NED and 'Project Democracy'
(by William Blum | January 2000)

"A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA"
Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation that established the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

The late 1970s was a remarkable period. Spurred by Watergate — the Senate's Church committee, the House's Pike committee and the Rockefeller Commission were investigating the CIA. The CIA was getting an exceedingly bad name and it caused the powers-that-be much embarrassment.

Something had to be done. In 1983, under President Reagan, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was set up to "support democratic institutions throughout the world through private, nongovernmental efforts." In 1991, Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, candidly said: "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."1 In effect, the CIA launders money through NED.

NED meddles in the internal affairs of foreign countries by supplying funds, technical know-how, training, educational materials, computers, faxes, copiers, and cars, to selected political groups, civic organizations, unions, dissidents, student groups, publishers and newspapers, etc. NED programs generally impart the philosophy that citizens are best served by free enterprise, class cooperation, collective bargaining, minimal government intervention in the economy and opposition to socialism. A free-market economy is equated with democracy, reform and growth. The merits of foreign investment are emphasized.

From 1994 to 1996, NED awarded more than $2,500,000 to the American Institute for Free Labor Development, which the CIA used for decades to subvert progressive unions.2 NED has funded centrist and rightist unions to oppose militantly pro-worker unions in France, Portugal, Spain and elsewhere. In France (1983-1984), NED supported a "trade union-like" group to counter "left-wing organizations of professors." It funded seminars, posters, books and pamphlets.3

One 1997-1998 NED program was: "To identify barriers to private sector development at local and federal levels in Yugoslavia and push for legislative change...[and] develop strategies for private sector growth."4 Critics of President Milosevic have been supported by NED grants for years.

Because of a controversy in 1984 — when NED funded a Panamanian presidential candidate backed by Noriega and the CIA — Congress enacted a law prohibiting the use of NED funds "to finance campaigns of candidates for public office." It is not difficult to circumvent this prohibition.

NED successfully manipulated elections in Nicaragua in 1990 and Mongolia in 1996. It helped overthrow democratically elected governments in Bulgaria in 1990 and Albania in 1991 and 1992. NED was busy in Haiti in the late 1990s on behalf of right-wing groups united in opposition to former-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his progressive ideology.6

NED says that it is teaching the ABCs of democracy and elections to people who don't know, but in all five countries named above there had already been free and fair elections. The problem was that they were won by political parties not favored by NED.

The NED maintains that it is engaged in "opposition building" and "encouraging pluralism." "We support people who otherwise do not have a voice in their political system," said NED program officer, Louisa Coan.7 But NED hasn't aided progressive or leftist opposition in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua or Eastern Europe — or, in the U.S. — even though these groups are hard pressed for funds and to make themselves heard. However, Cuban dissident groups and media are heavily supported.

The NED played an important role in the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s, funding key components of Oliver North's shadowy "Project Democracy." This network privatized U.S. foreign policy, waged war, ran arms and drugs, and engaged in other equally charming activities. In 1987, a White House spokesman stated that those at NED "run Project Democracy."8 NED was the public arm of Project Democracy, North ran its covert side.

NED also mounted a multi-level campaign to fight leftist insurgency in the Philippines in the mid-1980s, funding private organizations, including unions and the media.9 This was a replica of a typical CIA operation from pre-NED days.

Between 1990 and 1992, NED donated $250,000 to the Cuban-American National Fund. This ultra-fanatic, anti-Castro group in Miami, then financed Luis Posada Carriles, one of the most prolific and pitiless terrorists of modern times. He was involved in blowing up a Cuban airplane in 1976, killing 73 people. In 1997, he was involved in bombing Havana hotels.10


1. Washington Post, Sept.22, 1991
2. NED Annual Reports, 1994-96
3. NED Annual Report, Nov.18, 1983 to Sept.30, 1984, p.21
4. NED Annual Report, Nov.18, 1983 to Sept.30, 1984, p.21
5. See NED annual reports of the 1990s
6. Haiti: Haiti Progres, May 13-19, 1998
7. New York Times, Mar.31, 1997, p.11
8. Washington Post, Feb.16, 1987; also see New York Times, Feb.15, 1987, p.1
9. San Francisco Examiner, Jul.21, 1985, p.1
10. New York Times, July 13, 1998
Source: From Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, 2000

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