Thursday, June 09, 2016

Criticizing NGOs in Latin America

During the Cold War, those opposed to U.S. policy toward Latin America worked closely with non-governmental organizations. In classes I use Kathryn Sikkink's Mixed Signals, which analyses in detail how NGOs were instrumental in compelling the U.S. government to accept the idea of human rights. International organizations like the Inter-American Comission of Human Rights were also important--though not always effective--avenues for addressing the abuses of Cold War military dictatorships.

Now, all that is turned on its head. The Latin American left sees both NGOs and human rights organizations as tools of U.S. imperialism.

The reason, of course, is that these types of organizations are highly critical of those in power. If you're president, they make you angry and so you lash out. Dictators like Augusto Pinochet did so, and democratically elected leaders like Rafael Correa do so. Their supporters then jump on the bandwagon as well. Civil society itself is called into question, as anyone critical of the government by definition becomes an agent of an outside power. During the Cold War, you were a tool of the Marxists; nowadays you're a tool of the Obama administration.


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