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The Changing Face of Regime Change

External involvement to influence election outcomes isn’t anything new. All parties contesting national polls do try the best they can to influence the process. Where things start going wrong is when they choose to use ‘any means possible’ to influence the vote, including a wide array of inordinate, irregular and/or illegal means ranging from ‘buying votes’ to ‘spreading false news’.

Fake News has always existed. Unfortunately, the global mainstream media has allowed Donald Trump to redefine it to mean any news or media house he does not like. But fake news always been a part of US elections, with Republicans and Democrats slinging as much mud as possible at each other, knoig that at least some will surely stick in some people’s minds.

The process of influencing change is itself going through a change process today, as external interests (most interested in regime change for their own reasons, most of all) engage in old and new methods to stem the grown tide of popular anger, agitation and resistance and growing consolidation of the progressive leadership across the Caribbean.

Unable to influence change by just supporting opposition parties, the mind-bending change agents are increasingly using the most outlandish and sophisticated measures at their disposal to devise revolving-door schemes to deliver the type of “nasty” support Prime Minister Gonsalves refers to, in exchange for lucrative double-paying arrangements from national treasuries for goods delivered and services rendered.

In rare instances in the Caribbean’s electoral past, there’ve been everything from army involvement on Election Day (in Guyana) to gerrymandering of constituency boundaries (in nearly all territories), all aimed at influencing the outcome of national elections.

As the Antigua-Barbuda elections revealed, even in their absence, footprints like that of SCL and CA were traced in the election campaign.  But even then (Late March 2018) it was not yet quite well known in the Caribbean that SCL and CA’s fingerprints were being examined in the UK and the USA regarding the usual charge: of bending minds to influence elections through interference with the normal flow of the democratic process..

In fact, while the election campaigns were raging in Grenada and Antigua-Barbuda, SCL and CA were under such bruising in London and Washington that their corporate overlords decided to cut their losses early -- and start making a new start.

On March 20, one week after the Grenada elections, SCL’s big wigs joined with their American financiers to launch a new entity under a new name. Acting well ahead of the game, they had decided to fold-up both SCL and CA and quickly launched and registered a new emergency company: the new heir and successor. 

Marrying their business and other interests in a cross-Atlantic bond, the SCL chieftains and US hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer did just like they had done before to launch CA in 2013: they joined hands to create and launch Emerdata, a new company.

SCL and CA were about to be buried -- and their artificial replacement had already been given birth.

What unfolded was an internecine relationship featuring interlocking directorships in a grand plan to cut losses and start afresh with minimal damage done.

According to official UK company registration records, Emerdata was registered on August 17, 2017 by Jonathan Wheatland, the Chairman of SCL Group, along with CA’s then chief data officer, Alexander Tayler. 

Interestingly, Emerdata shares the same address in Canary Wharf as the SCL Group.

On April 16, 2018, nine-month-old Emerdata registered new directors in London, among them Mercer’s daughters Rebekah and Jennifer. 
Alexander Nix, the suspended CA CEO, is also a director, as well as other executives from SCL Group

Another director is Johnson Chun Shun Ko, named in one dispatch as ‘a Chinese executive from Frontier Services Group, a military firm chaired by prominent Trump supporter, Erik Prince.’

But Ko is actually the Deputy Chairman of Frontier, a private security firm operating mainly in Africa through the private military group Blackwater US, while Prince is also the brother of current US Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos.

Prince also donated to the ‘Make America Number 1 PAC’, a Mercer-funded group that supported the Trump presidential campaign. The revelations also show that ‘Make America Number 1 PAC’ paid CA $1.5 million in 2015 and 2016. 

Further, during undercover filming by Britain's Channel 4 News, CA executives revealed how ‘Make America Number 1’ was used to seed online attack ads against Hillary Clinton.

The appointments of the Mercer daughters to the Emerdata board of directors underlines the strong, long and deep ties between the Mercer family and the SCL Group.

Mercer was also the major funder behind the controversial right-wing American pro-Trump news site Breitbart, on behalf of which the former Executive Chairman (and former White House advisor) Steve Bannon, once sat on the board of CA.

Trump's team also once appointed CA to run its digital campaign — something the firm indeed boasted about in the secret recordings taken and broadcast by Channel 4.

According to Politico, the Trump camp is now trying to distance itself from CA.

But even with the backlash from SCL and CA and notwithstanding the heat being felt on the issue in the UK and USA, there will always continue to be the need for those already cooked in their ways to want to influence change in their self-interest. 

The very nature of the political machine and its relationship to and power over those who serve its interests ensures that moneyed interests will always fund political parties where they are allowed to and to the widest extent possible.

Campaign Financing isn’t yet an issue in the Caribbean to the extent that there is any limit on how much a financier can finance a party of his or her choice. In many more cases than imagined, they actually support the major parties, one of which must win – and owe them favors in return.

With several more Caribbean elections due across the Caribbean and South America during the rest of 2018 and with declining economic and social conditions taking added toll in many countries, the cause of the right wing and like political forces does not resonate with the average voter as they would like it to.

They have resorted to use of ‘term limits’ to force progressive leaders out of election races and launched economic and financial blockades, supported violent opposition to democratically elected governments and leaders and used every lesson in the Dirty Tricks manual to influence regime change to their benefit.

It is therefore unwise to think that the quick-thinking movers and shakers behind SCL and CA would give up on making use of the over 70 million irregularly-acquired troves of private information taken from Facebook by CA and the mines of added information gathered around the world over the quarter-century of SCL’s existence.

It is equally unwise to think that the holders of the keys to such large components of the information and knowledge industry would just sit on their hands and let their related accumulated assets remain frozen.

Key elections have been held so far this year, but others are also officially for 2018 in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela, as well as in Barbados.

Venezuela and Barbados will hold elections within four days of each other (May 20th and 24th) and there is every reason to believe and expect that there will be levels of external intervention and manipulation, of different types in the different cases, to try to determine the results of the polls.

Venezuela, with the largest certified oil reserves in the world and Barbados as a historical offshore island citadel of the British Empire and an important cog in the wheel of Caribbean development in these times, will not be allowed to experience ‘Free and Fair’ elections in the manner always described and prescribed by the apologists for the Westminster-based electoral system that dominates the Caribbean and most of the other over-50 member-states of the British Commonwealth in mainly Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) regions.

Where the heralded Western democratic processes are supposed to feature people being allowed to make their own minds up and cast their votes as they wish and without being influenced, the reality is that, like everywhere else, elections in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member-states do feature elements of undue influence, whether through campaign financing or political advertisements, distribution of ‘gifts’ or ‘contributions’ to causes.

The election machines are fully active in Venezuela and Barbados. But will Venezuelans be allowed to vote in peace, free and fair -- and free from fear of external intervention of any kind? And will Barbadians be allowed to exercise their franchise in like manner without any undue external intervention aimed at influencing regime change or maintaining the status quo?

Both questions will be answered in just a matter of days.

  • Countries: Caribbean

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