National Endowment for Democracy

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NED was founded during the Ronald Reagan presidency in 1982, and shaped by an initial study undertaken by the American Political Foundation. [1]

NED was created with a view to creating a broad base of political support for the organization. NED received funds from the U.S. government and distributes funds to four other organizations - one created by the Republican Party, another by the Democratic Party, one created by the business community and one by the "labor" movement (N.B.: the names of these organizations have changed over time):

Project Democracy

In 2005, reported an interview with former CIA operative Philip Agee[2]

According to Agee, the CIA had in the past supported "brutal military dictatorships in all of the Cono Sur [Southern Cone]—Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and of course, in Chile with Pinochet". However a "process of new thinking began in the upper echelons of the makers of US foreign policy, the new thinking being that these military dictatorships, with all the repression and the disappearances and death squads and so forth, might not be the best way to preserve US interests in Latin America, or other areas for that matter". Agee goes on to claim that the "new thinking was that the preservation of US interests could better be achieved through the election of democratic governments formed by political elites who identify with the political class in the United States". These were not the popular forces, but the traditional political classes in Latin America, such as the ‘Oligarchies.’ Agee continues by saying "So the new American program, which became known as “Project Democracy,” was adopted and United States policy would seek to promote free, fair, transparent democratic elections but in such a way that it would assure that power went to the elites and not to the people".

To work towards the aims of Project Democracy, Agee reports that the “American Political Foundation” was established in 1979. This foundation was set up with major participation from the main labor center in the United States the AFL-CIO, with the United States Chamber of Commerce and with the Democratic and Republican parties. The four main organizations and the financing for this foundation came both from the government and from private sources. Their job is described as being to study how the United States could best apply this new thinking in promoting democracy and the solution is reported to have been the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its four associated foundations: the International Republican Institute (IRI) of the Republican Party, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) of the Democratic Party, the American Center of International Labor Solidarity (ACILS) of the AFL-CIO, and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) of the United States Chamber of Commerce. According to Agee, "where the AFL-CIO foundation is concerned, they took an existing organization which had worked hand-in-glove with the CIA for many years called the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) and simply changed the name".

NED-USAID Constellation of Organizations



Although publicly funded, the activities of these four institutes are not reported to Congress. According to William Robinson, "NED employs a complex system of intermediaries in which operative aspects, control relationships, and funding trails are nearly impossible to follow and final recipients are difficult to identify."

In a March 2005 interview, former CIA officer Philip Agee discussed the thinking behind NED's establishment:[4]

During the late 1970s there was new thinking at the highest levels of the U.S. foreign policymakers, and they reconsidered whether these ugly murderous military dictatorships of the 1970s were really the best way to preserve U.S. interests in these countries – U.S. interests being defined traditionally as unfettered access to the primary products and raw materials, to the labor and to the markets of foreign countries. This new thinking led to the establishment in 1983 of the National Endowment for Democracy. They had chosen the German pattern in which the major political parties in Germany have foundations financed by the federal government. They did more or less the same thing with the establishment of the NED as a private foundation – there is really nothing private about it, and all its money comes from the Congress.
But then there were the other core foundations – this was the fundamental mechanism for promotion of democracy around the world, but in actual fact, when they say the promotion of democracy, or civic education, or fortifying civil society, what they really mean is using those euphemisms to cover funding to certain political forces and not to others. In other words, to fortify the opposition of undesirable foreign governments as in the case of Venezuela, or to support a government that is favorable to US interests and avoid of coming to power of forces that are not seen as favorable to US interests. This will be the case since the early 1990s in Nicaragua because all those programs that were started in order to assure the defeat of Daniel Ortega in 1990 continued, and they continued to make sure that Sandinista Front was not reelected again after their defeat in 1990 – and that has been the case. These programs go on in various different countries and they require quite a bit of research. ... I am sure that one could find these programs in Mexico, Colombia, Peru probably, Brazil, and other countries outside the Latin American region.

Interference in Venezuela

Interference in Nicaragua

Carlson writes:

The president of Venezuela's RCTV, Eladio Larez, is no stranger to the CIA. In fact, Eladio's contact with the agency goes back nearly twenty years. Back in 1989, Larez helped the CIA funnel money through Venezuela to the Nicaraguan opposition as they worked to topple the Sandinista government through massive violence and destabilization. Larez was actually so kind as to set up a fraudulent foundation in Venezuela, called the National Foundation for Democracy, as a front organization to receive money from the CIA and pass it on to fund the operations of a major opposition newspaper in Nicaragua.[5]
In its attempts to create a hostile media atmosphere, the United States aided, created, and financed media outlets both inside and outside Nicaragua in order to shape public opinion and destabilize the Sandinista government. In the early years, the CIA broadcast into Nicaragua from radio stations in neighboring countries like Honduras, and gave financial assistance to existing opposition radio stations inside Nicaragua. But later, the United States eventually set up its own station inside the country called Radio Democracia with money from the CIA’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The mission, according to the director of the station, would be to “offset the [Sandinistas’] instruments for consciousness formation.” This was logical, after all, since a conscious population might not agree with Washington’s plans for “Somocismo without Somoza.”
The most important media for the U.S., however, would be the well-known opposition newspaper La Prensa. From the very beginning of the Sandinista government, the Managua daily received millions of dollars in payments from the CIA and NED, much of it funneled covertly through third-party connections like Eladio Larez and the Venezuelan government of President Carlos Andres Perez.
Larez met with La Prensa owner, and Washington’s preferred candidate for the 1990 elections, Violeta Chamorro, the year before the elections to set up a fraudulent foundation to receive money from the CIA, and pass it on to the opposition newspaper. According to one document, Larez’ front organization, the National Foundation for Democracy, “would probably not actually have to serve as a pass-through other than on paper.” [6]




International Affiliated or Funded Organizations


Contact, References and Resources



Gindin, J. (2005) The Nature of CIA Intervention in Venezuela 22nd March 2005.


  1. NED History
  2. Gindin, J. (2005) The Nature of CIA Intervention in Venezuela 22nd March 2005. Accessed 14th May 2009
  3. Tom Barry, The New Politics of Political Aid in Venezuela, CIP, 24 July 2007
  4. Dennis Bernstein, "Philip Agee, Former CIA agent speaks on Venezuela", Flashpoints, 14 March 2005
  5. Chris Carlson, Venezuela's RCTV: An Instrument of the CIA?, Znet, 10 August 2007.
  6. Carlson, ibid.
  7. Clark & Weinstock Vin Weber Accessed 20 March 2008
  8. [1]
  9. [2]
  10. [3]