By Tara Hebbar
The recent storming and riots at the Capital of the United States of America, opened the eyes of several Americans to what a coup might feel like. This incident enraged citizens across the country and justifiably so. However, this opened up several hidden boxes in the U.S.A, and its perpetration of several worldwide coups for their vested interest and personal gain. Innumerable American citizens considered this the U.S.A’s first exposure to a coup, without the knowledge of their participation is several. There have been several meme’s circulating on social media that state, “due to the travel restrictions, the U.S. had to stage a coup at home, this year.” Several American legislators have stood up to defend the “purity” of democracy. However, is only the United State’s’s democracy sacred? This article will further delve into these past incidents that have shaken up nations, ruined democracies, created directorships and turned countries into places of toruture, all in their self interest.
We begin in 1953, when the US and British supported a coup against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. In August 2019, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) first admitted to their involvement in the aforementioned. This document contains the plans for the orchestrated attempt led by the incumbent president, Theodore Roosevelts’ grandson, Kermit Roosevelt. Mohammad Mossadegh was popular amongst the Iranian citizens and made several policies including the nationalization of the nation’s oil industry. The British, having been in control of their oil for several years, were not pleased when the Iranian prime minister broke off their control over the nation’s oil industry. The US got involved when the British appealed to them for assistance. It was suspected that Roosevelt lured the Iranian press to publish anti-Mossadegh propaganda through bribes. Two attempts were made at arresting Mossadegh with the first one failing when the Iranian Prime Minister fought back and came out successful. The second attempt, however, was successful and Mossadegh was placed under house arrest with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi returning to power until the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
The very next year, in 1954, America orchestrated in another coup to overthrow a democratically elected leader, this time the Guatemalan president, Jacobo Árbenz. The United Fruit Company (UFCO), an American owned company made large and hefty profits from it’s investments in Guatemala. It’s business revolved around bananas, and the U.S.A took interest in this and began promoting its citizens to consume more fruit. Here the contemptuous term of “Banana republic” was developed, in order to label nations that were dependent on a single cash crop for their revenue, in this case bananas, and were led by corrupt governments. At the time, Guatemala was a dictatorship, under right-winged Jorge Ubico who gave the UFCO control of 42% of Guatemala land and excused them from taxes and duties. Under Ubico, the UFCO monopolised not only Guatemalan exports but also several other industries, such as the telecommunications and railways. In 1944, Guatemala saw its first democratically elected leader, after a revolution saw the overthrow of the dictator. The U.S.A watched with apprehension as the leader Árbenz made several changes, allowing communists to participate in politics and proposed “Decree 900,” a reform to allow redistribution of the land owned by big corporations back to 90% of the population, who were landless farmers. This development, took aback the U.S, who as a work of communism and were intent on removing Árbenz from power. And the incumbent U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower presented this task to the CIA who established a project which they called PBSUCCESS. They infiltrated the Guatemalan press with propaganda, starting small bombing raids and established a group of “freedom fighters,” led by Castillo Armas. This caused the resignation of Árbenz and Armas was established as the president. The U.S termed this as freedom from communism and considered it a success. The Armas government went on to kill communists, and restore the UFCO’s land. After Arma’s assainsinatiosn 1957, Guatemalan politics submerged into coups and counter coups.
We travel next to 1961, to the coup that assassinated the first democratically elected leader of the Republic of Congo, Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba was one of the pan-African leaders who drove the movement to end colonialism in Africa. Once elected as the prime minister of the Republic of Congo, Lumumba came up with several progressive-populist proposals and opposed the Katanga secessionist movement. This opposition and his plan to nationalise and take back the power over Congo’s mineral reserves greatly enraged foreign parties, mainly Belgium. When the United Nations refused to assist Congo, it turned to the Soviet Union. This was followed by the assasination of Patrice Lumumba, who was tortured until nothing was left of him but a single tooth. This assisiantion took place as an operation by a coup that was backed by U.S. and Belgium governments who utilised the support of some Congolese accomplices. In Lumumba’s place the US installed the dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, with whom the Republic of Congo saw strife, and declined Congo economically and socially, completing fracturing the Congolese society.
The next story takes us to 1964, with the deposement of democratically elected leader of Brazil, João Goulart. When dictatorship flew into Brazil, Goulart and any hope of progress flew out. When Goulart announced his radical reform to nationalize refineries of petroleum and to allow the illiterate to vote. Since these reforms were geared towards assisting the poor, the upper and middle class citizens were unhappy, the army were more than happy to use this as a platform to express their own unhappiness. The army was unhappy with Goulart because of his failure to support the higher ranks over the lower ranked officers when the lower ranked officers revolted in ‘64. Thus began the military coup, supported by the United States. After some attempt of fighting back, Goulart retired unsuccessful and was exiled to Uruguay. A military junta was established in his place. The US phrased this as another success story against communism and CIA agents went on to train several Brazilian military personnel in torture techniques. Some document results show that these techniques were tested on the children who were homeless. Through their operation condor, the US backed eight such military dictatorships in South America that led to the torturement and deaths of many who condemned their beliefs.
Still in the 60’s, we now travel halfway across the world to Indonesia. The US had long been trying to overthrow the first democratically elected president of Indonesia, Sukarno. They made several attempts to undermine and discredit him as an attempt to keep him from occupying the seat, even backing regional rebel groups but eventually called it off when an American pilot was caught orchestrating bomb operations that killed several Indonesians. For multiple years, the US trained the Indonesian Army and backed the coup that eventually deposed Sukarno. In his place, miliatry leader Suharto was placed, who had prior expressed anti-communist views. The US encouraged and even assisted Suaharto in circulating untrue reports prior to his reign. The US supported Suharno and his army in killing, torturing and detaining inumberal citizens of Indonesia for either being allegedly pro-communism or leftist.
Last but not least, we enter the 70’s. In 1973, Chile was victim to another US backed coup, the infamous assasintation of their democratically elected leader Salvadore Allende. When Allende threatened to nationalize industries in Chile that were US owned, the incumbent president, Nixon ordered the CIA director to stop Allende from occupying the seat, even authorizing a 10 million operation to achieve the same. The CIA first tried several ways of persuading the military to deny Allende the seat. When this failed, they looked to pay a right winged general to assassinate the chief of the Chilean armed forces. When he denied he was murdered by a gang who was paid by the CIA, who claimed several years later that they only wished him to be kidnapped. In his three presidential years, the Allendian government was aware of constant destabilization attempts by the CIA, with funding of opposition parties, anti-government propaganda, military contact and economic strikes. In ‘71, Allende started nationalising businesses including the U.S.A owned copper mines, and this outraged the president of the US, Nixon. He ordered a task force to sink the world price of copper; Chiles’ main source of revenue. The World Bank and the Export-Import Bank abandoned the country as other investments stopped. By the year of 1973, the country and its economy was in a devastating position, leaving the middle and upper classes citizens unhappy. In the same year, Chile’s three armed forces came together, and launched an attack against the government and ordered them to surrender, which Allende did not do. He took to the radio to make a speech to his citizens before two fighter jets set the palace ablaze. Allende survived this, but allegedly killed himself using a rifle. In his place was dictator, General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. Following this, the US offered immediate assistance to Chile and labeled Augusto Pinochet the “savior of democracy.” Pinochet, with US support went on to kill and torture innumberal Allende supporters.
These are just a few examples of the several times the US has denied other countries their democracy as now they fight for their own. This article is not written with the intention of discrediting the US in any way, however, only to bring to light serious incidents which are often ignored or hushed up. It is important that not only do others understand, but the U.S. itself, and the far reaching implications of its actions. While people in several countries, including my own, view the U.S. as a utopia and the definition of a place that does no wrong, do these examples say otherwise? All these examples display one overarching commonality, that of vested and personal interest. Behind deposed leaders or assassination, the U.S. had a reason that benefited them. Whether it was the control of resources or their advancement in the cold war, it is fair to say that the U.S. had ulterior motives while playing parts in these coups. To conclude, I would just like to reinstate that these actions by the US do not stay in the past as their implications are still seen in the affected nations today and will continue to show on the faces of the nations in the future. Although it is unfair to antagonise the United States completely, it is also unfair to leave these histories in the shadows, and therefore I bring them out in this article.