After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Switzerland in June, President Joe Biden chided Russia for its interference in U.S. elections.
“How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries and everybody knew it?” Biden asked. “What would it be like if we engaged in activities that he engaged in? It diminishes the standing of a country.”
While the U.S. has confronted Russia about interfering in the last two U.S. presidential elections, the U.S. isn’t innocent when it comes to meddling in the elections of other countries.
In fact, experts say the U.S. might be the biggest election meddler of them all.
The U.S. has injected itself in more than twice as many elections as Russia has, according to the book, “Meddling in the Ballot Box: The Causes and Effects of Partisan Electoral Interventions,” by Dov H. Levin, a political scientist at the University of Hong Kong. Published in 2020, the book presents an in-depth analysis of electoral interventions “from the dawn of the modern era to the 2016 Russian intervention in the U.S. election.”
“The U.S. has intervened in the most elections between 1946 to 2000: 81 elections in total, followed by the Soviet Union/Russia with 36 examples of interference,” Levin said in an interview with USA Today.
Progressive think tank Gravel Institute @Gravel Institute responded with a “short list of elections that the US interfered in.”
Here’s how the U.S. government has tampered and interfered with more than 15 elections.
1. Somalia, 2017
The U.S. poured billions of dollars in U.S. aid into Somalia in the 25 years leading to its 2017 election, allowing politicians there to buy votes.
“Politicians have been peeling off wads of hundred dollar bills to buy votes. Others have shown up for parliamentary races standing next to a political nobody who was bribed or coerced into running against them, to make the race look fair. In one case, the mysterious candidate was the politician’s maid,” The New York Times observed.
Investigators and some Western diplomats said the election was corrupt, and “one of the most fraudulent political events in Somalia’s history.”
2. Mauritius, 1982
The CIA was suspected of covertly giving financial support to Seewoosagur Ramgoolam in the 1982 general election to oust Anerood Jugnath and the Mauritian Militant Movement. In the end, Jugnath was the victor.
Paul Berenger, the driving force of the Mauritian Militant Movement since its founding in 1969, told The New York Times in 1982 post-election that he hoped relations with the U.S. would be ”very cordial,” despite his charges that the CIA had interfered on behalf of Seewoosagur.
3. Angola, 1970s
After Angola gained its independence from Portugal in 1975, the Angolan Civil War pushed back the country’s first post-independence elections until 1980.
But way before then, the U.S. was trying to get itself involved in the upcoming election. Starting in the 1970s, the U.S. put its weight behind the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) and then UNITA. Both groups opposed the ruling political party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola.
According to the minutes from a National Security Council meeting on June 27, 1975, between President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Ford declared it was important to get “his man” in first, referring to Jonas Savimbi, an Angolan revolutionary politician and rebel military leader who founded and led the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola.
4. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1960s
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which gained its independence from Belgium in 1960, has experienced U.S. interference for decades.
It is believed that the CIA had a hand in the assassination of Congolese politician, independence leader former Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.
Lumumba was the legally elected first prime minister of the independent DRC. He was killed on Jan. 17, 1961, at the age of 35.
Allen W. Dulles, director of Central Intelligence, said Lumumba was ”a Castro, or worse,” The New York Times reported.
”It is safe,” Dulles said, ”to go on the assumption that Lumumba has been bought by the Communists.”
The idea was floated about assassinating Lumumba, The Times reported.
Even before the independence of the Congo, the U.S. government attempted to facilitate the election of a pro-western government by identifying and supporting individual pro-U.S. leaders, according to U.S. government documents. The CIA was involved in a campaign against Lumumba’s successor, leading to his eventual imprisonment and long exile from the DRC.
5. Italy, 1948
Italy’s 1948 general election was strongly influenced by the Cold War that had begun between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Cold War played worldwide as each country tried to influence global politics.
The U.S. wanted to make sure the Communist Party failed in Italy. The CIA later acknowledged giving $1 million to Italian centrist parties, according to “Taking Off the Gloves: The United States and the Italian Elections of 1948” a paper by James E. Miller published in 1983 by Oxford University Press.
Interference went beyond money. The CIA has also been accused of publishing forged letters to discredit leaders of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), CIA operative F. Mark Wyatt told CNN in 1995.
Over the years, the CIA funneled in at least $20 million in anti-PCI efforts.
6. Iran, 1952
Historian Ervand Abrahamian, author of “The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations,” in a 2020 interview with Democracy Now!, said U.S. State Department documents declassified in 2017 revealed that their strategy was to undermine Mohammad Mosaddegh, who was prime minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953. Mosaddegh was overthrown in the 1953 Iranian coup orchestrated by the CIA and the U.K.’s MI6. The CIA spent a lot of money to get its favored candidates elected, Abrahamian said.
7. Japan, 1958
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Japan received secret funds from the U.S. during the 1950s and 1960, The Washington Post reported. U.S. Ambassador to Japan Douglas MacArthur II justified this action when he said, “the Socialists in Japan had their own secret funds from Moscow”, and funding the LDP helped to “project American power,” The New York Times reported.
8. Brazil, 1962
The role of the U.S. in the 1964 coup in Brazil sparked major controversy. Declassified documents show that the U.S. joined the coup conspiracy only in 1963 not, as some believed, in 1961 or 1962.
There seemed to be no doubt the U.S. supported the coup d’état in Brazil in 1964. Additional declassified documents revealed the U.S. decided to support the overthrow of the elected President João Goulart, according to the Bulletin of Latin American Research.
9. Chile, 1970
The U.S. was involved in covert operations in Chile in the decade between 1963 and 1973. The involvement was “extensive and continuous,” according to the Senate’s 1975 Church Commission Report, which analyzed international abuses committed by the CIA, NSA, and FBI, CBS News reported in 2000. The CIA spent $8 million in three years after 1970 and helped fund the military coup of September 1973. More than $3 million went toward Chilean intervention in 1972 alone.
During the 1970 elections in Chile, the U.S. wanted to secure U.S. interests. In a September 1970 correspondence between CIA director Richard Helms and Henry Kissinger, the national security advisor under President Richard Nixon, Kissinger said, “We will not let Chile go down the drain.”
10. El Salvador, 1984
When it was reported that the U.S. participated in covert intervention in the Salvadoran presidential election of Jose Napoleon Duarte, many questioned the political legitimacy of Duarte. The CIA was believed to have interfered on Duarte’s behalf.
In briefings to Congress, CIA officials said that $2 million in covert U.S. funds were used in a “neutral” fashion during the period between two major elections. The money was reportedly used to streamline election logistics and to aid peasant and trade union groups. But the Republican Nationalist Alliance believed the funds were used to thwart its leader Roberto D’Aubuisson and ensure victory for Duarte’s Christian Democratic Party, The Washington Post reported.
11. El Salvador, 2004
Presidential elections were held in El Salvador on March 21, 2004, with Antonio Saca of the Nationalist Republican Alliance winning. The U.S. government under President George W. Bush threatened a deterioration of the bilateral relations in case of a victory by opposing candidate Schafik Handal, leader of the Salvadoran left and former guerrilla commander who fought U.S.-backed troops during the country’s 12-year civil war (1980-1992).
12. Panama, 1984
The U.S. was determined to take down Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega after he became the de facto ruler of Panama in 1983. According to the U.S., the military strongman ordered the Panama Defense Force to overturn the results during the 1984 Presidential elections in Panama to place him in power.
The officials said both the CIA and secret analyses provided by the U.S. Embassy in Panama concluded that extensive voter fraud took place, The New York Times reported.
But Noriega wasn’t always the enemy of the U.S. He had been recruited by the CIA in 1970 to help the U.S. in its struggle against the spread of communism in Central America.
When Noriega became involved in drug trafficking, the CIA dropped him in 1977 only put him back on the CIA payroll in 1979 after the Marxist Sandinista government came to power, History.com reported.
In December 1989, five years after he assumed power, the U.S. invaded Panama in an attempt to overthrow Noriega, who had been indicted in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges and was accused of suppressing democracy in Panama and endangering U.S. nationals,” History.com reported.
The dictator was forced to seek asylum with the Vatican Anuncio in Panama City, where he surrendered on Jan. 3, 1990.
13. Nicaragua, 1990
President George H.W. Bush and several members of Congress from both parties openly endorsed the National Opposition Union (UNO) candidate Violeta Chamorro’s campaign to unseat President Daniel Ortega.
In 1989, the Bush administration and Congress agreed to spend $12.5 million to influence the Nicaraguan vote. They even paid 15,000 people to go door-to-door in Nicaragua to encourage people to vote for Chamorro. Some charged the U.S. with vote-buying, The Christian Science Monitor reported.
The CIA provided $5 million in covert money to assist parties in the UNO coalition. Bush also publicly promised Chamorro that if she won the election, he would lift the U.S. trade embargo against Nicaragua, The Christian Science Monitor reported.
14. Ukraine, 2004
The 2004 presidential elections in Ukraine were messy and confusing. Three elections were held — Oct. 31, Nov. 21, and Dec. 26, 2004. The 2004 election was the fourth presidential election to take place in Ukraine following independence from the Soviet Union.
Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was up against the incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych from the Party of Regions. The election was held in a tense political atmosphere, with allegations of media bias, voter intimidation, and poisoning of candidate Yushchenko with dioxin, Kyiv Post reported.
Ukraine has a two-round system to elect the president. A candidate must win 50 percent or more of all ballots cast. The first round of voting was on Oct. 31. No candidate had 50 percent or more, causing a run-off on Nov.r 21.
The run-off election was won by Yanukovych. The election results were challenged by Yushchenko and his supporters. Many international observers also claimed that the election was rigged.
Widespread protests followed and the period was called the “Orange Revolution.” Protestors wore orange, Yushchenko’s campaign color and protests lasted nearly two weeks. Yanukovych’s supporters threatened to secede from Ukraine if the results were annulled. But, on Dec. 3 the Supreme Court ruled the election invalid and ordered a new runoff for Dec. 26, Britannica reported.
Yushchenko went on to defeat Yanukovych and was inaugurated on Jan. 23, 2005.
The U.S. did not recognize the election. Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the results could not be accepted as legitimate by the U.S.
15. Russia, 1996
In 1996, the White House and President Bill Clinton started a massive campaign to ensure the reelection of Boris Yeltsin in Russia. Yeltsin had been installed in the first place to lead the dissolution of the Soviet Union and restore capitalism. But at this time “he had become one of the most despised figures in Russia, having presided over the catastrophic consequences of the privatization of the Russian economy. Added to this toxic mix was Yeltsin’s highly unpopular war with Chechnya,” the World Socialist Website reported. Still, he had the support of Clinton.
During a 1995 meeting with Clinton, Yeltsin pressed the president for support. First he wanted Clinton to delay his efforts to expand NATO. “Let’s postpone NATO expansion for a year and a half or two years,” Yeltsin said, according to U.S. government transcripts. “There’s no need to rile the situation up before the elections.” But Clinton didn’t want to delay the expansion.
Yeltsin also sought financial assistance. He phoned Clinton in January 1996 about a multibillion-dollar loan that the International Monetary Fund was giving Russia. Yeltsin complained that the IMF had “delayed their payments to us and obligation of credits of $9 billion,” and he asked Clinton to “help and push them a little to make the payment.” The Washington Post reported.
Yeltsin floated the ideas of U.S. financial support. They wanted cash,” Carlos Pascual, then the director for Russian affairs at the White House, recalled, so Clinton’s team discusses whether to provide it — covertly, overtly or not at all. The decision was a “no.”
But Clinton’s administration found other ways to help Yeltsin in his bid for reelection.
Just before the election, the U.S. helped Russia secure an IMF loan, in what the New York Times described as “a major election-year boost” for Yeltsin.
Behind the scenes, private American consultants advised Yeltsin’s campaign and kept Clinton updated. “The levers of U.S. democracy promotion also operated overtly,” The Washington Post reported. Yeltsin won.
16. Mongolia, 1996
From 1991 to 1996, U.S. political operatives — funded by the federal government — positioned Mongolia’s right-wing opposition into power. It was “a move that would prove as much a disaster to ordinary Mongolians as it would a boon to U.S. government and corporate interests,” Jacobin Magazine reported. Republican Sen. John McCain was one of those leading the charge, according to Jacobin.
The U.S. poured money into the country to influence the elections.
In 1996, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) gave the IRI $158,327 to assist the coalition in that year’s election. NED is a private non-profit funded primarily by an annual allocation from the U.S. Congress.
U.S. policymakers said the funding was justified — “The election result, they repeatedly stressed, showed Mongolia had ‘embraced democracy,’” Jacobin Magazine reported.
17. Palestine, 2006
Legislative elections were held in the Palestinian territories on Jan. 25, 2006, to elect the second Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the legislature of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Hamas was the victor. On Feb. 20, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya was nominated to form a new government, which was sworn in on March 29.
The U.S. wasn’t happy.
Just before the January 2006 elections, in fear of a Hamas win, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.Res. 575 (Dec. 16, 2005), asserting that terrorist groups like Hamas should not be permitted to participate in Palestinian elections until such organizations “recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, cease incitement, condemn terrorism, and permanently disarm and dismantle their terrorist infrastructure.
In February 2006, the U.S. and Israel were “discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again,” The New York Times reported.
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18. Uruguay, 1970s
Uruguay had enjoyed 150 years of traditional democratic governments until a civic-military dictatorship of Uruguay backed by the U.S. began after the military-led 1973 Uruguayan coup that suppressed the Constitution of Uruguay of 1967. The coup put President Juan María Bordaberry in power as a dictator, according to the book “Latin American Dictators of the 20th Century: The Lives and Regimes of 15 Rulers” by Javier A. Galván.
Democracy was restored in the 1984 Uruguayan general election.