The Biden administration promised that things would change. The first month has already offered a few opportunities for an early measure of whether that change includes coups. It hasn’t been a great start.
One of the early signs that coup plotters were still welcome in the club was Biden’s nomination of Victoria Nuland for under secretary of state for political affairs. Nuland was the conductor of the US orchestrated Ukrainian coup. In 2014, Nuland was caught on tape plotting the coup. Less well known is that, during that phone call, she was caught exposing that then vice president Biden would be willing to "midwife" the coup. No wonder orchestrating a coup didn’t disqualify Nuland for Biden: Biden approved of the coup. Nuland’s appointment suggests that he still does.
And he still approves of the Venezuelan coup too.
In 2019, Nicolás Maduro’s election was reversed with the claim that the election was uncontested and illegitimate. Instead, the US would recognize Juan Guaidó. But the election was neither uncontested nor illegitimate. It was a coup.
The attempt to make the election seem uncontested was manipulated by the US. Jose Rodriguez, Venezuela’s communications minister, says that then US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the opposition’s spokesperson, Julio Borges, with instructions to boycott. Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor of Latin American History at Pomona College, and one of the world’s leading experts on Venezuelan history and politics, told me in a personal correspondence that the radical opposition boycotted the election "in order to claim that Maduro lacked legitimacy.”
And the US didn’t stop at the radical opposition. Latin America expert Mark Weisbrot reports that "the leading opposition contender for Venezuela’s May presidential election, Henri Falcón, was told by US officials that the Trump administration would consider financial sanctions against him if he entered the presidential race." When Falcón remained unintimidated, Todd Robinson, the top US diplomat in Venezuela, "met with Falcon" to try "to persuade him to withdraw as his challenge was undermining US efforts to isolate Maduro."
And the election wasn’t illegitimate either. At least four different groups of international observers monitored the election, including the International Electoral Accompaniment Mission of Latin America’s Council of Electoral Experts, an African Mission, and a mission made up of four Caribbean countries. All four certified the election as fair.
On January 19, Biden’s then nominee for secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, told members of the US senate that Biden will continue to recognize coup president Juan Guaidó. Blinken called for “an effective policy that can restore Venezuela to democracy.” As of February 3, there had been no change. State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed that the US recognizes Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president. Then on March 2, the State Department went further: Secretary of State Blinken called "Interim President Juan Guaidó," stressing the need for "free and fair elections." Blinken said that the US is working with the usual cast of "likeminded allies," like the OAS, to exert pressure on Venezuela.
Biden seems to be continuing that coup too.
From 2007-2017, Rafael Correa served as the popular president of Ecuador. He brought in the socialist Citizen’s Revolution for the people of Ecuador. In 2017, Correa’s vice president, Lenín Moreno, was elected president. The people elected him on the promise that he would continue his predecessor’s progressive policies. Inexplicably, with US backing, Moreno betrayed the people of Ecuador and converted to the right, engaging in a policy of privatization and the elimination of social programs. His popularity plummeted to 8%.
On February 7, the people of Ecuador finally got their much anticipated election. And they did what they had been waiting to do: they voted overwhelmingly for Andrés Arauz, a follower of Correa. But that was not what the Biden administration wanted them to do. Biden seems to be engaging in his first coup.
Arauz won the first round of the election with 32.71% of the vote. His nearest competitor, Guillermo Lasso, was able to get only 19.74%. That result would grant only those two admission into the second round of voting. But the US State Department and the US funded Organization of American States (OAS) are pushing a recount and a disqualification of Arauz.
Days before the election, Moreno met in Washington with US senator Bob Menendez, Biden’s Latin American policy advisor Juan Sebastian Gonzalez and the general secretary of the OAS. Menendez is named in a leaked audio as a contributor to the Bolivian coup that swept Evo Morales from power, and the head of the OAS played a vital role in the Bolivian coup. Now Moreno, his allies and the OAS are calling for a recount in Ecuador, specifically in the precincts where the second and third place candidates lost: a recount for which there is no legal justification. Nonetheless, the Biden administration is backing the illegal tactic, as acting assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Julie Chung, announced that the "U.S. government applauds" the recount decision.
Together with the right wing government of Columbia, they are also spreading fabricated stories that link Arauz to the National Liberation Army, a left wing guerrilla group, including claims that his campaign was financed by its leader.
They are also attempting to forge an alliance between the second, third and fourth place candidates to defeat Arauz, including illegally slipping the third place candidate, Yanku Pérez, into the run-off election. Pérez has revealed that the US embassy has assured him that he would be in the run-off, which is illegal because he failed to cross the required vote threshold.
The aim of the propaganda campaign is to disqualify Arauz from the run-off election coming up on April 11; the aim of the recount and the inclusion of Pérez is to provide a challenger to Arauz who may have a better chance than unpopular Lasso if Arauz is not disqualified.
Ecuador could be Biden’s first coup.
Haiti and Egypt
Two more smaller tests for Biden are taking place in Haiti and Egypt.
There is a long history of US coups in Haiti. Haiti today is ruled by the US backed Jovenel Moïse. Moïse’s term is over, but he is trying to hold on to another year of power, claiming it is owed to him because disputes over the 2015 election cut into his term. Even though the Haitian judiciary has refuted his claim, the US State Department is backing it. State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing that “a new elected president should succeed President Moïse when his term ends on February 7th, 2022.”
The Biden administration seems to be backing at least Moïse’s temporary refusal to vacate office.
In 2013, Egypt’s democratically elected Mohamed Morsi was removed in a military coup. Today, Egypt is still ruled by Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. In a February 16, news release, the State Department approved the sale of $197 million of military equipment to Egypt, calling al-Sisi’s government "an important strategic partner," suggesting, once again, the backing of a coup government.
Though it is certainly early in Biden’s term, these early tests suggest that Biden may continue in an unbroken tradition of supporting coups. Perhaps in this sense, things won’t change.
Ted Snider has a graduate degree in philosophy and writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.