Tuesday, January 03, 2017

US policy in the age of the "soft coup" in Latin America

In the grand scheme of things, it's hard not to think that removing elected governments by a "soft coup" like those in Paraguay in 2013 and in Brazil 2016 is preferable to the military brand of coup, of which Brazil 1964, Chile 1973 and Argentina 1976 are some of the more dramatic recent examples.

Honduras 2009 is sometimes cited as an example of the "soft coup." But it took the form of a military coup, though civilian government was quickly restored. And even obvious military coups also have a significant civilian political component. The Argentine coup of 1976 is also referred to commonly as a civilian-military coup. Just as the 1955 Argentine coup that styled itself the Revolución Libertadora involved substantial involvement at all stages from the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR) and the Socialist and Communist Parties.

And even the famous nonviolent "regime change" operation promoted by the CIA in Iran and 1953 and Guatemala in 1954 had long-range effects that call into serious question the judgment of the Eisenhower Administration promoting those coups against what in retrospect were, at worst, mildly annoying regimes for Washington. The quick-and-easy coup in Honduras has left an ugly legacy of social violence that continues over five years later. (Thelma Mejía, Journalism in Honduras Trapped in Violence Inter Press Service 11/28/2016)Latin America in 2016: The Resurgence of the Right Continues The Real News 12/31/2016:

Latin America in 2016: The Resurgence of the Right Continues (2/2)

Emire Sader describes in Macri, Temer y Peña Nieto, huérfanos de Clinton Página/12 25.11.2016 the Obama-Clinton policy in effect in Latin America. Despite the pragmatic opening to Cuba, the Obama Administration's policy toward Latin America has been fundamentally conservative. Conservative in the sense of supporting conservative government's with less than enthusiastic commitments to democracy over democratic governments committed to progressive economic policies instead of the neoliberalism demanded by the Washington Consensus.

The Obama Administration supported the military coup that ousted Honduras' elected government in 2011 and the "soft coup" of 2013 in Paraguay, which was down by means of a cynically politicized impeachment of President Fernando Lugo, a supporter of liberation theology who was the candidate of the center-right Liberal Party. The hard right Colorado Party had not lost a national election since 1947, a period that included the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner during 1954–89.

Argentina elected Mauricio Macri President in 2015. He ran at the head of an electoral alliance called Cambiemos, which primarily consisted of Macri's own PRO party and the UCR, the latter party commonly referred to as "the radicals," although they have been a conservative oligarchic party for decades, arguably since 1945 and certainly since 1955.

In 2016, Dilma Rousseff was ousted from the Presidency by an utterly cynical impeachment with no basis that could be considered legitimate for a democracy. The new President, Michel Temer, isn't actually eligible to run for elected office in Brazil as part of his penalty on a corruption conviction. The "soft coup" impeachment against Dilma makes the frivolous impeachment of Bill Clinton by a rabidly partisan Republican House in the US in the 1990s look like a model of legal and democratic conduct.

Sader writes that Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was responsible for:

la destrucción del gobierno de Manuel Zelaya en Honduras, después de que el último intento de golpe militar clásico en Venezuela, en 2002, hubiera fracasado. Ella y su gobierno apoyaron el golpe en contra de Fernando Lugo, que siguió el mismo guión, así como Hillary y Obama se callaron, de forma cómplice, frente al golpe en Brasil.

[the destruction of Manuel Zelaya's government in Honduras, after the previous attempt at a classic military coup in Venezuela in 2002 had failed. {The 2002 coup attempt was crassly supported by the Cheney-Bush Administrtion.} She and her go0vernment supported the {soft} coup against Fernando Lugo that followed the same guide, just as Hillary and Obama were silent in a complicit form in face of the {soft} coup in Brazil.]
Obama also made his first Presidential trip to Argentina in 2016 to show his support for the rightwing government of Mauricio Macri and "y anunciar una nueva época en las relaciones entre los dos gobiernos, felicitando al presidente argentino por los primeros pasos dados en dirección del viejo modelo neoliberal." ("to announce a new era in the relations between the two governments, congratualting the Argentine President for the first steps taken in the direction of the old neoliberal model.")

Sader sees the Obama-Clinton strategy in Latin America as being based around using the committed neoliberal government of Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico with the heavyweight Brazil-Argentina combination to impose the neoliberal model onto recalcitrant governments and electorates like those in Bolivia, Ecuador and (of course!) Venezuela. But he notes that the Trump Family Business Administration's likely hostility to Mexico in particular could complicate this plan. "México entró en pánico con la elección de Trump y sus amenazas. De nada sirvió la grotesta invitación que hizo Peña Nieto a que lo visitara, con efectos negativos para la imagen del ya desgastado presidente mexicano." ("Mexico went into a panic over the election of Trump and his threats. The grotesque invitation that Peña Nieto made for him to visit was useless, with negative effective for the already eroded image of the Mexican President.") He also notes that if Trump carries through on his campaign skepticism about corporate-deregulation trade treaties, it could complicate the plans of the current Argentine and Brazilian government to forge a relationship to the United States as subordinate as that of Mexico, in Sader's formulation.

Part of the plan presumably favored by the Obama Administration and being implemented by the Macri and Temer governments was a weakening of the South American trade alliance Mercosur. (Alberto Müller, Erosionar la integración Página/12 24.12.2016) Mercosur has functioned under the leadership of the so-called "Pink Tide" left-leaning governments of the last decade or so as an institution representing continental cooperation among South American government to establish independent regional power and influence against the neoliberal agenda. It has functioned in some of the spirit of the Patria Grande thinkers who encourage such regional cooperation against imperialist influences.

The Administration of current Argentine President Mauricio Macri, currently busily making friends with the American President-elect, has been giving Argentina and the world a textbook example of the damage neoliberal economic policies can do since taking office in December 2015. (GDP falls 3.8% in third quarter as investment remains elusive Buenos Aires Herald 12/23/2016; Leandro Renou, ‘The lower middle classes are heavily reducing consumption’ Buenos Aires Herald 12/23/2016)

His government is the kind that left nationalists in Argentina refer to as capayo (sepoy), referring to politicians and governments that are subservient to foreign interests, particularly economic interest. (It's not meant as a compliment!)

Even during the left-Peronist governments of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández (2003-2009), the conservative opposition kept up a steady stream of accusations of massive corruption and authoritarian tendencies, most of them with little or no real content.

The Macri regime is trying to use such accusation now against Cristina and her Partido Justicialista (PJ) and well as the social movements and groups that are a critical part of the kirchnerista base. The case of activist Milagro Sala has received attention from international human rights groups. "The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled in October [2016] that her detention was arbitrary and ordered Argentina's government to free her immediately. However, the Macri administration considered the decision non-binding." (Argentina Human Rights Hero Milagro Sala Sentenced to 3 Years TeleSur 12/28/2016; Sala receives first sentence Buenos Aires Herald 12/30/2016)

See also:

Edgardo Mocca, El caso Milagro Sala Página/12 04.12.2016
Cruces en el massismo por Milagro Sala Página/12 02.01.2017
Luis Bruschtein, Milagros demonizados Página/12 02.01.2017

Macri's government is also going after former President Cristina Fernández on a corruption charge that looks contrived. And on another charge, with which I'm far more familiar and which is about as bogus as they come.

The courts have brought a formal indictment against her on the former charge. (In second push, CFK indicted for public works graft Buenos Aires Herald 12/30/2016)

The other charge is a revival of a case that former prosecutor Alberto Nisman tried to bring against her over her handling of the still-ongoing investigation into the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires. I blogged about this back in 2015 as the original case was unfolding. The case is ludicrous. Very short version: Nisman was accusing her of doing something that wasn't illegal and for which there is no good evidence she did and very substantial material in the public record to show she did not do it. Nisman himself died of a gunshot wound that by all publicly known indications was a suicide, although the official investigation is still open. But at the time of the likely suicide, his case against the then-President was rapidly coming apart publicly, which could have been a contributing cause of the suicide. (Nisman AMIA complaint against CFK re-opened Buenos Aires Herald 12/30/2016; A history of the judicial back and forth, almost two years in the making Buenos Aires Herald 12/30/2016)

Other articles on the Nisman charge include the following, some of which show signs of the many uses to which the AMIA case has been put, not least because it's a key part of the American claim that Iran has an advanced ability to project substantial terrorist action in the Western Hemisphere, although lots has changed in 24 years. The case itself has never been solved, though Argentina's official theory of the case is that Iran was behind it. And Cristina herself pursued that theory as President. She was aggressive as a Senator in pursuing the investigation into the attack. For background, see The Unsolved Terror Attack At The Center Of Argentina’s Political Crisis World Post 01/30/2015.

Argentine court rules ex-president may have covered up Iranian bombing of Jewish center Jewish Telegraph Agency 12/30/2016; this is actually a poor report on the charge
Argentine ex-president Kirchner faces new probe over bombing AFP/Yahoo! News ; the headline does not reflect the report and looks purely propagandistic. The article itself reports, "Four lower courts had thrown the case out on grounds there was no evidence a crime had been committed."
“Es el uso y abuso de los muertos de la AMIA” Página/12 30.12.2016
Excusaciones y recusaciones Página/12 11.11.2016

Aljazeera also features a sloppy report on Cristina's situation, taking the conservative government's highly politicized accusations of Macri's conservative government, Former Argentine president Cristina Kirchner faces court 01/01/2017. One of the people this report quotes is Marioano Obarrio, identified only as a "journalist." That's true. He's a journalist for La Nación, the rightwing government which has repeatedly over the decades supported military governments and has been the journalistic voice for the Argentine oligarchy since it was founded by former President Bartolomé Mitre in 1870. (Except for a period during Juan Perón's first government when the paper was seized by the government.

It's concerning to see Aljazeera presenting a report made with such credulity to rightwing charges that one would have to be very generous to describe as highly questionable. So far, they look downright frivolous.

No comments: