In case you had any doubts about corporate control over the U.S. federal government, consider some recent foreign aid offers – and the conditions under which they were made.

In September 2013, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Board of Directors signed off on a deal that would provide the impoverished Central American nation of El Salvador with $277 million over five years.

What is the “Millennium Challenge Corporation”?

The MCC is a “U.S. foreign aid agency” established under the Bush II Administration. Operating separately from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the MCC was created in order to take “new approaches” when it comes to foreign aid. Eligibility is determined by a set of criteria that some scholars and analysts say are biased toward neoliberal economic policies and the expansion of U.S. imperialism.

Are they correct? You decide.

One of the major challenges El Salvador faces is the ability to feed its own people. The nation imports about 85% of its food. This level of food insecurity presents opportunities for corporations influencing U.S. foreign aid agencies to force the advancement of their own agendas, thus profiting from others’ misfortune.

Case in point – everyone’s favorite corporate villain, Monsanto.

In order to receive the next part of the aid package, the El Salvadoran government was pressured to “make economic and environmental changes” – which is doublespeak for “buy from U.S. agricultural producers, or the deal is off.” It’s similar to tactics that were used in Haiti, a nation already flat on its back. Instead of helping the people of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere to feed themselves, those policies ultimately served to force Haitian markets open to U.S. products – making them even more dependent on food aid than before.

El Salvador has already banned the use of glyphosate, an ingredient of the weed killer Roundup. This herbicide is intended for use with Monsanto’s own genetically-modified crops.  It is part of what led to the showdown. In their roles as corporate whores, U.S. government agencies have been punishing trade partners around the world for banning Monsanto products. El Salvador became a target because of the glyophosate ban.

At the center of the conflict was a program to provide low-income farmers with locally-produced seeds. Under a provision of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the El Salvadoran government was not allowed to favor local products over those of global corporations. (Take a guess on how that provision made it into the agreement.)

El Salvador stood up to this corporate bullying by demonstrating that locally-produced, non-GMO seeds actually did better in the country’s environment – and at a lower cost.  In the end, locally-based agriculture won the day. Although the El Salvadoran government was forced to compromise by allowing the sale of non-GMO seed from the U.S., it has managed to hold Monsanto at bay – for the moment.

Global corporate agriculture has plenty of lobbyists in D.C., armed with hundreds of millions of dollars. El Salvador won this battle, and will continue to receive its aid package – but the war is far from over.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.