Until 2007, Sumate received funding from USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, but it never amounted to more than 6 percent of the budget, Estévez said. Even so, the government accused Sumate of being a foreign agent and slapped it with a lawsuit.
We were hounded not only through our finances but through the judicial system, Estévez said. The government ended up intimidating our local backers also, so now we cant even talk about where we get our funding from.
In Ecuador, Fundamedios has been a thorn in the governments side, raising the alarm about increasingly restrictive media laws. But it was Fundamedios work on a USAID-backed project called Active Citizenry that made it a target. The program, which received $1.3 million in 2011, aims to strengthen civil society groups through training and workshops.
Correa has said that such projects are designed to undermine administrations Washington dislikes.
Its a recipe thats been used repeatedly in Latin America against countries with progressive governments, Correa said, suggesting that USAID-backed programs had helped create the environment for an attempted coup in Venezuela in 2002. They cant beat us at the polls so they are trying to beat us with these tricks.
Fundamedios Director César Ricaurte said there was nothing remotely partisan about the project, but the government has put together this conspiracy theory to try to attack critical voices that are defending freedom of speech in Ecuador.
Over the last half-century, USAID has proved to have staying power. More than two months after ALBA members called for its immediate expulsion no moves have been made against it. And Dominica now says it never signed the agreement. Ecuador has still not issued its new USAID guidelines. And the agency still has plenty of advocates in the region.
Theyve been a great help to us and Im sorry that their help isnt always valued, Colombia Foreign Minister María Angela Holguín said recently, amid the USAID backlash.
Feierstein admitted the agencys strategy may not please everyone, but he said it was necessary.
We take a holistic approach to development, he said. Its both political and economic development.