The U.S. is no stranger to interfering in the elections of other countries – L.A. Times, Nina Agrawal

The U.S. is no stranger to interfering in the elections of other countries

L.A. Times, Nina Agrawal, December 21, 2016

Update: President Obama  slapped Russia with new penalties for meddling in the U.S. presidential election, kicking out dozens of suspected spies and imposing banking restrictions on five people and four organizations the administration says were involved.

The CIA has accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 presidential election by hacking into Democratic and Republican computer networks and selectively releasing emails. But critics might point out the U.S. has done similar things.   

The U.S. has a long history of attempting to influence presidential elections in other countries – it’s done so as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000, according to a database amassed by political scientist Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University.

That number doesn’t include military coups and regime change efforts following the election of candidates the U.S. 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.

In 59% of these cases, the side that received assistance came to power, although Levin estimates the average effect of “partisan electoral interventions” to be only about a 3% increase in vote share.

The U.S. hasn’t been the only one trying to interfere in other countries’ elections, according to Levin’s data. Russia attempted to sway 36 foreign elections from the end of World War II to the turn of the century – meaning that, in total, at least one of the two great powers of the 20th  century intervened in about 1 of every 9 competitive, national-level executive elections in that time period.

Italy’s 1948 general election is an early example of a race where U.S. actions probably influenced the outcome.

“We threw everything, including the kitchen sink” at helping the Christian Democrats beat the Communists in Italy, said Levin, including covertly delivering “bags of money”  to cover campaign expenses, sending experts to help run the campaign, subsidizing “pork” projects like land reclamation, and threatening publicly to end U.S. aid to Italy if the Communists were elected.

Levin said that U.S. intervention probably played an important role in preventing a Communist Party victory, not just in 1948, but in seven subsequent Italian elections.

Throughout the Cold War, U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

This approach carried over into the immediate post-Soviet period –:

  • In the 1990 Nicaragua elections, the CIA leaked damaging information on alleged corruption by the Marxist Sandinistas to German newspapers, according to Levin. The opposition used those reports against the Sandinista candidate, Daniel Ortega. He lost to opposition candidate Violeta Chamorro.
  • In Czechoslovakia that same year, the U.S. provided training and campaign funding to Vaclav Havel’s party and its Slovak affiliate as they planned for the country’s first democratic election after its transition away from communism.
  • In Haiti after the 1986 overthrow of dictator and U.S. ally Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the CIA sought to support particular candidates and undermine Jean-Bertrande Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest and proponent of liberation theology. The New York Times reported in the 1990s that the CIA had on its payroll members of the military junta that would ultimately unseat Aristide after he was democratically elected in a landslide over Marc Bazin, a former World Bank official and finance minister favored by the U.S.
  • The U.S. also attempted to sway Russian elections. In 1996, with the presidency of Boris Yeltsin and the Russian economy flailing, President Clinton endorsed a $10.2-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund linked to privatization, trade liberalization and other measures that would move Russia toward a capitalist economy. Yeltsin used the loan to bolster his popular support, telling voters that only he had the reformist credentials to secure such loans, according to media reports at the time. He used the money, in part, for social spending before the election, including payment of back wages and pensions.
  • In the Middle East, the U.S. has aimed to bolster candidates who could further the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In 1996, seeking to fulfill the legacy of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the peace accords the U.S. brokered, Clinton openly supported Shimon Peres, convening a peace summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik to boost his popular support and inviting him to a meeting at the White House a month before the election. “We were persuaded that if [Likud candidate Benjamin] Netanyahu were elected, the peace process would be closed for the season,” said Aaron David Miller, who worked at the State Department at the time. In 1999, in a more subtle effort to sway the election, top Clinton strategists, including James Carville, were sent to advise Labor candidate Ehud Barak in the election against Netanyahu.
  • In Yugoslavia, the U.S. and NATO had long sought to cut off Serbian nationalist and Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic from the international system through economic sanctions and military action. In 2000, the U.S. spent millions of dollars in aid for political parties, campaign costs and independent media. Funding and broadcast equipment provided to the media arms of the opposition were a decisive factor in electing opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica as Yugoslav president, according to Levin. “If it wouldn’t have been for overt intervention … Milosevic would have been very likely to have won another term,” he said.


Special Report

Steve Baldwin, The American Spectator, June 14, 2017, 4:59 am

Surprisingly, a group of Senators led by Mike Lee (R-Utah) has sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, demanding that he conduct a full scale investigation into the use of taxpayer funds to support leftist political movements around the world. As reported in the Washington Free Beacon, Senator Lee said the letter was written because “over the past few months, elected officials and political leaders of foreign nations have been coming to me with disappointing news and reports of U.S. activity in their respective countries” which included “diplomats playing political favorites, USAID funds supporting extreme and sometimes violent political activity, and the U.S. Government working to marginalize the moderates and conservatives in leadership roles.”

On the House side, a group of Congressmen led by Republican Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), visited the Balkans last month to investigate such blatant political manipulation but have yet to report on their findings.


Database Tracks History of U.S. Meddling in Foreign Elections

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:  December 22, 20164:28 PM ET

Heard on All Things Considered

NPR’s Ari Shapiro talks to Carnegie Mellon University researcher Dov H. Levin about his historical database that tracks U.S. involvement in meddling with foreign elections over the years.

This is hardly the first time a country has tried to influence the outcome of another country’s election. The U.S. has done it, too, by one expert’s count, more than 80 times worldwide between 1946 and 2000. That expert is Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University.

About Dov H. Levin

I am currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie-Mellon University. I recently (September 2014) received my Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles in Political Science.

My main ongoing research project concerns the causes and effects of partisan electoral interventions by the great powers, attempting to determine why such interventions occur and what are their effects. I examine these questions utilizing a dataset (PEIG) I constructed of such U.S. and USSR/Russian interventions between 1946 and 2000 as well as, among other things, in-depth archival research into cases in which such an intervention had been seriously considered by a great power. This project has been supported by an IGCC dissertation fellowship as well as by scholarships from the George C. Marshall/Baruch fellowship, the LBJ Presidential Library foundation and others. It is now being developed into an academic book project based on my Ph.D. dissertation on this topic.

I have six academic publications, including a new article in International Studies Quarterly about the effects of electoral interventions on the results of the intervened elections and a forthcoming article at Terrorism and Political Violence on their effects on domestic terrorism. Other research projects of mine have examined, for example, the causes of regional war and peace as well as the customary law of war.

Given recent events I have written an op-ed in the Washington Post (Monkey Cage) about the Russian intervention in the 2016 U.S. election, given interviews on partisan electoral interventions to CNN, NPR, BBC World, and other media outlets, and have served as a consulted/ quoted expert for multiple news segment and articles on this and related topics for various media organs around the world.

Dov H. Levin
C/o Institute for Politics and Strategy
Carnegie-Mellon University
208 Porter Hall
5000 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Here is a partial list of US interference in foreign countries’ elections –:

  1. Afghanistan – 2001 to 2017
  2. Albania – 1949 to 1953
  3. Angola – 1975 to 1980s
  4. Argentine – 1973
  5. Australia – 1973 to 1975
  6. Congo – 1960 to 1964
  7. Czechoslovakia – 1990
  8. Bolivia – 1964 to 1970,  2002
  9. British Guiana – 1953 to 1954
  10. Bulgaria – 1990/Albania 1991
  11. Cambodia – 1955 to 1973
  12. Chile – 1964 to 1973
  13. China – 1945 to the 1960s
  14. Congo – 1960 to 1964
  15. Costa Rica – mid 1950s, 1970 to 1971
  16. Cuba – 1959 to 1980s
  17. Dominican Republic – 1960 to 1966
  18. Eastern Europe – 1948 to 1956
  19. Egypt – 2012
  20. El Salvador – 1980 to 1994
  21. France/Algeria – 1960s
  22. Germany – 1950s
  23. Ghana – 1966
  24. Greece – 1947 to the early 1950s, 1964 to 1974
  25. Grenada – 1979 to 1984
  26. Guatemala – 1953 to 1954, 1960, 1962 to 1980s, 1992
  27. Haiti – 1959 to 1963, 1986 to 1994
  28. Honduras – 1999
  29. Iran – 1953
  30. Italy – 1947 to 1948
  31. Iraq – 1972 to 1975, 1990 to 1991, 1994
  32. Israel – 2015
  33. Italy – 1948, 1950s to 1970s
  34. Jamaica – 1976 to 1980
  35. Japan – 1950, 1960
  36. Kenya- 2006
  37. Korea – 1945 to 1953
  38. Laos – 1957 to 1963
  39. Libya – 1981 to 1991, 2011
  40. Macedonia – 1912 to 1916
  41. Middle East – 1957 to 1958, 1996, 1999
  42. Morocco – 1983
  43. Nicaragua – 1978 to 1990
  44. Palestine – 2006
  45. Panama – 1969 to 1991
  46. Peru – 1960 to 1965
  47. Philippines – 1940, 1950s, 1953
  48. Russia – 1996
  49. Seychelles – 1979 to 1981
  50. Soviet Union – late 1940s to 1960s
  51. Suriname – 1982 to 1984
  52. Syria – 1956 to 1957
  53. Uruguay – 1964 to 1970
  54. Vietnam – 1950 to 1973
  55. Western Europe – 1950s to 1960s
  56. Zaire – 1975 to 1978
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  • Gigi  On 11/08/2017 at 6:16 pm

    Interesting read.

    Please, like minded Guyanese. I urge you to email Mr Levin at the email addresses provided and ask him to include Guyana on the list. I just did. If you can include links to documents and articles to help him in verifying Guyana’s history of rigged elections. I’m sure he would find the sources most helpful and time saving.

    Also, make sure to copy his information so that you can reach out to him if you need to in future. We need to include Guyana’s sordid history of election rigging on these lists!

  • Gigi  On 11/08/2017 at 7:04 pm

    Here seems a good place to park my comment concerning the PPP protesting in parliament over the wholesale vulgar actions of the ABC countries and other foreign entities by installing a senile ninnyhammer uncle tom to run amok and having the temerity to call it ruling/governing.

    I’m not going to criticize Jagdeo for spelling the word ‘dividing’ incorrectly because I know that not only did he not make the signs, he most likely did not pay much attention to what were written on them. If he had he would have chosen far more suitable words. At least the meaning was not lost. If it was, then that has to do with the reader not being the brightest crayon in the box. There are a lot of them in Guyana. The ones that accept and justify everything the PNC-APNU-WPA-AFC party says and does.

    However, I’m going to criticize Jagdeo for committing the real faux paux of using an incorrect word to describe the reoccurring and blatant vulgarities of this govt. The correct word ought to have been ‘mooning’ so the sign should have read ‘STOP MOONING US!’ To moon someone is to express scorn, disrespect, and to provoke. This is EXACTLY what this govt has been doing to ALL Guyanese – mooning the Guyanese people at every opportunity. That this govt fails to see the vulgarity in its actions is a reflection and testament of what it believes to be its fimicolous existence.

    I say the Guyanese people ought to ‘moon’ them back, figuratively speaking, of course. No need to go literal on them. They’ve got plenty of their own people to do that sort of thing. And some of them are good at doing that and more – like the one parliamentarian who publicly urinated on the PPP flag at a crowded rally. Remember her!

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On 11/09/2017 at 12:01 pm

    I seem to recall about some years ago that a picketer ‘mooned” ( aka: bared her backside) at either Jagdeo or other PPP minister.

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On 11/09/2017 at 12:03 pm

    Or, maybe it is the ‘urinating on the PPP flag’ I am confusing with ‘mooning’

  • Ron Saywack  On 11/09/2017 at 12:44 pm


    The corrupt, incompetents, who have assumed the onerous task of running the country ever since the colonial occupiers departed a half-century ago, have been doing just that: urinating and mooning the captive people of Guyana.

    Today, reportedly, there are more Guyanese living abroad than living in the country. They have all had to have their urine-soaked garments laundered.

    • Youman  On 11/10/2017 at 11:13 am

      Urinating, peeing and showing ones big ass sounds a bit backward and disgusting

      If it was me I would have done better and tipped a van load of cow crap on the flag or even done a number 2 on it

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