It might seem cavalier for an academically credentialed anthropologist to assert political influence on the population he is supposed to be studying; however, Goette-Luciak’s activities fit within a long tradition.
by Max Blumenthal
Part 5 - A “dual use” anthropologist
Prior to the unrest that swept across Nicaragua last April, there was little record of Goette-Luciak’s presence as a writer or journalist. He had written one piece for NPR on how Nicaraguans were not as happy as the World Happiness Report said they were.
His co-author, Carlos Salinas Maldonado, was a writer for the opposition magazine Confidencial, which is funded by the U.S. government’s regime-change arm, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Open Society Foundation.
In his byline, Goette-Luciak described himself as “an anthropologist in Managua.” He was listed in conference papers as a graduate student at the University of Virginia around that time, focusing his work on the Rama-Kriol and Miskito populations of Nicaragua’s eastern coast.
These indigenous groups have been at loggerheads with the Sandinista movement since the civil war in the 1980’s, when the CIA cultivated them as U.S. allies. Ronald Reagan made the relationship a centerpiece of his administration’s Cold War crusade when he declared in a 1985 speech, “I am … a Miskito Indian. I too, am a potential victim of totalitarianism.”
The indigenous North Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua remains a key target for U.S. influence, as Washington seeks to exploit the simmering conflict between its local population and the leftist government in Managua. Leaked diplomatic cables demonstrate efforts by the U.S. embassy to cultivate anti-Sandinista sentiment in the area by working to facilitate human-rights complaints by former CIA-backed Contra fighters against FSLN leadership.
In 2013, the Ortega government announced plans by a Chinese magnate to construct a canal through his country, presenting a direct threat to U.S. control over shipping lines in the western hemisphere and prompting an outcry from the U.S. embassy. Soon, an anti-canal movement emerged in the countryside as one of the main drivers of anti-Sandinista sentiment. The campaign against the canal poured fuel on the fire of the coastal indigenous population’s long-simmering conflict with the government.
Though Goette-Luciak described himself in his bio as an “anthropologist in Managua,” he later revealed that he was working among the Miskito population and with the Rama-Kriol communal government to stimulate opposition to the Sandinistas.
“I worked on informing the indigenous community of their rights at a time of crisis, when the government was attempting to depict to the international audience consent among the indigenous population for the sale of their land,” Goette-Luciak said in an interview this year with The Edge of Adventure.
It might seem cavalier for an academically credentialed anthropologist to assert political influence on the population he is supposed to be studying; however, Goette-Luciak’s activities fit within a long tradition. As author David Price illustrated in several book-length studies on what he called “dual use anthropology,” many American anthropologists were supported during the Cold War by private foundations and even the CIA to conduct activities on behalf of their government. More recently, the Pentagon weaponized the field of study through programs like its Human Terrain System, which lured newly graduated anthropologists with lucrative salaries to assist U.S. military counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There is no evidence that Goette-Luciak is an asset of the CIA or any other U.S. agency. However, his advancement of Washington’s divisive political objectives during the course of his ethnographic fieldwork represented a fairly clear example of dual-use anthropology.
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