Central banks in the region are forced to raise rates, some aggressively
Central banks in the region are forced to raise rates, some aggressively
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
By Steve Lalla – Jun 20, 2021
On June 18, 1954, the CIA overthrew the democratically elected progressive president of Guatemala, Jacobo Árbenz. It marked the first known coup in Latin America successfully executed by the US Central Intelligence Agency, which was founded in 1947.
The US-backed dictator Ubico had been unseated by the Guatemalan Revolution of 1944 and the president of Guatemala immediately prior to Árbenz, Juan José Arévalo, was no stranger to coup attempts either, having survived 25 of them during his four-year term.¹ Arévalo was the country’s first democratically elected president. Fearing for his life, he decided not to run again in 1951, and passed the progressive mantle to his successor, Jacobo Árbenz.
Among Árbenz’s crimes against imperialism:
• Rose to power through electoral process, in which he defeated the next closest candidate by over 50%. Politicians with great popular support are always dangerous to imperialism.
• Implemented policy of social reforms such as permitting workers to form unions, including workers of the US-owned United Fruit Co.; certified numerous political parties; allowed public political debate.
• Was friends with communists including José Manuel Fortuny of the Guatemalan Party of Labor, Árbenz’s agricultural secretary.
• Perhaps Árbenz’s most unforgivable crime against imperialism was passing an agrarian reform law under which uncultivated land was expropriated and redistributed to poor farmers and rural populations, a policy which benefited 500,000 Guatemalans, mostly Indigenous Mayans, whose ancestors had been dispossessed by colonialism and Spanish and US imperialism. In 1954 the population of Guatemala was only three million.
Some of these uncultivated lands (over 450,000 acres) belonged to the United Fruit Co., employer of the Dulles brothers of CIA fame. In total, 1.4 million acres of land were expropriated and redistributed beginning in 1951. It should be noted that the landholders were compensated — United Fruit Co. was offered twice what it had paid for the land. The lawyer who had negotiated the acquisition of massive tracts of land in Guatemala by United Fruit Co. was John Foster Dulles. From 1953–1959, he also happened to be US Secretary of State and his brother, Allen Dulles, was CIA director from 1953–1961 and had also worked as a lawyer for United Fruit Co.
After the law went through in June, 1951, Washington DC-based World Bank turned on Guatemala and began to lock them out of the international economic system.
Jacobo Árbenz “was a committed defender of the Indigenous who constituted 70% of the Guatemalan population and who had been completely excluded from society,” wrote Telesur in 2020. “In 1954, he expropriated the land of the US company United Fruit and instituted a modest tax on banana exports to finance social programs. This redistribution of any of the profits of the lucrative banana trade was the tipping point for the CIA, which had built an anti-communist base in Guatemala, to have an excuse to have Árbenz’s government overthrown. It marked the first direct intervention by the CIA in Latin America.”²
US presidents authorized both Operation PB Fortune, by Truman in 1952, and Operation PB Success, by Eisenhower in 1953.
After the US cut off Guatemala’s access to the World Bank in 1951, and blocked the country’s purchases of arms from the US or its allies, Guatemala made commercial and overtures to the Communist bloc. This of course resulted in US media painting Guatemala as a “communist beachhead in the Americas.”
A wave of anti-communist propaganda softened the ground for a military invasion of the country carried out by US-financed and trained paramilitaries and mercenaries. About 500 CIA-trained soldiers, led by the Guatemalan proxy Colonel Castillo Armas, and backed by US-supplied fighter jets, invaded from El Salvador and Honduras. Compliant media in the region, including the CIA’s Voice of Liberation radio station (akin to today’s Voice of America, broadcast around the world in 46 languages) then presented the military victory of Castillo Armas as a fait accompli. In order to avoid bloodshed Árbenz resigned and went into exile — similar to Bolivia’s Evo Morales in 2019 — thus completing the military coup.
These events marked a Latin American revolutionary who happened to be in Guatemala at the time.
“The last Latin American revolutionary democracy — that of Jacobo Árbenz — failed as a result of the cold premeditated aggression carried out by the United States,” said Che Guevara of his experience. “Its visible head was the Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, a man who, through a rare coincidence, was also a stockholder and attorney for the United Fruit Company.”³
Árbenz’s overthrow confirmed Guevara’s distrust of US imperialism and helped convince him that the monster to the north would try to destroy any government of the region that tried to rectify inequality, alleviate poverty, redistribute land equitably, or implement socialist reforms. Thus, Guevara’s belief that a civic-military union was the only way to defend revolutionary gains made by a sovereign nation.
After the overthrow of Árbenz, the progressive reforms were annulled. Guatemala was plunged into a civil war that lasted for more than 35 years. The puppet dictatorship of the US war pigs went on a killing spree to expunge all progressive or collective initiative from the tiny Central American country. About 200,000 Indigenous peoples, leftists and revolutionaries were killed or disappeared, and over 1.5 million Guatemalans were displaced from their land and homes. Over 600 Indigenous villages were wiped off the map by the army.
Indigenous people and those opposing the dictatorship were massacred by a succession of US-backed military regimes armed, funded, supported, and trained by the US war pigs and its military ally, the apartheid state of isn’t-real. The United Nations Commission for Historical Clarification concluded in 1999 that their actions constituted genocide.
1. Streeter, Stephen M. (2000). Managing the counterrevolution : the United States and Guatemala, 1954–1961. Athens: Ohio University Center for International Studies.
2. Telesur, September 14, 2020. [link]
3. Kellner, Douglas (1989). Ernesto “Che” Guevara (World Leaders Past & Present). Chelsea House Publishers, from Wikipedia [link]
Featured image: Jacobo Árbenz, Guatemala’s second democratically elected president
As activists increasingly confront extractive industries, militarized repression of those protests has become a growing and lucrative business. This phenomenon is salient across much of the world, including the U.S., where fossil fuel companies are funneling money to police departments that repress anti-racist and environmental justice movements. However, private security is a particularly growing business in Latin America, which is also the world’s deadliest region for water and land protectors.
Latin America has more private security personnel than police officers. In countries like Peru, where the most common and deadliest conflicts are over mining projects, companies are increasingly relying on both public armed forces and their own private security to protect their investments.
During my long-term field research in Peru, I conducted interviews with several mining company operators at the local-to-executive level. Their surprisingly candid responses revealed the creation of complex systems of private repression most accurately conveyed by the term “neoliberal counterinsurgency”: privatized military industries whose line of business is repressing dissent.
Senior and junior company operators detailed their efforts to infiltrate, record and frame their opponents as corrupt, violent, adulterous, and more.
In an interview, one local manager for a mining company referred to efforts to delegitimize the center-left congressperson and two-time presidential candidate (in 2016 and 2021), Verónika Mendoza. Conservatives frequently frame Mendoza as if she were “linked” to terrorism — a proven false claim, but part of a broader, common fear-mongering tactic in Peru. “There’s a video showing that she’s embedded with the guerrillas,” the manager told me. “We did work similar to that here.”
The priorities of extractive industries have been entwined with the economic and ideological interests of the state apparatus and its violent enforcers since the colonial period, when landowners hired armed mercenaries to protect their “property” (including enslaved Afro-descendent and Indigenous people, as well as stolen lands upon which they built mines, mills and plantations). While they are clear legacies of colonialism, the operations of extractive policing are becoming more secretive and private in a context of so-called liberal democracy and growing public scrutiny over human rights violations.
A mining company manager I spoke with admitted the company had engaged in spying and blackmail.
While they are clear legacies of colonialism, the operations of extractive policing are becoming more secretive and private in a context of growing public scrutiny over human rights violations.
“There was no other way to deal with these people who were anti-miners and acted violently against whomever disagreed,” the manager said. “In Tía María [a copper mine in Peru], protest leaders were recorded accepting bribes, then blackmailed and exposed by companies. The same thing happened here. We had to show their true face.”
Another middle manager and one low-level executive from the same company confirmed their use of such tactics.
Access to these revelations seems to have been a direct result of my positionality as a white, non-Peruvian, University of California researcher. Interlocking privileges opened unexpected doors and trust for me among company actors, a traditionally secretive and understudied population, thanks to their assumptions about who I was.
The clandestine operations conducted by extractive companies range from informal to highly sophisticated. For example, the company Miski Mayo (Quechua for “sweet river” ) allegedly armed two employees who were later accused of intimidating project opponents repeatedly with those firearms. Miski Mayo’s parent company, Vale do Río Doce, was investigated for similar repressive practices in its base country, Brazil. It allegedly hired a private “intelligence provider” to infiltrate opposition organizations, pay bribes to civil servants, conduct wiretapping and surveillance, and keep political dossiers on activists.
Meanwhile, the Peruvian National Police signed various security agreements with mining companies. Critics such as the nongovernmental National Coordinator of Human Rights argue that the private contracting of police creates a conflict of interests between social well-being and private interest. Local organizations have unearthed many such pacts, considered unconstitutional until 2006, and still denounced by human rights organizations today as “secretive” and against the spirit of domestic and international law.
The state’s response to protests is overwhelmingly militarized, with various intelligence and special operations organs playing a prominent role in protecting extractive operations and repressing dissidents. However, hydrocarbon and mining firms take additional precautions. Besides contracting off-duty police and collaborating with the state’s armed forces, they also are leading the tremendous expansion of the country’s mercenary and private intelligence industries.
Far from a problem confined to the Global South, evidence indicates that counterinsurgency operations by extractive companies are also becoming commonplace in the United States and Canada.
Thanks in part to Peru’s post-war context — marked by a large, unregulated and demobilized military apparatus existing alongside weak state capacity in the countryside — high demand from powerful extractive firms makes private security contracts a lucrative business for both current and former members of the state’s armed forces.
These public-private security partnerships are noticeable in countless other cases, in Peru and beyond, often resulting in repressive violence. For example, the security firm formerly known as Forza has collaborated with the Peruvian National Police Division of Special Operations (DINOES) to repress protests in several mining conflicts. Forza and DINOES were accused of kidnapping 29 activists during protests against the Majaz mine in 2005, beating them on a remote farm’s slaughtering platform, committing sexual violence against a young woman and letting one elderly man bleed to death. When the survivors were finally released three days later, all of them were charged with terrorism. They obtained and leaked photos from the kidnapping and sought formal investigations, but they are still waiting for justice.
Forza was only getting started. Nearby, it was providing security for World Bank-backed Yanacocha, Latin America’s largest gold mine. In 2006, the now-congressperson Marco Arana (at the time, a priest known regionally as an environmental leader and critic of Yanacocha) complained to a United Nations mission that members of his environmental and human rights organization, Group for Training and Intervention for Sustainable Development (GRUFIDES), were under video surveillance by people connected to the mine and its security service. Arana also reported that he and a colleague had received death threats.
Weeks after first noticing the surveillance against their organization, Arana and his colleagues managed to capture one of the spies, a 22-year-old from Lima, and seized his camera. The footage revealed meticulous monitoring of GRUFIDES members, as well as images from within an office filled with surveillance equipment and a detective-like wall with their photographs, arrows and illegible notes. Although the scandal forced an investigation, regional authorities pigeonholed the case.
It is no small detail that Forza (now owned by the Swedish multinational security corporation, Securitas) was formed in 1991 by retired Peruvian military personnel who specialized in surveillance and counterinsurgency. This explains its access to the tools and the know-how it needed to conduct high-level espionage and intimidation operations against environmental leaders in Cajamarca and Piura.
Extractive companies are increasingly relying on private security apparatuses that go beyond guarding property into complex operations involving espionage, defamation and intimidation.
Other recent retirees from the state’s counterinsurgency forces include Luis Escarcena Ishikawa, Forza’s chief of private security for the Peruvian branch of the Canadian firm Hudbay Minerals. According to analyst Luis Manuel Claps, Escarcena was Alberto Fujimori’s “aide-de-camp” and one of three pilots aboard the “narco-plane” the Peruvian Air Force detained briefly in May 1996, before allowing it to depart toward Europe with 170 kilograms of cocaine inside it.
In 2015, during protests against the Tía María copper mine, several members of DINOES were caught on video planting a weapon on a protester, farmer Antonio Coasaca Mamani. Before detaining him and allegedly torturing him while in custody, these officers framed Coasaca as a violent protester, with the complicity of a nationwide newspaper, whose frontpage headline read, “This is how the anti-miners attacked.”
This violence is not limited to Peru. For example, according to Guatemalan activists who sued the Canadian company Tahoe Resources, the private security team at Tahoe’s Escobal mine fired rubber bullets at protesters in 2013, injuring seven people. The Escobal mine’s security team was headed by Alberto Rotondo Dall’Orso, a Peruvian naval officer trained by U.S. special counterinsurgency forces. In fact, Rotondo graduated in 1986 from a psychological operations and low-level terrorism course at the J.F.K. Special Warfare Center and School in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Separately, a former Guatemalan army lieutenant colonel who later headed the private security firm at Central America’s biggest nickel mine, Mynor Padilla, was recently convicted of a murder and multiple assaults against Q’eqchi’ Maya community activists who led protests against the mine.
In Honduras, several Indigenous Lenca organizers have been killed over the construction of the World Bank-backed Agua Zarca dam, whose owner is a former military intelligence officer trained by the U.S. military at the West Point Academy. In 2017, Lenca communities publicly denounced the actions of private security agents who had set fire to their crops. The agents were associated with the dam company and a family of local landowners. Lenca leader Berta Cáceres steadfastly defended the river from the dam project until she was assassinated in March 2016. Other members of her organization have also been killed since.
Neoliberal counterinsurgency, an extreme form of waging repression through private means and for private interests, is subtler than judicial repression, and more difficult to trace and hold accountable.
Far from a problem confined to the Global South, evidence indicates that counterinsurgency operations by extractive companies are also becoming commonplace in the United States and Canada. In 2013, documents revealed covert spying by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service against Indigenous groups and environmental allies organizing against the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline, including Idle No More, Sierra Club, and others.
In unceded Standing Rock Sioux territories (occupied by the U.S.), a 2017 investigation revealed how the TigerSwan private military intelligence firm worked with the FBI to infiltrate and stifle opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. The U.S. military was deployed to the region in the early 1800s partly to protect white settlers and their fur and gold businesses. In fact, Fort Laramie was originally built as a private trading post for fur companies. This case therefore shows how privatized repression is not a new problem.
Cases such as these have been abundant and pervasive since colonization, but in a context of privatization and growing media scrutiny, neoliberal counterinsurgency is on the rise. This may help explain the escalating number of people killed for defending the environment, an activity that has never been deadlier or more important.
Extractive companies are increasingly relying on private security apparatuses that go beyond guarding property. In many cases, their tasks grow into complex operations involving espionage, defamation and intimidation — very closely resembling, and indeed deriving their tactics and personnel from, state counterinsurgencies.
Even when privatized, repression is still loosely incorporated with state actions, in coordination with state armed forces, and constituted by actors currently or formerly associated with the state’s military and intelligence apparatus. Private mercenaries, especially those in leadership roles within the industry, tend to be former counterinsurgency operators. They have been highly trained by the state (and in some cases also by foreign militaries like the United States) to use intimidation, torture, and other tactics against “internal enemies” like activists.
Finally, it is crucial to understand that this phenomenon extends well beyond the realm of environmental defense, and beyond extractive industries. According to documents collected by Motherboard, the fast-food corporation McDonald’s hired a team of global intelligence analysts to spy on labor organizers fighting for higher wages at their company. Meanwhile, Amazon grants police departments at the local-to-federal level access to its home surveillance devices, aggravating the systemic criminalization of communities of color, especially Black and Indigenous communities.
Growing privatization of counterinsurgencies unsettle traditional ideas about repression. Dominant models that explain repression as a state-specific practice are becoming less useful in a context of corporate-community conflicts. Neoliberal counterinsurgency, an extreme form of waging repression through private means and for private interests, is subtler than judicial repression, and more difficult to trace and hold accountable.
As the mechanisms of racialized displacement, policing and control become increasingly sophisticated and covert, studying and exposing these dynamics will be useful to resistance movements. These movements’ courageous work to outmaneuver these tactics, hold corporations accountable and protect life on the planet are now more important than ever.
The author would like to thank Kent Eaton, Mark F. Massoud and Eleonora Pasotti for making this research possible.
Ecuador’s April 11 election that led to a 5-point victory by conservative banker Guillermo Lasso over progressive candidate Andrés Arauz was not what it appeared to be. On the surface, it was a surprisingly clean and professional election. But a fraud-free process for casting and counting ballots does not mean that the election was free and fair. Behind the scenes was a monumentally unequal playing field and dirty campaign designed to quash an Arauz win.
The head of SOUTHCOM, Admiral Craig Faller, told Pentagon reporters Wednesday that U.S. imperialism’s “competitive edge [in the region]…is eroding, particularly when it comes to the Chinese influence.”
This weekend, ten thousand people took to the streets in Guatemala to protest the President and Congress over a proposed budget, the largest in its history, that cuts funds for health care and education as poverty rises, and provides slush funds to politicians and governments. In Colombia, the people held a national strike to protest their violent, right-wing government. In Peru, protests against a right-wing power grab have ousted one appointed president and people are demanding a new government and constitution.
The post People Are Rising Up Against The Elites, So Should We appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.
Immigrant woman and children walk across a field as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Enforcement and Removal Operations hosts a media tour at the South Texas Family Residential Center, which houses families who are pending disposition of their immigration cases on Friday, Aug 23, 2019 in Dilley, Texas. (Photo credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Reproductive violence is constitutive of rather than an exception to the values of the United States of America. For those of us whose communities are deliberately targeted by the eugenicist American state, Dawn Wooten’s charges of mass sterilizations at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia come as a reminder that our reproductive lives have always been a threat to this country’s very foundations. Indigenous, Black, and Brown people pose a problem for a nation invested in white racial purity. These ICE abuses are only the latest and most visible in an ongoing U.S. project of genocidal extermination. Wooten, a licensed practical nurse who worked at the ICE facility until she was abruptly demoted in July, recently filed a complaint detailing forced hysterectomies of detained migrant women.
In the complaint published by Project South, an Atlanta-based advocacy organization, Wooten identifies a gynecologist she calls “the uterus collector,” who removes the uterus or fallopian tubes of practically “everybody he sees.” In her statement, the nurse details the confusion and dread experienced by detained women, who neither consented to hysterectomies nor understood what was happening to their bodies due to intentional, violent language barriers. A migrant woman confessed to Project South, “When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.” She’s not alone in identifying the conditions inside migrant detention centers as concentration camps, which by definition are a form of population control—a practice that extends to the origins of the settler colonial U.S. state.
Indigenous women in particular have long been targeted for genocidal violence, including experimentation and extermination. As climate disaster and civil conflict ravages Central American countries, more and more Indigenous people are migrating North (anthropologist Shannon Speed’s 2019 book, Incarcerated Stories: Indigenous Women Migrants and Violence in the Settler-Capitalist State, is a helpful introduction to the unique violences faced by Indigenous women in migrant detention centers). Their mobility poses a threat to the eugenicist state now, as it did in the 18th and 19th centuries. And so they are policed, surveilled, sterilized, and imprisoned—all techniques of reprocide. Loretta Ross—a Black feminist activist and survivor of sterilization abuse—coined the term “reprocide” to specifically describe genocide as primarily committed through reproductive control.
In the 2017 anthology Radical Reproductive Justice, Ross insists that reprocide extends to the political origins of the United States and that it happens not only through sterilization abuse, but also through mass incarceration, environmental racism, and the promotion of long-term contraceptives that providers refuse to remove or that carry prohibitive removal costs. The current forced sterilization of migrant women is not an aberration or anomaly in the history of this country; it’s an extension of the reprocide that created it. Indigenous scholars like Leanne Betasamosake Simpson teach us that Indigenous women are especially threatening because they have the potential to reproduce the next generation of people who can resist colonization. Brianna Theobald’s standout 2019 book Reproduction on the Reservation explains how the U.S. government has historically attempted to control and contain Indigenous women’s reproductive lives: Through assimilationist residential schools, the forced removal of Indigenous children into the white foster care system, and government efforts to move childbirth from the home to hospitals, the federal government surveilled where women gave birth, with whom they gave birth, and how their children were raised.
While Theobald highlights how Indigenous people lied to field nurses and concealed their pregnancies to practice reproductive self-determination, doctors in the United States began formally sterilizing Indigenous women in the 1930s. This practice ballooned in the 1970s when Congress passed the Family Planning Services Act, which subsidized sterilizations for Medicaid and Indian Health Service patients. As a result, an estimated 25 percent of Indigenous women of childbearing age underwent hysterectomies. The enslavement of Africans and their descendants was also undeniably marked by reprocide: Chattel slavery relied on enslaved Black women to produce as many children as possible; many were sold as breeders and routinely sexually assaulted to produce more enslaved people, but as scholars note, enslaved women used birth control and abortion as a means to resist this reproductive control.
Yet, enslaved women were still routinely subject to medical experimentation. James Marion Sims, also known as the “father of modern gynecology,” performed many reproductive surgeries on enslaved Black women and elected to do so without anesthesia. He also invented the modern speculum by experimenting on enslaved women. Other doctors perfected c-sections by performing surgeries on Black women without consent. During Jim Crow, some Black women were denied medical care or termination of welfare benefits if they didn’t submit to sterilization and others—including civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer—underwent “Mississippi appendectomies” as practice for medical students at teaching hospitals in the South. Today’s immigration detention centers are designed as reprocide machines—controlling who enters and is born into the country.
As a system of population control, detention centers confine and contain unwanted, undesirable populations. And while this long history of reprocide spans various—if not all—administrations, it’s clear that Trump is using migrant women’s bodies as a battleground in the struggle for white racial purity. In 2018, the Trump administration ended a previous policy mandating that ICE release pregnant women from detention—placing women outside the reach of adequate medical care and even ripping their children away at birth, as Tina Vasquez (who has contributed to Bitch) reported for Rewire. Women in detention centers are denied control over their bodies and their reproductive choices, refused access to abortion care, and the government has gone as far as to track incarcerated women’s periods to refuse abortion access.
When their children are born, many are sent to Bethany Christian Services, an organization that has received substantial donations from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And, most recently, Trump granted visa officers the power to deny entry to pregnant women, calling their migration “birth tourism.” This rhetoric is an extension of eugenicist anxieties about “anchor babies” and poor, third world “over breeders” who take advantage of loose borders to invade the United States and interrupt the nation’s racial purity. Immigration enforcement is a mode of population control—period. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—the first immigration law to banned an entire racial group—to the creation of Border Patrol in 1924, which drew on racist ideas of health and cleanliness to exclude “diseased” Brown migrants, borders and immigration bans are a way of keeping out the unwanted. Today, ICE commits reprocide when they separate families and divide them along an arbitrary border. The agency commits reprocide when it deports people to countries facing climate disaster—a phenomenon that increases poverty, threatens quality of life, and limits food supply.
Mass sterilizations are one aspect of a state-sponsored project of controlling women of color’s reproductive lives and eliminating unwanted populations. In this way, the call to abolish ICE is a call for reproductive justice because ICE agents and guards are trained and empowered to violate the reproductive agency of migrant women. In 1994, a caucus of Black feminists at a pro-choice conference coined the term “reproductive justice” to signal not only a woman’s right not to have a child, but also their right to have children and to raise them with dignity in safe and healthy environments. This framework repositions reproductive rights in an intersectional context that centers race, gender, and class oppressions. Abolishing ICE is a practice of reproductive justice and is ultimately a move toward creating safer communities where children and families are free from surveillance and immigration enforcement.
Wooten refused to stay quiet, and even as nuanced reporting from Vasquez complicates an earlier romanticized image we had of the nurse, it’s undeniable that she has helped pave the way for a more abolitionist future. Wooten refused to reproduce a system that controls women’s bodily autonomy. In denouncing “the uterus collector,” Wooten extends a legacy of Black feminists like Loretta Ross who understand that reproductive justice is not only about abortion rights but also about having and raising children with dignity. In calling out reprocidal conditions at Irwin County Detention Center, she continues the advocacy of Hamer and others who understood the bodies of Indigenous, Black, and Brown women as sacred and worthy of protection. ICE is committing reprocide, but like Wooten, we can refuse to be complicit.
Arresting and deporting undocumented people has become lucrative because their biological, biometric data can be mined, harvested, and used to generate profit.