The Manila Times : US has meddled in foreign elections since 1948; it's meddling in our elections now

26 April 2022

By Yen Makabenta | The Manila Times

First word

SOVEREIGN people, be in no doubt. The United States, through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is covertly meddling in the current election campaign leading up to our national elections on May 9.

Sneakily and in defiance of our laws against foreign interference in the electoral process, the CIA seeks to influence the collective decision of our people in the election to promote US interests. It is taking sides in a political contest in which it has no part to play.

In a word, the CIA seeks the election of a president who will firmly align the Philippines with American purposes.

To make all this happen, the CIA is funneling money to the candidate and party of its choice. It has also organized media entities and journalist groups who will preach the American line in the election. It has initiated projects designed to prop up some languishing candidates and tame the formidable lead of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the BBM-Sara UniTeam in the election campaign.

I have a fair idea (a guess really) of whom the US has chosen as its candidates and its allies in the election. But I will only identify them at the conclusion of this column after its entire argument is done.

For now, I want to lay before the reader the incontrovertible and well-documented record of persistent US meddling in foreign elections since 1948. This explains how the CIA became such a menace in the affairs of nations.

CIA tradition since 1948

Wayne Madsen, an investigative journalist and author, wrote in the website an article entitled "US meddling in foreign elections: A CIA tradition since 1948," posted on Feb. 10, 2020.

Madsen, citing a New York Times article titled, "Russia Isn't the Only One Meddling in Elections. We Do It, Too," authored by Scott Shane, debunked the US intelligence claims that the US meddled in foreign elections for altruistic reasons, while charging that Russia interfered in foreign elections for purely malevolent purposes.

The belief that US interference in global elections is to promote liberal democracy could not be further from the truth, Madsen writes.

"The CIA never meddled in foreign elections for purposes of extending democratic traditions to other nations. The chief purpose was to disenfranchise leftist and progressive voters and political parties, ensure the veneer of 'democracy' in totalitarian countries, and protect the interests of the US military bases and US multinational corporations…

"On the rare occasions when the CIA's efforts to rig an election failed — as they did in Guatemala in 1950 and Chile in 1970 — the agency simply organized bloody military coups to replace with military juntas the democratically elected presidents who defeated CIA-supported candidates at the polls."

In 1954, the CIA overthrew the Guatemalan government of President Jacobo Arbenz, who was elected in 1950 on a platform of agrarian reform. Guatemala's peasants had been suffering for years under the indentured servitude of the US-owned United Fruit Company.

"The Chilean junta that replaced Socialist President Salvador Allende, who was elected in 1970 despite massive CIA interference, transformed Chile into a test bed for the vulture capitalism devised by the 'Chicago Boys' — a group of Chilean economists who studied under the neo-conservative economist Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago."

The massive free market laissez-faire policies instituted by the regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, which a US Senate intelligence committee investigation concluded were made with CIA help, saw the elimination of trade tariffs, the mass sell-off of state-owned enterprises, cutting of taxes, privatization of the state-run pension system, and deregulation of industry.

In 1990, CIA election meddling in Nicaragua saw the defeat of the ruling Sandinista-led government. In the 2000 Serbian election, President Slobodan Milosevic was ejected from power with the help of the CIA.

In 2009, the CIA attempted to defeat Afghan President Hamid Karzai for reelection. Although Karzai was reelected, he bitterly complained about CIA interference.

Former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul reportedly funneled CIA cash — some $6.8 million in total — via the National Endowment for Democracy and its two branches, the International Republican Institute of the Republican Party and the National Democratic Institute of the Democratic Party, to Russian opposition leaders like Aleksei Navalny.

The CIA and State Department also reportedly channeled some $5 billion into Ukraine in order to elect a pro-US administration.

CIA interfered with 81 foreign elections

A sidebar to the Madsen article is a report by Alexander Light, detailing how the CIA has interfered with over 81 foreign elections in the past century.

Light, citing a database amassed by political scientist Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University, writes that the US has done so as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000.

"That number doesn't include military coups and regime change efforts following the election of candidates the US didn't like, notably those in Iran, Guatemala and Chile. Nor does it include general assistance with the electoral process, such as election monitoring."

Levin defines intervention as 'a costly act which is designed to determine the election results [in favor of] one of the two sides.'

"These acts, carried out in secret two-thirds of the time, include funding the election campaigns of specific parties, disseminating misinformation or propaganda, training locals of only one side in various campaigning or get-out-the-vote techniques, helping one side design their campaign materials, making public pronouncements or threats in favor of or against a candidate, and providing or withdrawing foreign aid."

Throughout the Cold War, US involvement in foreign elections was mainly motivated by the goal of containing communism, said Thomas Carothers, a foreign policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"The US didn't want to see left-wing governments elected, and so it did engage fairly often in trying to influence elections in other countries," Carothers said.

US interference in PH elections

The US, through the CIA, has repeatedly meddled in Philippine elections, and in some cases, literally decided who should run and win the presidency.

The story of President Ramon Magsaysay's election and the close involvement of the CIA in his administration is an object lesson on the perils of allowing the CIA to interfere in our elections and in national administration.

Subsequent Philippine presidential elections saw the CIA repeatedly involved, particularly in the funding of campaigns.

Now, given our history, and given above all the disreputable record of CIA interference in foreign elections, would the CIA today just sit by and watch our 2022 election unfold and elect a new president and new administration?

Will the superpower rivalry between the United States and China and the thorny politics of the South China Sea allow the US to scrupulously refrain from meddling in the 2022 presidential election?

Certainly not. Without the shadow of a doubt, I believe the CIA is again at work plotting to shape the election outcome on May 9.

It is unlikely that the US would just accept the seeming inevitability of Bongbong Marcos' victory in the election and just await his government.

Far more likely is a decision to create an American candidate in the 2022 election by choosing a malleable and needy candidate who could be controlled.

It was in these circumstances that I think Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo may be Washington's chosen candidate, with the Liberal Party and the Yellow cult designated as Robredo's electoral base for a serious presidential run.

US covert support is the reason why the Robredo campaign appears to have momentarily surmounted its massive funding woes (after local financial backers reportedly retreated) and why Robredo suddenly got some endorsements from a handful of governors, and why former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and the Reporma party abruptly dropped Sen. Panfilo Lacson as their standard bearer, and switched their support to Robredo.

This is why Robredo's pink campaign is now able to stage huge campaign rallies that US-backed media inflate to look like a turn of the tide.

It was to earn approval from the CIA that the laughable interview by Maria Ressa of Leni Robredo on the first 100 days of her presidency was staged.

But all this still looks too puny to stop the Marcos tidal wave. The coming wave is too massive, and there are only two weeks left before election day.

The bigger and deeper question is whether the CIA, with its deep knowledge of strategy and bag of dirty tricks, has the capability to deflect a Marcos landslide this late in the game. Or whether the US is willing to risk all to thwart the decision of our sovereign people in order to enforce its will.

But why would the US place its bet on another wide-eyed housewife?