The many shades of Regime Change: from the Middle East to Latin America

07.07.2012 - London - Silvia Swinden

Regime Change is nothing new. During the Cold War both the US and the Soviet Union aligned puppet and client governments thorough guerrilla movements, coups d’état and manipulation of investment, with the Media used in all cases to create a smoke screen that presented a “reality” in accordance with the imposed situation of power.

As the crisis in the neoliberal system progresses the long arms of the Empire interfere with any independent or alternative proposal it feels threatened by.

Control of the oil in the Middle East and perhaps the need to block the menace to the almighty dollar from Saddam Hussein’s move to sell his oil in Euros and Gaddafi’s wish to do the same with the Gold Dinar were all factors in the Regime Change strategy for Iraq and Libya. Destabilising Syria — with an eye on Iran (1), more difficult to attack frontally due to Russia’s support — is on its way with the help of other Middle Eastern allies. In all cases the Media’s image is the “protection of civilians from bloodthirsty dictators”. It would be difficult to deny that the governments thus challenged are (were) undemocratic and not too clean on human rights, but the destruction of the infrastructure and the disruption of institutions left behind these interventions point to the need to create dependence for the foreseeable future in order to control more easily those priceless natural resources.

In Latin America two successful examples of Regime Change can be seen in Honduras and Paraguay. The 2009 Honduran coup d’état, occurred when the Army on orders from the Supreme Court ousted President Manuel Zelaya and sent him into exile to prevent a referendum about convening a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution. The Honduran Congress, in an extraordinary session, voted to remove Zelaya from office. This President had managed to push through legislation that helped the poor and upset the elite, including a considerable raise in the minimum wage, in a country where 40% of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. In this way he was one of the Latina American new wave of politicians challenging neoliberal orthodoxy. The coup has meant a set back for reforms, and human rights abuses continue to be widely reported.

Paraguay’s President Fernando Lugo was recently impeached by a right wing parliament in a move seen as a “parliamentary coup” orchestrated by those determined to halt policies that threaten their business interests in view of Lugo’s attempts at land redistribution, poverty alleviation and a slowing down of privatisations. He was blamed, as an excuse to declare him unfit for office, for an episode of violent police repression in which 6 policemen and 11 peasants were killed, which is seen by many local witnesses as having been instigated by powerful landowners.

Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Rafael Correa of Ecuador have been able to survive similar attempts at coups thanks to immediate popular mobilisations in their support. President Evo Morales of Bolivia has been fighting (with the stress on non violence) attempts to destabilise his governments from the very beginning after he announced that he would seek to rebalance the benefits from oil and gas in favour of his country rather than the multinational companies in operation. USAID, the US funded NGOs sponsor has been implicated in Bolivia and several other Latin American countries in funding operations contrary to national programmes that stray from the neoliberal agenda, and multinationals such as Monsanto have conducted campaigns against these governments when bad practices were challenged, e.g. in Paraguay, with transgenic cotton and soya.

In all these cases powerful Media conglomerates were the vehicles to denounce and destabilise such attempts by the new bloc of centre-left leaning governments to create an alternative socio-economic model to the prevailing global system. Any moves to curtail those campaigns were presented as challenges to Freedom of the Press.

**Regime Change and the Unelected Economic Para-State**

To state the obvious, none of these strategies appear in any of the manifestos or political campaigns of any of the parties offered to the electorate in the countries that eventually carry out the invasion or the manipulation of the target countries. Powerful lobby groups from the financial sector, arms dealers, multinationals and other even shadier players achieve commitment to those unstated policies in exchange of electoral funding. This pretence of Democracy requires changes in the very structure of the electoral process: “To address the problem that elected officials regularly fail to carry out their campaign promises, there is also a need to enact *laws of political responsibility* that will subject such officials to censure, revocation of powers, recall from office, and loss of immunity. The current alternative, under which parties or individuals who do not fulfill their campaign promises risk defeat in future elections, in practice does not hinder in the least the politicians’ second act — betraying the people they represent.”(2)

**Transforming a Crisis into an Opportunity**

It seems that only the possibility of worsening economic conditions and increasing violence can get us out of our comfort zone and into the streets or the electronic networks at a massive level. Well, hooray! It’s all happening. Following the 2003 huge mobilisations at world level attempting to stop the attack on Iraq many people felt disappointed that their objective was not achieved, and went back home, but others did not. In 2009-10 millions witnessed a World March for Peace and Nonviolence that connected and activated people from all walks of life and continents, demanding change. This was followed by the Arab Spring, the *Indignados-Indignés* and the Occupy Movement; people who care about improving things in their countries and in other countries, connecting through networks and actions.

There has never been so much research and communication about alternative economic forms at the service of human beings rather than the Banks. Nonviolence is being studied and applied as a methodology for change in all parts of the world. It is true, of course, that power is still in the hands of some violent minorities, but the power to inspire a new generation and a new historical moment towards a humanised world is in each and every one of us.

Violence is not a determinist imperative of human nature, the only natural thing in humans is our capacity for choice and for change. The only Regime Change worth working for is within our heads and our hearts, so that our actions in the world create a society fit for human development *for all*.

1. According to the Middle East analyst Alon Ben Meir, Iran’s “defiance of numerous UN Security Council resolutions continues to cast a dark shadow over Iran’s regional and international standing. After months of failed negotiations, the possibility of an Israeli and/or American attack on its nuclear facilities is approaching a dangerous precipice as Israel and the US have been continuously explicit that “all options are on the table”, including the use of force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran has consistently played for time in order to advance its nuclear program and is hard at work to shield it from potential attack. The international community should have no illusions over the prospect of breakthroughs at the upcoming technical talks in Istanbul on July 3rd. Unless Iran halts enrichment and permits IAEA inspections, the talks will meet the same fate as all previous negotiation attempts … The linkage between Iran’s nuclear program and the upheaval in Syria cannot be overstated.”

2. Silo, Letter to my Friends: *Real Democracy versus Formal Democracy*

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