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THREAD - Let's talk about the history of U.S.-backed coups and regime change, especially in Latin America. It's history far too many commentators seem to have forgotten in the current case of Venezuela. I'm going to assemble some resources on the topic in this thread. 1/ #cdnpoli
"From 1898 to 1994, the U.S. government has intervened successfully to change governments in Latin America a total of at least 41 times. That amounts to once every 28 months for an entire century." John H. Coatsworth, Harvard Review of Latin America. revista.drclas.harvard.edu/book/united-st… 2/
"For decades, U.S. policies of military intervention and economic neoliberalism have undermined democracy and stability in the region, creating vacuums of power in which drug cartels and paramilitary alliances have risen." medium.com/s/story/timeli… 3/
That’s Mark Tseng-Putterman, PhD student in American Studies, arguing the migrant crisis in Latin America resulting in desperate people trying to cross the U.S. border is directly attributable to the history of U.S. intervention in the region. “U.S. empire thrives on amnesia.” 4/
In the Washington Post, Lindsey O’Rourke - assistant professor of international politics at Boston College - summarizes his years of research on the topic. "Between 1947 and 1989, the United States tried to change other nations’ governments 72 times." washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-ca… 5/
O’Rourke argues that "most covert efforts to replace another country’s government failed," "regime changes rarely work out as the intervening states expect" and "covert regime change can devastate the target countries." 6/
"My research found that after a nation’s government was toppled, it was less democratic and more likely to suffer civil war, domestic instability and mass killing. At the very least, citizens lost faith in their governments." O'Rourke again, from the WaPo article. 7/
In 'Overthrow: America's century of regime change from Hawaii to Iraq' author Stephen Kinzer argues that "the U.S. government has often pursued these operations without understanding the countries involved; as a result, many of them have had disastrous long-term consequences." 8/
"Does regime change produce real benefits at relatively low cost," asks Harvard professor Stephen M. Walt writing in Foreign Policy magazine, "or is the price tag usually much higher than expected, while the benefits tend to be disappointing?" foreignpolicy.com/2018/05/14/reg… 9/
Walt answers his own question in the next paragraph, "(Spoiler alert: It’s almost always a very bad idea.)" He continues “No matter how bad things were before the old regime was toppled, the situation is likely to be even worse once the old order has collapsed.” 10/
"Instead of a thriving and stable democracy, with political competition regulated by well-established and legitimate institutions and norms, the more likely result is a failed state and civil war." Walt again, in Foreign Policy. 11/
"Economic factors have often played a crucial role in American decisions to plot regime change. The target country almost always has a valuable resource that it is refusing to share on terms that the West considers fair," writes Stephen Kinzer, IR professor at Boston U. 12/
Kinzer continues: "In all three of these countries [Iran, Guatamala, Iraq], regime-change operations were designed in part to show that the United States does not tolerate foreign leaders who restrict the ability of Western corporations to make money." prospect.org/article/regime… 13/
Kinzer goes on to argue, in the case of the three countries he’s discussing, the real motive for regime change was always occluded. While it was really about protecting American control over resources, it was billed as fighting communism, and then terrorism, or for democracy. 14/
I could go on all night, there's ample scholarship and writing on this topic, but I need to make dinner. I encourage anyone reading to look up the individual cases of U.S.-backed regime change cited in this thread. Virtually without exception, the outcomes are horrific. 15/
But my point is that we’re asking the wrong question. It isn’t is the Maduro government good, or democratic, or competent, or even functional. The question we should be asking is will a U.S.-backed coup result in an improvement to the living conditions of Venezuelans? 16/
If history is any guide, the answer to that question is a resounding no. And that’s fine by Trump, because as with most U.S. presidents his motives have more to do with improving access to resources (in Venezuela’s case, oil) than the lip service he pays to democracy. 17/
If the concern were truly about dictatorship then the U.S. and Canada would cancel their lucrative arms deals with Saudi Arabia, a dictatorship engaged in violent military repression of their own people, and those of a neighbouring country. 18/
And if the concern was truly about democracy, then the U.S. and Canada would have noted Bolsonaro’s main rival was jailed before the election, and the judge who jailed him, paving the way for Bolsonaro’s victory, is now a cabinet minister in his govt. theguardian.com/world/2018/nov… 19/
It’s no surprise Trump has failed to learn the lessons of history. We all know the president has never read a book in his life. But what’s our excuse? What’s Justin Trudeau’s excuse? We know better, but yet again we’re falling victim to historical amnesia. 20/
None of this is a defence of Maduro or his government. But the quality of that government has no bearing on whether it’s a good idea to support a U.S.-backed coup in Latin America. 21/
If you're looking for further reading to understand the situation in Venezuela, I found this interview with a former Chavista who is now a critic of Maduro provided some helpful depth and context. jacobinmag.com/2019/01/venezu… 22/
It’s a complex situation, and there are a lot of serious issues with the Venezuelan govt. But bottom line is a U.S.-backed coup will make things worse, not better. That’s the lesson of history, one we ignore at our own peril. 23/23
It’s been heartening to see NDPers like @nikiashton and Svend Robinson clearly condemn our support for a U.S.-backed coup, and @theJagmeetSingh make a timely statement calling for a mediated solution. Predictably, many bad-faith actors have conflated that with support for Maduro.
But it’s not, and no one in the NDP should hesitate to oppose U.S.-backed coups in Latin America, no matter what the sins of the government in question. No one thinks Saddam was a good guy, but the invasion of Iraq was still a big fucking mistake. #cdnpoli
I would hope that our politicians remember the lead up to the Iraq War, and try to be the sceptics in the room when it comes to the US track record on foreign intervention, rather than members of the ever credulous chorus, convinced that this time it’s finally going to go great.
A couple more important points on #Venezuela: 1. The cause of their problems is a combination of poor governance and US sanctions that were expanded in 2017. Reasonable people can argue about how much responsibility each bears, but ignoring either paints an incomplete picture.
2. I saw a major Canadian newspaper report that Maduro barred his opponents from running in the last election. That’s not quite true. Opposition parties announced their intention to boycott elections, and did so for municipal elections.
Following that, Maduro somewhat petulantly said fine, you want to boycott elections, then I’m banning you from running. It’s kind of like saying “you’re firing me? Screw you I quit.” The reason for their non-participation was a boycott. The ban, while childish, was meaningless.
Infuriating the opposition parties, a former state governor named Henri Falcón broke with the boycott and did run against Maduro. He was not barred from running. So to set the record straight, no one who intended to run in the elections was barred from running.
The question is whether the opposition had legitimate grievances over the fairness of the election that led them to boycott it, or decided to boycott because they thought they would lose and wanted to undermine its legitimacy. It’s probably a little of both.
To circle back to the sanctions, if the US was concerned about the well-being of Venezuelans they could improve conditions overnight by easing sanctions. They’d rather support a coup because Trump’s interest is in access to oil, not humanitarianism.
Remember that a key precipitating factor in the lead up to the Iraq War was that Saddam had switched the currency of his oil sales off the US dollar. Venezuela did the same thing last year, switching to the Chinese Yuan.
So is Maduro shitty, and does his government bear responsibility for what’s happening? I think so, yes. But the U.S. sanctions have also played a key role, and their motivation is oil not altruism. But the solution is not a coup, or an invasion. That much we know from history.
To add, @Anthony__Koch makes fair point that Henrique Capriles, the main opposition candidate in 2013, was barred from public office for 15 years by the Venezuelan comptroller last year on corruption charges. Similar to Lula situation in Brazil, charges are highly politicized.
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