Translated from Spanish by Karla Jacobs
There are no excuses for playing the innocent about the motives behind US funding of “civil society” in Nicaragua. In the last analysis, this sort of funding is part of the political-military plan to destabilize and dominate the country, in exactly the same way as in other ALBA countries like Bolivia and Venezuela. The nationals implicated in the administration of these funds should jump ship as soon as possible if they want to avoid going down in history as traitors to their country.The destabilization strategy in Venezuela, based on the in-country installation of a US Agency for Development (USAID) Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) by the subcontractor DAI, is documented by Eva Golinger in her book, “The Chávez Code”. (1) This same strategy is being applied to Nicaragua with USAID’s CamTransparency Program managed by a branch of the paramilitary multinational DynCorp. The names are different, the scheme is the same.
As is well known, USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI), etc., have channelled millions of dollars of “aid” to “civil society” organizations which, in turn, function as an informal political party to destabilize the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity. It’s difficult to keep track of all of this “aid,” but on occasion the US Embassy itself publishes relevant information.
This was the case for the disbursement of some US$320,000 to “small projects” carried out by 15 Nicaraguan NGOs by the then US Ambassador in Managua Paul Trivelli and the then interim head of USAID in Managua, Carol Horning at the end of May 2008. (2) These projects were part of a plan to sabotage the municipal elections of the same year and, at the same time, to isolate Nicaragua by the subsequent suspension of a certain amount of international aid.
The projects, which had a value of between US$13,000 and US$15,000 each, were carried out by a heterogeneous group of NGOs ranging from Duo Guardabarranco to Radio 15th of September, from individuals like Fernando Avellán and Enrique Quiñónez to Carlos Chamorro’s CINCO Group as well as local US organizations like Ética y Transparencia.
It is essential to emphasize that none of this financial “aid” is innocent, none of it is provided for mere ideological motives – the motives are geopolitical and military. The members of the US team that manages these funds in Managua are military politicians:
The current US Ambassador in Managua, Robert J. Callahan, (3) was John Dimitri Negroponte’s public relations secretary when, from the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Negroponte converted Honduras into a sanctuary for the Contra fighters in the ’80s. Twenty years later Callahan worked again with Negroponte as head of public relations in occupied Iraq. At one point during his time in Iraq, Callahan’s convoy, contracted from the mercenary company Blackwater, shot at a taxi carrying a number of civilians, killing 19 year old Iraqi Yas Ali Mohammed Yassiri and injuring the driver Mohammed Nouri Hattab (4). Before the end of his mission in Iraq, Callahan gave a series of lectures in the National War Academy in Washington DC. During the two years prior to his appointment as US Ambassador in Managua in July 2008 Callahan was the Public Affairs Officer for the Director of National Intelligence in Washington DC. After Callahan’s appointment as Ambassador in Managua was announced, New York Times journalist Stephen Kinzer commented: “… it is a strange choice (…) considering that Callahan helped to inflict on Nicaragua one of the bloodiest wars in the country’s history.”
Callahan’s predecessor, Paul Trivelli, also has links to the US military (5): after leaving the Embassy in Managua in August 2008 his was named Civilian Deputy and Foreign Policy Adviser to the US Southern Command in Miami. The Southern Command itself explains that, as Civilian Deputy, Trivelli is responsible for permanently developing and refining the Southern Command’s regional strategy – it’s Theatre of War Plan – and the strategy of Security Cooperation for that same theatre. He also has a key role in terms of coordination between US agencies working towards the practical implementation of those plans. As Foreign Policy Adviser he advises the head of the Southern Command and other commanders in charge of foreign policy affairs relevant to National Security. As for Trivelli’s academic formation – he received a Masters in National Security Studies from the Naval War Academy in 1996.
The former Director of USAID in Nicaragua during the Trivelli era, Carol Horning, also has a past involving military formation having carried out studies about the National Security Strategy in the US War Academy between 2004 and 2005. (6)
Offices of Transition Initiatives (OTIs) (7) began to be installed by USAID around the world in 1994. The objective of the first OTIs was to support the transition towards capitalism in Eastern European countries. Soon their field of action expanded to places like Kosovo, Haiti, Indonesia, the Philippines, Colombia and wherever else the US needed to “resolve” situations in which its domination was being threatened.
Instructed by USAID, the OTIs install networks of political parties, media outlets and NGOs in the countries in which they operate, providing the funding and training those organizations need to implement, on the ground, policies obeying US objectives for the country in questions, objectives which vary from Coup d’Etats to insurgent struggles or military interventions.
In the case of Venezuela, the OTI in Caracas was created in July 2002, shortly after the failed coup against Hugo Chávez. In order to develop it’s work in Venezuela, the OTI contracted a multinational linked to the US industrial military complex, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI), which initially administered a fund of US$10 million for a project entitled “Venezuela: Trust Building Initiatives.” That money was used to fund the organizations that promoted and carried out the oil strike of the same year as well as the right wing parties and organizations opposed to the Bolivarian process.
The OTI in Bolivia was opened towards the end of 2005 in an attempt to impede Evo Morales’ rise to power. This time the company Casals & Associates (8), an affiliate of the paramilitary multinational DynCorp, was contracted. The initial budget of the OTI in La Paz was US$13.6 million. Calculations suggest that since then, the local OTI together with USAID have channelled some US$120 million to diverse opposition groups including the fascist groups from the so-called “Media Luna” region which promoted secession from the country – groups who are also responsible for uncountable acts of terror and even massacres against the civilian population. These facts led the Bolivian government to declare the US Ambassador Phillip Goldberg persona non-grata and to warn USAID that, should they continue funding similar activities, the organization would be expelled from the country.
In Nicaragua there is no Office of Transition Initiatives (which USAID itself translates incorrectly to Spanish as “Office of Democratic Initiatives”). In any case, the name is not important, because the contractor is the same as in Bolivia – DynCorp.
Dyncorp is a private US military defence company that has been contracted to participate in diverse conflicts where US hegemony is in question, the most notorious being Iraq and Colombia. It is well known and documented that the mercenaries contracted by DynCorp have a vast record of human rights violations in many parts of the world to the extent that they were even accused of terrorism in the US in 2002 for fumigations carried out against Ecuadorian campesinos near the border with Colombia. (10)
In Bosnia DynCorp organized a network of adolescent prostitution. In Iraq and Afghanistan the company has been accused of committing massacres, it was also accused of corruption. In Colombia, DynCorp trains the army and the paramilitaries and is responsible for the fumigation operations as part of Plan Colombia. DynCorp operated from the US Military Base in Manta, Ecuador, until the base was closed recently. Now thanks to an initial contract worth US$21 millions, DynCorp operates in Central America. (11)
The Program “Transparency, Anti corruption and Responsibility in Central America and Mexico” (CamTransparencia) is active in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama. The reason Honduras has been eliminated from the list is probably to do with the coup d’état against President Manuel Zelaya, but there is reason to believe that the program is still active. It is revealing that neither Costa Rica nor Mexico are on the list which is made up of countries where US hegemony is, or has until recently been, threatened.
The general objective of the program is described as being “to support governmental and non governmental initiatives towards greater transparency and less corruption in all participating countries and to promote sustainable reform of public policies.”
In Nicaragua CamTransparencua has organized discussion forums and other similar activities, but among its efforts emphasis is placed on attempts to influence European donor country policies, to favour the US’ agenda of political funding by the NED, IRI, IDI, as well as the funding of local “civil society” organizations according to US priorities and above all for propaganda purposes.
The list of “partners” of CamTransparencia / DynCorp in Nicaragua is the following:
Grupo Cívico Ética y Transparencia
Centro para Programas de Comunicación (CPC)
Red Nicaragüense Por la Democracia y el Desarrollo Local
Centro de Análisis Sociocultural – Universidad Centroamericana (CAS – UCA)
Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos y Políticas Públicas (IEEPP)
Instituto para el Desarrollo de la Democracia (IPADE)
Juventud por la Democracia de Nicaragua (JUDENIC)
Fundación Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (FVBCH)
Centro Ecuménico Antonio Valdivieso
IFES (Washington, D.C.)
Center for Internacional Journalists (Washington D.C.)
Apart from these “partners,” CamTransparencia has financed other groups including the following:
Asociación Religiosa de la Iglesia Pentecostés del Nombre de Jesucristo de Nicaragua
Grupo Radial Romance
Asociación para la Sobrevivencia y el Desarrollo Local (ASODEL)
Red de Jóvenes Nicaragüita (RJN)
Centro de Investigaciones de la Comunicación (CINCO)
Movimiento por Nicaragua
Comisión Permanente de Derechos Humanos (CPDH)
Comisiones de Justicia y Paz, Diócesis de Estelí (CJPE)
Radio 15 de Septiembre
Fundación Jinotegana para el Desarrollo Sostenible (FUNJIDES)
Fundación Nicaragua Nuestra (FNN)
Fundación Rubén Darío para el Desarrollo Humano (FUPADE)
Instituto de Administracion y Políticas Públicas de la Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería (UNI)
Fundación de Jóvenes para el Desarrollo Socioeconómico Nueva Generación (FNG)
Universidad de las Regiones Autónomas de la Costa Caribe de Nicaragua (URRACAN)
The current head of the CamTransparencia Project in Nicaragua is Mary Hogan who studied US National Security strategy. Hogan’s past involves work with USAID’s Peace Corps and with ARD, Inc. a consulting agency specializing in “governance processes.” In the recent past, Hogan was head of OIT programs in Zimbabwe and Uganda and advisor for a similar program in Paraguay. (12)
USAID’s CamTransparencia program is managed by the Casals & Associates, an affiliate of the paramilitary multinational DynCorp. It is important to point out that both DynCorp and Casals & Associates have a long history in Nicaragua.
On January 25th this year, the Casals & Associates website announced that DynCorp had bought 100% of the company’s shares (13). Details of the value of the purchase were not made available.
“the acquisition brings together the complementary skills, experience and capacity of Casals and DynCorp International to strengthen the strategic expansion of DynCorp International into the international development field,” reads the communiqué announcing the move. “Together they offer a best in class combination of competencies to provide services supporting U.S. defence, diplomacy and international development initiatives and objectives.”
Casals & Associates has much experience in terms of “supporting the democratic transition” [SIC!] in Nicaragua. According to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Website (14), in 1995 USAID awarded its first bilateral anti-corruption contract to Casals & Associates specifically to advise the Nicaragua government, which at that point was confronted with a national economy in ruins after years of war. The objective of the project was to improve the government’s capacity to reduce the potential of waste, fraud and other forms of abuse of resources by establishing an integrated auditing system and an integrated financial administration system.
What happened next is well known in Managua – a gory electoral fraud against the FSLN in the national elections of the following year and two neo liberal governments whose officials stole the chilling sum of C$18,000 million (some US$900 million) of public funds.
But the union between Casals & Associates and DynCorp becomes even more significant taking into account the country’s history.
In February of 2007, the Colombian Branch of the Permanent People’s Tribunal presented an accusation against DynCorp for its direct participation in human rights violations in the South American country. The report (15), prepared by the Lawyers Collective “José Alvear Restrepo,” quotes abundant information about DynCorp’s activities as part of the US’ dirty war against Nicaragua in the 80s including the following:
A DynCorp subcontractor involved itself directly in Nicaragua’s internal conflict – “the company Eagle Aviation Services and Technology, Inc. (EAST), subcontracted by DynCorp, helped Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, as part of the Iran-Contra scandal in the 80s, to transport arms and munitions for the Nicaraguan insurgents in their struggle against the Sandinista government [i].”
According to more detailed information [ii] “during the 80s, EAST and its founder Richard Gadd, helped North, then an official on the National Security Council, with the clandestine supply of arms and munitions to the Nicaraguan Contras after the US Congress had prohibited US government supply of lethal arms [to the Contras]”.
North also arranged for other of Gadd’s companies to be awarded State Department contracts involving the provision of above board humanitarian aid. This gave rise to what the independent counsel for the Iran-Contra scandal, Lawrence Walsh, described as “a rare occasion [in which] a U.S. government program unwittingly provided cover to a private covert operation.”
The revelation of the arms operation in favour of the Contra, which was partially funded with the sale of arms to Iran, led to the conviction that top functionaries from the Reagan administration were involved. Gadd testified in the Iran-Contra case evoking an immunity clause which freed both himself and EAST from criminal conviction.
In his testimony about the Iran-Contra scandal Gadd explained that EAST was one of many companies he formed after retiring in 1982 as a Lieutenant Colonel specializing in undercover operations in the US Air Force.
During the 80s, the Contra rebels tried to overthrow the left-wing Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The Reagan administration, which perceived the Sandinistas as a Marxist threat in Central America, supported the Contra. The Democrats, which controlled the US Congress at the time, believed that the US government should stay out of the conflict and should not permit US officials to provide lethal support to the Contras.
As a result North was forced to look to General (RE) Richard Secord for support in creating a private link that would permit a supply of arms to the Contra. In 1985 Secord contracted Gadd to oversee the provision of arms. It was through EAST that Gadd facilitated the acquisition of planes which carried arms and munitions from Portugal to Central America where they were dropped from the air into the Contra camps. EAST also constructed a runway in Costa Rica near the border with Nicaragua. According to Walsh’s final report [iii], EAST received a total of US$550,000 for its undercover work in relation to the Contra insurgency.
As stated previously, Nicaragua is subjected to a destabilization strategy similar to the ones being forged in other ALBA countries like Venezuela and Bolivia. Here there is no Office of Transition Initiatives but a program to promote “transparency.” And the senior members of the team in charge of that program have vast experience in “regime change” operations.
In truth, there is a long history behind “the US’ commitment to democracy in Nicaragua.” And from the moment DynCorp got involved again, the historic continuity of that “commitment” was taken up again in a very direct and palpable way. The ones financing “transparency” and “democracy” in Nicaragua today are the same people and institutions that provoked bloodshed in the country two decades ago. And they will do it again – if they get the chance.
(1) El Código Chávez, Descifrando la Intervención de los Estados Unidos en Venezuela. (The Chávez Code, desciphering US intervention in Venezuela) Eva Golinger, 2005, Editorial De Ciencias Sociales
(3) Callahan’s Official Biography Biografía published by the US State Department
(4) This story is included in the book BLACKWATER THE RISE OF THE WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL MERCENARY ARMY, by Jeremy Scahill, Nation Books 2007 pages 136-137.
(5) Trivelli’s Biography published by the US Southern Command – http://www.southcom.mil
(6) Horning’s personal profile in http://linkedin.com
(7) La Telaraña Imperial – Enciclopedia de la Ingerencia y la Subversión (The Imperial Spider’s Web – Encyclopedia of Intervention and Subversion), by Eva Golinger and Romain Migus, Centro Internacional Miranda. Caracas, 2008
(10) DynCorp Charged with Terrorism Lawsuit Unites U.S. Workers & Ecuador Farmers vs. Fumigation, Al Giordano, published on http://www.narconews.com February 22nd 2002.
(12) Hogan’s Personal Profile in http://linkedin.com
(13) Casals & Associates Joins DynCorp International, http://casals.com
(14) Supporting Democratic Transition in Nicaragua, http://casals.com
(15) Accusation against the multinational DynCorp presented by the Lawyers Collective “José Alvear Restrepo” to the Permanent Peoples Tribunal, Cacarica, February 24th – 27th, 2007
[i] LA TERCERIZACION DE LOS CONFLICTOS. By Prof. Dr. Adalberto C. Agozino. Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos y de Relaciones Internacionales. Available here:
[ii] Source: Associated Press, Por Ken Guggenheim – 05 jun 01. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/aponline/20010605/aponline142615_000.htm