Regime change in Latin America: Why Russia is concerned?

Dmitry Babich
Dmitry Babich was born in Moscow, in 1970. He has worked for various media outlets for 25 years, including The Moscow News and RIA Novosti news agency. He is currently working as a political analyst at Sputnik International, and is a frequent guest on BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN commenting on international affairs and history.
Women shout slogans during a protest against Brazil's interim President Michel Temer and in support of suspended President Dilma Rousseff at Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 17, 2016. © Nacho Doce
A Russian diplomatic call to outlaw the US-sponsored policy of “regime change” is timelier than ever following recent events in Latin America.

The developments there are now routinely described as ‘institutional’ coups d’état, with popular presidents removed from power and replaced by neoliberal functionaries, enjoying almost unhidden support of the US government and American financial capital.

“What we see in the world now is an attempt by the so-called historic West to preserve its dominance in international affairs,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said at a conference on Latin American development, held in Moscow. “Latin America is not an exception to this global trend. We see attempts by the United States to interfere directly into the internal affairs of some countries in the region… Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela are just the most recent examples.”

Last week, Brazil’s leftist President Dilma Rousseff was removed from power by a very unpopular group of senators, despite having the votes of 54 million citizens, who expressed their will a year and a half ago. Rousseff was removed because of accusations of corruption. However, even the mainstream media in the United States did not consider these accusations to be well founded.

The New York Times, on the eve of Rousseff’s ousting, called accusations against her “debatable” and added that “Ms. Rousseff is right to question the motives and moral authority of the politicians who were seeking to oust her.”

In 2014-2015, a similar campaign of personal attacks and ‘character assassination’ took place in Argentina against that country’s leftist president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

In both cases, the US-preferred candidates somehow managed to get to power posing as the only viable alternatives to the ousted women leaders.
In Brazil, the former vice-president Michel Temer took the reins of power without elections. Mr. Temer, whose popularity in Brazil is in single digits, has already started what RT’s expert on Latin America Juan Manuel Karg called a “realignment” of Brazil’s foreign policy. That “realignment” is supposed “to move Brazil closer to the United States and to the EU with or without Mercosur” (a bloc integrating the markets and economies of Latin American countries).

It is worth noting that the foreign policy program of Temer’s party PMDB from 2015 does not even mention BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – an important bloc of countries which Brazil played an important role in founding in 2009,” Juan Manuel Karg writes on RT’s Spanish page. 

PMDB, which stands for the Party of Brazilian Democratic Movement, is a loose union of centrist and rightist forces, which never took more votes than Ms. Rousseff’s Workers’ Party. Temer himself has a disapproval rating of 58 percent in Brazil.

New Argentinian President Mauricio Macri also did not seem to be keen on following Fernandez de Kirchner’s policy of discovering new horizons for Argentina in China and Russia. During her tenure between 2007 and 2015, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner several times met with Russian presidents Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, allowed RT Spanish to be included in the set of TV channels accessible for Argentina’s broadest television public, and expanded trade ties with Russia. This policy so far has not been continued under Macri.

In Venezuela, the situation is even clearer: the US makes no secret of its support for the “anti-chavista” opposition to President Nicolas Maduro, the successor to leftist leader Hugo Chavez, who gave his name to “chavizmo,” an ideology combining oil sales to the US with spending the proceeds from these sales on social development.

The American media gives full support to anti-chavista opposition, despite its role in violent street protests, which have claimed the lives of several dozen people. “The US policy of support for violent protests is inexcusable, since Venezuela is not a dictatorship. The country has many anti-Maduro media outlets, people have been given a chance to elect the majority of President Maduro’s critics into parliament,” explains Andres Izarra, a cabinet minister in Mr. Maduro’s cabinet in 2014. “The Venezuelan government suggested dialogue with the government of the United States, we wanted a compromise. But Washington simply has no policy towards Latin America except the so-called regime change.”

But why is Russia concerned with US pressure on Latin American countries? Seemingly, Moscow’s economic interests are not focused on that region. The share of Latin American countries in Russia’s foreign trade, with the notable exception of Venezuela, remains relatively small; it is still dwarfed by Russia’s trade with the EU or with China.

But the point is that in recent years it became absolutely clear to Russian diplomats that the policy of “regime change” in Latin America, Syria, Ukraine and – last, but not least – Russia itself, is conducted by the same people in Washington D.C. and in Brussels, and the same technology is being used for the purpose. Therefore, the events in faraway Brazil may have a direct impact on the developments in Russia.

“Attempts to “seat out” US-led color revolutions in other countries are simply not wise,” says Joshua Tartakovsky, a US-based foreign policy analyst, who recently visited both Venezuela and Ukraine. “Sooner or later, the American enthusiasts of regime change plan to go after all the regimes which even potentially can challenge American domination. First, they will do it in the Western hemisphere, but it won’t take long before they come to Russia, China and India too. The only way to survive for BRICS is to come together and act together – before it is too late.” 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, unlike the official representatives of India and China, openly says that he sees the West’s attempting to bring about a “regime change” in his country. In Latin America, only the Venezuelan foreign minister has similar courage to face the facts, while the others prefer the Tartakovsky-described tactic of “seating out” the storms of Washington-inspired revolutions.

“I listened to the Western leaders who announced economic sanctions against Russia,” Lavrov said at a meeting with foreign policy experts in autumn 2014. He referred to the aftermath of the US-sponsored Ukrainian coup in 2014, which ousted the centrist Ukrainian President Yanukovich and led to a civil war.

“These Western leaders openly said that sanctions should be applied in a way that would cripple Russia’s economy and lead to popular protests. So, the West is sending us a message: we don’t even want to change the policy of the Russian Federation; we want to change the Russian Federation’s regime. In fact they are not even denying that desire of theirs.”

How far will Russia go in its support for independence of Latin American countries? Who and how can shield them from the policy of “regime change” conducted by their powerful northern neighbor? Obviously, Lavrov is not under the illusion Russian can guarantee such independence alone. At the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations in autumn 2014, the Russian foreign minister suggested making a special UN declaration on the inadmissibility of the policy of “regime change” and on “non-recognition of coups as methods of changing state power.” 

At the time, the Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff did not openly support Lavrov’s suggestion, even though she was present at that UN General Assembly. Earlier, in 2013, she even made an indignant speech at the United Nations about the NSA’s eavesdropping of Brazil’s representatives at the UN and even on the office of the president of Brazil.

Rousseff might regret not seizing the opportunity to act against “regime change” then. Now it appears to be too late – for her and, most likely, for Brazil.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.