Guardian Runs Response to Column Criticizting IRI’s Work in Mexico

We did not ‘meddle’ in Mexico – they asked for our help
The Guardian
By Lorne W. Craner

Greg Palast, in his column on the elections in Mexico (Mexico and Florida have more in common than heat, July 8), stated: “There are signs of Washington’s meddling in its neighbour’s elections. The International Republican Institute, an arm of Bush’s party apparatus funded by the US government, admits to providing tactical training for Pan [the ruling National Action party].”

The “sign” Palast cites fails to prove his point. Though he is correct that IRI does provide training to Pan, had he checked our website he could have informed readers that IRI also provides the same training to the Democratic Revolutionary party of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the Institutional Revolutionary party of Roberto Madrazo.

As our website also shows, IRI’s “tactical training” consists of helping members of the Mexican congress improve services for constituents, assisting political parties with internal party democracy, and encouraging women and young people to become involved in politics. None of the parties that represent the span of Mexican political ideology and that have requested and received this assistance believe IRI to be “meddling” in Mexico’s affairs. Why does Palast have a different standard?

In Ukraine, IRI had a similar programme, and we monitored the 2004 presidential elections which the international community condemned. We did not, as reported in the Guardian at the time, organise millions of Ukrainians in a campaign to protest against the results of those elections (US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev, November 26 2004).

It’s comforting to know that a Guardian correspondent found a country where so many listen so closely to what Americans say. We are realistic, however, and believe it is our role to assist, and not to lead, those around the world who want a free future. We work in these countries and more than 50 others because we are asked to be there.

Every day we learn of war, pestilence and famine that might be averted in part if people in the affected countries were able to choose a more responsive government. Democracy does not guarantee freedom from these afflictions, but it is far more likely in a democratic system than in a dictatorship. Like our sister organisation the National Democratic Institute, with which we work closely, IRI helps to develop political parties, civic institutions, open elections, good governance and the rule of law.

We are helped in our efforts by volunteers from all over the world. Many in Europe are giving their time to help political parties in emerging democracies become more than vehicles for personal advancement, to come up – on their own – with solutions to their country’s problems, and to communicate those solutions to voters. Many help civic leaders as they begin to petition government leaders for change. And others work with newly elected representatives as they struggle to govern in an open and transparent manner.

These are not acts of subversion, but a way of helping people in dictatorships and new democracies gain the freedoms that citizens in the US and Britain take for granted.

Lorne Craner is president of the International Republican Institute and the former assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labour at the US state department.

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