Monday, March 02, 2009

How to Overthrow a Government - Intro

In the comments to Sarah's third entry discussing Namoi Klein's The Shock Doctrine (below), I commented that I would try to contextualize exactly what the conditions were that led to the coup d'etat that overthrew Brazil's democratic government and established a military dictatorship that would last for 21 years (1964-1985). Additionally, I said I'd try to address the context and history of the events leading up to the coup in Chile, as well - while they are better known, there are still a lot of complex factors that are often overlooked.

However, as I started trying to write that post, I realized there was way too much to discuss, even in a casual and not-comprehensive narrative, to be able to just lump Chile and Brazil together. What is more, it's not like economic and/or geopolitical interests were only at play in the military governments set up in Chile and Brazil. Throughout Latin America, governments were overthrown, counter-coups were launched, military politics were on the rise, and the U.S. had various roles in the events in numerous countries, from the Caribbean to Tierra del Fuego. And while Chile is the most famous case, and Brazil is geographically the biggest case (which really means very little), there are plenty of other examples that are fascinating in their own rights, some more often referenced (Guatemala in 1954 or, most frequently, Cuba in 1959), but many more ignored (Paraguay in 1954, Argentina throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Urugay in 1973, and Ecuador, with a military government established in 1972 that would find itself overthrown in 1976 by....another military government). All of these cases are really interesting, and I thought (somewhat vainly and perhaps erroneously) that it might be interesting for some of you (our dear readers) if I did a series on the establishment of various governmental overthows in Latin America in the 20th (and even 19th) century, giving a general context, history, and discussing the role the U.S. and other countries had (or didn't have) in these events.

Thus, I introduce "How to Overthrow a Government." It will probably be pretty open-ended, given how many times governments (democratically elected or not) have been toppled in Latin America. I would like to make it clear, though, that no matter how sensational and frequent these overthrows may have been, Latin America is not some cesspool of instability where governments are as strong as wet paper and where political disorder is the common theme. Politics in Latin America, as anywhere (including the U.S.) are dynamic, and have their own regional political specificities that shape events in their countries, and while judgements certainly can be passed on various governments' strengths or shortcomings, I simply ask that people not take this series to show what a bunch of backwards "banana republics" Latin American countries are.

That said, I hope to have the series started later today, addressing (of course) Brazil first, particularly in light of Sarah's post, and I hope to have Chile up by the end of the week. After that, I hope to keep things fairly regular and interesting, and we'll just see where it goes.