Mark Feierstein, former associate administrator for USAID and Washinton’s new point man on Latin America, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Feierstein’s legacy of covert regime change has many Latin American leaders questioning Washington’s intents.

Despite shifts on Cuba and Venezuela, the Obama administration’s appointment of a man who’s been involved in the overthrow of leftist governments since the 1980s, to head the White House’s top agency on Latin American affairs shows little may have really changed.

By Sean Nevins

The Obama administration announced in December that it would immediately re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, a policy shift that ended 54 years of isolation. In another move that was diametrically opposed to this policy shift, it then imposed economic sanctions on Venezuela in March.

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and president of Just Foreign Policy, argues that Obama realized his administration made a mistake implementing the sanctions, and so attempted to back-pedal by stating: “We do not believe that Venezuela poses a threat to the United States, nor does the United States threaten the Venezuelan government.”

Weisbrot added: “And then he did something that no U.S. president has done since 1999, when Hugo Chávez was president-elect of Venezuela: he met with Venezuela’s head of state. This was arguably as important for hemispheric relations as his meeting with Raúl Castro.”

But with the appointment of Feierstein, Weisbrot told MintPress News that he believes U.S. policy toward Latin America may not have changed at all.

“Feierstein’s been involved in campaigns against left governments since the U.S.-backed war against the Sandinistas in the 1980s,” Weisbrot told MintPress, adding that he can’t understand why nobody has reported on Feierstein’s appointment yet.

Indeed, a quick review of Feierstein’s track record in Latin America reveals that the new senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council has played an integral role in facilitating destabilization of South American countries since the 1980s.

Feierstein will replace Ricardo Zúñiga, who negotiated the Cuba deal, along with deputy national security adviser Benjamin J. Rhodes.

Massacre in Bolivia

In 2010, Feierstein was appointed assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This caused considerable friction between Bolivia and the U.S. because Feierstein acted as a campaign consultant to former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (1993-1997; 2002-2003). Sánchez de Lozada, who is also known as “Goni,” is infamous in Bolivia because 64 people were allegedly killed under his orders for opposing the liberalization of the country’s gas resources during the notorious “Black October” incident. He currently faces charges of genocide in Bolivia, but has fled to the United States.

In 2006, Feierstein expressed no regret to getting Sánchez de Lozada elected. He said: “You know, we are proud of the role that we played in electing Goni.”

Coup in Paraguay

Feierstein was assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID in 2012, when the country’s opposition legislature executed a coup d’etat against leftist President Fernando Lugo, allegedly for mishandling the violent eviction of peasant farmers in the Curuguaty region.

However, Weisbrot explained in a piece for The Guardian at the time that the legislature had different motives:

“The politics of the situation are clear enough. Paraguay was controlled for 61 years by the rightwing Colorado party. For most of this time (1947-1989), the country was ruled by dictatorship. President Lugo, a former Catholic bishop from the tradition of liberation theology who had fought for the rights of the poor, was elected in 2008, but did not win majority backing in the Congress. He put together a coalition government, but the right – including the media – has never really accepted his presidency.”

USAID had increased funding to its programs in Paraguay following Lugo’s election. According to Natalia Viana, an investigative reporter for The Nation, this “was to prevent his [Lugo’s] policies from becoming too leftist—and to prevent his administration from becoming too close to Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador or Cuba.” She also reported that, “funding was channeled to some of the very institutions that would play a central role in impeaching Lugo six years later, including not just the police force but the Public Ministry and the Supreme Court.”

According to Viana, USAID anticipated the opposition’s ulterior motives early on and cozied up to them. Feierstein is recorded as saying that the country’s supreme court, which refused Lugo’s appeal, was “efficient and effective for the Paraguayan people.” He described it as “an example for other countries.”

Funding the Contras in Nicaragua

Perhaps what Feierstein is most famous for, however, is his role as a project manager for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Nicaragua, where it played an instrumental role in ousting the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), also known as the Sandinistas, in the 1980s and 90s.

The FSLN is a socialist political party and revolutionary group that implemented a broad range of social reforms across Nicaragua after taking power in 1979, including a literacy campaign, health care, and the promotion of gender equality.

After being elected in 1980, President Ronald Reagan was ideologically opposed to the leftist ideology of the Sandinistas, which allied with Cuba and the Soviet Union, and determined to overthrow the government. He authorized the CIA to finance, train, and arm rebel forces in Nicaragua, some of whom were allied with the former Somoza regime, to fight the FSLN. The ensuing war lasted until the early 1990s.

Due to popular American opposition against Reagan’s policies toward Nicaragua, Congress cut funds to the rebels, who were called “Contras,” in 1985. The White House continued to support the Contras through the now infamous Iran-Contra deal, which saw the National Security Council, along with other government agencies like the CIA, sell arms to Iran to fund the Contras in Nicaragua.

The NED was integral in U.S. efforts to destabilize the elected government.

Feierstein explained his rationale for the U.S. role in attempting to overthrow the Sandinistas in a 1991 book review of Thomas Carothers’s book “In the Name of Democracy: U.S. Policy Toward Latin America in the Reagan Years.” He wrote: “To prevent Marxism from spreading in Central America – that is, to contain the Sandinistas and thwart Leftist victories elsewhere – required supporting the military, a primary obstacle to democracy in Latin America.”

The Contras have since been accused of numerous human rights violations. It is estimated that up to 50,000 people were killed.

Speaking with MintPress, Weisbrot speculated that Obama may have appointed Feierstein because he cares very little about U.S. policy toward Latin America. He explained that the Cuba deal has more to do with Obama’s legacy than it does with any real tangible policy shifts.

“So the Cuba move is a legacy thing – he wants to be the president who opened up Cuba,” he argued.
He concluded: “It’s a nice legacy to have because it’s something most of the U.S. foreign policy establishment has wanted since the 90s, and even before.”


© 2015 MintPress News




  1. Chris Maukonen
    May 13, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    Every time I read about this BS it pisses me off anew.

  2. May 13, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    But with the appointment of Feierstein, Weisbrot told MintPress News that he believes U.S. policy toward Latin America may not have changed at all.

    “Feierstein’s been involved in campaigns against left governments since the U.S.-backed war against the Sandinistas in the 1980s,”

    This, of course, is just the most recent affirmation that the Dem party is not a leftist party.

    Whether within the realm of political economics or foreign relation, liberals are, and have always been, anti labor, pro corporate interests and empire, right wingers.

  3. bsbafflesbrains
    May 13, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Wealthy Liberal Democrats same as Con Repubs except they feel bad when they fire you or take your home. It bothers them for minutes.

  4. bsbafflesbrains
    May 13, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Cuba – The new Puerto Rico
    Venezuela – The new Cuba

  5. Chris Maukonen
    May 13, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    It does ?? Could have fooled me.

  6. May 13, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Our abysmal FP never stops fomenting this same old crapola, all over the globe…! 8-(

  7. May 13, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    Here’s a great refresher on Uncle Ned by Philip Giraldi…!

  8. karenjj2
    May 13, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    looks like all the cockroaches are coming out of the woodwork after infesting the globe all these years; they no longer give a damn if we see them or not. the corps’ coup was nearly complete by the time they put obomba in office. I pretty much knew game over when Chiquita’s attorney general, monsanto at agriculture, drug corp at food & drug, gold sacks at treasury, etc. war monger at sec def. now this active coup instigator appointed to South America??? I truely hope the South Americans join the BRICS; it’s their only chance.

  9. Pluto
    May 13, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    The South American Union has a long memory. They can even remember when the US and its EU vassal states yanked the President of Bolivia out of the sky over Europe to search his plane.

  10. Alice X
    May 13, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    Hillary will save us/them!


  11. May 13, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    “Since the end of the Second World War, the United States of America has …

    Attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, most of which were democratically-elected.

    Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries.

    Interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.

    Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.

    Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.

    The American public should insist on having “National Security” defined for them!

    Baring that, we should stick to Smedley Butler’s definition of war and attendant acts of belligerence in its name.

  12. May 13, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    The Chinese have been very active in Latin and South America, signing a slew of them to the SCO and/or the newly minted AIIB, karen…! 😉

  13. richardgrabman
    May 14, 2015 at 1:57 am

    As a Latin American historian, Obama’s administration reminds me of Woodrow Wilson’s… progressive at home and imperialists abroad. While — so far — Obama has been less likely to use force in Latin America in his quest to (in Wilson’s famous remark) “teach them to elect good men”, there is that same elitist, “ivy league” sense that what is best for us is what is best for the U.S. And, a total misunderstand of our issues. It should have been a clue when both Obama’s ambassadors to Mexico were transfers from Afghanistan, indicating the US not only saw the phoney “war on (some) drug (exporters, but not others)”… and by the way, dissidents, as a real war… though — like the other US wars — one to be fought by us, for your financial interests.

  14. JamesJoyce
    May 14, 2015 at 5:30 am

    RIP! Nuns and Priests and many other innocents killed by the CIA. They have blood all over their hands, wherever they go…

    “To the Editor:

    Msgr. Salvador Shlaeffer, the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Atlantic Coast region of Nicaragua, where a priest and three nuns were ambushed Jan. 1, declined to say whether he thought the contras were responsible for the killings (news article, Jan. 4). His reluctance to name the contras is difficult to understand, because he also said the attack could have been avoided if the victims had not traveled at night in an area of known contra activity and if the pickup truck that was attacked had been familiar to contra units operating in the area. Other Catholic clergymen from that region said unequivocally that the ambush was the work of the contras”.

    The CIA is a “”fascist”” entity working within a Democracy.

    Harry Truman was correct on December 22, 1963.

    ” I well knew the first temporary director of the CIA, Adm. Souers, and the later permanent directors of the CIA, Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg and Allen Dulles. These were men of the highest character, patriotism and integrity—and I assume this is true of all those who continue in charge.

    But there are now some searching questions that need to be answered. I, therefore, would like to see the CIA be restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President, and that whatever else it can properly perform in that special field—and that its operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere.

    We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.”

    “There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.” President Harry S. Truman wrote those words in an op-ed for the Washington Post on Dec.22, 1963, entitled “Limit CIA Role to Intelligence.”

    How many times have I posted this quote here at FDL? Not only was Harry correct one month after President Kennedy’s assassination but so to was “Ike,” on April 17. 1961.

    We have failed to comprehend the grave implications…..

    Ike’s Warning….

    “In the counsels of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence whether sought or unsought by the MIC. The potential for the disastrous rise of “misplaced power,” exists and will persists….”

    The name “Richard Cheney,” comes to mind!

    Ike warned us. Truman warned us. Yet America invaded Iraq? A use of “misplaced power,” predicated on fabricated intelligence? Here is another example of fabrication to justify invasion. These people were tried as war criminals at Nuremberg… Who do you trust?

  15. JamesJoyce
    May 14, 2015 at 5:52 am

    RIP Gary Webb!

    “Webb contributed to the paper’s Pulitzer-prize winning coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Webb is best known for his “Dark Alliance” series, which appeared in the Mercury News in 1996. The series examined the origins of the crack-cocaine trade in Los Angeles and claimed that members of the anti-government Contra rebels in Nicaragua had played a major role in creating the trade, using cocaine profits to support their struggle. It also suggested that they may have acted with the knowledge and protection of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The series provoked outrage in Los Angeles, particularly in the African-American community, and led to four major investigations of the series’ charges.

    The series became even more controversial when the Los Angeles Times and other major papers published articles suggesting its claims were overstated. After an internal review, the Mercury News ultimately published a statement in May 1997 acknowledging shortcomings in the series’ reporting and editing. Webb resigned from the Mercury News in December 1997. He became an investigator for the California State Legislature, publishing a book based on the “Dark Alliance” series in 1998, and doing free-lance investigative reporting. On December 10, 2004, Webb was discovered dead, shot twice in the head with his father’s .38. His death was declared a suicide.”

    “He was found dead in his Carmichael home with two gunshot wounds to the head.[63]”

    I wonder how many times a person committing suicide with a gun, shoots himself “twice,” in the head?

  16. May 14, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Refusing to prosecute the banksters is hardly progressive. His new AG, Lynch, cut a deal with HSBC, which laundered money for drug cartels and terrorist-connected banks, instead of pulling their license to operate in the US– the appropriate penalty for what they did.