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South America's new-style military coup
Christian Science Monitor ^ | June 19, 2003 | By Enrique Ghersi

Posted on 06/19/2003 1:43:44 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife

LIMA, PERU - A new form of military coup d'état is emerging in South America.

Today's new militarism is characterized by leftist military men who lead a rebellion, are jailed for it, and then emerge with the popularity to win the next presidential election with large majorities of the vote.

With the patriarchal blessing of Fidel Castro, the model of new militarism started with Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan colonel who led a failed coup in 1992, served two years in prison, and returned to capture the presidency in 1998. Ecuador's President Lucio Gutierrez - an Army colonel who led a successful indigenous rebellion in 2000, was jailed briefly, and was elected president last November - has consolidated the trend that, without a doubt, will spread.

There are imitators of these caudillos everywhere on a continent where confidence in free markets has been shaken and prevailing public opinion is that democracy has failed.


In Bolivia, one such imitator, Evo Morales, seems to be very interested in exercising this new-style coup d'état. Though not a military leader, he is a populist who blames Bolivia's problems on capitalism and explicitly admires Cuban communism and its military leader Fidel Castro. Mr. Morales has successfully roused indigenous masses to violent protest over economic hardship that has resulted, in part, from questionable economic policies. In February, those demonstrations led to street violence, including 33 deaths, the reversal of some government policies, and the weakening of the government.

Not long ago, here in Peru, we had another self-appointed upstart, Lt. Col. Ollanta Humala. Despite leading a mutiny during the last few days of the presidency of Alberto Fujimori, Colonel Humala has just been "rewarded" with the post of Peruvian military attaché to France. What tremendous foolishness: Three of Peru's former military dictators - Oscar R. Benavides, Luis M. Sanchez Cerro, and Juan Velasco Alvarado - held the same post before returning to Lima to strike their blow. If the pattern holds, Ollanta Humala could be next.

This neomilitarism is characterized by a profound hostility to democratic society and to an open economy. It also seems to have a pronounced populist accent and a dangerous dose of communist infiltration. In essence, it represents the popular dissatisfaction with democratic policy in Latin America.

The paradox is that this doesn't seem to worry the United States. Of course, that's historically typical - more so now, because after Sept. 11, American foreign policy seems to be based exclusively on national security criteria. If in the past, Washington was not bothered by Somoza, Trujillo, and Duvalier, why should it be bothered now by Chávez, Gutierrez, or whoever else might come along?

The first wave of Latin American militarism occurred after the wars of independence and was largely a settling of political control with military strongmen alternating in power, often overthrowing one another and plunging the region into a series of civil wars.

The second wave was characterized by a combination of the doctrine of national security and the military taking a role in managing economic policy. Brazil's Getulio Vargas, Argentina's Juan Peron, and Argentina's Augusto Pinochet all came to power at different times in this 20th-century wave of militarism and were influential in shaping modern economic profiles of their nations.

In today's incarnation of militarism, which comes on the heels of two decades of democratic progress, it would not be possible simply to install a military government because of the international consequences and the isolation it would entail. Our modern caudillos resort to a stratagem of leading what they know will be a failed revolution in order to become democratic candidates against the system. It's a kind of plebiscitary Bonapartist revival - and it's a new perversion of Latin American democracy.

o Enrique Ghersi is an attorney, a law professor at the University of Lima, and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. He is co-author of 'The Other Path.'

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Crime/Corruption; Cuba; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: castro; communism; coup; cuba; hugochavez; latinamerica; latinamericalist; southamerica; venezuela

Presidents of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner (L); Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva; and Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, chat at the end of the annual meeting of Mercosur (the Southern Cone Common Market), in Asuncion, June 18, 2003. The Mercosur bloc leaders - Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay - met with associate countries Chile and Bolivia, and special guest Venezuela to discuss how to curb social unrest, recharge economies and make Latin America a key trader in the world. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno (PARAGUAY OUT)

Hugo Chavez - Venezuela

Cuban President Fidel Castro (R) talks with new Argentine President Nestor Kirchner (C) and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, during a ceremony at the San Martin Palace just a few hours after Kirchner was sworn in, in Buenos Aires, May 25, 2003. Kirchner took control of the country from the interim government of Eduardo Duhalde, to try and pull Argentina out of the worst depression in its modern history. REUTERS/Handout

FIdel Castro - Cuba

1 posted on 06/19/2003 1:43:44 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: *Latin_America_List
2 posted on 06/19/2003 8:27:54 AM PDT by Free the USA
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
3 posted on 06/19/2003 5:11:24 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe
4 posted on 06/19/2003 11:40:16 PM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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