In an interview published by Sputnik, Juan Ramón Quintana, Bolivia’s former minister of the Presidency, told journalist Karen Méndez Loffredo that ”we [in Latin America] are witnessing new forms of United States directed coups,” which include methods like the hiring of mercenaries from private security companies for the purpose of carrying out assassinations of political leaders.
Quintana stated that ”the right wing in Latin America has paved the way for US interventionism” and emphasized that, regardless of who is in the White House, the objective of the United States in Latin America remains the same: ”to maintain territorial, political, and ideological tutelage” over the region.
KML: Bolivia has presented evidence about the military support that the then governments of Argentina and Ecuador provided to the coup plotters in Bolivia and its use in the subsequent repression against the Bolivian people. Were these separate unilateral actions by each government or were they coordinated?
JRQ: My understanding is that the coup d’état in Bolivia had been plotted by an extra-regional entity with the participation of countries in the region, and also with the support and interference from the allies of the European Union and some of the diplomatic representatives of the European Union, and, of course, with the participation of other countries such as the United Kingdom.
This has been, atypically or unprecedentedly, a coup d’état that was attended by a right-wing international political community, obviously allied with Washington, and its fundamental matrix was the OAS, with the aid of the most prominent members of the OAS political right like Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and, of course, Paraguay. Each one of these countries had its quota not only in support the coup, but also for the continuation of the coup regime. But all of this, I insist, was directed and commanded by extra-regional entities and—of course, how could it be otherwise—by military organizations and institutions in charge of the geographical control of Latin America and the Caribbean. I am referring specifically to the Southern Command.
There is a lot of evidence of the participation of countries of the region having pro-US ideological affiliation in the coup, such as the former government of Argentina with its shipment of anti-riot equipment and materials, lethal weapons and highly trained police teams, not for the control of mobs or civil disturbances, but teams trained for much more complex and specialized situations, like conflict management. These two instances of evidence, that of Ecuador and that of the government of Mauricio Macri of Argentina, certify a regional intervention against a legally constituted government, that of Evo Morales.
KML: Former President Evo Morales has recently denounced that a Plan Condor 2 is now underway, again under the direction of the United States. How do you see this new scenario in Latin America and what role may the US be playing?
JRQ: Evo’s statement is correct and it is based in historical facts. In Latin America and the Caribbean there has not been a historical disengagement from the use of coups d’état. Coups have been practically the main political and ideological tool used by the United States since the second half of the twentieth century, and they have positioned the United States at the center of all the covert operations stemming from regime change policies since the time of the war on communism. In other words, the Cold War was one of the bloodiest stages during which the United States destroyed progressive, left-wing, nationalist governments, starting with Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala in 1954, Víctor Paz Estenssoro [Bolivia] in 1964, João Goulart in Brazil  and other progressive governments, which were overthrown by military coups led, commanded, organized and financed by the US and its arms the CIA, Southern Command, USAID and other US agencies.
These coups, used during the US war on communism, have now been rebuilt and reconfigured in their application against progressive governments. Therefore, there is a historical and political continuity of this hermeneutics of overthrowing governments that defend their national sovereignty, that recover the sovereignty of their natural resources, that recover national territory; and, since the early years of the twenty-first century, we are witnessing new putschist forms; we are witnessing a neo-coup cycle with diverse coup strategies, but whose objective remains the same: to maintain territorial, political, and ideological tutelage from Washington over Latin America.
The United States has not discarded the Monroe Doctrine, it has not discarded its philosophy of imperial domination, of believing itself superior, of considering that it is a nation that guides the destiny of the world; nor has it discarded its policy of considering Latin America as its backyard. Though Kerry, during the Obama administration, said that Latin America was no longer considered the backyard of the United States, this backyard policy towards Latin America was ratified by Mike Pompeo, who was Donald Trump’s secretary of state.
Today that policy, those three axes that guide US foreign and security policy on Latin America, have not changed at all. What is changing, simply put, is the form and the appearance of that policy, something that is characteristic of the Democratic Party.
Do not forget that it was during the Obama administration that most of the coups in the twenty-first century were executed. Might I remind you of the coup against the President of Honduras Manuel Zelaya in 2009, the coup against President Rafael Correa in 2010, the coup against President Fernando Lugo in Paraguay in 2012, and the coup against Dilma Rousseff in 2016, all under President Obama.
The traces left behind are too obvious, a continuous line of coups d’état from the 1950s to the present day. You simply have to count the coups and to try and unravel the modalities of those coups.
KML: But some people had assured that with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, new times would come. What do you think of this?
JRQ: I think that this is actually a ratification of Democratic Party policy. The policy of the US Democratic Party is the same: it shows a different appearance, public diplomacy, colloquial language, a frank, benevolent gesture, but, in reality, it is the same imperial policy, which is the policy of Trump, Bush, Reagan or Nixon. That has not changed, because we are not talking about democratic governments in the United States, we are talking about an imperial government, an imperial presidency behind which is the military industrial complex. There are financial entities, large energy companies, large arms production companies—fundamentally linked to the extraction of natural resources.
Therefore, Biden has not changed Donald Trump’s policy at all. Today the same unilateral sanction policies are still being applied against Venezuela; today a change of government is being promoted in Cuba, openly financed though USAID resources; today it [the US] is trying to apply a regime change policy in Nicaragua; and it is continues to harass Luis Arce’s government that won with 55% of the vote. This is not going to change, and, most certainly, the nefarious hand of the US is trying to influence events in Peru, as it is surely doing in the case of the Constituent Assembly in Chile. What is happening is that, if we lose ourselves in the seemingly benevolent messages of apparent friendship [from the Democratic Party], we will lose our historical perspective. History is telling us categorically that the US, whether it is with Obama, Bush, Trump or Biden is still going to continue to apply a hostile policy against Latin America, beyond the naivety of political analysis.
From my perspective, Washington is waging a permanent war against Latin America because today Latin America is fundamentally in a geopolitical dispute since the emergence of powers such as Russia and China and, therefore, there is a gravitating dispute in the field of geopolitics and, within this context, what the United States is doing today is what it has customarily done to keep us subjected as its backyard.
KML: What is your analysis of the situation in the region after the assassination of the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, in which more than 20 Colombian nationals were involved, several of them retired soldiers of the Colombian Army, and two Americans?
JRQ: I am very concerned about the assassination of President Moïse in Haiti. I am, likewise, concerned about the method that has been used for the assassination of a president of a Caribbean nation. I am concerned not only with the assassination, but with the cruelty with which he has been assassinated, the manner and, fundamentally, the actors of this vile crime. I am particularly concerned with these nefarious criminal characters, like these former Colombian soldiers.
I have the impression that a sinister shadow is beginning to emerge over Latin America and the Caribbean, linked to the privatization of conflicts, the privatization of war, and this is what has happened in Haiti; this is what has been occurring in Latin America, particularly in Colombia. And it is in Colombia where this experiment is being carried out, with the recruitment of mercenaries, and of members of military and police who become mercenaries at the service of private security companies based in the United States. There is an extremely dangerous trend towards the employment of these private companies for strategic political purposes, as was the case in Haiti.
Then, from a historical perspective, it is important to remember that this is not something new. Let me remind you of the recruitment of Central American mercenaries and also Cuban ones, for the invasion of Playa Girón [Bay of Pigs] in 1961. This same method of training mercenaries was utilized in civil conflicts in Central America, as in the case of the Contras to overthrow the government of the Sandinista National Liberation Front [FSLN] in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Those mercenaries were financed by the US government, and then that great international scandal of the Iran-Contra arms sale was uncovered, which was under the command of a US colonel, Oliver North. Therefore, there is an extremely dangerous precedent in the Central American wars themselves.
We must also remember what has happened in Bolivia, the revelations that The Intercept has made regarding former de facto minister, Luis Fernando López, and his intention to hire mercenaries in Miami to carry out a second coup after the victory of Luis Arce and MAS with 55% of the votes. I believe that these new methods of intervention against legally constituted governments should vehemently draw our attention, and also the dark role played by the military or police forces that have been trained by Americans, whether in Colombia, Peru or Honduras. New forms of intervention are being created that are not just coups, but new forms of intervention to overthrow governments or to carry out terrible crimes, such as assassinations.
KML: A few days before the assassination of the president of Haiti, the heads of the CIA and the Southern Command visited Colombia. The CIA director was also in Brazil and, according to Bolsonaro, they talked about Bolivia, Venezuela, and Argentina. What do you think these people were looking for in Colombia and Brazil? What should we expect?
JRQ: I have the impression that, after the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, we are experiencing a phase of limitless militarization of the United States foreign policy. In the name of the war on terror, in the name of the war against drug trafficking, in the name of the alleged fight against corruption and the promotion of democracy, absolutely undemocratic practices are being carried out which violate sovereignty of states, which violate the Vienna Convention and interfere in the internal affairs of Latin American countries.
By the way, these practices not only depend on the strategic interest of the United States, but also on the political will of right-wing governments that unseemly accept this explicit interference in their countries. Such governments, I insist, are of right-wing ideological affiliation, as in the case of Bolsonaro, who has no qualms about US intelligence services replacing Brazilian intelligence services. Bolsonaro has no qualms about the Amazon being internationalized; he has no qualms that the CIA and the FBI operate with the Attorney General or that these foreign institutions influence judicial decisions.
In other words, Bolsonaro has practically destroyed the bare minimum sovereignty of the Brazilian people. The same happened with Macri, who facilitated a shameful interference by the Southern Command in Argentina, or the case of Ecuador, which has been such a pathetic case with the restitution of the island of Galapagos as a Southern Command military base used for regional aerial surveillance which was the result of submission to the International Monetary Fund, submission to the domination of the Southern Command. Or the case of Peru, where a profound crisis has been felt, practically, for the last ten years and which has become a no man’s land and, therefore, a site of very vigorous presence of US agencies—the presence of the Southern Command via police training centers and other facilities granted by the Peruvian governments to the Southern Command and the United States.
In conclusion, the right-wing governments in Latin America have paved the way for US intervention simply for the sake of preserving their political power and thus have sacrificed the sovereignty of their nations. What right-wing political forces have done in Latin America in the last decade has been to promote US interference in different State spheres: in the justice system, in the police, in the armed forces and even in entities as important as parliaments.
Consequently, today, right-wing political forces have become a real threat to State sovereignty and present a great danger of capitulation of States in regard to the control of natural resources and, of course, a great threat for popular movements that legally and legitimately protest for their rights.
And, obviously, it is also necessary to remain alert of the behavior of right-wing governments in Latin America that have pushed back socially minded policies. There has been a reconversion of policies, fundamentally social policies that expand human and social rights. Now there is a decline in the rights that had been achieved during progressive governments, as in the case of Correa in Ecuador, Néstor and Cristina in Argentina or Lula in Brazil. This is a dangerous setback that is severely damaging the fabric of our societies and, therefore, there is a climate of upheaval.
Of course, this, in turn, has had its contrary political effects, which is that, every day, societies are becoming more aware of their rights and, therefore, a much more intense, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist awareness and commitment has emerged. As we become more and more acquainted with the profile of right-wing political forces, our progressive forces also multiply their efforts to resist occupation of the State by right-wing forces.
Featured image: Juan Ramón Quintana, former minister of the Presidency of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, in an interview with Sputnik.
(Portal Alba) by Karen Méndez Loffredo
Translation: Orinoco Tribune