The Boston Globe
Your Feb. 5 editorial ”Exporting democracy” links the National Endowment for Democracy to a recent New York Times article accusing the International Republican Institute of meddling in Haitian politics in a manner counter to official US policy. The allegations in the Times article are vigorously disputed by the IRI, though their response has not been published. That aside, it is worth noting that the Times article made no mention of the National Endowment for Democracy. And for good reason: The endowment did not fund a single one of the IRI programs in Haiti detailed in the article.
The Globe laments, ”It is a shame that the democracy-building mission of the endowment has been undermined¦. . . because its core foundations do valuable work in many parts of the world.” It is not an exaggeration to say that the endowment, its core grantees, and the hundreds of grass-roots democratic groups it supports abroad are more greatly undermined when reputable American papers like the Globe write derogatory editorials without first checking the facts. Since we were not contacted, there was no opportunity for us to correct the main premise of the editorial or to counter several other mischaracterizations of the endowment’s support for democratic processes and institutions in Latin America.
The primary point of the editorial, that choosing sides in a country’s partisan disputes is inappropriate, is one that we agree with wholeheartedly. However, this should not mean that we should refrain from supporting the work of groups that seek the full participation of citizens in civic life, or to guarantee the most basic human and political rights in situations that are highly politicized. If supporting democratic groups is fine in Burma and Cambodia, then that should hold in other parts of the world such as Latin America, even when it makes the leaders of those countries and their US supporters uncomfortable.
National Endowment for Democracy