Countries in Latin America have often faced the possibility of U.S. intervention, whether it be economic or military. From 1968 to 1989, the governments of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador were overthrown, and they were usually leftist/Marxist governments. After the threat of Fascism was defeated at the end of WWII, two main ideologies competed to be the dominant force in the world. Capitalism and Communism. Latin America proved to be the perfect place for Proxy Wars between the United States and the Soviet Union to square off. At Operation Condor's height, the main perpetrators and advocates were Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. Kissinger and Nixon were both big believers in the "domino theory," which was a theory during the Cold War that if one country fell to Communism, the rest in the region would fall next. So, to stop the spread, the U.S. and its allies would often work together to overthrow leftist governments and install opposition leaders in Latin America and all over the world.
These opposition governments would be pretty brutal and murder thousands of innocent civilians in some cases. However, even today, in the 21st century, long after the Cold War ended, the United States still keeps trying to overthrow governments in Latin America. Two of the most recent cases have been in Venezuela and Bolivia. In 2019, the United States successfully ousted Evo Morales as president. Moreover, in 2020, there was a half-assed attempt to overthrow Maduro in Venezuela by American Mercenaries and exiled Venezuelan nationals. This paper will explore how the United States continues to overthrow these governments and the legality behind such actions. It will also examine how these coups look from the leftist leader's perspective using two documentary films.
Hugo Chávez came to power in Venezuela in 1999 and was often regarded as a modern-day Simon Bolivar, but his critics in the U.S. and elsewhere referred to him as "just another thug." Some of Chávez's most notable moments are his frequent criticisms of the state of Israel and calling President George W. Bush "the devil" during his 2006 U.N. speech. Chávez was born in Sabaneta as the youngest of six children. He was born on July 28, 1954, in Sabaneta, Barinas. His mom and dad both had jobs as school teachers and did not have adequate money, so he was sent to live with his Grandma in Barinas, a Venezuelan city. While serving in the Venezuelan army, Hugo became fascinated with leftist philosophers and revolutionaries such as Mao Zedong, Vladamir Lenin, and Karl Marx. However, Hugo took most of his influence from Ezequiel Zamora, a Venezuelan soldier and revolutionary, and he specifically referenced the work "The Times of Ezequiel Zamora." After Hugo was forcibly retired from the military, he began his work in revolutionary politics, eventually leading to a jailed coup attempt in 1992. After his release, he ran for president and was elected in 1999. Chávez's time in office was marked by improving five key institutions:
Chávez was widely admired in Venezuela even after his death from cancer in 2013. Some citizens even have his eyes tattooed on their heads above their eyes. Hugo's rise to power is genuinely fascinating, but Evo's is even better.
Evo Morales was elected president of Bolivia in 2006 at the heart of the water privatization crisis. Evo's election was remarkable because he was the country's first Indigenous president after having all the previous presidents be a part of the white minority. After Evo graduated from high school, he, like Chávez, joined the military and eventually moved with his family to eastern Bolivia. He became active in the Bolivian worker unions and eventually became the general secretary of the coca-growers union in 1985. Evo eventually took an interest in politics, founded the leftist nationalist party, and named it “Movement Toward Socialism" (Movimiento al Socialismo M.A.S.). Evo eventually ran for president but lost in 2002. He ran again in 2005 and quickly won with fifty-four percent of the vote. Some of the pledges he made were:
Evo's presidency was also filled with many anti-American sentiments, not just through legislation but through speeches he gave. "Death to the Yankees!" His disdain did not just stop for America but Israel and NATO as well calling them "butchers" and "assassins." While he did have friendly relationships with notable U.S. politicians such as Jimmy Carter and Bernie Sanders, he remained staunchly anti-America. Even recently, he refused to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and instead blamed America and NATO for starting the conflict. "A country which has "caused the death of millions with the atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Condor Plan in Latin America and NATO interventionism in so many countries of the world now threatens to make Russia' pay a high price' for defending its continuity as a sovereign state.” Despite both Chávez and Morales being leftist leaders from Latin America, they were also both overthrown in U.S.-backed coups in ordinary as well. Chávez was successfully ousted in 2002 by the Bush administration and Morales in 2019 by the Trump administration. Two documentary films help explain how these leaders reached that point:
"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" begins with Hugo Chávez walking around Venezuela, giving speeches railing against neoliberalism, and showing how the rest of the International community views him. It then explains how Chávez rose to power and what a typical day for him was like, as well as him doing his infamous TV Show, Alo Presidente, which allows citizens to call in and talk to Chávez. Viewers get to see differing perspectives on how the rich and poor view Chávez. Wealthy Venezuelans hate him and view Chávez as a communist who will destroy the Venezuelan economy because he wants to nationalize the oil industry. Poor Venezuelans, however, love Hugo and always wear these unique red shirts when they go to see him in public. They are referred to as "Chavismos." Western hostility toward Chávez increased significantly after he finally decided to nationalize the oil industry "Petróleos de Venezuela, PDVSA." This decision dramatically angers business leader Pedro Carmona and union boss Carlos Ortega, and they start scheming to overthrow Chávez. They travel to Washington D.C. to meet with C.I.A. and State Department officials. On April 11, 2001, opposition protesters marched on the headquarters of Petróleos while Chávez supporters headed toward the presidential palace.
Chaos breaks out, resulting in the death of civilians, and both sides blame each other for the violence. Military generals head to Chávez and demand his resignation as President of Venezuela. Opposition leaders appear on the country's private tv network and tell the people of Venezuela that a new government will be established. Chávez's support by the people axes the new government's story that Chávez resigned from the presidency, and on April 13, figures of the new government were arrested. Chávez returns to the country after regaining military control and tells his people that they can protest against him, but they cannot defy the Constitution. Varying opposition leaders and participants in the coup either fled to the United States or stayed in the country because Hugo said no one would be held accountable. Events leading to Evo Morales's removal from the presidency follow a very similar path, and it is well documented in the movie "It was a Coup."
Evo Morales had been accusing the United States of trying to destabilize his government ever since being elected president. He even made a trip to the United States in 2013 to visit Jimmy Carter to help improve relations. Evo always had a rocky relationship with the U.S. Presidents, including Obama, because he thought Obama was pandering and imperialistic. His relationship with Donald Trump was way more tumultuous because of Trump's arrogance and embrace of "American Exceptionalism." When Trump threatened North Korea with "fire and fury," Evo Morales condemned him and said his threats were an insult to humanity. At the 2018 U.N. security council meeting, Morales tore into Trump and American foreign policy. Evo raged that the United States could not care less about human rights or democracy and listed the "failings" of the country. When the 2019 presidential crisis occurred in the country and Morales was ousted as the President, Trump and Elon Musk openly celebrated the news on Twitter. It became apparent immediately that the U.S. Government was involved in the coup.
"It was a Coup" opens with the beginning of the 2019 Bolivia election and how the U.S.-backed group "Organization of American States" influenced it. Organization of American States is an international organization created in the late 1940s to help cooperation between America and its Latin American counterparts. "In Nov. 2019, the O.A.S. issued a preliminary report questioning the transparency of the presidential elections when the vote count was still ongoing. Using this report as a pretext, opposition right-wing politicians Carlos Mesa and Fernando Camacho urged for demonstrations, which paramilitary groups and the Police supported." Riots ensued across Bolivia for twenty-one days before the European Union, O.A.S., United States, Bolivian Police, and Bolivian military urged Morales to resign. Opposition to morales is a right-wing racist Christian fascist government called National Unity Front. While a large chunk of the Bolivian population is Indigenous with their religion, forty-one percent, there is a small minority of "racist elite" that is very white and Christian. After the coup was successful, the Interim President, Jeanine Áñez, went to the Balcony of the Presidential Palace and held up a bible, and declared that "God has returned to Bolivia!" Áñez was not the only politician who viewed the coup as having the approval of Jesus himself, the coup leader and billionaire Luis Fernando had a very similar reaction.
"With a Bible in one hand and a national flag in the other, Camacho bowed his head in prayer above the presidential seal, fulfilling his vow to purge his country's Native heritage from government and "return God to the burned palace.” The coup mongers in Bolivia felt justified in overthrowing the government because they had Jesus on their side. They were destroying the reign of the evil Indigenous people with their false religion. There were similar tones with the efforts of regime change attempts in Venezuela, not just in 2002 but in 2017 and 2020. Then vice-president Mike Pence said that the United States could not “just stand by and watch the evil Maduro regime destroy one of the most successful countries in our hemisphere.” When Jordan Goudreau's mercenary firm "Silvercorp" organized an attempted coup in 2020, he declared in a social media video that "a brave and noble operation is underway" as they invaded a sovereign nation. American mainstream media constantly portrays the ouster of a leftist leader as an evil dictator being thrown off the power by the American liberators. They never acknowledge the possibility that the replacement government could be even worse or that they will have the possibility to commit human rights violations.
Bolivia's interim government at the time did exactly that by Jeanine Áñez committing genocide against the Indigenous protestsers by ordering the military to execute protestors. Evo Morales was crying at the sight of what was happening to his country. "I want to tell you, brothers and sisters, that the fight does not end here; we will continue this fight for equality, for peace,” Morales declared. Venezuelan opposition members were also accused of having fascist and racist tendencies and corruption. Jeanine Áñez's Venezuelan counterpart Juan Guaidó was recently caught up in a corruption scandal that many think undermined him as a legitimate presidential candidate. Specifically, Guaidó, along with other members of his team and various opposition members, were caught in an influence-peddling operation. "The interim government has become a group that has propitiated unacceptable actions of corruption that seriously hurt the democratic struggle and move us away from our goal of freedom.” Essentially, the type of candidates that represent the opposition to the country's current government have many skeletons in their closets. However, it is never taken into account because of the economic and alternative interests of the U.S. government. For Americans to access this information, they usually have to go to alternative sources such as "TheGrayZone," "Redfish media," or leftist media from the country to find this type of information. While it is essential always to remain skeptical because such sources could produce propaganda, it still does not mean that the U.S. or western media, in general, cannot have propaganda of their own. It does not stop with western media producing propaganda either; the government and leaders also play an integral role in such propaganda.
When Donald Trump was still president of the United States, he invited Juan Guaidó to the 2020 SOTU, State of the Union. He called Guaidó "the true President of Venezuela," with no actual evidence to back up that claim except unproven allegations of voter fraud in the 2018 Venezuelan election. Guaidó was then given a standing ovation by Republicans and Democrats alike. In the same year, when Bernie Sanders was running for president for the second time, he decided to support Morales during the presidential crisis of 2019 and agreed he was the victim of a coup. He specifically cited the Bolivian opposition's use of the military to secure their power as proof. "Now we can argue about his going for a fourth term, whether that was a wise thing to do... But at the end of the day, the military intervened in that process and asked him to leave. When the military intervenes, Jorge, in my view, that's called a 'coup, said Bernie Sanders.” He was the only politician running in 2020 to call the events in Bolivia a coup, while all the other candidates said that Morales was on his way to becoming a dictator and needed to be forcibly removed. Scholars have researched this topic to see how political unrest in other nations is viewed by the citizens and leaders on the receiving end. Before taking a deeper look, let’s get the perspectives from the mouths of the leaders themselves.
During an interview with Vice News in 2020, Morales was asked how he had been doing since the crisis. Moreover, why does he perceives what happened as a coup. First, Evo begins talking about how his term was supposed to end on January 22, 2020, and he was forced to resign on November 11, 2019. Next, Evo talks about how the Police joined with the opposition, and then eventually, the armed forces asked for his resignation. The main reason why Evo decided to resign was to avoid mass murder on a large scale because of how the citizens were in mutiny. The interim government's massacre incredibly saddened Morales; 35 protesters were murdered, but he knew deep down that democracy would return to Bolivia, and his legacy could never be erased. However, Morales also saw a bright spot in the situation by claiming that his party would win over the younger generations after the coup. "For the younger generations, it is important to know what it is like to live under a right-wing government, under a dictatorship.” Chávez had a very similar reaction to the coup attempt against him.
Before the coup attempt against Chávez, there was zero possibility of U.S. involvement because he thought the era of Cold War power politics had ended. However, after the coup was over and Chávez had successfully returned to power, he changed his tune and accused the U.S. of orchestrating it themselves. He even alleged that U.S. military personnel met with top Venezuelan coup leaders. While there was still no way to prove that the U.S. was involved with the coup at the time, evidence eventually emerged that the U.S. had prior knowledge of the coup. While giving no direct support to the opposition, they would have no problem seeing Chávez ousted. While these coups took place in separate countries, they both have a similar story about how they happened. Allegations of corruption or voter fraud appear, and the current government is portrayed as a budding dictatorship, so a coup is needed to save democracy. While it is essential to keep in mind that leftist authoritarian leaders have existed in the past and currently as well who are more than capable of human rights violations, it still does not excuse the actions of imperialist governments. So how does one know how to tell if a tyrant is trying to steal an election or if it is simply more lies from the U.S. State Department? Doctor Greogry Wilpert has an interesting analysis about how the U.S. did want Chávez ousted from power and got away with lying about their involvement.
Gregory Wilpert is a doctor in sociology who is a staunch supporter of the Bolivarian Revolution. However, he did move to Caracas with his family to help outsiders get a better understanding of the current events in Venezuela. After Chávez died, he appeared on the independent American T.V. show "Democracy Now!" before moving to Ecuador to work for another T.V. channel. Before all that happened, though, he wrote a fascinating article regarding the 2002 coup attempt. "The first, most widely accepted version has it that Chávez was arrested by opposition-allied military officers on the pretense that he ordered the attack on the demonstrators; the coup plotters then proceeded to dismantle all state institutions in order to establish a dictatorship. The second version, told by the hardcore opposition, holds that there was no coup. In this telling, Chávez did order the Venezuelan military, as well as Chavista paramilitary thugs, to shoot the demonstrators.” Wilpert later discusses how given that the two sides of the story are so vastly different, it is vital not to take any side too seriously. He later comments on how crucial it is to be incredibly skeptical of the U.S. because of Venezuela's large abundance of natural resources and the U.S. Government's long history of intervening in foreign relations for ulterior motives. Wilpert then mentions a book called "The Silence and the Scorpion" written by scholar and teacher Brian Nelson, who tries to give an accurate account of the coup. Wilpert criticizes the book as being an apologist for the opposition because the people he chose to interview for the book were four opposition marchers, three pro-Chávez demonstrators, three journalists, four politicians, and five military generals. However, most of the book is taken up from the perspective of three people Efraín Vásquez Velasco and Manuel Rosendo, Francisco Usón.
All three of these men are against Chávez and his regime, which Wilpert points out delegitimizes the book as a non-bias source. "Moreover, he leaves it unclear as to whether the book is meant as an objective description or merely a narrative version of his informants' interviews. One is tempted to think the latter since he never corrects their outright falsehoods, such as Vásquez Velasco's claim that Chávez "had always dreamed of a socialist Venezuela.” Chávez did not even begin talking about socialism in Venezuela until 2005. While the research and analysis that Wilpert makes are thought-provoking, a criticism that could be lodged at him is the same he lodged at Nelson. Which is that Nelson was pro-Chávez and that he could not give an accurate account of the events that occurred in 2002. Another fascinating article further indicated the U.S.’s involvement and was regarded as one of the most censored documents between 2002-2003.
The article was written by an American journalist named Karen Talbot titled "Coup-Making in Venezuela: Bush and the Oil Factors," written in July 2002. Talbot is not only a journalist but the director of the "International Council for Peace and Justice." Talbot begins talking about how Hugo Chávez saw himself as a Robinhood-like figure who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. It made him incredibly unpopular with wealthy elitists in his country and the United States. Next, she discusses how while the details of the coup against Chávez still need to be found, the evidence of the Bush administration's involvement has already come to light. Talbot uses two pieces of information about how prominent Washington and Bush's administration officials constantly criticized Chávez, and the administration failed to condemn the coup against Chávez. For example, Condoleezza Rice famously said, "I believe there is an assault on democracy in Venezuela, and I believe that there are significant human rights issues in Venezuela," Rice told lawmakers at a congressional hearing. "I believe there is an assault on democracy in Venezuela, and I believe that there are significant human rights issues in Venezuela.” Other examples include:
Nevertheless, probably the most important was since the Bush administration had the support of a large swath of right-wing Cubans. Who not only demanded that Bush do everything in his power to end the regime of Fidel Castro, but due to Chávez's close relationship with Fidel, they demanded he goes as well. Serious opposition to Chávez started when he wanted to nationalize the oil industry, and the opposition had opposite plans to privatize the oil industry. The New York Times reported that one of the top oil executives met with coup leaders at the military coup leader’s headquarters. Bush's Latin American Secretary of State Otto Reich was a right-wing Cuban who was also a lobbyist for Mobil Oil and hosted the Venezuelan coup leaders at the White House. They discussed details about the coup, including when it would happen and its chances of succeeding. The London newspaper "The Guardian" also confirmed that U.S. military personnel decided to meet with the Venezuelan coup leaders in June 2001. U.S. navy personnel even decided to get directly involved in the coup by providing signals intelligence and communications jamming support to Venezuelan military personnel involved. "Seeing the disturbing similarities to the 1973 U.S. instigated Chilean coup-which occurred after one failed coup attempt- the majority of Venezuelan people are remaining vigilant about further moves to oust Chávez. The people of the United States have the responsibility and the possibility to put an end to the Bush administration's anti-democratic overt operations and military interventions in Venezuela.” While the unrest that swept the nation of Venezuela is remarkable, it was not as stunning as the events in Bolivia due to the Brazen nature of the actors involved.
"In July 2020, following the Bolivian coup d'etat, Elon Musk tweeted to his more than 40 million followers, "We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it." He made this threat in response to a Twitter user's accusation that the tech billionaire collaborated with the U.S. government to orchestrate a coup against then-Bolivian president Evo Morales as a means to gain greater access to the country's lithium supply after he canceled a contract to privatize Bolivia's lithium mines.” Elon openly bragged about his company's involvement in the coup and that he feels entitled to overthrow governments to get natural resources. After Evo Morales returned from exile in Argentina, he read Elon's tweet out loud to a crowd of his supporters. "He was arrogant so as to carry out coups all for natural resources, all for lithium.”
Gabriel Hetland wrote a very in-depth analysis about what he felt led to Morales's ouster in his academic journal of NACLA, North American Congress on Latin America. Gabriel begins talking about how to understand why the country's first indigenous president, who was able to achieve so much with social programs, infrastructure, and indigenous rights, had his career ended so abruptly. In order to help explain how these events unfolded, Hetland went back to all of them in 2016. In 2016, Morales decided to amend the constitution to have indefinite presidential elections, but it failed. Morales and his supporters wanted these indefinite elections because they felt that there would be a "dirty war" campaign against him. Their fears turned out to be legitimate because before Morales tried to amend the constitution, Bolivian conservative media ran a story about Evo having a love child. The evidence that conservative media used to explain their story was that the baby either died or never existed. Nonetheless, it had an impact because Evo lost the vote. He was successful in 2017 with the referendum and was able to run for president again, but it made him unpopular with the middle class.
Hetland then further explains that after the Organization of American States (OAS) published the election fraud report after the election fraud report, it caused many people to take to the streets and demand that Morales resign and for a new election. However, it was not until the "Economic and Policy Research" published a report of their own that alleged the OAS was not being truthful. "A report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research makes a convincing case that the OAS acted in a biased manner and failed to present evidence of actual fraud.” While Hetland acknowledges that the OAS acted in bad faith, he also makes some concessions that Morales had not been as popular as he was when he first came to power. Specifically, Hetland mentions an event that occurred in 2011 which pitted Morales against the very indigenous communities he was supposed to be representing as a presiden. Morales wanted to build a road through Bolivia's TIPNIS national park. This event was significant for two main reasons, the first being it showed his counterparts on the left were criticizing Morales. With not only the Indigenous people criticizing him but even one of his former UN Ambassadors, Pablo Solón. Secondly, the TIPNIS conflict caused a split among and even within popular-sector organizations that had previously been allied with Morales. "This led to a weakening of popular-class organizational and mobilizational capacity, a factor some analysts suggest explains the relative slowness with which some social movements came to Morales' defense after the November 10 coup.” Hetland then reassures the readers that this leftist opposition to Morales does not mean the events that unfolded were a coup because the military were still the ones to demand the resignation of Morales. Hetland then describes how the interim government is a quasi- dictatorship.
Hetland begins by talking about the various human rights violations that the Áñez government has committed:
Hetland also mentions how due to the Áñez's government's religious bigotry, there has been a rise in anti-Indigenous racism. There are instances of anti-Indigenous groups burning the wiphala flag, representing the indigenous community. What troubles Hetland most about the events in Bolivia was how Áñez came to power. In order for Áñez to become the president, it did not just require the resignation of Morales but his Vice president and the presidents of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. Hetland claims that these were not voluntary because "they happened in the context of the kidnapping of MAS officials' relatives and burning of their houses. With those above her gone, Áñez staked her claim to the president's office, even though she had no constitutional authority to take on this role as vice president of the Senate, she had no constitutional authority to take on this role.” So it is evident that human rights are being violated publicly and humanitarian efforts directed at helping the people of Bolivia need to happen immediately. Jeanine Áñez has been in prison since early 2021 and has attempted suicide. She is still awaiting trial for said human rights abuses. At the same time, it is clear that some scholars indicate that Morales was not the most transparent leader. There has also been a consensus that indicates a large percentage of the people of Bolivia support the left-wing movement. Furthermore, they prefer there not to be any coups or outside involvement.
The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project put out a report in 2021, which clearly stated that since it only took a little over a year for Morale's party to return to power, the population intensely disliked him, Morales, or his movement. "Following Arce's victory, it is evident that the left-wing project is backed by more than half of the country's population. However, many on the left call for more transparency and legitimacy for political processes in a departure from the way that Morales has led the country in the past.” Barry Cannon had a very similar conclusion in his academic journal, where he came to realize that economic inequality in Venezuela was so prevalent that Chávez's popularity was sincere. Despite all of his critics and flaws. "The Venezuelan opposition should accept the reality of this class division and therefore the Chávez government as a legitimate representative of the popular classes.” Learning about how these coups occur and the amount of propaganda put out to keep one narrative alive and labeling anything contradicting as "misinformation" or "propaganda" is astonishing.
These two documentary films follow Chávez and Morales around and try to get the most accurate dipication about not just who these men were. But also how their presidencies and their subsequent removal was viewed by their countrymen. There is an obvious bias because they do try to poraty Chávez and Morales in the most favorable light possible., but in a way, it is understandable. After learning how dishonest the U.S. government and business officials are about their true ambitions and involvement in these coups through scholarly works, it is hard to portray them as heroes or liberators. I think these documentaries are meant to show the other side of these events from the receiving end perspective and that just because someone you do not like is in charge of a country. It does not give anyone the right to take it upon themselves to intervene in elections or overthrow governments. Even in 2022, media outlets such as Redfish are being refused access to the Ukraine war because they are labeled as "Russian State Media." Even though they are based in the United States and are entirely independent, and have won multiple awards, it is essential to remember that there are two sides to every story, and then there is the truth. Moreover, to figure out the truth, every side needs to be treated as equal.
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Blumenthal , Max, and Ben Norton. “Bolivia Coup Led by Christian Fascist Paramilitary Leader and Millionaire – with Foreign Support.” The Grayzone, January 6, 2021. https://thegrayzone.com/2019/11/11/bolivia-coup-fascist-foreign-support-fernando-camacho/.
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Cannon, Barry. “Venezuela, April 2002: Coup or Popular Rebellion? the Myth of a United Venezuela.” Bulletin of Latin American Research 23, no. 3 (2004): 285–302. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0261-3050.2004.00109.x.
“Chavez Is 'Destroying' Venezuela, Rice Says.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, February 7, 2007. https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna17027314.
Clark, Ziare. “JPIA: The Failed 2019 Bolivian Coup.” The Journal of Politics & International Affairs. The Journal of Politics & International Affairs, September 22, 2021. https://www.jpianyu.org/archive/2021/10/20/the-failed-2019-bolivian-coup.
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Hetland, Gabriel. “Understanding Bolivia's Nightmare.” NACLA, November 20, 2019. https://nacla.org/news/2019/11/19/bolivia-morales-coup.
Malaea, Marika. “Bernie Sanders Is the Only Presidential Candidate to Call Bolivia President's Ouster a ‘Coup.’” Newsweek. Newsweek, November 20, 2019. https://www.newsweek.com/bernie-sanders-only-presidential-candidate-call-bolivia-presidents-ouster-coup-1472847.
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teleSUR/les-MS. “Venezuelan Opposition Admits Guaidó's Team Committed Corruption.” News | teleSUR English. teleSUR, December 6, 2021.
“Venezuela's Story Most Censored - Jstor.org.” Accessed April 28, 2022. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23608060.
Wilpert, Gregory. “The Venezuelan Coup Revisited: Silencing the Evidence.” NACLA, June 26, 2009. https://nacla.org/article/venezuelan-coup-revisited-silencing-evidence.
Dan Sullivan is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte studying World War 2 History and minoring in Communications and Journalism. When it comes to writing about Marxism and Socialism he takes a concentrated look into the U.S. and E.U. Imperialism especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union. He is very passionate about creating and putting into place a brand new system of eco-socialism to address the ongoing food and climate crisis. He also takes an interest in how the American church perpetuates the ongoing cycle of violence of American Capitalism by keeping workers content with deplorable conditions. He plans on working for a non-corporate media outlet to report on the U.S. Empire and NATO war crimes and imperialism.
The Status of Women in Pre-Revolutionary Cuba
Under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, which lasted from 1952-1959, women lived under the yoke of a patriarchal society (Lamrani). They made up only 17% of the workforce, often being restricted to the role of mother and domestic caretaker; where they did work, they received much lower compensation than did men (Lamrani). From 1934 (pre-Batista) to 1958, only 26 women held governmental positions in all of Cuba (Lamrani).
Women’s Involvement in the Insurrection
In 1952, democratically elected president of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista seized total power of the island nation in a coup, suspending the 1940 Constitution, and establishing his rule as a fascist dictator, receiving recognition of legitimacy from the United States government (“Cuba: Timeline of a Revolution). In response to Batista’s dictatorship, many groups with varying ideologies engaged in revolutionary struggle against Batista before Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement succeeded in deposing him in 1959 (“Cuba: Timeline of a Revolution”). Among the multitude of anti-Batista groups were two all-women activist groups, the FCMM and the MOU, which were ideologically aligned with the centre-left party and Communist Party of Cuba respectively (Chase). These groups participated in civil protests and press denunciations against the Batista dictatorship, as well as organized support for a hunger strike carried out by political prisoners (Chase).
The most significant revolutionary group, though, was Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s 26th of July Movement, which succeeded in removing Batista from power and establishing Castro as the new leader of Cuba in 1959, after they seized control of Havana (“Cuba: Timeline of a Revolution”). The role of women within the 26th of July Movement was mostly (but not entirely) involved in underground support, which included strategizing, transmitting messages, providing safe houses, and transporting materials (Seidman). This was not their only role, though: Fidel Castro describes the revolutionary involvement of comrade Haydée Santamaría, who was directly involved in the insurrection, the same as were her male comrades: when being interrogated and tortured by Batista’s officers, Santamaría was told that they had killed her brother, to which she replied, “he is not dead; to die for one’s homeland is to live forever” (Castro, 47). Castro remarks on her revolutionary character: “never had the heroism and the dignity of Cuban womanhood reached such heights” (47).
Certainly, there was a presence of women in the 26th of July Movement, even if they were outnumbered by their male counterparts (Herman). This can also be seen in the existence of an all-woman squadron within the Movement, called the Mariana Grajales (Lamrani). Women’s active involvement within the revolution, both in their own groups and within the victorious sect, set the stage for their increased role in post-insurrectionary Cuban society.
The Feminist Elements and Victories of Revolutionary Cuba
In the year following the end of the insurrectionary period of the Cuban Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) was founded by Vilma Espin, who was a revolutionary in the 26th of July Movement and wife of Raúl Castro (Lamrani). The Federation received support from Castro himself, as it sought to end discrimination in Cuba, and defend equality for all (Lamrani). Espin was devoted to the struggle for the emancipation of women and defending the revolution; the FMC’s webpage states: “from the start of the Cuban Revolution, the Cuban leadership has made concerted efforts to advance the status of women and increase their social and political participation, particularly through increased access to educational opportunities and employment” (The Federation of Cuban Women).
One of the first objectives of the new Cuban government under Fidel Castro was the Cuban Literacy Campaign, a decidedly feminist policy which sought to eradicate illiteracy from the country (Herman). Castro announced his intention to make the population fully literate in 1960, less than one year into his leadership; illiteracy in Cuba at the time was at about 23.6% (Herman). The Literacy Campaign was carried out by volunteers, 55% of which were women, who taught children, adults, and the elderly students, who were 52% women, how to read and write (Herman). In 1961, just after the end of the year-long campaign, UNESCO declared Cuba to be the first territory free of illiteracy (Lamrani).
Greater political actions for the protection of women were solidified by the new Cuban Constitution and the penal code, which created and protected equality rights for women, as well as gave them access to all public offices and joining the armed forces (Lamrani). Article 44 of the updated Cuban Constitution (1976) states: “the state guarantees women the same opportunities and possibilities as men in order to achieve women’s full participation in the development of the country” (The Federation of Cuban Women). In 1975, Cuba passed the Family Code, which was inspired by similar legislation from East Germany, which officially mandated the equal division of housework and childcare between spouses (Seidman). In a speech, Castro affirmed the Cuban state’s commitment to the goals of feminism: “the National General Assembly of the People of Cuba…condemns the inequality and exploitation of women” (Castro, 83).
In 1965, Cuba became the first nation in Latin America to legalize abortion on request, making it the second nation ever to do so after the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1955 (Lamrani). Abortion was fully legalized in Cuba on four conditions which sought to protect women in the event; abortions had to be the women’s own choice, take place in a hospital, be carried out by trained professionals, and be completely free (Gonzalez).
In 1989, Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) was founded and led by the daughter of Raúl Castro and Vilma Espin, Mariela Castro (Hutchison). Cuba’s improvement regarding its treatment of queer people (as seen in the founding of CENESEX) is distinctly feminist because it contributes to a dissolving of gender-enforced boundaries in society. This feminist progression can also be seen in the fact that gender affirming surgery for trans people is completely free under the nation’s universal healthcare system (Hutchison).
When feminist thinker Margaret Randall was forced to flee Mexico due to her involvement in the Mexican student movement, she found refuge in Cuba (Hutchison). Randall noted across her extensive writings that Cuban women used art such as theatre, poetry, music, and literature to challenge continuing sexist notions within the country’s society (Hutchison).
Cuba was heavily involved in the movement to free Marxist feminist thinker and political activist Angela Y. Davis while she was being tried for a murder she did not commit in the 1970s, with Cuban officials and the FMC speaking out for her emancipation (Seidman). Both before and after her trial and subsequent acquittal, Davis visited Cuba many times, each time being celebrated for her ideology and identity as a Black Communist Woman (Seidman). She frequently had meetings with Cuban officials on her visits, during which she gave them advice and feedback on the status of women in their country; she once remarked: “the example of Cuba has confirmed that there cannot be a true emancipation for women without a socialist revolution” (Seidman).
A similar sentiment to Davis’s idea that women’s emancipation and socialism must be founded together can be found in many speeches and writings by Castro himself:
When discussions are held about the rights of women, of their aspirations, we see that there cannot be rights of women in our America or rights of children, mothers, or wives if there is no revolution. The fact is that in the world in which the American woman lives, the woman must necessarily be revolutionary. Why must she be revolutionary? Because woman, who constitutes an essential part of every people is, in the first place, exploited as a worker and discriminated against as a woman. (“Fidel Castro’s Speech at the Closing of the Congress of Women of the Americas”)
Castro speaks to the idea that women can only begin to escape the twofold exploitation they face from capitalism and society through revolutionary socialism.
The goal of the Cuban Revolution was not only to oust Fulgencio Batista as dictator of Cuba, but also to establish a socialist society built upon the ideals of Marxism, feminism, anti-imperialism, and equality. Castro remarked in a 1963 speech that the socialist elements of the new Cuba were visible in the changing identity of womanhood: “the bourgeois concept of womanhood is disappearing in our country. The concepts of stigma, concepts of discrimination, have really been disappearing in our country, and the masses of women have realized this” (“Fidel Castro’s Speech…”).
That which was and is Lacking in Revolutionary Cuba
Among the many victories for women and the ideology of feminism accomplished in the early years of the revolution and into the later years of its development, there were also areas which were lacking within the nation. Perhaps at the forefront, and an element which hindered further development for feminism was the assertion by Fidel Castro that Cuba had become a land totally free of gendered discrimination: “in our country, the woman, like the Negro, is no longer discriminated against” (Fidel Castro’s Speech…). Such a reductionist and provably false statement by the country’s leader was harmful in that it spread the untrue notion that sexism was an issue of the past in Cuba, which no longer needed to be dealt with, thus stalling further feminist progression.
Similarly, the Federation of Cuban Women was centrally focused on fighting the discrimination against women which is inherent to the capitalist system, and generally did not acknowledge the distinct discrimination against women which existed in Cuban society, apart from the socioeconomic system of the nation (Seidman). Both within the FMC and in the broader scope of the Cuban government and people, defending the revolution and combatting US aggression were prioritized over issues regarding women for decades in Cuba (Hutchison).
In terms of more concrete issues regarding the status of women in revolutionary Cuba: in the early years of the revolution, the government released a list of jobs which were considered unfit for women, likely because they constituted a threat to the health and safety of the female reproductive system (Hutchison). This list was reductionist in that it took the view that women should be precluded from working in certain areas of the labour force due to their reproductive abilities, essentializing them to their sex organs.
Following the death of Fidel Castro in 2016, the list produced for his potential replacements contained only men, a fact which points to the still existing masculine dominance in the revolution in Cuba (Hutchison).
Before an action plan can be provided for improving the future status of women in Cuba, a more modern look at the nation of Cuba must be offered so as to better understand the contemporary needs and wants of the Cuban women generally.
Cuba’s Labour Code provides women the right to full salaries while taking a month and a half off before delivery of a child, and three months off after childbirth; this leave may be extended to a full year with compensation equivalent to 60% of regular earnings (Lamrani). Cuban women make up the majority of union leaders, and are required by law to be compensated equally to men (Lamrani). Also in the field of labour, Cuban women make up only 44% of the national workforce, a figure which illustrates the need for further institutional equality and job programs (Lamrani).
In the areas of health and education, Cuban women make up 60% of the country’s students and 65% of its graduates (Lamrani). In 1960, just after Castro came to power, the life expectancy for Cuban women was 65.62 years; by 2019, it had risen to 80.78 (The World Bank). Comparatively, the life expectancy for women in the US in 1960 was 73.1 years, more than 7 years greater than Cuba. However, for women in the US in 2019, life expectancy is less than one year greater than that of Cuban women, at 81.4 years (The World Bank). Women still are entitled to free abortion on request (Gonzalez), and to free gender affirming surgery (Hutchison).
In the political arena, Cuba ranks second out of every nation worldwide for most women elected to their national parliament, only after Rwanda (Archive of Statistical Data). Cuba has a single house national assembly, in which 322 of the 605 seats were represented by women in February 2019, making up 53.2% of the house (Archive of Statistical Data). As of October 1, 2021, female representation in the Cuban National Assembly of the People’s Power was increased to 53.4% (IPU Parline). It also should be mentioned again that, though women make up majority of the elected Cuban assembly, no women’s names were present on the shortlist to replace Fidel Castro as First Secretary after his death in 2016 (Hutchison).
Policies for the Betterment of Cuban Women
Women’s involvement in the labour force in Cuba remains an issue, with one 2020 study estimating that just 38.44% of Cuban women work; although this is a much greater number than was the case in as recent as the 1990s, there remains work to be done (Trading Economics). This is an issue which could potentially be solved by the introduction of a guaranteed jobs program in Cuba, something which existed in the earlier years of the revolution, but which was abandoned later on; by guaranteeing work for all Cuban citizens, women would more easily find representation in the national workforce (New York Times News Service).
Other issues which may arise against the progression of Cuban women should be combatted by the FMC, an organization and community of revolutionary women. This, however, would be difficult unless the FMC begins to acknowledge sexism as present in Cuban society, rather than just within the context of global capitalism (Seidman). The Federation of Cuban Women should reform itself to recognize discrimination against women as present in all areas of life.
Politically, women in Cuba have found full involvement in the National Assembly and in other government organizations such as the FMC, but, as previously mentioned, no women were considered for replacing Fidel Castro as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba following his death in 2016 (Hutchison). This fact points out the need for women’s continued involvement in the revolutionary process, which can be accomplished by celebrating the feminist victories and acknowledging the failures of the ongoing revolution. It can also be directly achieved by adding politically exceptional women to the potential replacements for the position of First Secretary once Raúl Castro dies.
Long Live the Revolution
The most critical component for continuing feminism on the island nation of Cuba is the continuation of the revolution. Socialism in Cuba ousted a great deal of the capitalistic oppressions which existed there. Just the same, the revolution eliminated much of the discrimination faced by women thereto. The socialist ideology of the Cuban government and people is a necessary force for both maintaining the currently existing feminism in Cuba, and for improving the status of women in Cuba in the future. In order for women’s lives in Cuba to better, the revolution must be defended.
Michael Parenti describes the manner in which rights for women were near abolished after the fall of socialism in the Soviet Bloc:
The overthrow of communism has brought a sharp increase in gender inequality. The new constitution adopted in Russia eliminates provisions that guaranteed women the right to paid maternity leave, job security during pregnancy, prenatal care, and affordable day-care centres. Without the former communist stipulation that women get at least one third of the seats in any legislature, female political representation has dropped to as low as 5 percent in some countries. In all communist countries about 90 percent of women had jobs in what was a full-employment economy. Today, women compose over two-thirds of the unemployed. (114-5)
Parenti’s analysis of the fall of the status of women in tandem with the fall of Soviet socialism is a warning to Cuba; socialism exists in parallel with women’s rights, and the elimination of one implies the death of the other.
There should also be a point made here as to the alternative option to socialism, which is only capitalism: there is either capitalism or socialism/communism. No third ideology can be created, and thus, no liberation for women can be accomplished elsewhere than socialism. “Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology being developed by the masses of the workers in the process of their movement the choice is: either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course” (Lenin, 82).
The Cuban Revolution was a force which brought about massive social, economic, and political progression for the status of women, and only by consolidating that revolution in future generations can those victories be maintained and progressed.
Archive of Statistical Data. "Women in National Parliaments." 1 February 2019. archive.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm
Castro, Fidel. The Declarations of Havana. 2008. Verso Books, 2018.
Chase, Michelle. "Women's Organisations and the Politics of Gender in Cuba's Urban Insurrection (1952-1958)." Journal of the Society for Latin American Studies, vol. 29, no. 4, 2010: 440-458.
“Cuba: Timeline of a Revolution.” Aljazeera News, 2009. aljazeera.com/news/2009/7/26/cuba-timeline-of-a-revolution
The Federation of Cuban Women. “Women and the Cuban Revolution: The Federation of Cuban Women.” cubaplatform.org/federation-cuban-women
“Fidel Castro’s Speech at the Closing of the Congress of Women of the Americas (1963).” marxists.org/history/cuba/archive/castro/1963/01/16.htm
Gonzalez, Ivet. "Abortion Rights in Cuba Face New Challenges." Havana Times, 2017. havanatimes.org/features/abortion-rights-in-cuba-face-new-challenges/
Herman, Rebecca. "An Army of Educators: Gender, Revolution, and the Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961." Gender and History, vol. 24, no. 1, 2012, 93-111.
Hutchison, Elizabeth Quay. "Women, Gender, and Sexuality in the Cuban Revolution." Radical History Review, 2020, 185-197.
IPU Parline. "Monthly Ranking of Women in National Parliaments." November 2021. data.ipu.org/women-ranking?month=10&year=2021
Lamrani, Salim. "Women in Cuba: The Emancipatory Revolution." The International Journal of Cuban Studies, vol. 8, no. 1, 2016, 109-116.
Lenin, Vladimir I. “What Is To Be Done?” Essential Works of Lenin, edited by Henry M Christman, Dover Publications, 1987.
New York Times News Service. "In Radical Move, Cuba Ends Guaranteed Jobs." Chicago Tribune, 1995. chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1995-05-14-9505140359-story.html
Parenti, Michael. Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism, City Lights Books, 1997.
Seidman, Sarah J. "Angela Davis in Cuba as Symbol and Subject." Radical History Review, 2020, 11-35.
Trading Economics. "Cuba - Labour Force, Female." Trading Economics, 2020. tradingeconomics.com/cuba/labor-force-female-percent-of-total-labor-force-wb-data.html
The World Bank. "Life Expectancy at Birth, Female (Years)" The World Bank, 2019. data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.FE.IN?locations=CU
Nolan Long is a Canadian undergraduate student in political studies, with a specific interest in Marxist political theory and history.
To understand the Cuban Embargo, one must understand that it is only one aspect in the broader goal of America to rule over Cuba. The US has long had an interest in colonizing Cuba. In 1823, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams wrote a letter to U.S Minister to Spain Hugh Nelson about the possibility of annexing Cuba within the next fifty years. The Cuban sugar industry at that time had been incredibly lucrative and drew the attention of American investors. Twenty five years later, in 1848, James Polk offered to buy Cuba from Spain for $100,000,000. This offer was rejected.
Though the US may have never formally colonized Cuba, its economic domination of the island could be comparable to that of any colonial power. By the 1870s, 75% of Cuba’s sugar was exported to the US. In 1895, US investments in Cuba were valued up to $95,000,000. Cuba’s industries and economy quickly became subordinated to US corporations. In 1894, 90% of Cuba’s exports went to the US and 38% of its imports were from the US. Cuba served as a valuable geopolitical outpost for the US. It would be valuable in defending Florida and New Orleans, along with serving as an outpost and springboard for further economic and political control of Latin America.
While Cuba might have technically gained independence from the US in 1902, the Platt Amendment, however, kept Cuba in a continual state of colonial subjugation. The Platt Amendment allowed the US to intervene in Cuba at any time. It also set up US control of Cuba’s foreign policy and its public finances. In addition, much of Cuba’s wealth remained in US hands. In essence, the Platt Amendment and the presence of US corporations reduced the notion of Cuban independence to a myth. By the 1920s two thirds of Cuba’s sugar production was controlled by US companies and in 1929, US investments in Cuba reached almost a billion dollars and 62% of it went into the sugar industry. By the 1950s Cuba was the largest recipient of US aid and the US controlled almost all the important industries in Cuba. By 1955, 90% of telecommunications and electric services, 40% of the sugar industry, and 50% of public service railways were in the hands of American investors. Four years later, the US controlled 90% of all the mines, 80% of the utilities, and almost all the cattle ranches and the entire oil industry.
However, this vast investment in Cuba did not benefit the majority of Cubans, instead much of this wealth was repatriated back to the US or consumed by the American and Cuban elites on the island. That’s not to forget of course that US investment in Cuba heavily favored multinationals, and many of these corporations didn’t have to pay taxes to the Cuban government and were allowed to keep their profits, thus doing very little to develop an independent Cuban economy or help the lives of everyday Cubans. In fact, life for everyday Cubans was quite miserable under Batista and American imperialism. In 1953, the average Cuban family made six dollars a week and 15-20% of the labor force was unemployed. The average salary of a rural Cuban was $91. Sugar companies also owned 75% of the arable land and only employed 25,000 people full time and 500,000 people as part time workers during the harvest season which only lasted for about two to four months, for the rest of the year these people were relegated to poverty and unemployment. Only 2% of people in Cuba had running water and 9% of people had electricity. The vast majority of people in the rural areas lived in huts. The life expectancy was 59 years and infant mortality was 60 out of 1000 live births.
The notions that Cuba prior to Castro was a ritzy tropical paradise couldn’t be further from the truth. The vast majority of the population lived in poverty and a system of racial segregation--as horrible as the one in the US if not worse--was institutionalized and barred Afro-Cubans from accessing any employment opportunities other than domestic or manual labor. The only people who truly benefited from Batista’s Cuba were white wealthy landowners, business elites, and the professional class. These were the people that fled immediately after the revolution, not common workers or campesinos. The Cuban revolution was a true revolution of independence. It freed Cuba from the neo-colonial clutches of the United States which subjected the Cuban economy to the whim of monopolistic expansion by American corporations. There is no political independence without economic independence. Castro’s land reform and nationalization of major industries allowed Cuba to buck the reins of US imperialism and chart its own path of development without the destructive interference of an imperialistic power.
The US sees an independent Cuba as a threat to its grasp over the rest of Latin America and its own status as a global hegemonic power. Therefore, it can’t let Cuba’s socialist development succeed. Though the US has attempted various methods to sabotage the development through means of terrorism and assasination, the Embargo, otherwise known as the blockade has been the most enduring inhibitor to a prosperous and socialist Cuba. The blockade is incredibly thorough and applies not only to U.S. nationals and businesses based in the United States but also to businesses and nationals outside of the US as well.
N.C. Cai is a Chinese American Marxist Feminist. She is interested in socialist feminism, Western imperialism, history, and domestic policy, specifically in regards to drug laws, reproductive justice, and healthcare.
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About the Midwestern Marx Youth League
The Midwestern Marx Youth League (MMYL) was created to allow comrades in undergraduate or below to publish their work as they continue to develop both writing skills and knowledge of socialist and communist studies. Due to our unexpected popularity on Tik Tok, many young authors have approached us hoping to publish their work. We believe the most productive way to use this platform in a youth inclusive manner would be to form the youth league. This will give our young writers a platform to develop their writing and to discuss theory, history, and campus organizational affairs. The youth league will also be working with the editorial board to ensure theoretical development. If you are interested in joining the youth league please visit the submissions section for more information on how to contact us!