A conference of the Open Government Partnership will convene in Brazil on April 17-18, with representatives of 52 countries planning to attend. The event is supposed to demonstrate that the partnership which has the reputation of a US invention has a big and global following, facilitates communication between civil societies and governments in line with the stated objectives of the initiative, and in every way proves to be a major success.
US initiatives are regarded with suspicion in Latin America as their seemingly sound agendas typically disguise attempts to dictate to partners, to coerce them into accepting Washington’s rules of the game, or to install puppet governments in the continent’s countries. The Open Government Partnership was born within the US Department of State. US Secretary of State H. Clinton announced a plan for it in July, 2011, and in September, 2011 President Obama unveiled the project at the UN General Assembly. Partnership members voluntarily assume serious commitments to increase the transparency and to improve the quality of national governance while allowing greater civil control for the purposes. In the long run, the steps must help strengthen democracy, guarantee human rights, and beat corruption.
The involvement of Brazil in the Open Government Partnership which was, in fact, originally rolled out as a joint US-Brazilian initiative, sent to many of the Latin American governments the message that participation in it would not expose them to the usual risks. Indeed, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff is not the type of character who would bow to Obama’s Administration and in any way sacrifice the interests of her own country. The array of countries which helped Washington launch the partnership project at its early phase comprises Indonesia, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, Great Britain, and Mexico. Speaking of the latter, it must be noted that by the time the level of respect for it in Latin America sank unprecedentedly low, considering that Mexico is dependent on the US economically, financially, and militarily to the point of being occasionally described as an occupied country. The lack of esteem for Mexico on the continent must be the reason why the US chose not to rely on it in selling the Open Government Partnership in Latin America and had to negotiate with Brazil, possibly also in the hope that in the foreseeable future the country would use its leverage over the ALBA peers to draw them into the Partnership’s orbit. At the moment, the list of other Latin American countries logged into the Partnership counts Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Columbia, Costa Rica, Chile, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, and Paraguay.
The reasoning behind the reservations shared by the ALBA countries concerning the Open Government Partnership is easily explainable: civil society activists and NGOs in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua are routinely employed by the US intelligence community to undermine the countries. It has long become known from experience that chances for a serious dialog with the forces are nonexistent, and it only takes a glimpse of the cohort of civil society leaders who prepared the Brazil conference to realize that the ALBA governments’ negativism towards the partnership reflects completely realistic concerns.
The published list of civil society representatives whose costs of participation in the forum in Brazil are going to be fully covered includes Brazil’s Paula Martins (Articulo 19), Daniela B. Silva and Pedro Markun (Transparência Hacker), Carina Costa (Programa Leyes y Medio Ambiente PDMA), Honduras’ Carlos Hernández (Asociación por una Sociedad Civil Más Justa), Columbia’s Elisabeth Ungar (Transparencia), Mexico’s Eduardo Bohórquez (Transparencia), Peruvia’s Samuel Rotta (Proética), Chile’s José Manuel de Ferrari (Participa), and Uruguay’s Edison Lanza (CAInfo). Neither of the above are strangers to the Washington-based influencers or show any inclination to defy the US control. Contacts between many of the activists and their US curators are no secret, and their acting as partners of the ALBA countries’ governments which would have to deal with the individuals on sensitive issues like governance, openness, accountability norms, and public involvement is mostly out of question.
As planned by the US Department of State, the governments signing in for the Open Government Partnership would submit to annual screening to be performed by “independent” experts and consultants. Those will no doubt be appointed under US oversight and will therefore be serially dishing out politically motivated conclusions. The bias in the US State Department’s annual reports on the struggle against human and drug trafficking, human rights, and freedom of speech is fairly explicit when the regimes unfriendly to Washington are scrutinized, making it clear that the assessments issued by the partnership’s “experts” watching over them would be similarly unfair.
In March, 2012, Mexico hosted a regional Open Government conference. The country’s President Commissioner of the Federal Institute for Access to Public Information Jacqueline Peschard suggested that a concert of the Western Hemisphere countries should develop a comprehensive transparency program and cited Europe where members were actively preparing for the upcoming forum. Her point was amplified in the speeches given by US ambassador to Mexico Anthony Wayne, the Organization of American States envoys, and other members of the far from random crew uniformly convinced in the timeliness of the Open Government concept.
Head of the Regional Alliance on Access to Information, Argentinian Karina Banfi is instrumental in spinning off the partnership project. A lawyer by training, she worked for the Organization of American States as a consultant of the Trust for the Americas foundation and studied declassified documents of the US Department of State dating back to the epoch of the military dictatorship in Argentine. Banfi’s role in the investigation of the violations perpetrated by Argentinian agencies during the lengthy probe into the 1994 AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina) bombing was appreciated in Washington and Tel Aviv, and currently the energetic and highly successful lady who permanently stays in the media spotlight resides in the US and focuses on cultivating the Open Government Partnership.
It is impossible to overlook the fact that no human rights activists and journalists with views on international relations, government openness, and corruption different from what the US Department of State believes in are invited to the partnership project. Otherwise, one could, for example, expect to see on its board people like Piedad Esneda Córdoba Ruiz, Columbia’s former liberal senator who contributed to the release of hostages held by FARC guerrillas, or Eva Golinger who often risks her life for free speech and honest reporting in Latin America. Apparently, neither fits with the Open Government Partnership due to their independent thinking and conduct.
There is a strong tendency in Latin America to interpret the advancement of the Open Government Partnership as a subversive operation leading to the infiltration of government agencies across the continent by Washington’s NGO “experts” and, ultimately, to the formation of parallel administrations in Latin American countries. In the countries subscribing to the project, the agents will be given the right to influence the official decision-making, to reorient national policies, and to press for appointments of their candidates to government posts. At the bottom line of the Open Government Partnership, the affected nations will see the governance functions in their countries withdrawn from legitimate authorities and passed to the global centers of control.