Promoting Humanitarian Imperialism in Cuba and Beyond
Promoting Humanitarian Imperialism in Cuba and Beyond
"People in Need (PIN) is a Czech organization that provides relief aid and development assistance, while working to defend human rights and democratic freedom... PIN is one of the largest organizations of its kind in post-communist
Formerly known as the Epicentrum Foundation, People In Need was founded in 1992 by "conflict journalists" and "dissidents and leaders of the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution", only changing it name to People in Need (PIN) in 1994 when they began to work in partnership with Czech Public Service Television. For those readers already aware of the 'democratic' background of the so-called Velvet Revolution (of 1989), it will come as little surprise to hear that PIN currently works closely with the US's premier democracy manipulating organization, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
"An American attempt to foster democracy is being denounced here as unfair interference favoring the political parties closest to President Vaclav Havel.
"At issue is $400,000 that the National Endowment for Democracy in
Comprehending the significance of this 'democratic' funding to the progressive movement worldwide is critical to understanding the implications of PIN's current work, so it is worth briefly summarizing the NED's origins.
Created in the 1983, with bipartisan support, the NED was launched amidst much fanfare by President Reagan who stated that it would enable the US to "foster the infrastructure of democracy - the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities" all over the world. Given the unquestionably murderous nature of Reagan's regime, his adoption of the rhetoric of democracy was cunning indeed, and to date there has been little media sustained attention paid to the manipulative work of the NED and it's numerous cohorts. Thus unhindered by the mainstream and alternative media alike, Jonah Gindin and Kirsten Weld (2007) observe that:
"...the NED and other democracy-promoting governmental and nongovernmental institutions have intervened successfully on behalf of 'democracy' - actually a very particular form of low-intensity democracy chained to pro-market economics - in countries from Nicaragua to the Philippines, Ukraine to Haiti, overturning unfriendly 'authoritarian' governments (many of which the United States had previously supported) and replacing them with handpicked pro-market allies."
Professor William I. Robinson was the one of the first researchers to draw attention to the hypocrisy that was the antidemocratic practices of the NED, and his seminal work on this topic was Promoting Polyarchy, a book which examined the hijacking of democratic transitions in
Vaclav Havel as Arch 'Democracy Promoter'
Havel helped head off communism with NED aid, it is fitting that Havel - who retained his presidency until 2003 - would become a key ally of the 'democracy promoting' community, and a "long-term partnerof People in Need". The beginning of this 'democracy' love-in was of course marked by his successful rise to power in 1989, but it has been maturing ever since.
In 1990 the 'democratically' connected Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institutehonored
Havel with their Four Freedoms Award. Two years later Havel then received the NED's annual Democracy Award, and the National Democratic Institute's W. Averell Harriman Democracy Award (the other recipient of this award was Lane Kirkland who at the time was the president of the AFL-CIO - one of the NED's core grantees). Sadly for Havel, such 'democracy' awards then dried up until 2003 when he was awarded the International Rescue Committee's Freedom Award. The following year he was then awarded the W. Averell Harriman Democracy Award for a second time, while a further three years later Havel was also awarded the NED's much sought after Democracy Service Medal.
Given Havel's strong 'democratic' connections it is fitting that Edward S. Herman and David Peterson (2005)refer to Havel as belonging to a group of war apologists whom they refer to collectively as The New Humanitarians. They write that:
"The defining characteristics of the New Humanitarians are that (1) they take sides, and have done so in parallel with NATO policy [that is, NATO's policies in Yugoslavia]; (2) they reject traditional humanitarianism's principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence, non-violence, and the provision of care; and (3) they advocate a 'humanitarian' right to intervene by state violence to terminate human rights abuses."
Knowing this it is not surprising that
Havel's other 'democratic' affiliations come through his membership of the international advisory board of the NED's Journal of Democracy, and through his serving on the advisory boards of both the Project on Justice in Times of Transition, and the NED-funded International Campaign for Tibet (a group which in 2005 awarded its annual Light of Truth to the president of the NED). Finally, Havel is also a member of the International Committee for Democracy in
Returning to People in Need, their current director and co-founder, Simon Panek, is directly linked to Havel because: "He was one of the student leaders of the 'Velvet Revolution' and later became a member of Civic Forum and actively participated in Havel's team that negotiated the establishment of a democratic government." Indeed, at PIN's annual One World International Human Rights Film Festival there is even a Vaclav Havel Special award for the film judged to make the "most significant contribution to human rights awareness". So given the vigorous links that exist between
People [Not] in Need of 'Democratic' Funding
I was first alerted to People in Need's ties to the NED via the latter's online Democracy Projects Database when I was researching the Education grants that they had recently been providing to Iraqi groups (the database provides grant details from 1990 onwards). This initial search revealed that in 2004 PIN had received $75,000 to enable them to "assist nascent Iraqi NGOs to build their technical and managerial capacity". The following year PIN then received a further $100,000 grant from the NED which allowed them to continue this project. Having gained my attention, I subsequently searched the NED's database for other instances of where PIN had received NED funds by searching for grants distributed to both "People in Need (PIN)" and "People in Need Foundation (PINF)". However, by using these terms I could not even locate the grants I had just looked at, and the database simply displayed the message "Unable to recognize as a correctly formed query". Subsequently, I then searched the database using the term "People in Need", which returned the same message, and then I tried the search using the term "People in Need Foundation", which this time provided me with the details of a further four NED grants, three for work in Central and Eastern Europe Region (between 1999 and 2002), and one for work in Cuba (in 2003).
At this stage I had discovered that between 1999 and 2005, the NED had provided PIN with six grants worth just over $300,000, however, as I wanted to find out more about the other funders' of their work I examined the financial sections of their six most recent annual reports (all of which are conveniently located on their website). This is when I worked out that PIN receive a lot more money from the NED than I was led to believe by looking at the NED's project database. In fact, according to their annual reports, in the past six years PIN has received a whopping $1 million from the NED. Furthermore, it was evident that PIN's work was being funded by a host of 'democracy promoting' organizations, as they had received two grants from the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (the British version of the NED) which were worth a total of $17,000, a single grant from Freedom Houseworth $19,000, a single grant from the NED-linked Reporters Without Bordersworth $3,600, and significantly, they had also received annual grants from the NED-funded Center for a Free Cuba which came to a total of a massive $389,000. PIN's links to the final Cuban group is noteworthy because Reporters Without Borders "limitless obsession with Cuba" is also funded by them, therefore, the final section of this paper will briefly examine the 'democratic' credentials of both the Center for a Free Cuba and the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba - a group that was founded by Havelin 2003.
Exporting 'Democracy' to
Like many 'democracy promoting' organizations the Center for a Free Cuba (CFC) - which was formed in November 1997 - sounds like an innocuous democracy-loving group, and it describes itself as an "independent, non-partisan institution dedicated to promoting human rights and a transition to democracy and the rule of law on the island [Cuba]". However, the Center's choice of Frank Calzon as their executive director makes easy to understand the type of democracy they are interested in promoting, as for the ten years prior to starting work at the CFC Calzon had worked as the Washington representative for the neoconservative Freedom House. Calzon is also a former director of the infamous Cuban-American National Foundation CANF - another non-profit group that was formed in 1981 to advance "freedom and democracy in
Here it is critical to note that CANF's ex-president, Jose S. Sorzano, previously served as a director of the Center for International Private Enterprise  - which is one of the NED's four core grantees - and he formerly acted as an aide to former CFC director, the late Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick. CANF is also directly linked to CFC through retired chief executive of Bacardi, Manuel J. Cutillas, who is a former chair of CANF's board of directors, and is currently a director of CFC. (Cutillas is also presently a trustee of the Free Enterprise Foundation, where he sits next to 'democratic' notable Edwin Meese III.)
Other interesting 'democratic' CFC directors include Nestor T. Carbonell (who is also a director of the Council of the Americas, is a member of the board of overseers of the International Rescue Committee, and serves on the advisory board of the Cuba Archive - an organization that is supported by Freedom House), Jeronimo Esteve-Abril (who serves on the advisory board of the Cuba Archive, and is a former CANF director), and Susan Kaufman Purcell (who is the vice president of both the Council of the Americas and the Americas Society, serves on the advisory council of the International Executive Service Corps, serves on the advisory council of the Inter-American Foundation (in 2004 at least), is a former trustee of Freedom House, and a former member of the editorial board of the NED's Journal of Democracy).
Finally three particularly 'democratic' members of CFC's research council are Luis E. Aguilar (who serves on the advisory board of the Cuba Archive), Irving Louis Horowitz (who served on the editorial board of the NED-funded China Perspective in the late 1980s, and was a member of the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya), and Georges A. Fauriol (who is a Senior Vice President of the International Republican Institute, is the former Director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and has also worked for both the US Information Agency and the Inter-American Development Bank).
Concluding Thoughts: Beyond
As Edward S. Herman and David Peterson (2005) conclude in their groundbreaking essay, Morality's Avenging Angels; the New Humanitarians - to which one might add People in Need - have "served as a political and propaganda arm of the new imperialism" by helping sustain the moral cover for imperial projects by "sanctioning the abandonment of the rule of law in the purported interest of human rights". Moreover in another seminal article Herman and Peterson (2007) argue that while:
"Those on the left recognize the enormity of the lying that helped insulate U.S. and UK policymakers during their preparation to seize Iraqi territory, the depth of ideology required for educated Westerners to speak of a 'war on terror' or a 'clash of civilizations' without laughing, and so on. These lies and the structure of false beliefs that undergird them have not fared too well lately - at least to a point. In this respect, the contrast with the as yet far more impregnable edifice of lies that serves and protects the Western interventions in the former
This is clearly an intolerable situation, and it is one that needs to be urgently addressed by all concerned citizens: moreover, the widespread recent calls for a 'humanitarian' intervention in
Vijay Prashad (2007) draws our attention to the US's oil interests in Sudan, while former NATO commander, General Wesley Clark (2007) explains that in 2001 a classified memo from the Secretary of Defense's office described how the US planned "to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran". Furthermore, it is vital to note that on July 27, 2004, the
"According to the UN commission appointed to investigate
Likewise Herman and Peterson (2007) observe that:
"...the only 'never agains' around which we've observed the 'humanitarian' war-sect mobilizing are the ones that advance an imperial agenda - never that run counter to it. The Bosnian Serbs,
Implementing progressive solutions to the problems identified in this article simply requires that concerned citizens begin to apply their common-sense to the issues at hand. Certainly one of the first steps that progressive activists will need to take to advance a truly progressive agenda will involve them gaining a firmer grasp of the historical context to the rise of 'humanitarian' (read: humanitarian imperialism) interventions worldwide. Then perhaps people may begin to look more critically at the ongoing cooption of progressive voices - most notably through liberal philanthropy –and then they can start rebuilding the left, by creating a powerful grassroots-funded movement that can present a serious threat to the antidemocratic elites that stand between the world and democracy (that is, more participatory forms of democracy).
Michael Barker is a doctoral candidate at
 "Havel praised the Nato bombing of
 Exact grant details:
Grantor: NED; Grantee: People in Need Foundation (PINF); Country(ies):
Grantor: NED; Grantee: People in Need (PIN); Country(ies):
 Exact grant details:
Grantor: NED; Grantee: People in Need Foundation; Country(ies): Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Kosovo; Region: Central and Eastern Europe; Subject(s): Media and Publishing; Grant Awarded: 1999; Amount: $21,000 (special USIA funds for the Balkans and Slovakia); Program Summary: To work with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to organize a one-month training program in Prague for 15 young Kosovar journalists. The program will include seminars and lectures on the fundamental principles of journalism and hands-on training on state-of-the-art radio broadcasting equipment and the Internet.
Grantor: NED; Grantee: People in Need Foundation; Country(ies): Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Kosovo; Region: Central and
Grantor: NED; Grantee: People in Need Foundation; Country(ies): Central and Eastern Europe Regional; Region: Central and Eastern Europe; Subject(s): Media and Publishing; Youth; Grant Awarded: 2002; Amount: $27,500*; Program Summary: To enable the
Grantor: NED; Grantee: People in Need Foundation; Country(ies):
 In 2000, PIN received CZK 4,108,663 ($107,000) from the NED, CZK 605,904 ($16,000) from the Center for a Free Cuba, CZK 33,948 ($1,000) from the Westminster Foundation,
In 2001, PIN received €105,903 ($150,000) from the NED, €22,339 ($32,000) from the Center for a Free Cuba, €11,127 ($16,000) from the Westminster Foundation.
In 2002, PIN received €96,032 ($136,000) from the NED, €63,949 ($91,000) from the Center for a Free Cuba, €13,422 ($19,000) from Freedom House, €15,951 ($23,000) from Saferhouse
In 2003, PIN received €111,717 ($158,000) from the NED, €109,361 ($155,000) from the International Rescue Committee, €42,864 ($61,000) from the Center for a Free Cuba,
In 2004, PIN received €171,869 ($243,000) from the NED, €127,786 ($181,000) from the International Rescue Committee, €48.810 ($69,000) from the Center for a Free Cuba,
In 2005, PIN received €169,454 ($240,000) from the NED, and it is also interesting that they received €7,137 ($10,000) from the Americans Friends Service Committee, €2,517 ($3,600) from Reporters Without Borders, and €85,502 ($120,000) from the Center for a Free Cuba.
Currency conversions from Euros to US$ were made using current exchange rates.
 For more background information on Manuel J. Cutillas's involvement with Bacardi, see Hernando Calvo Ospina, Bacardi: The Hidden War (