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Friday,October 30,2020 23:33 PM

The Annoying US Foreign Policy.

By Vision Reporter

Added 6th May 2002 03:00 AM

ON April 11, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, twice elected to the presidency by the largest majorities in the country's history, was overthrown by a group of business leaders and army generals who had almost all been in contact with senior US State Department of

ON April 11, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, twice elected to the presidency by the largest majorities in the country's history, was overthrown by a group of business leaders and army generals who had almost all been in contact with senior US State Department of

ON April 11, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, twice elected to the presidency by the largest majorities in the country's history, was overthrown by a group of business leaders and army generals who had almost all been in contact with senior US State Department officials in the preceding months. On the day of the coup, President George W. Bush's key policy-maker on Latin America, Otto Reich, summoned Latin American ambassadors to his office. He declared that the removal of Chavez did not breach the anti-coup ‘democracy clause’ of the Organisation of American States because Chavez had resigned and was "responsible for his fate." But Chavez hadn’t really resigned at all, of course; he had been arrested and confined by the army. The coup had Washington's approval because Chavez's radical policies had been annoying the US government for years. So when middle-ranking army officers rebelled against their superiors and helped popular demonstrators to reverse the coup and return Chavez to power after only two days, President Bush did not celebrate the triumph of democracy in Venezuela. Instead, he publicly expressed the hope that Chavez had “learned his lesson”. Past forward two weeks to the end of April and the referendum in Pakistan on General Pervez Musharraf's rule. Musharraf, the latest in a long line of military dictators who have ruled Pakistan for over half of its 55-year history as an independent state, seized power from the elected government in 1999, and was stuck with a promise to hold parliamentary elections next October. So he decided to take out a little insurance, in the form of a referendum that would confirm him in the presidency until 2007. It was a typical dictator's referendum, with no voter lists, stuffed ballot boxes, and an official result that gave Musharraf almost 98 percent of the votes. Pakistan's main democratic parties claimed that as little as 5 percent of the population had actually bothered to vote, and the Independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that the voting abuses “exceeded its worst fears.” But the United States government finds Musharraf a useful ally in its war against the remnants of al-Qaeda, so it had absolutely nothing to say about the rigged referendum. So far, so predictable — and at this point, it is customary to wax indignant about the hypocrisy of the US government and the damage that its cynical policies do to the cause of democracy in the world. But the truth is that the policies of the United States make little difference to the success or otherwise of democracy. The people of each country have to do it for themselves -- and by and large, they do. Almost none of the chain reaction of non-violent democratic revolutions that have rolled around the world in the past fifteen years enjoyed American support in their early stages. Cory Aquino's ‘people power’ revolution in the Philippines in 1986 didn't have it, nor did the copycat revolutions against military regimes in South Korea and Thailand in the next couple of years, nor even the wave of revolutions that swept away the Communist regimes of Europe in 1989-91. Long after the writing on the wall was plain to any Russian with eyes, the US embassy in Moscow was still acting as the assumption that Mikhail Gorbachev and the Communist Party were going to last. The United States is a democracy at home, but abroad it is just another great power. It uses the rhetoric of democracy whenever possible, for it is powerful stuff, but when America's foreign interests (real or perceived) clash with its ideals, the outcome is no contest. People who feign surprise about this, or work themselves up into a synthetic outrage about it, are either trying to manipulate their audience, or terminally naive. But the point is that American intervention (or the lack of it) makes so little difference. The United States didn't want Hugo Chavez as president of Venezuela, but it has him back anyway. It didn't want Pervez Musharraf as dictator of Pakistan in 1999, either, but it couldn't stop him then -- nor could it have prevented him from holding and 'winning' the referendum last week even if it had wanted to. American power to influence such events is far less than either the managers inside the White House or the critics outside imagine. Which is actually quite a comforting thought. --Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist

The Annoying US Foreign Policy.

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