human rights conditions -- in "fear
that Congressional Democrats might otherwise have forced an even
more stringent approach" through legislation, Thomas Friedman
reports in the New York Times, and because Clinton "did not
want to appear to be going back on another campaign promise,"
having "strongly criticized President Bush for `coddling'
The problem arose again as Warren Christopher visited Beijing
in March to express Washington's concerns on human rights, which,
the State Department hastened to explain, are quite limited --
in fact, limited to finding means to evade Congressional pressures.
John Shattuck, US assistant secretary of human rights, clarified
to the Chinese leaders that Clinton's requirements for improvement
are "very narrow," that pledges of progress may be enough:
"What the president is looking for is an indication of direction...that
is generally forward looking." Please, please, give us some
straw, so that we can respond to the needs of our constituency
in the corporate sector. The Chinese, however, seem to enjoy watching
their partners twist in the wind.
As Christopher left for China, the Administration announced
that it would once again relax the sanctions on high technology
transfers, this time by allowing the Hughes Aircraft Company to
launch a satellite from China. This "gesture of good will
toward Beijing" is one "part of the strategy to engage
China rather than to isolate it," Elaine Sciolino reported
in the New York Times. Asked about this decision while China is
under pressure on issues of missile proliferation and human rights,
Christopher responded that it "simply sends a signal of even-handed
treatment." The "good will gesture," as usual,
is directed towards a leading segment of the publicly subsidized
"private enterprise" system, much like the "good-will
gestures" announced at the Asia-Pacific summit last November,
which allowed China to purchase supercomputers, nuclear power
generators, and satellites despite their adaptability to weapons
and missile proliferation. The Pentagon also sent high officials
with Christopher "to discuss ways to upgrade the two countries'
military relationship," Sciolino reported, another part of
Christopher did not return empty-handed. At a White House
session, Thomas Friedman reports, he "presented a chart...showing
that on many fronts China was making some progress toward meeting
the terms of the President's executive order, but that forward
movement had been obscured by the confrontational atmosphere of
his visit." On leaving Beijing, he had stated that his discussions
with the Chinese leaders were "businesslike and productive."
"The differences between China and the US are narrowing somewhat,"
Christopher informed the press, though he "was hard put to
point to examples of specific progress on the vexed human rights
issue beyond a memorandum of understanding on trade in prison
labour products," the London Financial Times commented. China
did (once again) agree to restrict exports from prison factories
to the United States.
Such exports have greatly exercised Washington and the press,
the sole labor rights issue to have achieved this status. "U.S.
Inspections of Jail Exports Likely in China," a front-page
story by Thomas Friedman was headlined in the New York Times in
January. The Chinese "agreed to a demand to allow more visits
by American customs inspectors to Chinese prison factories to
make sure they are not producing goods for export to the United
States," he reported from Beijing. US influence is having
further benign effects, "forcing liberalization, factory
by factory," including contract, bankruptcy, and other laws
that are "critical elements of a market economy," all
welcome steps towards a "virtuous circle."
Unmentioned are a few other questions about economic virtue:
horrifying labor conditions, for example. Perhaps the case of
81 women burned to death locked into their factory last November,
which merited a few lines in the national press in the midst of
much euphoria about Clinton's grand vision of a free market future
in the Asia-Pacific region. Or 60 workers killed in a fire a few
weeks later in another foreign-owned factory. Or the doubling
of deaths in industrial accidents last year, with over 11,000
just in the first eight months. "Chinese officials and analysts
say the accidents stem from abysmal working conditions, which,
combined with long hours, inadequate pay, and even physical beatings,
are stirring unprecedented labor unrest among China's booming
foreign joint ventures," Sheila Tefft reported in the Christian
Science Monitor. That problem is a real one: "the tensions
reveal the great gap between competitive foreign capitalists lured
by cheap Chinese labor and workers weaned on socialist job security
and the safety net of cradle-to-grave benefits." Workers
do not yet understand that in the capitalist utopia we are preparing
for them, they are to be "beaten for producing poor quality
goods, fired for dozing on the job during long work hours"
and other such misdeeds, and locked into their factories to be
burned to death. But we understand all of that, so China is not
called to account for violations of labor rights; only for exporting
prison products to the United States.
Why the distinction? Simplicity itself. Prison factories are
state-owned industry, and exports to the US interfere with profits,
unlike locking women into factories, beating workers, and other
such means to improve the balance sheet. QED.
Accuracy requires a few qualifications. Thus, the rules allow
the United States to sell prison goods -- for export: they are
not permitted to enter US markets. California and Oregon export
prison-made clothing to Asia, including specialty jeans, shirts,
and a line of shorts quaintly called "Prison Blues."
The prisoners earn far less than the minimum wage, and work under
"slave labor" conditions, prison rights activists allege.
But their products do not interfere with the rights that count,
so there is no problem here.
The Clinton Administration "has been quietly signaling
Beijing that if it met Washington's minimum human rights demands,
the United States would consider ending the annual threat of trade
sanctions to change China's behavior," Friedman reports.
The reason is that the old human rights policy imposed by Congressional
(ultimately popular) pressures is "outmoded and should be
replaced." This is a "major shift in policy which reflects
the increasing importance of trade to the American economy."
The human rights policy "is also outmoded, other officials
argue, because trade is now such an important instrument for opening
up Chinese society, for promoting the rule of law and the freedom
of movement there, and for encouraging" private property.
The hypocrisy is stunning, though hardly more than the "human
rights" policy that is now "outmoded," which was
always carefully crafted to avoid endangering profits and to somehow
"not see" huge atrocities carried out by US clients
under Washington's sponsorship. Human rights concerns have been
a passion in the case of Nicaragua and Cuba, subjected to crushing
embargoes and terror. In such cases, trade is not "an instrument"
that induces good behavior. The criminals have to be restored
to their service role; if cynical posturing about human rights
contributes to that end, well and good. The same was true of the
Soviet empire, which also had to be returned to its traditional
Third World role, providing resources, investment opportunities,
markets, cheap labor, and other amenities, as it had for hundreds
of years (an essential feature of the Cold War since 1918, in
the real world). Until that end was achieved, trade was not "an
instrument" to help lift the chains. The same was true of
China, until it began to open its doors to foreign investment
and control, offering wonderful opportunities for profit -- or
in technical Newspeak, "jobs."
2. Promoting Democracy
Our current vocation, as everyone knows, is promoting democracy.
There are many illuminating examples since the fall of the Berlin
Wall freed us from the Cold War burden.
The first, and one of the most revealing, is Nicaragua. Recall
that just as the Wall fell, the White House and Congress announced
with great clarity that unless Nicaraguans voted as we told them,
the terrorist war and the embargo that was strangling the country
would continue. Washington also voted (alone with Israel) against
a UN General Assembly resolution calling on it once again to observe
international law and call off these illegal actions; unthinkable
of course, so the press continued to observe its vow of silence.
When Nicaraguans met their obligations a few months later, joy
was unrestrained. At the dissident extreme, Anthony Lewis hailed
Washington's "experiment in peace and democracy," which
gives "fresh testimony to the power of Jefferson's idea:
government with the consent of the governed.... To say so seems
romantic, but then we live in a romantic age." Across the
spectrum there was rejoicing over the latest of the "happy
series of democratic surprises," as Time magazine expressed
the uniform view while outlining the methods used to achieve our
Jeffersonian ideals: to "wreck the economy and prosecute
a long and deadly proxy war until the exhausted natives overthrow
the unwanted government themselves," with a cost to us that
is "minimal," leaving the victim "with wrecked
bridges, sabotaged power stations, and ruined farms," and
providing Washington's candidate with "a winning issue,"
ending the "impoverishment of the people of Nicaragua."
It would be hard to imagine a more conclusive demonstration
of the understanding of "democracy" in the dominant
political and intellectual culture. It is inconceivable that the
clear and unmistakeable meaning of any of this should enter the
respectable culture, or probably even history.
That interesting story continues. On March 15, US assistant
Secretary of State Alexander Watson announced that "With
the conflicts of the past behind us, the Clinton administration
accepts the Sandinistas as a legitimate political force in Nicaragua
with all the rights and obligations of any party in a democracy
supposing that it uses only peaceful and legitimate methods,"
as we did through the 1980s, setting the stage for a "fair
election," by US standards. The brief Reuters report noted
that "the United States financed the Contra rebels against
the Soviet-backed Sandinista government." Translating from
Newspeak, Washington followed standard procedure, doing everything
it could to compel Nicaragua to abandon its despicable efforts
to maintain a nonaligned stand and balanced trade and to turn
to the Russians as a last resort, so that Washington's attack
could be construed as part of the Cold War conflict raging in
our backyard, now to be dispatched to the category of irrelevance
for understanding ourselves, or what the future holds.
Washington's willingness to accept the Sandinistas as a legitimate
political force, if they mind their manners, cannot claim the
prize for moral cowardice and depravity. That is still held by
Washington's display of magnanimity towards the Vietnamese, now
permitted to enter the civilized world, their many crimes against
us put to the side (though not, of course, forgiven) once US business
made it clear that the pleasure of torturing our victims must
give way to the more important task of enrichment of the wealthy.
The next example of our post-Cold War passion for democracy
was the invasion of Panama a month after the Berlin Wall fell,
the first exercise of humanitarian intervention in the post-Cold
War era. Operation Just Cause may have served as a model for Saddam
Hussein shortly after, the cheering section now quietly concedes.
Bush's greatest fear when Iraq invaded Kuwait seems to have been
that Saddam would mimic his achievement in Panama. According to
the account of Washington planning by investigative reporter Bob
Woodward, regarded as "generally convincing" by US government
Middle East specialist William Quandt, President Bush feared that
the Saudis would "bug out at the last minute and accept a
puppet regime in Kuwait" after Iraqi withdrawal. His advisers
expected that Iraq would withdraw, leaving behind "lots of
Iraqi special forces in civilian clothes," if not armed forces
as the USdid in Panama, while taking over two uninhabited mudflats
that had been assigned to Kuwait in the British imperial settlement
to block Iraq's access to the sea (Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf).
Chief of Staff Gen. Colin Powell warned that the status quo would
be changed under the influence of the aggressors even after withdrawal,
again as in Panama.
In a highly-praised academic study regarded as the standard
current work of scholarship on this "textbook case of aggression"
and the reaction to it, University of London historians Lawrence
Freedman and Efraim Karsh, who labor to present the US-UK effort
in the most favorable possible light, conclude that "Saddam
apparently intended neither officially to annex the tiny emirate
nor to maintain a permanent military presence there. Instead,
he sought to establish hegemony over Kuwait, ensuring its complete
financial, political and strategic subservience to his wishes,"
much as intended by the US in Panama, and achieved. Saddam's scheme
"turned sour," they continue, because of the international
reaction; to translate to doctrinally unacceptable truth, because
the US and Britain did not follow their usual practice of vetoing
or otherwise nullifying the international reaction to such "textbook
cases of aggression" as US-South Vietnam, Turkey-Cyprus,
Indonesia-East Timor, Israel-Lebanon, US-Panama, and many others.
Operation Just Cause was presented as a "textbook case"
of Washington's dedication to democracy -- quite accurately, as
it turned out. In the latest of its annual reports on human rights
(January, 1994), Panama's governmental Human Rights Commission
charged that the right to self-determination and sovereignty of
the Panamanian people continues to be violated by the "state
of occupation by a foreign army," reviewing US army, airforce,
and DEA operations in Panama, including a DEA agent's assault
on a Panamanian journalist and attacks on Panamanian citizens
by US military personnel. The nongovernmental Human Rights Commission,
in its accompanying report "Democracy and Human Rights in
Panama...Four Years Later" added that democracy has meant
nothing more than formal voting while government policies "do
not attend to the necessities of the most impoverished" --
whose numbers have significantly increased since the "liberation."
Within a year after the invasion, Latin Americanist Stephen Ropp
observes, Washington was well aware "that removing the mantle
of United States protection would quickly result in a civilian
or military overthrow of [President] Endara and his supporters"--
that is, the puppet regime of bankers, businessmen, and narcotraffickers
installed by the occupying army. "Drugs and their rewards
are more visible today than in General Noriega's time," the
Economist reports in March, including hard drugs. A senior employee
of the Panama Branch of Merrill Lynch was one of those recently
caught in a DEA operation as they were laundering Colombian cocaine
cash through Panama's large financial industry, the one real economic
success story of the "occupation by a foreign army."
"All they were doing is what almost every bank in Panama
does," a local investigative reporter commented. All exactly
as predicted when the troops landed to restore the mainly white
oligarchy to power and ensure US control over the strategically
important region and its financial institutions.
An election is scheduled for May. Far ahead in polls is Perez
Balladares, the candidate of the Democratic Revolutionary Party
(PRD), the party of populist dictator Omar Torrijos and Manuel
Noriega. Balladares was Noriega's campaign manager for the 1989
election that Noriega stole, causing much outrage in the US because
he was no longer following Washington's orders; when he was still
a "good boy" in 1984, he was lauded by Reagan, Shultz,
et al. for stealing the election with considerably greater fraud
and violence. Balladares has learned his lessons and should cause
Other exercises of "democracy enhancement" in the
region proceed on course. In November 1993, Hondurans went to
the polls for the fourth time since 1980. They voted against the
neoliberal structural adjustment programs that have had the usual
consequences. But the gesture is empty; the rich and powerful
will permit nothing else. "The voters have no real options
for improving their living standards which worsen every day,"
Mexico's major newspaper Excelsior reported -- familiar with "economic
miracles" in its own country.Three-fourths of those who went
to the polls "live in misery and are disenchanted with formal
democracy." Hondurans' purchasing power is lower than in
the 1970s, before the gift of "democracy" was granted
by the United States while turning Honduras into a military base
for its war against Nicaragua and establishing more firmly the
rule of the generals. There are other beneficiaries, the Honduran
College of Economists points out: "a group of privileged
exporters and local investors linked to financial capital and
multinational corporations who have multiplied their capital"
in a country where "growing economic polarization is generating
ever more evident constrasts, between the rich who do not hide
the ostentation of their moral misery and the every more miserable
poor." "At least one of every two dollars coming to
Honduras has left in the last three years [1991-93] to pay the
interest on more than $3 billion foreign debt," Excelsior
continues. Debt service now represents 40% of exports; and though
almost 20% of the debt was forgiven, it has increased by almost
10% since 1990.
In March 1994, the "democracy enhancement" project
reached El Salvador. The elections conducted in the 1980s to legitimize
the US-backed terror state were hailed at the time as impressive
steps towards democracy ("demonstration elections,"
as Edward Herman accurately called them). But with the policy
imperatives of those days gone, the pretense has been quietly
shelved. It is the 1994 elections that are to represent the triumph
of Washington's dedication to democracy. The elections are indeed
an innovation in that at least the forms were maintained, pretty
much. "Tens of thousands of voters who had electoral cards
were unable to vote because they did not appear on electoral lists,"
the Financial Times reported, "while some 74,000 people,
a high number of which were from areas believed to be sympathetic
to the FMLN, were excluded because they did not have birth certificates."
FMLN leaders alleged that more than 300,000 voters were excluded
in such ways, charging "massive" fraud. The left coalition
presidential candidate Rubn Zamora estimated "conservatively"
that over 10% of voters were barred. The UN mission downplayed
the problems, but independent observers were not convinced. "I
used to give them the benefit of the doubt," the official
British observer commented, "but it comes to the point when
you have to say it is bad faith," referring to the "bad
administration" of the election by the governing ARENA party,
which received almost halfthe votes cast, and the UN mission reaction.
But the irregularities, whatever they may have been, do not
change the fact that the elections broke new ground at a formal
level. There was no blatant fraud or massive terror; rather, minor
fraud against the background of the successful use of terror and
repression, with a narrow aspect that received some attention,
and a broader and more significant one that did not.
In the 1994 elections, the US naturally supported ARENA, the
party of the death squads, a fact understood throughout though
denied for propaganda reasons. Partial declassification of documents
has revealed that much. It also illustrates once again why documents
are classified in the first place: not for security reasons, as
alleged, but to undermine American democracy by protecting state
power from popular scrutiny. In February 1985 the CIA reported
that "behind ARENA's legitimate exterior lies a terrorist
network led by D'Aubuisson and funded by wealthy Salvadoran expatriates
residing in Guatemala and the United States," using "both
active-duty and retired military personnel in their campaigns";
"death squads in the armed forces operate out of both urban
military headquarters and rural outposts." The main death
squad, the "Secret Anti-Communist Army," was described
by the CIA as the"paramilitary organization" of ARENA,
led by the Constituent Assembly security chief and drawing most
of its members from the National Police and other security forces.
The military and police themselves, of course, were the major
terrorist forces, carrying out the great mass of the atrocities
against the civilian population, funded directly from Washington,
which was also responsible for their training and direction
As the 1994 elections approached, there was a "resurgence
in death squad-style murders and death threats," Americas
Watch observed, concluding that "no issue represents a greater
threat to the peace process than the rise in political murders
of leaders and grassroots activists" of the FMLN, assassinations
that "became more frequent, brazen, and selective in the
fall of 1993." These "injected a level of fear, almost
impossible to measure, into the campaign," enhanced by government
cover-ups and refusal to investigate, part of a pattern of violation
of the peace treaty, to which we return. The government's own
human rights office and the UN Observer Mission reported the "grave
deterioration in citizen security" made worse by "organized
violence in the political arena." This proceeds against the
backdrop of an "astronomical rise of crime in post-war El
Salvador," Americas Watch reports, and "reliable"
evidence that the army and National Police are involved in organized
The major political opposition, Rubn Zamora's left coalition,
not only lacked resources for the campaign that was virtually
monopolized by ARENA, but was "unable to convince supporters
or sympathizers to appear in campaign ads because they fear retaliation
from the right" (New York Times). Terror continued at a level
sufficient to give substance to such fears. Among those who took
the threat seriously was Jos Mar!a Mendez, named El Salvador's
"Lawyer of the Century" by three prestigious legal associations.
He fled the country shortly after, threatened with death unless
he convinced the vice-presidential candidate of the left coalition
Foreign observers were struck by the lack of popular interest
in the "elections of the century.""Salvadorans
Ambivalent Toward Historic Poll," a headline in the Christian
Science Monitor read, reporting fear and apathy, and concern that
war will return unless ARENA wins. The abstention rate, about
45%, was about the same as 10 years earlier, at the peak of the
violence. A "conservative political analyst" quoted
by the New York Times (Hector Dada) attributed the low participation
"to a deliberate disenfranchisment of voters and a sense
of apathy among the electorate." As for those who voted,
another analyst, Luis Cardenal, observed that "the electorate
voted more than anything for tranquillity, for security."
"The war-weary populace bought the ruling party's party line,
which equated ARENA with security and the left with instability
and violence," Christian Science Monitor reporter David Clark
Scott added. That is plausible enough. Any other outcome could
be expected to lead to revival of the large-scale terror and atrocities.
These assessments bear on the broader aspects of the successful
use of violence. Before the election, church and popular sources
attributed the "climate of apathy" to the fact that
"hunger and poverty reign among a population whose demands
have received no attention, which makes the electoral climate
difficult" (Notimex, Mexico). In the 1970s, popular organizations
were proliferating, in part under church auspices, seeking to
articulate these demands in the political arena and to work to
overcome hunger, poverty, and harsh oppression. It was that popular
awakening that elicited the response of the state terror apparatus
and its superpower sponsor, committed as always to a form of "democracy
enhancement" that bars the threat of democracy -- by extreme
violence, if necessary, as in this case. Here as elsewhere, the
programs of the terrorist superpower were highly successful, leading
to the "climate of apathy," the search for security
above all else, and the general conditions in which "free
elections" become tolerable.
Recall the conclusion of Reaganite official Thomas Carothers,
who recognizes that the "democracy enhancement" programs
in which he was involved "inevitably sought only limited,
top-down forms of democratic change that did not risk upsetting
the traditional structures of power with which the United States
has long been allied," maintaining "the basic order
of...quite undemocratic societies" and avoiding "populist-based
change" that might upset "established economic and political
orders" and open "a leftist direction." Nothing
has changed in this regard.
A January 1994 conference of Jesuits and lay associates in
San Salvador considered both the narrow and broad aspects of the
state terrorist project. Its summary report concludes that "It
is important to explore to what degree terror continues to act,
cloaked by the mask of common crime. Also to be explored is what
weight the culture of terror has had in domesticating the expectations
of the majority vis-a-vis alternatives different to those of the
powerful, in a context in which many of the revolutionaries of
yesterday act today with values similar to the long powerful."
The latter issue, the broader one, is of particular significance.
The great achievement of the massive terror operations of the
past years organized by Washington and its local associates has
been to destroy hope. The observation generalizes to much of the
Third World and also to the growing masses of superfluous people
at home, as the Third World model of sharply two-tiered societies
is increasingly internationalized. These are major themes of the
"New World Order" being constructed by the privileged
sectors of global society, with US state and private power in
3. Rewarding Democracy
A particularly instructive illustration of the democracy enhancement
program in the region is Colombia, which seems to have taken first
place in the competition for leading terrorist state in Latin
America -- and, to the surprise of no one familiar with "sound-bites
and invectives about Washington's historically evil foreign policy,"
has become the leading recipient of US military aid, accompanied
by much praise for its stellar accomplishments.
In the March 1994 issue of Current History, Latin Americanist
John Martz writes that "Colombia now enjoys one of the healthiest
and most flourishing economies in Latin America. And in political
terms its democratic structures, notwithstanding inevitable flaws,
are among the most solid on the continent," a model of "well-established
political stability." The Clinton Administration is particularly
impressed by outgoing President Cesar Gaviria, whom it is now
promoting as next Secretary General of the Organization of American
States, because, as the US representative to the OAS explained,
"He has been very forward looking in building democratic
institutions in a country where it was sometimes dangerous to
do so" and also "on economic reform in Colombia and
on economic integration in the hemisphere," code words that
are readily interpreted.
That it has been dangerous to build democratic institutions
in Colombia is true enough, thanks primarily to President Gaviria,
his predecessors, and their fervent supporters in Washington.
The "inevitable flaws" are reviewed in some detail
-- once again -- in current publications of Americas Watch and
Amnesty International. They find "appalling levels of violence,"
the worst in the hemisphere. Since 1986, more than 20,000 people
have been killed for political reasons, most of them by the Colombian
military and police and the paramilitary forces that are closely
linked to them; for example, the private army of rancher, emerald
dealer, and reputed drug dealer Victor Carranza, considered to
be the largest in the country, dedicated primarily to the destruction
of the leftwing political opposition Patriotic Union (UP), in
alliance with police and military officers. The department in
which Carranza operates (Meta) is one of the most heavily militarized,
with some 35,000 troops and thousands of police. Nevertheless,
paramilitary forces and hired killers operate freely, carrying
out massacres and political assassinations. An official government
inquiry in the early '80s found that over a third of the members
of paramilitary groups engaged in political killings and other
terror in Colombia were active-duty military officers; the pattern
continues, including the usual alliances with private power and
More than 1500 leaders, members and supporters of UP have
been assassinated since the party was established in 1985. This
"systematic elimination of the leadership" of UP is
"the most dramatic expression of political intolerance in
recent years," AI observes -- one of the "inevitable
flaws" that make it "dangerous to build democratic institutions,"
if not quite the danger that the Clinton Administration wants
us to notice. Other "dangers" were illustrated at the
March 1994 elections, largely bought by the powerful Cali cocaine
cartel, critics allege, noting the history of vote-buying in this
"stable democracy," the vast amounts of money spent
by the cartel, and the low turnout.
The pretext for terror operations is the war against guerrillas
and narcotraffickers, the former a very partial truth, the latter
"a myth," Amnesty International concludes in agreement
with other investigators; the myth was concocted in large measure
to replace the "Communist threat" as the Cold War was
fading along with the propaganda system based on it. In reality,
the official security forces and their paramilitary associates
work hand in glove with the drug lords, organized crime, landowners,
and other private interests in a country where avenues of social
action have long been closed, and are to be kept that way by intimidation
and terror. The Government's own Commission to Overcome Violence
concluded that "the criminalization of social protest"
is one of the "principal factors which permit and encourage
violations of human rights" by the military and police authorities
and their paramilitary collaborators.
The problems have become much worse in the past 10 years,
particularly during President Gaviria's term, when "violence
reached unprecedented levels," the Washington Office on Latin
America (WOLA) reports, with the National Police taking over as
the leading official killers while US aid shifted to them. 1992
was the most violent year in Colombia since the 1950s, WOLA reported
in early 1993, which proved to be still worse. Atrocities run
the gamut familiar in the spheres of US influence and support:
death squads, "disappearance," torture, rape, massacre
of civilian populations under the doctrine of "collective
responsibility," and aerial bombardment. The specially-trained
counterinsurgency and mobile brigades are among the worst offenders.
Targets include community leaders, human rights and health workers,
union activists, students, members of religious youth organizations,
and young people in shanty towns, but primarily peasants. Merely
to give one example, from August 1992 to August 1993, 217 union
activists were murdered, "a point that demonstrates the strong
intolerance on the part of the State of union activity,"
the Andean Commission of Jurists comments. The official concept
of "terrorism" has been extended to virtually anyone
opposing government policies, the human rights reports observe.
One project of the security forces and their allies is "social
cleansing" -- that is, murder of vagrants and unemployed,
street children, prostitutes, homosexuals, and other undesirables.
The Ministry of Defense formulated the official attitude toward
the matter in response to a compensation claim: "There is
no case for the payment of any compensation by the nation, particularly
for an individual who was neither useful nor productive, either
to society or to his family."
The security forces also murder suspects, another practice
familiar in US domains. It is, for example, standard operating
procedure for Israeli forces in the occupied territories, passing
with little notice among the paymasters, who accept it as routine.
Thus, the day before the Hebron massacre of February 25, soldiers
fired antitank rockets and grenades at a stone house near Jerusalem,
killing one Palestinian and wounding another who were "accused
by the army in the slaying of an undercover agent" and other
actions, the press casually reported.
The plague of murder for sale of organs, rampant through the
domains of US influence, has not spared Colombia, where undesirables
are killed so that their corpses "can be chopped up and sold
on the black market for body parts" (AI). It is not known
whether children are sold and killed for organ transplants as
in El Salvador, where the practice is officially conceded; and
according to extensive report, elsewhere in the region.
As Human Rights groups and others observe, the Colombian model
is that of El Salvador and Guatemala. The doctrines instilled
by US advisers and trainers can be traced back directly to the
Nazis, as Michael McClintock documented in an important study
that has been ignored. Colombia has also enjoyed the assistance
of British, German, and Israeli mercenaries who train assassins
and perform other services for the narco-military-landlord combine
in their war against peasants and potential social activism. to
my knowledge, there has been no attempt to investigate the report
of Colombian intelligence that North Americans have also been
engaged in these operations, or any notice of it, in the mainstream.
Other similarities to Washington's Salvador-Guatemala model
abound. Consider, for example, the case of Major Luis Felipe Becerra,
charged with responsibility for an army massacre by a civilian
judge, who fled the country under death threats days after issuing
the arrest warrant (her father was then murdered). But the warrants
were not served, because Major Becerra was then in the United
States undergoing a training course for promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel.
Returning after his promotion, Lt.-Col. Becerra was appointed
to head the army's press and public relations department, despite
a recommendation by the Procurator Delegate to the Armed Forces
that he be dismissed for his part in the peasant massacre. In
April 1993, charges against him were dropped. In October, he was
again implicated in a massacre of unarmed civilians. Under the
pretext of a battle against guerrillas, troops under his command
executed 13 people in a rural area; the victims were unarmed,
the women were raped and tortured, according to residents of the
But impunity prevails, as is regularly the case.
The story is that of Central America, Haiti, Brazil, indeed
wherever the Monroe Doctrine extends, along with the Philippines,
Iran under the Shah, and other countries that share an elusive
Whatever could it be? Whatever it is, we are strictly enjoined
not to see it and to learn nothing from it.
A detailed 1992 investigation by European and Latin American
church and human rights organizations concludes that "state
terrorism in Colombia is a reality: it has its institutions, its
doctrine, its structures, its legal arrangements, its means and
instruments, its victims, and above all its responsible authorities."
Its goal is "systematic elimination of opposition, criminalization
of large sectors of the population, massive resort to political
assassination and disappearance, general use of torture, extreme
powers for the security forces, exceptional legislation, etc..."
(State Terror in Colombia). The modern version has its roots in
the security doctrines pioneered by the Kennedy Administration,
which established them officially in a crucial 1962 decision that
shifted the mission of the Latin American military from "hemispheric
defense" to "internal security": the war against
the "internal enemy," understood in practice to be those
who challenge the traditional order of domination and control.
The doctrines were expounded in US manuals of counterinsurgency
and low intensity conflict, and developed further by local security
authorities. They benefited from training and direction by US
advisers and experts, new technologies of repression, and improved
structures and methodologies to maintain "stability"
and obedience. The result is a highly efficient apparatus of official
terror, designed for "total war" by state power "in
the political, economic, and social arenas," as the Colombian
Minister of Defense articulated the standard doctrine in 1989.
While officially the targets were guerrilla organizations, a high
military official explained in 1987 that these were only of minor
importance: "the real danger" is "what the insurgents
have called the political and psychological war," the war
"to control the popular elements" and "to manipulate
the masses." The "subversives" hope to influence
unions, universities, media, and so on. Therefore, the State Terror
inquiry observes, the "internal enemy" of the state
terrorist apparatus extends to "labor organizations, popular
movements, indigenous organizations, opposition political parties,
peasant movements, intellectual sectors, religious currents, youth
and student groups, neighborhood organizations," and so on,
all legitimate targets for destruction because they must be secured
against undesirable influences. "Every individual who in
one or another manner supports the goals of the enemy must be
considered a traitor and treated in that manner," a 1963
military manual prescribed, as the Kennedy initiatives were moving
into high gear.
The war against the "internal enemy" escalated in
the 1980s as the Reaganites updated the Kennedy doctrines, moving
from "legal" repression to "systematic employment
of political assassination and disappearance, later massacres"
(State Terror). Atrocities escalated. A new judicial regime in
1988 "allowed maximal criminalization of the political and
social opposition" in order to implement what was officially
called "total war against the internal enemy." The use
of paramilitary auxiliaries for terror, explicitly authorized
in military manuals, also took new and more comprehensive forms;
and alliances with industrialists, ranchers and landowners, and
later narcotraffickers were more firmly entrenched. The 1980s
saw "the consolidation of state terror in Colombia,"
the inquiry concludes.
In its December 1993 study, America's Watch observes that
"most of the materiel used by and training provided the Colombian
army and police come from the United States," mainly counterinsurgency
equipment and training. A study of the "drug war" by
the US General Accounting Office in August 1993 concluded that
US military officials have not "fully implemented end-use
monitoring procedures to ensure that Colombia's military is using
aid primarily for counter-narcotic purposes," an oversight
with few consequences, considering what falls under the rubric
of "counter-narcotic purposes." Washington's own interpretation
of such purposes was nicely illustrated in early 1989 when Colombia
asked it to install a radar system to monitor flights from the
south, the source of most of the cocaine for the drug merchants.
The US government fulfilled the request -- in a sense; it installed
a radar system on San Andrs island in the Caribbean, 500 miles
from mainland Colombia and as far removed as possible on Colombian
territory from the drug routes, but well-located for the intensive
surveillance of Nicaragua that was a critical component of the
terrorist war, then peaking as Washington sought to conclude its
demolition of the "peace process" of the Central American
presidents (as it did, another fact unlikely to enter history).
A Costa Rican request for radar assistance in the drug war ended
up the same way.
From 1984 through 1992, 6,844 Colombian soldiers were trained
under the US International Military Education and Training Program,
over 2,000 from 1990 to 1992, as atrocities were mounting. Like
their counterparts elsewhere, they were thus able to "gain
an appreciation for our value system, specifically respect for
human rights, adherence to democratic principles, and the rule
of law," as Admiral Larson and Senator Bennett explained.
The Colombian program is the largest in the hemisphere, three
times that of El Salvador. US advisors are helping build military
bases, officially to "increase the battlefronts against the
guerrillas and narcotrafficking operations." Four have been
constructed, five more are underway, according to the US Embassy.
The real targets will be evident from the record elsewhere in
the region, or in Colombia itself.
Washington is also supporting the "public order"
courts that operate under conditions that severely undermine civil
rights and due process. Again, the parallel to El Salvador is
obvious. One of the requirements of the UN-brokered peace accord
was that the Salvadoran government dismantle the Supreme Court,
largely an appendage of the death squad apparatus run by the state
and its private sector allies. The agreement was ignored, like
the requirement that the National Police, noted for their brutality,
be dismantled and replaced by a new National Civilan Police (PNC)
that is not under army control and includes the FMLN. "Government
figures...show that instead of phasing out the old national police
force as called for by the peace accord, it actually has increased
by about 2,000 men to 10,500," the Chicago Tribune reported.
In further violation of the agreement, the ARENA government in
1992 transferred to the National Police 1,000 members of the Treasury
Police and National Guard, which were to be abolished because
of their notorious human rights abuses; former members were accepted
to training programs for the PNC, "an explicit violation
of the accord," Americas Watch notes. The expanding National
Police are considered responsible for 35% of human rights violations
reported to the UN observers in 1993, "a larger share than
any other force," Americas Watch continues, reviewing also
a series of other government violations of the accords designed
to sustain the terror system, either in official or "privatized"
form. "Time is on the side of the government," a UN
official observed: it is only necessary to hold out until the
UN Mission ends, and then the remnants of the peace accords can
be completely scrapped, going the way of the Central American
peace accords of 1987.
Since there is no interest here, El Salvador too proceeds
towards a "stable democracy," though with "inevitable
flaws," such as those already mentioned.
In July 1989 the State Department submitted a report entitled
"Justification for Determination to Authorize Export-Import
Act Guarantees and Insurance for Sales of Military Equipment to
Colombia for Antinarcotics Purposes," the official cover
story. The report states: "Colombia has a democratic form
of government and does not exhibit a consistent pattern of gross
violations of internationally recognized human rights." Three
months later, the UN Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions,
Amos Wako, returned from a visit to Colombia with severe warnings
about the extreme violence of the paramilitary forces in coordination
with drug lords and government security forces: "There are
currently over 140 paramilitary groups operating in Colombia today
[which are] trained and financed by drug traffickers and possibly
a few landowners. They operate very closely with elements in the
armed forces and the police. Most of the killings and massacres
carried out by the paramilitary groups occur in areas which are
heavily militarized [where] they are able to move easily...and
commit murders with impunity. In some cases, the military or police
either turn a blind eye to what is being done by paramilitary
groups or give suport by offering safe conduct passes to members
of the paramilitary or by impeding investigation." His mandate
did not extend to the direct terror of the security forces, which
far outweighs the depredations of its informal allies.
A few months before the State Department praise for Colombia's
humane democracy, a Jesuit-sponsored development and research
organization published a report documenting atrocities in the
first part of 1988, including over 3000 politically-motivated
killings, 273 in "social cleansing" campaigns.38 Excluding
those killed in combat, political killings averaged 8 a day, with
seven murdered in their homes or in the street and one "disappeared."
"The vast majority of those who have disappeared in recent
years," WOLA added, "are grassroots organizers, peasant
or union leaders, leftist politicians, human rights workers and
other activists," over 1500 by the time of the State Department
endorsement. Perhaps the State Department had in mind the recent
(1988) mayoral campaigns, in which 29 of the 87 mayoral candidates
of the UP were assassinated along with over 100 of its candidates
for municipal councilor. The Central Organization of Workers,
a coalition of trade unions formed in 1986, had by then lost over
230 members, most of them found dead after brutal torture.
Recall also that in 1988, the more advanced forms of "maximal
criminalization of the political and social opposition" were
instituted for "total war against the internal enemy,"
as the regime of state terror consolidated. By the time the State
Department report appeared, the methods of control it found praiseworthy
were being still more systematically implemented. From 1988 through
early 1992, 9500 people were assassinated for political reasons
along with 830 disappearances and 313 massacres (between 1988
and 1990) of peasants and poor people.
The primary victims of atrocities were, as usual, the poor,
mainly peasants. In one southern department, grassroots organizations
testified in February 1988 that a "campaign of total annihilation
and scorched earth, Vietnam-style," was being conducted by
the military forces "in a most criminal manner, with assassinations
of men, women, elderly and children. Homes and crops are burned,
obligating the peasants to leave their lands." The State
Department had a plethora of evidence of this sort before it when
it cleared Colombia of human rights violations. Its own official
Human Rights reports attributed virtually all violence to the
guerrillas and narcotraffickers, so that the US was "justified"
in providing the mass murderers and torturers with military equipment,
putting our taxes to good use.
That, of course, was the "bad old days" of 1989,
when we were still defending civilization from the Russian threat.
Moving to the present, matters become worse, for reasons explained
by President Gaviria in May 1992. When questioned about atrocities
by the military in the Colombian press, he responded that "The
battle against the guerrillas must be waged on unequal terms.
The defense of human rights, of democratic principles, of the
separation of powers, could prove to be an obstacle for the counterinsurgency
During the Bush years, the US Embassy "did not make a
single public statement urging the government to curb political
or military abuses," WOLA observes, while US support for
the military and police increased.41 But now that liberal Democrats
have taken over, the Clinton Administration has called for a change
in policy towards the Colombian killers: more active US participation.
For fiscal year 1994, the Administration requested that military
financing and training funds be increased by over 12%, reaching
about half of proposed military aid for all of Latin America.
Congressional budget cuts for the Pentagon interfered with these
plans, so the Administration "intends to use emergency drawdown
authority to bolster the Colombia account," Americas Watch
reports. Congress, however, is continuing to interfere, taking
note of "continuing human rights abuses on a large scale"
and imposing conditions on US aid, which the Administration will
have to find ways to evade, with the usual formulas and devices.
The Senate also urged the Colombian Government to permit Red Cross
access to police and detention facilities, which it has generally
The Human Rights organizations (Amnesty International, Human
Rights Watch) are committed to international conventions on human
rights. Thus AI reports open by stating that the organization
"works to promote all the human rights enshrined in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and other international standards."
In practice, however, the commitment is skewed in accord with
Western standards, which are significantly different. The United
States, in particular, rejects the universality of the Universal
Declaration, amidst much posturing about our noble defense of
the sacred principle of universality and self-righteous denunciation
of the "cultural relativism" of the backward peoples
who fall short of our exalted standards. The United States has
always flatly rejected the sections of the Universal Declaration
dealing with social and economic rights, and also consistently
disregards, ignores, and violates much of the remainder of the
Declaration -- even putting aside its massive involvement in terror,
torture, and other abuses.
The Human Rights Groups say little about social and economic
rights, generally adopting the highly biased Western perspective
on these matters. In the case of Colombia, we have to go beyond
these (in themselves, very valuable) reports to discover the roots
of the extraordinary violence. They are not obscure. The president
of the Colombian Permanent Committee for Human Rights, former
Minister of Foreign Affairs Alfredo V squez Carrizosa, writes
that it is "poverty and insufficient land reform" that
"have made Colombia one of the most tragic countries of Latin
America," and are the source of the violence, including the
mass killings of the 1940s and early 1950s, which took hundreds
of thousands of lives. Land reform was legislated in 1961, but
"has practically been a myth," unimplemented because
landowners "have had the power to stop it" in this admirable
democracy with its constitutional regime, which V squez Carrizosa
dismisses as a "facade," granting rights that have no
relation to reality. The violence has been caused "by the
dual structure of a prosperous minority and an impoverished, excluded
majority, with great differences in wealth, income, and access
to political participation."
And as elsewhere in Latin America, "violence has been
exacerbated by external factors," primarily the initiatives
of the Kennedy Administration, which "took great pains to
transform our regular armies into counterinsurgency brigades,
accepting the new strategy of the death squads," ushering
in "what is known in Latin America as the National Security
Doctrine,...not defense against an external enemy, but a way to
make the military establishment the masters of the game...[with]
the right to combat the internal enemy, as set forth in the Brazilian
doctrine, the Argentine doctrine, the Uruguayan doctrine, and
the Colombian doctrine: it is the right to fight and to exterminate
social workers, trade unionists, men and women who are not supportive
of the establishment, and who are assumed to be communist extremists."
It is in this precise sense, no other, that the Cold War guided
The results are an income distribution that is "dramatically
skewed," WOLA observes, another striking feature of the domains
of longstanding US influence, from which we are, again, to learn
nothing. The top three percent of Colombia's landed elite own
over 70% of arable land, while 57% of the poorest farmers subsist
on under 3%. 40% of Colombians live in "absolute poverty,"
unable to satisfy basic subsistence needs, according to a 1986
report of the National Administration Bureau of Statistics, while
18% live in "absolute misery," unable to meet nutritional
needs. The Colombian Institute of Family Welfare estimates that
four and a half million children under 14 are hungry: that is,
one of every two children, in this triumph of capitalism, a country
of enormous resources and potential, lauded as "one of the
healthiest and most flourishing economies in Latin America"
The "stable democracy" does exist, but as what Jenny
Pearce calls "democracy without the people," the majority
of whom are excluded from the political system monopolized by
elites, more so as political space has been "rapidly closing
by the mid-1980s." For Colombian elites, the international
funding agencies, and foreign investors, "democracy"
functions. But it is not intended for the public generally, who
are "marginalized economically and politically." "The
state has reserved for the majority the `state of siege' and all
the exceptional repressive legislation and procedures that can
guarantee order where other mechanisms fail," Pearce continues,
increasingly in recent years. That is democracy, in exactly the
sense of regular practice and even doctrine, if we attend closely.
No discussion of "democracy enhancement" in the
current era can fail to consider Haiti, a sickening story that
requires separate treatment, particularly now, when Clinton Administration
efforts to undermine Haitian democracy have reached such a sordid
level that even his allies are deserting the ship. As of March,
the latest revelation of Clintonite deceit on "restoring
democracy" to Haiti was the Congressional testimony of Lawrence
Pezzullo, the Secretary of State's special adviser for Haiti.
Pezzullo was questioned about a plan "portrayed as a Haitian
solution spawned by weeks of tough negotiations in Washington
among disparate leaders of Haitian society," Christopher
Marquis reported in the Miami Herald. The Clinton Administration
had strongly supported the plan as the optimal solution, representing
Haitian democrats. It harshly condemned Aristide for his intransigence
in rejecting the plan -- which, true enough, ignored such minor
matters as the return of the elected President to Haiti and the
removal of the worst of the state terrorists from power. Pezzullo
conceded that the plan had in fact been "spawned" in
the offices of the State Department, which selected the "Haitian
negotiators" who were to ratify it in Washington. Included
among them were right-wing extremists with close military ties,
notably Frantz-Robert Mond, a former member of Duvalier's terrorist
Tontons Macoute and a close associate of police chief Lt.-Col.
Joseph Michel Francois, the most brutal and powerful of the Haitian
state terrorists (incidentally, another beneficiary of US training).
"In other words, the operation was a hoax" (Larry
Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs), yet another
effort to ensure that democracy is "enhanced" in Haiti
in the familiar way -- without any "populist-based change"
that might upset "established economic and political orders"
and open "a leftist direction" (Carothers).
March 26, 1994