Opinion: Latin America’s upheaval tips toward chaos
Peaceful demonstrators have taken to the streets in Bolivia, Chile, Columbia and Ecuador. They have been greeted by the iron fists of security forces. DW’s Uta Thofern sees Latin American democracy trembling in 2020.
At first glance, the protests in Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and most recently Colombia seem to have much in common. They were largely peaceful demonstrations, with occasional instances of violence and vandalism and security forces suppressing any mayhem with an iron fist. The protests have also had far-reaching consequences. In Bolivia, President Evo Morales was forced to step down. In Ecuador, Chile and Colombia, protesters forced lawmakers to scrap various policies and plans.
Though the political and economic situations of these four countries differ, the protests have common roots: the blindness of elites to glaring injustice, the arrogance of those who hold power and the absence of economic systems that balance competition and profit with social equity. Chileans disagree over the best way forward. The same is true in Colombia. Bolivia is more politically divided than ever. Ecuador’s current calm is deceptive.
The protests are aimed not at dictators, but at democratically elected leaders. Even Bolivia, where ex-President Evo Morales sought to hold onto his power with quasi-autocratic determination, remains a far cry from a dictatorship. In fact, Bolivians initially took to the street to defend their democracy. However, Morales’ resignation spurred his supporters to protest. Both they and the counterprotesters have radicalized — and all while Bolivia’s interim government stands by idly.
Instead of calming tensions, interim President Jeanine Anez has broken off diplomatic relations with Venezuela and reestablished them with Israel — two symbolic moves that could have just as well been carried out at the behest of the US. She brandished a bible at her swearing-in-ceremony, which must have been taken as a deliberate show of cultural disdain by those indigenous groups that had turned against Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president.
Bolivia’s former opposition movement, which would have the best chances in fresh elections, is increasingly fragmented, and moderate forces are losing popularity as Bolivia grows ever more polarized.
Hidden problems emerge
The same can be said for Chile and Colombia, where the various opposition camps and governments are increasingly at loggerheads. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and his Colombian counterpart Ivan Duque have overcome their initial stubbornness and given in to many of the protesters’ demands, while also signaling an openness to engage in dialogue. Yet this has done nothing to placate protesters. All trust in the Chilean and Colombian states dissolved after security forces used unnecessary brutality to suppress peaceful demonstrations. Yet some individuals have capitalized on every new demonstration to steal and vandalize property, which has provoked further violence and left ordinary citizens fearing for their safety.
In both countries, protesters and leaders seems to be talking past each other. In Chile, the country’s emergence from the Pinochet dictatorship in the 90s and its robust economic growth distracted from growing societal polarization. And in Colombia, decades of struggles against armed guerrillas overshadowed many of its societal problems.
Now, however, people are angry and fed up with lawmakers promising to engage in talks or honor the rule of law. The possibility of a constitutional referendum in Chile has not mollified protesters, who do not even have designated negotiator to talk to the government. And in Colombia, a strike committee comprised of union and student activists claims to represent the entirely of protesters and refuses to even talk to other societal groups, which makes serious negotiations impossible.
emocracy is facing deep challenges across Latin America today.
Nonresident Senior Fellow – Foreign Policy, Latin America Initiative
On February 16, for instance, municipal elections in the Dominican Republic were suspended due to the failure of electoral ballot machines in more than 80% of polling stations that used them. The failure sparked large protests around the country, where thousands took to the streets to demand explanations and to express their discontent with the Junta Central Electoral (JCE), the Caribbean nation’s electoral body. This has not only left the country in a deep political crisis, but has led citizens to lose trust in democratic institutions.
Another country facing a democratic crisis in the region is El Salvador. On February 9, thousands of Salvadorians gathered outside the country’s legislative assembly as the country faced its most significant constitutional crisis since signing a peace agreement to end the civil war in 1992. The crisis started when President Nayib Bukele called the country’s legislators to an emergency session to approve a $109 million loan for the third phase of his security plan, called the Territorial Control Plan. After legislators rejected the plan, the president called military officers into the chamber. The president of the assembly called the show of force an “attempted coup” that threatened the separation of powers in the country and disregarded core democratic institutions.
On January 5, the authoritarian regime of Nicólas Maduro in Venezuela orchestrated what opposition officials called a “parliamentary coup” against Juan Guaidó, with police forces blocking the opposition leader from entering the National Assembly to elect the president of the parliament. This clearly exposes the regime’s strategy to dismantle the last legitimate organ among the country’s constitutional powers.
Finally, there have been violent protests and social movements in Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile.
These recent examples show that democracy in Latin America is facing a critical period, as a report from International IDEA — “The Global State of Democracy 2019: Addressing the Ills, Reviving the Promise” — details. The report examines the state of democracy globally, observing that while democracy continues to expand, its quality is rapidly deteriorating and threats to democracy are rising. It shows that democracy remains resilient, with a high level of citizen support, while emphasizing that most of the attacks on democracy are not external but internal.
Never in the last four decades has the future of democracy been as threatened as it is today. In general, the four main risks to democracy are: reduced space for civic action, weakened democratic checks and balances, high levels of inequality, and attacks on human rights. In Latin America, in particular, many of these challenges are acute, but overall the picture is mixed.
The state of democracy in Latin America
The research shows a regional outlook with bright spots and shadows, along with diversity among countries when it comes to the quality of democracy.
While some democracies, such as Uruguay and Costa Rica, are among the best in the world, others — for example, Brazil — have experienced democratic erosion in recent years. Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, Paraguay, Bolivia, and the Dominican Republic, meanwhile, all present different degrees of democratic fragility. Nicaragua is experiencing a serious democratic backsliding, while Venezuela is suffering a total democratic breakdown. These two countries, together with Cuba, are the region’s three authoritarian regimes.
It’s important to identify both the positive trends in Latin American democracies and the main challenges they face.
The most notable positive aspects are:
- In the last 40 years, Latin America made the most significant gains worldwide, becoming the third most democratic region in the world, after North America and Europe.
- The vast majority of the democracies in the region have displayed notable resilience: Only 27% experienced any interruption in these last 40 years.
- Latin America has made major gains in the electoral sphere — indeed, elections are popularly accepted as the only legitimate means of coming to power — and the region has the highest levels of election participation in the world, with a regional average of 67%.
- While much remains to be done, it is the region with the highest percentage of women parliamentarians in the world, with a regional average of 27%. However, there is currently no female elected Latin American president. In Bolivia, which went through a political crisis after the annulment of presidential elections, Jeanine Añez has been designated as the country’s interim president.
There is a long list of challenges as well, including:
- Four decades after the beginning of the third democratic wave, the region is showing signs of democratic fatigue. According to Latinobarómetro, overall support for democracy fell to 48%, the lowest level in recent years, while indifference between a democratic regime and an authoritarian one climbed from 16% to 28%. Dissatisfaction with democracy increased from 51% to 71% between 2009 and 2018.
- The crisis of representative democracy is worsening. Trust in the legislatures is at a mediocre 21%, whereas trust in political parties has plummeted to an anemic 13%.
- The region still has the highest levels of income inequality in the world: Of the 26 most unequal countries in the world, 15 (58%) are Latin American.
- The region is also in third place, after Africa and the Middle East, on corruption; it has the highest levels of crime and violence in the world; and despite numerous reforms, weak rule of law continues to be an Achilles’ heel of democracy in the region.
- Importantly, approval ratings for the governments have been falling significantly and steadily in the last decade. At the same time, there is a heightened citizen perception that the elites govern to benefit a privileged minority of society. Related Content Podcast Episode Interview with Colombia’s top official for the Venezuelan refugee crisis Dany Bahar and Felipe Muñoz Tuesday, December 10, 2019 Cuba Cuba’s forgotten eastern provinces: Testing regime resiliency Richard E. Feinberg Tuesday, November 26, 2019 Report Latin America’s struggle with democratic backsliding Ted Piccone February 2019
Overcast times in Latin America: What should be done?
The year 2020 is expected to see overcast times in Latin America, with conditions equally or even more complex and volatile as in 2019. Political risk consultancy the Eurasia Group names social discontent in the region as one of the top 10 political risks in the world in 2020. Additionally, according to The Economist’s 2020 instability risk map, the most vulnerable countries are, in addition to Venezuela and Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras, Chile, Mexico, and Paraguay.
As it enters the new year and a new decade, therefore, Latin America is marked by “irritated democracies,” characterized by anemic economic growth, citizen frustration, social tensions, discontent with politics, and weak governance. There is significant fear that 2020 will be another challenging year for the governments of Latin America.
Social discontent and instability will continue. The middle class, dissatisfied with the status quo, feels vulnerable and is demanding more social spending by their governments. Such spending, in turn, reduces governments’ ability to implement the adjustment measures that the International Monetary Fund and private investors demand as a condition before delivering fresh loans and/or investments. Moreover, citizens have lost patience, are less tolerant of their governments, are more demanding of their own rights, and are hyper-connected via social networks.
As the International IDEA report stresses, we should “address the weaknesses of democracy and revive its promise” with a renewed agenda that lays the basis for a democracy of a new generation. Such a renovation must be aimed at improving democracy’s quality and resilience, as well as strengthening its institutions. It must seek to empower citizens, recover economic growth, rethink the development model, and adopt a new social contract. The agenda must make it possible to respond not only to current issues — including poverty, inequality, corruption, insecurity, and weak rule of law — but also the new challenges.
Lastly, the current situation of democratic discontent and social convulsion that Latin America is experiencing requires offering democratic solutions to the problems of democracy in order to avoid a dangerous escalation of strong populist rhetoric, which could end up aggravating the complex regional situation. It is not merely enough to have quality and resilient democracies. We must also strive to build a modern and strategic state, better governance, and political leadership committed to democratic values, transparency, a connection to the people, empathy, and the ability to govern the complex societies of the 21st century.
Chaos in Latin America Golden opportunity for U.S.A, according to Bloomberg Posted September 19th 2020
It is an angry political season in Latin America. Chile, the most stable South American country and richest by gross domestic product per person, is convulsed by violent street protests that may require a complete rewrite of the nation’s constitution. Peru also faces a crisis, with President Martin Vizcarra and the congress declaring each other illegitimate. In Bolivia, riots following a controversial and flawed election (according to independent observers from the Organization of American States) forced President Evo Morales to take political refuge in Mexico City.
Drug violence has shot back up in Mexico, highlighted by a recent shootout in which the son of the incarcerated drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was apparently allowed to escape capture. Venezuela continues to smolder, torn between leftist President Nicolas Maduro, heir to the authoritarian Hugo Chavez and supported by Cuba and Russia, and democratic opposition leader Juan Guaido. Political tensions are likewise high in both Brazil, under conservative populist leader Jair Bolsonaro, and in Argentina, where newly elected populist leader Alberto Fernandez intends to take the country back to the left.
South of the border down Mexico Way. September 16th 2020
Poverty and squalid housing is normal for the majority of people in Mexico and the rest of Latin America. The U.S.A funded and built the Pan American highway all the way down the sub continent, cutting through the Amazon. deliberately infecting opposing natives with fatal measles, because they needed the road to keep watch on the threatening mass of Catholic poor people.
The U.SA currently comprises around 6 % of the world’s population and 52 % of all natural resources consumed in the world every year. Most of the resulting wealth creation goes to a very small percentage of the population.
The majority of the U.S population struggle to survive. Covid 19 lockdown has made matters worse. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, is made scapegoat while black communites are led to believe that they are the only ones to suffer.
This reckless campaign by mainstream media is all about getting the fake Biden elected, along with his dubious black female running mate. Meanwhile the U.S.A backed by its aged parent Britain, has to roll on as a war economy. Post 9/11 has created a very dangerous world. The Covid 19 Conspiracy could be the last straw. The economic and world wide social cosnequences are already severe..
Argentina September 3rd 2020
The phrase ‘animal lover’ is a funny one. In human parlance it means having an ‘intimate relationship.’ Here one wonders exactly what it means because Argentina has been, like rather most countries, slaughtering animals for centuries. The firs time I read the word Argentina was on the side of a tin of corned beef in the 1950s – I could read by the age of 4.
Muslims slaughter animals in a most barabaric way but no self respecting liberal would want to ‘upset Islamic sensibilities.” The God I have never heard from or ever seen, told them to do this ( They are chosen ones who can claim to hear voices without being judged insane ) , along with all sorts of other interesting things. By the way, if you ever see God, never draw his picture because people were killed for drawing such images and publishing them in Paris, now re publishing them. But that is another story, back to China..
These are the days of reviving the old ‘yellow peril.’ Western elites love Muslims, using religious tolernce laws to revise religious tyranny , in fighting and division. The Chinese government is , to put it mildly, sceptical about the progressisve and realistic qualities of Islam and have incurred self righteous Western liberal wraith accordingly and in large proportion.
R .J Cook
Ecuador Exploitation September 2nd 2020
Poor Peru August 20th 2020
Amazing Amazon August 13th 2020
Bolivia U.S Engineered Vote Rigging and Coup, all about Bolivia’s Lithium. August 7th 2020
Assange of Ecuador August 1st 2020
More than 900 women and girls missing and feared dead in Peru since coronavirus crisis started
‘Peru has one of the highest rates of violence against women in Latin America, and the coronavirus pandemic has worsened what was already a dire situation,’ says campaigner July 29th 2020
More than 900 women and girls have gone missing and are feared to be dead in Peru since the country’s coronavirus lockdown started, authorities have warned.
Eliana Revollar, head of the women’s rights department of the national ombudsman’s office, said girls made up 7 per cent of the total figure.
Ms Revollar said 915 women in Peru were reported missing between 16 March and 30 June – adding they were feared to no longer be alive.
Peru is one of the countries in Latin America which has been most badly affected by coronavirus, with more than 384,000 cases and 18,229 deaths.
The country implemented one of the longest and most stringent lockdowns in the world to curb the spread of Covid-19 – lasting from 16 March until the end of June.
Jacqui Hunt of Equality Now, a non-governmental organisation which aims to promote the rights of women and girls, told The Independent the number of women and girls going missing in Peru is both “staggering and horrific”.
She added: “Peru has one of the highest rates of violence against women in Latin America, and the coronavirus pandemic has worsened what was already a dire situation. Covid-19 response measures introduced by the Peruvian government must address the particular vulnerabilities of women and girls. Strict enforcement of laws against domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence should be imposed and the justice system should be applying a gender-based lens when investigating and prosecuting cases.
“The systemic problem of victim-blaming requires urgent attention as it fosters a culture of impunity for perpetrators. The Peruvian authorities also need to take greater action to remove the deep-rooted inequalities and prejudices that allow violence against women and girls to be normalised. The pandemic must not be an excuse to further neglect the issue. Rather, extra efforts must be taken to demonstrate that even in times of crisis, gender-based violence will not be tolerated.
“Femicide is not unique to Peru, women and girls are subjected to violence in countries throughout the world, across all cultures and social settings. The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a global spotlight on how male violence against women will continue to flourish unless and until the authorities take it seriously and hold perpetrators to account. Now the world is aware of the extent and horror of domestic violence, it has to act concertedly to prevent, address and end impunity for this harm.”
The UN estimates one in three women in Peru is likely to suffer physical or sexual violence from a partner during their life.
Awareness has been raised about gender-based violence in the country in recent years – with thousands descending on the streets of the capital Lima to show their opposition in 2018.
According to the UN, Latin America has the world’s highest rates of femicide, defined as the gender-motivated killing of women. Almost 20 million women and girls a year are estimated to endure sexual and physical violence in the region.
Domestic violence has soared in Latin America since the coronavirus pandemic forced governments to introduce lockdowns.
Sinking the Belgrano: the Pinochet connection July 26th 2020
No incident in the Falklands War divided opinion so bitterly. Some even called it a war crime. Now a member of the War Cabinet has revealed how Argentine orders intercepted by Chile convinced the British that their enemies’ prize cruiser had to be sunk
Sinking the Belgrano: the Pinochet connectio
The Belgrano sinks amid orange life rafts holding survivors in the South Atlantic in May 1982
It was the moment which came to define the Falklands conflict, immediately claiming more than 300 lives and setting in chain events which would lead to the invasion of the disputed islands by British troops. Now, as services are held to mark the 30th anniversary of the start of the war, a member of Margaret Thatcher’s War Cabinet has revealed details of how intelligence received from the Chilean regime of fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet led to the decision to sink the Argentine warship General Belgrano.
The sinking of the former US warship was controversial because at the time it was outside a British 200-mile Total Exclusion Zone around the Falklands and was steaming away from the UK Task Force. The cruiser went down with the loss of 323 lives – more than half of the total Argentine losses in the war.
In an exclusive interview for a forthcoming book on the history of Britain, Real Britannia, Lord Parkinson discloses that the War Cabinet took the decision after receiving secret intercepts from Chilean intelligence services revealing the orders from the Argentine junta to the warship’s captain, Hector Bonzo.
Lord Parkinson, one of Lady Thatcher’s closest allies, said: “They [Chile] had intercepted the Argentinian command’s instructions… We had been discussing what we would do if we found it [the Belgrano] because we knew the Belgrano was out to sink a carrier. The fact that it was going one way or the other, it was manoeuvring to avoid a torpedo.
The Independent has learned from defence sources that the Chilean information also showed the staff of Admiral Jorge Anaya, the head of the Argentine Navy, had been directing orders to the Belgrano and a destroyer, the Hipólito Bouchard, to continue engaging in combat while taking all measures necessary to avoid coming under attack. This was interpreted by the British high command as signifying that movement towards her home port by the two ships may well have been acts of subterfuge.
The sinking took place 14 hours after the President of Peru, Fernando Belaúnde, proposed a peace plan which included regional states playing a role. After the sinking, Argentina rejected the plan but the UK indicated its acceptance on 5 May. It is not well known that the British continued to offer ceasefire terms until 1 June.
The War Cabinet took the decision to sink the Belgrano on 2 May 1982, after being briefed at a meeting at Chequers with Mrs Thatcher and Sir Terence Lewin, Admiral of the Fleet. Lewin told the Cabinet that Commander Chris Wreford-Brown, the captain of British nuclear submarine Conqueror, had the Belgrano in his sights and was seeking permission to attack. The ship was part of a small battle group, flanked by two Argentinian destroyers.
The War Cabinet authorised Lewin to proceed. The order was sent through Northwood, the Navy’s command centre in west London, to the Conqueror. Wreford-Brown fired two non-guided torpedoes, which blew off the ship’s bow.
Lord Parkinson said: “We discussed the Belgrano ad nauseam and what it was up to. Then up comes the Captain and says the Belgrano is going into shallower water and I can’t follow it. Something as big as a nuclear submarine in shallow water was easy to hit. You couldn’t allow that risk.”
Pictures taken by survivors of the warship listing to port, before sinking, with orange rafts floating nearby, became one of the lasting images of the war, prompting the Sun headline: “Gotcha!”
Protests about the action were led by Tam Dalyell, the former Labour MP, who claimed the sinking had been ordered for political reasons by Lady Thatcher to destroy the last hopes of a peace plan being pursued in Peru by Perez de Cuellar, the Peruvian Secretary General of the UN, and Al Haig, the US Secretary of State.
Lord Parkinson denied this. “It was nothing to do with that. It was unanimous that if we had let the Belgrano go and it had sunk a carrier, we would all have been finished. We would all have had to stand down, if we had presided over the death of hundreds of British sailors and had the chance to avert it.
“What we didn’t realise [was] the Argentinian destroyers took off immediately and they didn’t search for survivors. They thought they would all get sunk… When we finally got the satellite pictures, we had pictures showing all the Argentine fleet in port.”
Lord Parkinson also dispelled one of the myths of the war, that Britain relied heavily on surveillance from US satellites. The system was so slow that the US only supplied the photographs of the Argentine navy back in port the day after the conflict ended.
His disclosure that Britain received vital intelligence reports directly from Chile explains why Lady Thatcher supported General Pinochet when he was arrested in Britain for alleged war crimes, when he later came for treatment in a private London clinic. She said at the time that Britain owed a debt of gratitude to the Chilean leader for helping it win the war.
It became known later that General Pinochet had permitted a secret SAS surveillance team to use a long-range radar facility in Chile to monitor movements by the Argentine air force from its Comodoro Rivadavia air base – but until now, it was not known that Lady Thatcher was also supplied by the Pinochet regime with more vital raw intercept data revealing the orders to the Argentine commanders in action around the Falklands. The Cabinet records, which may confirm these details, are not due to be released under the 30-year secrecy rule until December.
British / US Elite Capable of Anything. Unscrupulous Moral Hypocrits. But Watch Your Sex Life Because they know all about you, all about sex, they do what they like and they don’t like the lower orders or dissidents. July 25th 2020
MORE than 40 years ago, a chambermaid went into a hotel room in the Chilean capital of Santiago and found the body of North Dorset military expert Jonathan Moyle hanging from a rail inside the wardrobe.
The April 1990 death of the 28-year-old former RAF helicopter pilot was put down to suicide by the local police, then a rumour began – subsequently blamed on the British secret service – that he had died while engaged in an auto-erotic act.
But after pressure from Mr Moyle’s family, a Chilean judge ruled that Mr Moyle had been murdered. No-one has ever been brought to justice.
Mr Moyle, who lived near Sherborne and attended Foster’s Grammar School, was officially in Chile to cover a defence exhibition for the magazine he edited, Defence Helicopter World.
It is widely believed that he was also a British spy, who was investigating a company thought to be modifying a readily-obtainable type of commercial helicopter for the Iraqi military. Less than 10 days before Mr Moyle was killed, the Candian designer of the “supergun” was assassinated in Brussels.
After his father Tony pushed for the death to be investigated properly, new evidence emerged of blood being found on the sheets in Jonathan’s room.
Witnesses had overheard a heated row in his room, and his wallet, briefcase and files had gone missing.
A post-mortem examination found sedatives in his stomach, although he had never used them, and there was a puncture wound on his shin. Mr Moyle was 5ft 8in tall, while the rail he was hanging from was only 5ft.
Eight years later, a British inquest into his death recorded the verdict that he was unlawfully killed.
The recent murder of British spy Gareth Williams in London has reawoken speculation over the case. The decomposed body of Mr Williams, a cipher and codes expert working for MI6, was found at his London flat on August 23. He had been padlocked into a sports holdall and placed into the bath.
Rumours about his private life have been denied by his family.
Forty Six years on, declassified documents reveal an outpouring of concern from the British public over Pinochet’s coup – and the Foreign Office’s attempt to undermine the solidarity campaign
Chilean army troops positioned on a rooftop fire on the La Moneda Palace, Santiago, 11 September 1973. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Forty years ago today, when General Augusto Pinochet overthrew Salvador Allende, the elected president of Chile, democrats across the world were horrified. But not the British Foreign Office. Declassified government documents show British diplomats reserved their harshest criticism for human rights campaigners and journalists trying to alert the world to the “disappearance” and torture of thousands of Chileans. The head of the Foreign Office’s Latin America department complained:
Intelligence officers were sent to infiltrate the Chile Solidarity Campaign, a movement backed by Labour MPs, trade unions, students and church groups. The secret service reports, declassified earlier this year, can now be seen at the National Archives in Kew. Journalists were another Foreign Office target. Complaining of “black propaganda against the Chilean armed services”, British officials tried to manipulate the news. When a team from the BBC Panorama programme visited Chile in November 1973, staff at the British embassy secured them “maximum co-operation from the junta”.
The embassy was optimistic about the slant of the documentary, which included interviews with members of the Anglo-Chilean business community speaking approvingly about the coup. A British embassy official wrote: “The balance of the programme should be 60 to 75% favourable to the new regime.” The embassy was not so pleased with a World in Action Granada TV team that arrived at the same time. The same official wrote: “I gathered that the WIA producer … came to cover torture and shootings … Granada’s activities were certainly known to the junta whose press secretary told me that they had been seeing ‘things they should not see’.” An FCO official back in London scrawled on the letter: “Ominous news about the World in Action film”.
But the archives also tell a more heartening story: an outpouring of concern and solidarity from the British public. In battered brown folders, sheaves of letters urge Edward Heath’s government to take action against Pinochet – letters from an elderly couple in Leicester, “an appalled family” from London, from academics, students, Labour party branches and the “Bath Women’s Liberation Front”. There is even a telegram from a young Gordon Brown.
But most numerous are the letters from trade unionists. The shipbuilders’ union urged the government not to sell warships to Pinochet, even though losing these contracts could threaten their own jobs. The government’s response? To send spies to shipyards across Britain to check workers were not sabotaging vessels destined for Chile.
When Labour came to power in 1974, it cut off arms sales, aid and credit to Pinochet and, in 1977, withdrew the British ambassador. But existing arms contracts were to be honoured, so trade unionists took matters into their own hands. Employees at East Kilbride engineering yard in Scotland refused to fix bomber-plane engines destined for Chile, forcing Rolls Royce to break its contract with the Chilean air force. This forgotten history of solidarity will be celebrated across Britain today, the 40th anniversary of the coup.
Unsurprisingly, when Pinochet’s most prominent defender, Margaret Thatcher came to office in 1979, diplomatic relations were soon restored and arms sales resumed. Declassified papers reveal that, by June 1982, her government had sold the dictatorship: two warships, 60 blowpipe missiles, 10 Hunter Hawker bomber planes, naval pyrotechnics, communications equipment, gun sights, machine guns and ammunition. A unique attempt at a British “ethical foreign policy” had ended.
Comment I went to work as an engineering equipment buyer for the Nitrate Corporation of Chile in 1977. I was recruited by members of the British Military. Among other things, I had to find a supplier for miniturised ‘carbon dioxide’ producing equipment. I will say no more, other than to say that the Anglo U.S WASP elite are total hypocrits who care only for money and power, they won’t miss the stupid statues, they have moved on. They are the MYI Generation.
Remember what I told you, the authorities have written that I am more likely to die by ‘misadventure than suicide’ quote from cretin Dr C R Ramsay of NHS Aylesbury Whiteleaf Centre who refuses to explain how he got to that conclusion, adding that if I saw all the files on me, they would be upsetting. I kid you not. That is Police State Britain. Robert Cook
Dividing Line July 25th 2020
The US targeted Evo Morales for overthrow ever since he became president. And the Organization of American States helped set the stage for Bolivia’s coup. Posted July 17th 2020
By Leonardo Flores / CODEPINK
The United States and the Organization of American States can add another coup to their scorecards, even if U.S. media refuses to recognize it as such.
This time it was in Bolivia, where President Evo Morales was forced to step down on November 10, following weeks of pressure and extremist violence.
Morales resigned under duress in order to avoid bloodshed, and emphasized that his “responsibility as an indigenous president of all Bolivians is to prevent the coup-mongers from persecuting my trade unionist brothers and sisters, abusing and kidnapping their families, burning the homes of governors, of legislators, of city councilors… to prevent them from continuing to harass and persecute my indigenous brothers and sisters and the leaders and authorities” of the MAS (Movement towards Socialism, Morales’ political party).
His resignation has yet to take effect, as it must be approved by the legislature. This did not stop opposition party member Jeanine Añez, the senate’s second vice president, from declaring herself interim president, further proving that what’s happened is a coup.
MAS legislators, who have a majority in both chambers, have been unable to attend parliamentary sessions as security forces have not guaranteed their safety.
ALERT: Legitimate President of the Senate (MAS) Adriana Salvatierra @Adriana1989sa is assaulted by coup police while trying to enter the Congress moments ago. Images in next tweet. @teleSURenglish pic.twitter.com/0zqAy5FApb
— Camila (@camilateleSUR) November 13, 2019
Currently, indigenous and labor movements are on the streets in several Bolivian cities, demanding that President Morales be reinstated.
Supporters of exiled Pres Evo Morales out in full force today near the capital’s airport
With fascist paramilitiaries working hand in glove with cops & military to violently repress them, their slogans have gotten steadily more militant:
“Guns! Bombs! El Alto won’t stay quiet!” pic.twitter.com/1lMTuMUdM4
— Wyatt Reed (@wyattreed13) November 14, 2019
Meanwhile, police forces are ripping the Wiphala flag, a symbol that represents the indigenous peoples of the Andes, from their uniforms and from government buildings.
Bolivia’s right-wing opposition is burning the Wiphala flag, a symbol of Indigenous communities that was recognized as the 2nd official flag of the Plurinational State, which was founded by elected Indigenous President Evo Morales, now overthrown in a couppic.twitter.com/tJ92UxXgRu
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) November 11, 2019
Coup leader Luis Camacho entered the government palace with a Bolivian flag and a bible; upon leaving, one of his supporters, a Christian pastor, declared that “Pachamama will never return to the palace… Bolivia belongs to Christ.” (Pachamama is an Andean goddess representing Mother Earth.)
The coup and its aftermath are not just a rejection of President Morales, but of Bolivia’s indigenous majority and the social gains of the last 13 years.
US government fingerprints all over Bolivia coup
Morales’ resignation came hours after the head of the armed forces and the chief of Bolivia’s police “suggested” that he resign.
The head of the army, General Williams Kalimán Romero, was Bolivia’s military attaché in Washington from 2013 to 2016. The chief of police, General Vladimir Calderón, was Bolivia’s police attaché in Washington until December 2018.
As attachés they would have been in constant communication with the Pentagon and other agencies; it is no stretch of the imagination to wonder if they were still in contact with their U.S. counterparts as the overthrow of the Morales government unfolded.
The coup was carried out over three weeks after the October 20 elections, but it was months, if not years in the making.
The United States first began targeting Evo Morales in 2001 — five years before being elected president — when the US embassy in La Paz warned that his political base needed to be weakened.
Afterwards, USAID began funding right-wing political parties and “civil society” organizations that would feature heavily in attempts to overthrow President Morales.
The first such attempt came in 2008, two years after Morales was first elected president and days after he survived a recall referendum with 67.4% of the vote. On that occasion, coup plotters in eastern Bolivia, a region rich in minerals where the white minority population is concentrated, attempted to secede from the country.
According to the International Federation for Human Rights, the opposition in eastern Bolivia “promoted separatism and ethnically and socially based hatred through the Civic Committees (Comités Civicos), in particular the Pro-Santa Cruz Civic Committee.”
Luis Fernando Camacho, the millionaire coup leader with ties to paramilitaries, is the current president of this committee, which has received U.S. funding in the past.
The desire to overthrow Morales has existed for years, but more immediate plans were finalized in the weeks before the election.
Bolivian media outlet Erbol published leaked audio of conversations held from October 8 and 10 between civic leaders, former military officials and opposition politicians who discussed “a plan for social unrest, before and after the general elections, with the aim of preventing President Evo Morales from remaining” in office.
One opposition politician mentioned being in close contact with Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Bob Menendez.
The OAS role in the coup
The OAS also played an important role in stoking protests and ensuring that the coup was successful.
On October 21, a day after the election, it issued a statement casting doubt on the process due to an “inexplicable” change in the trend of the vote count.
This statement was thoroughly debunked by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which found that trend did not change and that Morales widened the gap over his rivals due to late reporting rural precincts, where he enjoys a tremendous advantage.
A later statistical analysis by CEPR found that there was “no evidence that the election results were affected by irregularities or fraud.”
The U.S. rejects the Electoral Tribunal’s attempts to subvert #Bolivia‘s democracy by delaying the vote count & taking actions that undermine the credibility of Bolivia’s elections. We call on the TSE to immediately act to restore credibility in the vote counting process.
— Michael G. Kozak (@WHAAsstSecty) October 22, 2019
After being invited by President Morales to conduct an audit, the results of which he promised to respect, the OAS instead opted to destabilize the country.
The full electoral audit was initially due by November 12, but on November 10, a day after Morales announced that a coup was taking place and amid political violence throughout the country, the OAS decided to issue a preliminary audit.
This report, which did not include data that could be independently verified, repeated the false claims of the October 21 statement and called for new elections.
In response, Morales agreed to new elections and to replacing the board of the electoral body, yet this offer was rebuffed by coup leaders.
Rather than denounce the coup and insist that Morales be allowed to finish out his term (which ends in January), the OAS held a vote that refused to call it a coup, although several countries dissented.
Mexico criticized the OAS for being “surprisingly quiet” given the violation of constitutional order, while Uruguay condemned the body’s “double standard depending on antipathy or sympathy” for the government in question.
Earlier in the day, Argentinian president-elect Alberto Fernández said “what happened in Bolivia is a shame, the behavior of the OAS is shameful because the audit the OAS held is significant in its flimsiness and has conclusions that are absolutely manipulated.”
It should be noted that the 2008 coup was neutralized in part because of the role played by UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations. This regional bloc has been severely debilitated in recent years as a direct result of State Department pressure and the willingness of right-wing Southern American presidents to give up on long-term regional integration plans for short-term political benefits.
The decline of UNASUR and CELAC (the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States — another target of the State Department), coupled with the OAS’s bias, leaves the region with no credible multilateral organization.
Leonardo Flores is a Latin American policy expert and campaigner with CODEPINK.
Ecuador, 1960 to 1963: A Textbook of Dirty Tricks
If the Guinness Book of World Records included a category for “cynicism”, one could suggest the CIA’s creation of “leftist” organizations which condemned poverty, disease, illiteracy, capitalism, and the United States in order to attract committed militants and their money away from legitimate leftist organizations.
The tiny nation of Ecuador in the early 1960s was, as it remains today, a classic of banana-republic underdevelopment; virtually at the bottom of the economic heap in South America; a society in which one percent of the population received an income comparable to United States upper-class standards, while two-thirds of the people had an average family income of about ten dollars per month – people simply outside the money economy, with little social integration or participation in the national life; a tale told many times in Latin America.
In September 1960, a new government headed by José María Velasco Ibarra came to power. Velasco had won a decisive electoral victory, running on a vaguely liberal, populist, something-for-everyone platform. He was no Fidel Castro, he was not even a socialist, but he earned the wrath of the US State Department and the CIA by his unyielding opposition to the two stated priorities of American policy in Ecuador: breaking relations with Cuba, and clamping down hard on activists of the Communist Party and those to their left.
Over the next three years, in pursuit of those goals, the CIA left as little as possible to chance. A veritable textbook on covert subversion techniques unfolded. In its pages could be found the following, based upon the experiences of Philip Agee, a CIA officer who spent this period in Ecuador. )
Almost all political organizations of significance, from the far left to the far right, were infiltrated, often at the highest levels. Amongst other reasons, the left was infiltrated to channel young radicals away from support to Cuba and from anti-Americanism; the right, to instigate and co-ordinate activities along the lines of CIA priorities. If, at a point in time, there was no organization that appeared well-suited to serve a particular need, then one would be created.
Or a new group of “concerned citizens” would appear, fronted with noted personalities, which might place a series of notices in leading newspapers denouncing the penetration of the government by the extreme left and demanding a break with Cuba. Or one of the noted personalities would deliver a speech prepared by the CIA, and then a newspaper editor, or a well-known columnist, would praise it, both gentlemen being on the CIA payroll.
Some of these fronts had an actual existence; for others, even their existence was phoney. On one occasion, the CIA Officer who had created the non-existent “Ecuadorean Anti-Communist Front” was surprised to read in his morning paper that a real organization with that name had been founded. He changed the name of his organization to “Ecuadorean Anti-Communist Action”.
Wooing the working class came in for special emphasis. An alphabet-soup of labor organizations, sometimes hardly more than names on stationery, were created, altered, combined, liquidated, and new ones created again, in an almost frenzied attempt to find the right combination to compete with existing left-oriented unions and take national leadership away from them. Union leaders were invited to attend various classes conducted by the CIA in Ecuador or in the United States, all expenses paid, in order to impart to them the dangers of communism to the union movement and to select potential agents.
This effort was not without its irony either. CIA agents would sometimes jealously vie with each other for the best positions in these CIA-created labor organizations; and at times Ecuadorean organizations would meet in “international conferences” with CIA labor fronts from other countries, with almost all of the participants blissfully unaware of who was who or what was what.
In Ecuador, as throughout most of Latin America, the Agency planted phoney anti-communist news items in co-operating newspapers. These items would then be picked up by other CIA stations in Latin America and disseminated through a CIA-owned news agency, a CIA- owned radio station, or through countless journalists being paid on a piece-work basis, in addition to the item being picked up unwittingly by other media, including those in the United States. Anti-communist propaganda and news distortion (often of the most far-fetched variety) written in CIA offices would also appear in Latin American newspapers as unsigned editorials of the papers themselves.
In virtually every department of the Ecuadorean government could be found men occupying positions, high and low, who collaborated with the CIA for money and/or their own particular motivation. At one point, the Agency could count amongst this number the men who were second and third in power in the country.
These government agents would receive the benefits of information obtained by the CIA through electronic eavesdropping or other means, enabling them to gain prestige and promotion, or consolidate their current position in the rough-and-tumble of Ecuadorean politics. A high-ranking minister of leftist tendencies, on the other hand, would be the target of a steady stream of negative propaganda from any or all sources in the CIA arsenal; staged demonstrations against him would further increase the pressure on the president to replace him.
The Postmaster-General, along with other post office employees, all members in good standing of the CIA Payroll Club, regularly sent mail arriving from Cuba and the Soviet bloc to the Agency for its perusal, while customs officials and the Director of Immigration kept the Agency posted on who went to or came from Cuba. When a particularly suitable target returned from Cuba, he would be searched at the airport and documents prepared by the CIA would be “found” on him. These documents, publicized as much as possible, might include instructions on “how to intensify hatred between classes”, or some provocative language designed to cause a split in Communist Party ranks. Generally, the documents “verified” the worst fears of the public about communist plans to take over Ecuador under the masterminding of Cuba or the Soviet Union; at the same time, perhaps, implicating an important Ecuadorean leftist whose head the Agency was after. Similar revelations, staged by CIA stations elsewhere in Latin America, would be publicized in Ecuador as a warning that Ecuador was next.
Agency financing of conservative groups in a quasi-religious campaign against Cuba and “atheistic communism” helped to seriously weaken President Velasco’s power among the poor, primarily Indians, who had voted overwhelmingly for him, but who were even more deeply committed to their religion. If the CIA wished to know how the president was reacting to this campaign it need only turn to his physician, its agent, Dr. Felipe Ovalle, who would report that his patient was feeling considerable strain as a result.
CIA agents would bomb churches or right-wing organizations and make it appear to be the work of leftists. They would march in left-wing parades displaying signs and shouting slogans of a very provocative anti-military nature, designed to antagonize the armed forces and hasten a coup.
The Agency did not always get away clean with its dirty tricks. During the election campaign, on 19 March 1960, two senior colonels who were the CIA’s main liaison agents within the National Police participated in a riot aimed at disrupting a Velasco demonstration. Agency officer Bob Weatherwax was in the forefront directing the police during the riot in which five Velasco supporters were killed and many wounded. When Velasco took office, he had the two colonels arrested and Weatherwax was asked to leave the country.
CIA-supported activities were carried out without the knowledge of the American ambassador. When the Cuban Embassy publicly charged the Agency with involvement in various anti-Cuban activities, the American ambassador issued a statement that “had everyone in the [CIA] station smiling”. Stated the ambassador: “The only agents in Ecuador who are paid by the United States are the technicians invited by the Ecuadorean government to contribute to raising the living standards of the Ecuadorean people.”
Finally, in November 1961, the military acted. Velasco was forced to resign and was replaced by Vice-President Carlos Julio Arosemana. There were at this time two prime candidates for the vice-presidency. One was the vice-president of the Senate, a CIA agent. The other was the rector of Central University, a political moderate. The day that Congress convened to make their choice, a notice appeared in a morning paper announcing support for the rector by the Communist Party and a militant leftist youth organization. The notice had been placed by a columnist for the newspaper who was the principal propaganda agent for the CIA’s Quito station. The rector was compromised rather badly, the denials came too late, and the CIA man won. His Agency salary was increased from $700 to $1,000 a month.
Arosemana soon proved no more acceptable to the CIA than Velasco. All operations continued, particularly the campaign to break relations with Cuba, which Arosemana steadfastly refused to do. The deadlock was broken in March 1962 when a military garrison, led by Col. Aurelio Naranjo, gave Arosemana 72 hours to send the Cubans packing and fire the leftist Minister of Labor. (There is no need to point out here who Naranjo’s financial benefactor was.) Arosemana complied with the ultimatum, booting out the Czech and Polish delegations as well at the behest of the new cabinet which had been forced upon him.
At the CIA station in Quito there was a champagne victory celebration. Elsewhere in Ecuador, people angry about the military’s domination and desperate about their own lives, took to arms. But on this occasion, like others, it amounted to naught … a small band of people, poorly armed and trained, infiltrated by agents, their every move known in advance – confronted by a battalion of paratroopers, superbly armed and trained by the United States. That was in the field. In press reports, the small band grew to hundreds; armed not only to the teeth, but with weapons from “outside the country” (read Cuba), and the whole operation very carefully planned at the Communist Party Congress the month before.
On 11 July 1963 the Presidential Palace in Quito was surrounded by tanks and troops. Arosemana was out, a junta was in. Their first act was to outlaw communism; “communists” and other “extreme” leftists were rounded up and jailed, the arrests campaign being facilitated by data from the CIA’s Subversive Control Watch List. (Standard at many Agency stations, this list would include not only the subject’s name, but the names and addresses of his relatives and friends and the places he frequented – anything to aid in tracking him down when the time came.)
Civil liberties were suspended; the 1964 elections canceled; another tale told many times in Latin America.And during these three years, what were the American people told about this witch’s brew of covert actions carried out, supposedly, in their name? Very little, if anything, if the New York Times is any index. Not once during the entire period, up to and including the coup, was any indication given in any article or editorial on Ecuador that the CIA or any other arm of the US government had played any role whatever in any event which had occurred in that country. This is the way the writings read even if one looks back at them with the advantage of knowledge and hindsight and reads between the lines.
There is a solitary exception. Following the coup, we find a tiny announcement on the very bottom of page 20 that Havana radio had accused the United States of instigating the military takeover. The Cuban government had been making public charges about American activities in Ecuador regularly, but this was the first one to make the New York Times. The question must be asked: Why were these charges deemed unworthy of reporting or comment, let alone investigation?
- Philip Agee, Inside the Company: CIA Diary (New York, 1975) pp. 106-316, passim. Agee’s book made him Public Enemy No. One of the CIA. In a review of the book, however, former Agency official Miles Copeland – while not concealing his distaste for Agee’s “betrayal” – stated that “The book is interesting as an authentic account of how an ordinary American or British ‘case officer’ operates … As a spy handler in Quito, Montevideo and Mexico City, he has first-hand information … All of it, just as his publisher claims, is presented ‘with deadly accuracy’.” (The Spectator, London, 11 January 1975, p. 40.
- New York Times, 14 July 1963, p. 20. For an interesting and concise discussion of the political leanings of Velasco and Arosemana, see John Gerassi, The Great Fear in Latin America (New York, 1965, revised edition) pp. 141-8.
This is a chapter from Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II by William Blum.
William Blum was an author, historian, and U.S. foreign policy critic. He was the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others. Read more →
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