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“Not One More Coup”: Slogan of the January 2016 World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil

“No impression should be permitted in Latin America that they can get away with this, that it’s safe to go this way. All over the world it’s too much the fashion to kick us around.” * U.S. President Nixon. Right now it is critical for the U.S. public to get some lessons on U.S. imperialism and Latin American history, and for progressive voices to condemn U.S. intervention in elections throughout Latin America and, in particular, in funding violence in Venezuela.

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These paranoid words could easily belong to Donald Trump. They were uttered, however, by his prototype, Richard Nixon, on Friday September 6, 1970. He is sounding off against Salvador Allende in Chile, two days after the election, but almost two months before Congress would ratify his presidency, necessary because Allende had less than 50% of the vote. Allende, nonetheless, became the first socialist to be elected democratically on a program to build socialism peacefully

Even though Nixon was referring to Chile, he said Latin America, because for him, the many countries south of the Rio Grande were really just one, and the whole continent in his mind (and in the mind of every U.S. president) belonged to the U.S. “Latin America is not gone,” he muttered, “and we want to keep it.” Nixon might have been a very entertaining “tweeter”!

Nixon’s entire administration, including the CIA, lied to the Senate, denying it had any involvement in Chile, when, in fact, the U.S. was the strategic power behind the coup and all the disruptions and violence that proceeded it. Peter Kornbluh documented every step in The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability. Now would be a good time to read this book, if you have not yet done so, because it provides the analysis, justification, and explanation for everything that happened in Chile and is happening right now in Venezuela.

Chile became the model for U.S. intervention in another country’s democratic election process. What is happening or happened recently in a grand sweep across Latin America is a repeat of the bloody coups of the sixties and seventies, supported by U.S. funding, training, and assistance, but this time without the military. Marx would have called it “farce” rather than history. This shift does not mean, however, that the military option is off the table. Honduras was a more recent example, carried out with the backing of the Obama administration, and the supportive role of Hillary Clinton.

In Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, the “new” U.S. policy has been to support coups without the military. Working with corrupt politicians, members of the global capitalist class, U.S. trained economists and judges, military and financial giants, the U.S. has taken down progressive governments in elections carried out under a cloud of propaganda, voter suppression, and street violence.

Not to be discounted in this subversive process, of course, is the use of alleged NGOs (non-governmental organizations) such as the U.S. government-funded National Endowment for Democracy. Even the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center (heir to the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) has provided assistance to the U.S. policy of “regime replacement.”

The corporate-controlled media has played an absolutely central role in Latin America as well as in the U.S. Even NPR and MSNBC have carried the official misinformation stories, placing blame for the violence and deaths on the Venezuelan government instead of on the right-wing terrorists. Local newspapers in Northwest Indiana where Latin America rarely appears (The Times and the Post-Tribune) have identical daily stories on Venezuela, all in support of the misinformation campaign.

Nixon, Kissenger and the intelligence agencies favored a military solution in Chile beginning before the 1970 elections. State Department officials, especially those on site in Chile, wanted to support conservative parties and organizations to take back the government once Allende assumed the presidency. In spring 1973 congressional elections, however, Allende increased his support, which for Nixon and Kissinger meant an accelerated push for a military coup. “A massive bloodbath” would be “preferable to Allende.

The same debates are unfolding today over Venezuela. Like Nixon, Trump has less interest in funding the democratic opposition, because time might allow President Nicolas Maduro to further consolidate popular power. Chaos and violence work more effectively, creating “a coup climate by propaganda, disinformation and terrorist activities.” Or as Kissinger reasoned, “Why not support extremists?” Nixon gave millions of dollars to the fascist organization Patria y Libertad (Fatherland and Liberty) to carry out street violence. Dressed as military, this organization (with assistance from the Chilean Navy) was behind one of the very unsuccessful coup attempts, known as the Tancazo, which occurred in Chile in June 1973.

The recent attack (August 6) on a military base in Venezuela by a small contingent dressed in military fatigues reads like this premature poorly-planned coup attempt in Chile, supported by the U.S., carried out by terrorists.

The exposure of U.S. involvement in the Chilean coup revealed a cover-up on a scale greater than that of Watergate, and more horrifying.  Is it possible Trump will use the Nixon playbook for both personal and political cover-ups?

The Pinochet dictatorship ushered in by the U.S. led to the imprisonment, murder, disappearance and exile of hundreds of thousands of Chilean citizens. Would not intervention of any kind (U.S. disguised as multinational?) lead to a parallel bloodbath in Venezuela?

The U.S. government is fighting to “keep” control over the southern hemisphere. To do so, the U.S. still relies on its control over hemispheric organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Development Bank. Key financial weapons have not changed either:  the IMF and the World Bank) continue to deny loans and credits as needed. Militarily, the U.S. relies on the Southern Command in Panama and the School of the Americas(SOA) in Georgia for training and direct assistance.

The Venezuelan government, hoping to avoid a U.S.-backed bloodbath, is working to put the people into more powerful positions, as with the Constituent Assembly. In addition, one of the first things former President Hugo Chavez did was clean out the fascists and U.S. puppets in the military.  President Maduro, however, is now being isolated like Allende was; the ALBA nations still stand with Venezuela and have issued a statement of support.

When Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva became the Workers’ Party president in Brazil (2002), for example, he had very progressive governments nearby in Latin America. The Brazil “playbook” for U.S. foreign policy today is the new type: judges schooled in DC, politicians for sale, financial interests united. The global ruling class will resort to any illegality or disruption to keep Lula from regaining the presidency, as evidenced in his recent prison sentence.

Financially the U.S. is getting competition. China is making big inroads, particularly on the Pacific coast, though investments and major capital projects. The same is true in Africa. The U.S. government can act like the big bully, but Washington still depends on Latin America’s mining and agricultural products. Note that Trump has sanctioned members of the Venezuelan government but not its oil.

Right now it is absolutely critical for the U.S. public to get some lessons on U.S. imperialism and Latin American history, and for progressive voices to condemn U.S. intervention in elections throughout Latin America and, in particular, in funding violence in Venezuela.

Ruth Needleman, Professor Emerita, IU

Thanks to Frank Hammer and Jill Hamberg for their help.

*All italicized quotes come from government documents cited in the Pinochet File.