Noam Chomsky: Brazil’s Rousseff “Impeached by a Gang of Thieves”

Democracy Now

HAVANA TIMESAs protests continue in Brazil over the Legislature’s vote to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and put her on trial, Noam Chomsky notes that “we have the one leading politician who hasn’t stolen to enrich herself, who’s being impeached by a gang of thieves, who have done so.

That does count as a kind of soft coup.” Rousseff’s replacement, Brazil’s former vice president, Michel Temer, is a member of the opposition PMDB party who is implicated in Brazil’s massive corruption scandal involving state-owned oil company Petrobras, and has now appointed an all-white male Cabinet charged with implementing corporate-friendly policies.


AMY GOODMAN: What about what’s happening right now in Brazil, where protests are continuing over the Legislature’s vote to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and put her on trial? Now El Salvador has refused to recognize the new Brazilian government. The Brazilian—the Salvadoran president, Cerén, said Rousseff’s ouster had, quote, “the appearance of a coup d’état.” What’s happening there? And what about the difference between—it looked like perhaps Bush saved Latin America simply by not focusing on it, totally wrapped up in Iraq and Afghanistan. It looks like the Obama administration is paying a bit more attention.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I don’t think it’s just a matter of not paying attention. Latin America has, to a significant extent, liberated itself from foreign—meaning mostly U.S.—domination in the past 10 or 15 years. That’s a dramatic development in world affairs. It’s the first time in 500 years. It’s a big change.

So the so-called lack of attention is partly the fact that the U.S. is kind of being driven out of the hemisphere, less that it can do. It used to be able to overthrow governments, carry out coups at will and so on. It tries.

There have been three—maybe it depends how you count them—coups, coup attempts this century. One in Venezuela in 2002 succeeded for a couple of days, backed by the U.S., overthrown by popular reaction. A second in Haiti, 2004, succeeded. The U.S. and France—Canada helped—kidnapped the president, sent him off to Central Africa, won’t permit his party to run in elections. That was a successful coup. Honduras, under Obama, there was a military coup, overthrew a reformist president. The United States was almost alone in pretty much legitimizing the coup, you know, claiming that the elections under the coup regime were legitimate. Honduras, always a very poor, repressed society, became a total horror chamber. Huge flow of refugees, we throw them back in the border, back to the violence, which we helped create. Paraguay, there was a kind of a semi-coup. What’s happening—also to get rid of a progressive priest who was running the country briefly.

What’s happening in Brazil now is extremely unfortunate in many ways. First of all, there has been a massive level of corruption. Regrettably, the Workers’ Party, Lula’s party, which had a real opportunity to achieve something extremely significant, and did make some considerable positive changes, nevertheless joined the rest—the traditional elite in just wholesale robbery. And that should—that should be punished.

On the other hand, what’s happening now, what you quoted from El Salvador, I think, is pretty accurate. It’s a kind of a soft coup. The elite detested the Workers’ Party and is using this opportunity to get rid of the party that won the elections. They’re not waiting for the elections, which they’d probably lose, but they want to get rid of it, exploiting an economic recession, which is serious, and the massive corruption that’s been exposed.

But as even The New York Times pointed out, Dilma Rousseff is maybe the one politician who hasn’t stolen in order to benefit herself. She’s being charged with manipulations in the budget, which are pretty standard in many countries, taking from one pocket and putting it into another. Maybe it’s a misdeed of some kind, but certainly doesn’t justify impeachment. In fact, she’s—we have the one leading politician who hasn’t stolen to enrich herself, who’s being impeached by a gang of thieves, who have done so. That does count as a kind of soft coup. I think that’s correct.

8 thoughts on “Noam Chomsky: Brazil’s Rousseff “Impeached by a Gang of Thieves”

  • Well the linked article paints a different picture “The Bush administration … immediately endorsed the new government under businessman Pedro Carmona.” “Now officials at the Organisation of American States and other diplomatic sources, talking to The Observer, assert that the US administration was not only aware the coup was about to take place, but had sanctioned it, presuming it to be destined for success.”. Also look at the link here “Meanwhile, the Bush administration had already issued a statement recognizing the coup government and calling on other nations to do the same.”

    Also check the released CIA documents as discussed here “Newly released CIA documents show the Bush administration — at the very least–knew about the plot to overthrow Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez weeks before the April 2002 military coup and did nothing to stop it.”

    I can’t think that all these independent outlets have got it wrong.

  • An interesting datum that I came across recently while reading about Juan Peron: after WWII, the US and its allies enforced an embargo against fascist Spain, and kept it out of the UN. (This changed a few years later, when the US embraced Franco, but it’s interesting that this weapon was used against a Rightist regime twenty years before it was used against Cuba. And with equally disappointing results.)

  • Not true, we heard about rumors of the coup from the military and our ambassador went to Chavez with the information.

    I do not remember the issue of recognition coming up. The whole situation happened very quickly. The White House did make an unfortunate if true statement that Chavez’s action provoked his overthrow, but the morning after the new President took power we called him and told him that it was unacceptable that he had dissolved the congress and Supreme court. It was only several hours latter when others parts of the miltary took the new President and senior generals into custody.

  • Chomsky’s ‘schtick’ is identifying the worst examples or aspects of capitalism, at times, as you noted, even distorting the facts, and the constructing his criticisms based on these extreme or distorted examples. He NEVER offers real-world specific solutions to problems. Similar to a Donald Trump, he preys on our lesser angels, taking advantage of frustration and fear. His professorly exterior disguises a pessimistic old man.

  • Not strictly true. They knew about the coup yet didn’t notify the democratically elected government. They also immediately recognized the coup government. It was only when the coup started to fail did they start to backtrack. They’ve also tried to manipulate the political situation on numerous occasions as can be seen in Wikileaks.

  • As is usual in most of Chomsky’s non-professional work, he distorts the truth. The US did not support the 2002 overthrow of Venezuela’s Chavez. As numerous investigations have shown, it actually worked hard to prevent a coup. {I was there and spent months telling the opposition the US would not support a coup.) What happened in Honduras was not a coup but a legal impeachment by the Congress and the Supreme court and the US government initially opposed the overthrow as well as supporting the exclusion of Honduras from the OAS. For those who adore Chomsky I suggest that they go back to his writings, even to the 1960s and to the extent possible check his sources. You will find numerous cases where he has distorted their contents. There are many things about US policy over the years that can be criticized, but it should be done with intellectual integrity. Chomsky has none.>

  • So true

  • Where oh where is Mr. John Goodrich? How he would wallow in Noam Chomsky being the centre piece of an article re-published in Havana Times. It would enable yet further dissertation about “State capitalism”.

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