Latin America’s Unelected, Imperialism and ‘The New Right’: Recent Coups Reviewed

Brazil (TFC) – Fifteen years ago, scholars and political scientists alike announced the Rise of the New Left in Latin America:  with Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Lula/Rouseff in Brazil it seemed the tide was turning in Latin America. And while we have all been hopeful that Latin America was on a path to success, it seems that joy is short lived. Even if you are only vaguely familiar with Latin American history, a history ranging from colonialism to outright imperialism, you have some inkling that the US has played a critical role in shaping political leadership within the region; often times unjustly destabilising regimes which were the result of democratically held, free and fair elections (an ideal supposedly supported by the US).

The military coups of the 1970s and the following military dictatorships, ushered in a period of ‘disappearances‘, neoliberal economics, privatisation, and socially restrictive policies. And if we look back further we can see a litany of other disasters like the destruction of popular movements, the ousting and defeat of elected leaders, and other horrors overseen by the US. The notion that US directly oversaw such atrocities, once conspiracy, is now widely accepted as truth. Thus, when they ask:  why does Latin America have so many problems? We can answer:  Imperialism.
Latin America rebounded from the military dictatorships of the 70s in a big way, many countries holding free and fair elections, establishing solidarity between other LA nations in what has been referred to as a ‘pink tide’. For some, this ‘pink tide’ was not ‘leftist’ enough (and this isn’t to say that these regimes were perfect, far from it), however significant economic and social recovery was made under these regimes and many leaders at least attempted to address inequality, inflation, and US interference. More recently, things seem to be slipping into what may seem like a distant memory.
Image Source: DAVID HOLT, Flickr, Creative Commons Iran 2007 025 Famous mural of Statue of Liberty with a skull face in front of an American flag, former US Embassy, Tehran.

Image Source: DAVID HOLT, Flickr, Creative Commons
Iran 2007 025 Famous mural of Statue of Liberty with a skull face in front of an American flag, former US Embassy, Tehran.

Leftist Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, has recently called for Latin American citizens to stage their own ‘democratic revolutions against the U.S. empire’ in order to politically renew the region. Even though Morales is far from perfect, having been rightly criticised by both the Right and Left of corruption, he may have a point.

Brazil, 2016:

Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, thinly veiled as a budgetary corruption scandal, was initially rumoured to have been actively supported by the US until the US’s involvement was clearly proven by the fact that Temer is a US informant. Generally, when big political change occurs in the form of a coup, many Latin Americans are (rightfully) suspicious.
RT News and The Third Column have purported more than a few suspicious details:
1. The US-Brazilian ambassador, Liliana Ayalde, was the US-Paraguayan ambassador during the Paraguayan coup of 2012 in (which also signalled a huge regime change and saw the overthrow of a democratically elected leader);

2. One of the main impeachment leaders, Temer, has strong ties to the US. It has been confirmed that he is in fact a US informant.
What’s more:  the US refuses to publicly comment on the ‘soft coup’.
Results of the Coup:

Brazil, the biggest economy in Latin America (though it is faltering) and one of the largest in the world, can easily be played into the hands of the US.  As a result of impeaching Dilma Rouseff for budgetary misconduct, the region has become more fragmented and more unstable, and her replacement, CIA informant Michel Temer has unsurprisingly turned to the right. Dilma Rouseff and Lula before her were both responsible for lifting the region out of poverty and at least attempting to tackle the serious reality of stark inequality, it is this author’s fear that these projects will be abandoned and/or that poverty will be aggravated by the cultural divide.
Whatever leftist projects are still in progress, will swiftly be rolled back. Moreover, with this designer right-wing, white, male government, Brazilians will become more and more divided (as we have already seen) racially, socially, economically, and politically. This right turn may signify a turn to the right in Latin America broadly–primarily because of Brazil’s significance and power.
 
Paraguay, 2012:
 

Are the coups in Paraguay and Brazil related?

Argentina, Ecuador, and Venezuela, all part of the so-called New Left, declared the impeachment of Lugo in 2012 Paraguay a coup. After being unfairly blamed for the land war massacres, Lugo stated that he believes the US played a definitive role in his impeachment and in the massacres occurring under him.

 

Though there is no hard evidence to back this up (yet), it is worth noting that Lugo was one of Paraguay’s very first non-Colorado Party, non-right wing presidents before being ousted. Moreover, Paraguay promptly moved to back to the right subsequent to Lugo’s removal. There seem to be some similarities between the Brazilian and Paraguayan coups, however we have yet to receive clear confirmation on the US’s role.

 
Honduras, 2009:

During the current election Hilary Clinton has gotten flack for her role, as Secretary of State, in the 2009 coup in Honduras. While the US has confirmed its role in the coup, it has yet to call it that. Clinton has also confirmed her role, defending it by saying that she has no intention of condemning her role nor the continuing US Humanitarian Aid given to Honduras which actively funds the military take over.  Annie Bird, co-director of Rights Action, has stated that there is no other way of characterising what has happened in Honduras as a ‘military coup with no legal basis’. By the US continuing aid to Honduras, it demonstrates full support of the regime and keeps a direct tie to government (however illegitimate).

Conclusion

So should we expect to see more active US led destabilisation in Latin America? Yes, and if we look at the past, it seems that not much has changed. The US continues to play a disruptive role for its own gain. Often one that leads to the end of democracy (like with the turn from Allende to Pinochet in Chile). I predict that we will see increasing destabilisation (via military coups and soft coups) occur in other Latin American countries which do not economically cooperate with the US in a favourable way:  namely, those who do not adopt neoliberal policies. We have already witnessed a failed coup in Venezuela backed by the US. Will we see a definitive reversal of the ‘New Left’? This is a strong possibility. I argue that this does predict the beginning of a strong right-wing trend. Does this spell the end of democracy in Latin America? Not necessarily. However, with such active interference with the legal and judicial affairs of Latin American countries, it may be out of the control of Latin American political figures that cannot be bought, bribed or instructed. This isn’t to say that the the citizens of Latin America do not play a part in changing the tide (and by no means do I mean to diminish the role of such a strong Latin American tradition). In fact, the citizens of Latin America may be the only force to prevent ongoing coups and active US interference–furthering Morales’ point. However, this is to say that it may not always be up to the citizens. This also isn’t to say that the US is the only winner here; corrupt politicians are also the the winners. However, we must always ask whenever there is a coup:  who are the real winners?