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Profile: International Republican Institute (IRI)
International Republican Institute (IRI) was a participant or observer in the following events:
Political groups opposed to the party of Jean-Bertrand Aristide form the Democratic Convergence, a coalition made up of roughly 200 groups, which is headed by former Port-au-Prince mayor Evans Paul, a previous Aristide supporter and leader of the Convention for Democratic Unity. [Boston Globe, 2/14/2004; Turck, 2/24/2004] The Convergence is a product of the USAID program, “Democracy Enhancement,” the purpose of which is to “fund those sectors of the Haitian political spectrum where opposition to the Aristide government could be encouraged.” Financial support for the Convergence comes from the International Republican Institute (IRI), which is associated with the US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy. The IRI receives about $3 million annually from Congress, as well as millions more from private Haitian and US interests. The organization’s board includes a number of “current or former Republican Party officials, Republican officeholders, or members of Republican administrations.” The IRI’s activities in Haiti are not completely understood and Roger Noriega, the US permanent representative to the Organization of American States, has always refused to elaborate on the organization’s work in Haiti. [Z Magazine, 7/1994; Boston Globe, 2/14/2004; Turck, 2/24/2004; Interhemispheric Resource Center, 2/27/2004; CounterPunch, 3/1/2004]
Clinton holdover US Ambassador to Haiti Brian Dean Curran complains that Stanley Lucas of the Republican-dominated International Republican Institute (IRI) is “undermining” international efforts to help Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the Democratic Convergence come to a compromise over Haiti’s contested 2000 congressional elections (see May 21, 2000). [Newsday, 3/16/2004]
The United States Government funds and trains a 600-member paramilitary army of anti-Aristide Haitians in the Dominican Republic with the authorization of the country’s president, Hipolito Mejia. The funds—totaling $1.2 milllion—are directed through the International Republican Institute (IRI) on the pretext of encouraging democracy in Haiti. In order to evade attention, the paramilitary soldiers appear at their training sessions dressed in the uniforms of the Dominican Republic national police. The training—provided by some 200 members of the US Special Forces—takes place in the Dominican villages of Neiba, San Cristobal, San Isidro, Hatillo, Haina, and others. Most of the training takes place on property owned by the Dominican Republic Government. Technical training, conducted once a month, takes place in a Santo Domingo hotel through the IRI. Among the Hatians that take part in the program are known human rights violators including Guy Philippe and Louis-Jodel Chamblain. [Newsday, 3/16/2004; Xinhua News Agency (Beijing), 3/29/2004; Radio Mundo, 4/2/2004; Democracy Now!, 4/7/2004]
Stanley Lucas, the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) senior program officer for Haiti, tells an audience on Radio Tropicale that there are three ways to get rid of newly elected Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide: call early elections and vote him out, charge him with corruption and let the courts imprison him, or assassinate him. With the blessing and assistance of the Bush administration, the IRI, a subsection of the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy, will step up its campaign to get rid of Aristide. The IRI, using $3 million in US taxpayer funds, will train and fund anti-Aristide candidates, help unite them into a single anti-Aristide bloc, and, according to a former US ambassador to Haiti, work to block all internationally-proposed power-sharing agreements in order to heighten Haiti’s political crisis and encourage a coup against Aristide. The IRI also will help in the Bush administration’s failed attempt to precipitate a coup against Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez (see April 12, 2002). Lucas himself is a charismatic, wealthy Haitian exile with a history of training Haitian insurgents and deep, murky ties to right-wing organizations and politicians in America, particularly longtime Aristide foe Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Bush’s Latin American envoy Otto Reich. [Salon, 7/16/2004]
The International Republican Institute brings a group of Chavez opposition figures, including members of Venezuela’s largest labor and business groups, to Washington for a panel discussion on the threats to democracy in Venezuela. The group also arranges a series of meetings between the Chavez opponents and members of Congress and the administration. [Washington Post, 4/21/2002, pp. A01]
George A. Folsom, president of the International Republican Institute, applauds the ouster of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. “The Venezuelan people rose up to defend democracy in their country,” he says in a statement. “Venezuelans were provoked into action as a result of systematic repression by the government of Hugo Chavez.” [New York Times, 4/25/2002]
The “Coalition of 184 Civic Institutions” is established. It is comprised of Haitian NGOs funded by USAID and/or the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce, as well as several other groups. [Dollars and Sense, 9/7/2003] The coalition’s leader is Andre Apaid, a US citizen born to Haitian parents who is the head of Alpha Industries, “one of the oldest and largest assembly factories in Haiti.” His factories—located in Haiti’s free trade zones—produce textiles and assemble electronic products for several US companies, including Sperry/Unisys, IBM, Remington and Honeywell, some of which are used in US Government computers and US Defense Department sonar and radar equipment. According to a report by the National Labor Committee, Apaid’s businesses are known to have forced their employees to work 78-hour work-weeks at wages below the minimum rate. [Kernaghan, 1/1996; Haiti Progres, 11/12/2003; London Review of Books, 4/15/2004]
Stanley Lucas, who is the point man in Haiti for the Republican-dominated International Republican Institute (IRI) based in the Dominican Republic, meets with Haitian rebel Guy Philippe and his men. Three months later the group will cross into Haiti and attack a hydroelectric power plant. Lucas has long ties to the Haitian military (see Early May 2003). After the toppling of Aristide’s government 12 months later, it will be learned that the group had been funded and trained through the IRI (see (2001-2004)). [Interhemispheric Resource Center, 2/27/2004; Newsday, 3/16/2004]
Lorne Craner, president of the International Republican Institute (IRI), praises the Bush administration’s plan to spend three million dollars on the “advancement of democracy and human rights” in Iran (see April 11, 2005). “I am pleased to hear it has happened,” he tells United Press International. “The United States has been spreading democracy for years in other countries, it’s good we’re now doing it in Iran.” He also tells the newswire that IRI hopes to be awarded one of the State Department’s “democracy advancement” grants so it can work with Iranian groups. [United Press International, 4/11/2005] Only a year before, the Republican-controlled IRI was implicated in the ousting of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide. It was accused of providing a cover for the training of a 600-member paramilitary army of anti-Aristide Haitians (see (2001-2004)).
A “democracy and public diplomacy” working group at the State Department drafts a
two-page document discussing ways the US can support Syrian activists who oppose President Bashar al-Assad. The document, which notes that the US is already “supporting regular meetings of internal and diaspora Syrian activists” in Europe, says that the country’s upcoming March 2007 elections “provide a potentially galvanizing issue for… critics of the Assad regime.” It proposes a secret “election monitoring” plan, in which “Internet accessible materials will be available for printing and dissemination by activists inside the country [Syria] and neighboring countries.” The operation would also involve providing financial backing to an opposition candidate, as well as funding “voter education campaigns” and public opinion polling. The document makes it clear that the efforts would be clandestine. “Any information regarding funding for domestic [Syrian] politicians for elections monitoring would have to be protected from public dissemination,” it says. Funding for the program would apparently be funneled through the International Republican Institute through a State Department program known as the Middle East Partnership Initiative, or MEPI. Time, which is the first to report on the memo, quotes one US official familiar with the document who says, “You are forced to wonder whether we are now trying to destabilize the Syrian government.” Joshua Landis, a Syria expert who is co-director of the Center for Peace Studies at the University of Oklahoma, tells the magazine the proposed operation is “really just an attempt to pressure the Syrian government” into doing what the US wants. [Time, 12/19/2006]
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