12-Step American Method for Regime Change
On September 15, 1970, U.S. President Richard Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger authorized the U.S. government to do everything possible to undermine the incoming government of the socialist president of Chile, Salvador Allende. Nixon and Kissinger, according to the notes kept by CIA Director Richard Helms, wanted to “make the economy scream” in Chile; they were “not concerned [about the] risks involved.” War was acceptable to them as long as Allende’s government was removed from power. The CIA started Project FUBELT, with $10 million as a first installment to begin the covert destabilization of the country.
U.S. business firms, such as the telecommunication giant ITT, the soft drink maker Pepsi and copper monopolies such as Anaconda and Kennecott, put pressure on the U.S. government once Allende nationalized the copper sector on July 11, 1971. Chileans celebrated this day as the Day of National Dignity (Dia de la Dignidad Nacional). The CIA began to make contact with sections of the military seen to be against Allende. Three years later, on September 11, 1973, these military men moved against Allende, who died in the regime change operation. The United States “created the conditions,” as U.S. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger put it, to which U.S. President Richard Nixon answered, “that is the way it is going to be played.” Such is the mood of international gangsterism.
Chile entered the dark night of a military dictatorship that turned over the country to U.S. monopoly firms. U.S. advisers rushed in to strengthen the nerve of General Augusto Pinochet’s cabinet.
Step One: Colonialism’s Traps. Most of the Global South remains trapped by the structures put in place by colonialism. Colonial boundaries encircled states that had the misfortune of being single-commodity producers—either sugar for Cuba or oil for Venezuela. The inability to diversify their economies meant that these countries earned the bulk of their export revenues from their singular commodities (98 percent of Venezuela’s export revenues come from oil). As long as the prices of the commodities remained high, the export revenues were secure. When the prices fell, revenue suffered. This was a legacy of colonialism. Oil prices dropped from $160.72 per barrel (June 2008) to $51.99 per barrel (January 2019). Venezuela’s export revenues collapsed in this decade.
Step Three: The Death of Southern Agriculture. In November 2001, there were about 3 billion small farmers and landless peasants in the world. That month, the World Trade Organization met in Doha, Qatar, to unleash the productivity of Northern agri-business against the billions of small farmers and landless peasants of the Global South. Mechanization and large, industrial-scale farms in North America and Europe had raised productivity to about 1 to 2 million kilograms of cereals per farmer. The small farmers and landless peasants in the rest of the world struggled to grow 1,000 kilograms of cereals per farmer. They were nowhere near as productive. The Doha decision, as Samir Amin wrote, presages the annihilation of the small farmer and landless peasant. What are these men and women to do? The production per hectare is higher in the West, but the corporate takeover of agriculture (as Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research Senior Fellow P. Sainath shows) leads to increased hunger as it pushes peasants off their land and leaves them to starve.
Step Six: Public Finances Go to Hell. With little incoming revenue and low tax collection rates, public finances in the Global South have gone into crisis. As the UN Conference on Trade and Development points out, “public finances have continued to be suffocated.” States simply cannot put together the funds needed to maintain basic state functions. Balanced budget rules make borrowing difficult, which is compounded by the fact that banks charge high rates for money, citing the risks of lending to indebted countries.
Step Nine: Who Controls the Narrative? The monopoly corporate media take their orders from the elite. There is no sympathy for the structural crisis faced by governments from Afghanistan to Venezuela. Those leaders who cave to Western pressure are given a free pass by the media. As long as they conduct “reforms,” they are safe. Those countries that argue against the “reforms” are vulnerable to being attacked. Their leaders become “dictators,” their people hostages. A contested election in Bangladesh or in the Democratic Republic of Congo or in the United States is not cause for regime change. That special treatment is left for Venezuela.
Step Eleven: Make the Economy Scream. Venezuela has faced harsh U.S. sanctions since 2014, when the U.S. Congress started down this road. The next year, U.S. President Barack Obama declared Venezuela a “threat to national security.” The economy started to scream. In recent days, the United States and the United Kingdom brazenly stole billions of dollars of Venezuelan money, placed the shackles of sanctions on its only revenue-generating sector (oil) and watched the pain flood through the country. This is what the United States did to Iran and this is what they did to Cuba. The UN says that the U.S. sanctions on Cuba have cost the small island $130 billion. Venezuela lost $6 billion for the first year of Trump’s sanctions, since they began in August 2017. More is to be lost as the days unfold. No wonder that the United Nations Special Rapporteur Idriss Jazairy says that “sanctions which can lead to starvation and medical shortages are not the answer to the crisis in Venezuela.” He said that sanctions are “not a foundation for the peaceful settlement of disputes.” Further, Jazairy said, “I am especially concerned to hear reports that these sanctions are aimed at changing the government of Venezuela.” He called for “compassion” for the people of Venezuela.
It is time to say “No” to regime change intervention. There is no middle ground.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2007), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013), The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016) and Red Star Over the Third World (LeftWord, 2017). He writes regularly for Frontline, the Hindu, Newsclick, AlterNet and BirGün.
This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.