By Eve Ottenberg / CounterPunch
The U.S. tyranny of monopoly capital has long preferred to deal with fascist governments abroad, specifically in the Global South. American oligarchs’ foreign fascist sycophants are so much more malleable than democratic representatives; they don’t even have to be told what to do because they know. It’s in their DNA. From murdering peasants to tossing leftists out of helicopters during flight, to privatizing anything in the public domain to stuffing their offshore bank accounts with cash, to financing death squads to doing the bidding, whatever it may be, of Washington bigwigs, foreign fascists all read from the same script, and nowhere is their chorus more uniform than in Latin America. That’s because despite the southern continent’s repeated and determined lurch toward socialism over the past century, the U.S. has intervened with coups so often that by now Latino fascists have loads of experience. They know exactly what to do.
And of course it’s elementary that what to do does not include a basic income, state-subsidized housing, medical care and education, improving basic infrastructure, including mass transit, providing food to the poor, putting the military on a funding diet or exiting the extractivist and cash crop economic model imposed by those financial totalitarians, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. All such moves smack of communism, of staving off destitution for the already impoverished, of concern for public welfare rather than private profit. And Latino fascists know that will never do, just as they know that unions, students, liberation theologians and left intellectuals are their natural enemies.
So when news came December 7 of the overthrow of Peru’s Marxist, trade unionist, school-teacher president, Pedro Castillo, any onlooker could be forgiven for wondering about having seen this show before, in the very recent past – like Bolivia in 2019 and Honduras in 2009. The first thing the coup plotters did was begin shooting Indigenous protestors (and they haven’t stopped since), as exactly happened in Bolivia. Then, less publicly, but just as tellingly, they received assurances of support from the Biden administration, because of course it’s the political inheritance of the Obama/Biden gang to support fascist coups in Latin America, as the Hillary Clinton state department did in Honduras, wreaking colossal havoc and propelling thousands of Hondurans to Texas, and just as Obama’s team backed Brazil’s Carwash lawfare, which removed the legally elected Workers’ Party president Dilma Rousseff and ended with a falsely convicted Lula da Silva in jail. Which wasn’t too different from Team Trump’s enthusiasm for the Bolivian fascists who gunned down Indigenous protestors promptly after seizing power and ridding U.S. elites of that obstreperous socialist, Evo Morales. Washington likes to portray its puppets, these rightist criminals, as sober, reliable rulers (though it’s about as likely to find a meritorious fascist as it is to meet a trustworthy pickpocket).
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According to the U.S. press, Castillo rebelled against the government, when in fact it’s the other way around, with the sort of lawfare coup that toppled Rouseff’s Brazilian presidency. On December 7, Castillo faced congressional impeachment and tried to dissolve the legislature, which Peruvian media, government and judiciary elites instantly raced to call a coup, though the military did not support him. U.S. media adopted this slant at once, or rather, screamed it from the rooftops. Indeed, by mid-January the New York Times was smugly and so authoritatively informing its readers that any attempt to restore Castillo to his elected presidency was a “nonstarter.” U.S. media uniformly approves this view. The unstated government attitude is phew, one socialist down, only a few more to go, something rather obliquely reflected in the press.
Throughout this saga, from the beginning of Castillo’s term in July 2021, it didn’t help that the president is left-wing, while the congress that overthrew him is right-wing, or that far-right legislators rocked his government, obviously intending to crash it to the ground, since it started. So the right talks about a “self coup” on Castillo’s part, when in truth, it was the right that overthrew him. Then the protests began.
On December 15, multitudes of protestors, demanding freedom and reinstatement for Castillo, took to the streets of Ayacucho and the army immediately shot and killed ten of them and injured dozens more. By December 27, curfews had expired, but a national state of emergency was still in place. “Defying the repression,” writes Andrea Lobo for the World Socialist Website that day, “and despite Congress’s approval of a bill promising new elections in April 2024, demonstrations have continued in Lima, Cusco and across Southern Peru against the December 7 coup and demanding the resignation of [hastily installed president, Dina] Boluarte. As of December 22…at least 27 demonstrators…have been killed and 367 more have been hospitalized.” The military shot these protestors.
“In recent days,” Lobo writes, “the regime launched a series of legal cases against student leaders and raids against universities, the Peasant Confederation of Peru and the pseudo-left New Party.” So repression is in full swing. In fact, on January 9, soldiers shot and killed another 17 protestors in the town of Juliaca. On January 15, the Boluarte regime instituted another state of emergency across southern Peru. On the same day it also emerged that the coup regime ordered soldiers to raid leftists’ homes and search for books by Marx, Lenin and other such authors. Such discoveries are then used against those arrested. The junta is charging protestors with terrorism. As journalist Ben Norton noted on twitter: “Peru’s U.S.-backed coup regime is now bringing back the tactics of the fascist Fujimori dictatorship.” Surprise, surprise.
Meanwhile, as aforementioned, Washington supported the coup. U.S. ambassador Lisa Kenna, a former Trump administration secretary and a CIA employee for nine years, and the military attache to the U.S. embassy, Mariano Alvarado, were in contact with the Peruvian high command. Indeed, Kenna met with Peru’s defense secretary Gustavo Bobbio the day before Castillo’s overthrow and arrest, while Alvarado, according to the Mexican daily La Jornada, coordinated the coup with the military. According to the World Socialist Website, “Boluarte’s regime is controlled by figures from military backgrounds and with clear ties to Washington.”
This means one thing: leftist governments from Brazil to Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Cuba take note – the Exceptional Empire is coming for you. Leaders of those countries better watch their backs. The Biden regime may be averse to outright fascists like Bolsonaro and Trump, but that doesn’t not mean it is a reliable ally for leftists or socialists. On the contrary, to judge from the Peruvian caper, it will foment coups to reinstall neoliberal cabals, even at the risk – as in Lima – of empowering fascists, though it prefers of course to do so BEFORE any leftist comes to power, to sideline such politicos, as happened in Ecuador in 2021, when a right-wing banker eked out a win over a left candidate, to immense U.S. relief, and undoubtedly with carefully concealed U.S. help. Smart leftwing leaders will rely exclusively on each other and themselves, not Washington liberals only too eager to bring back military juntas to promote their business interests. Such leaders would also be wise to expel all fascists from government, especially from the military, the traditional menace par excellence to democratically elected socialists. Chile’s former president Salvador Allende comes to mind in this connection.
Dating back well over a century, U.S. regime change operations have ravaged the Southern Hemisphere. U.S. coups are ongoing. In fact, they never stopped. Even as you read this, doubtless in the bowels of the Washington security state, anonymous bureaucrats further and promote other plots against leftist Latino leaders. The Empire never sleeps.