by Prof. James Petras
March 19, 2014
By rendering democratic processes impossible
and by overthrowing independent, democratically
Washington is making wars and violent upheavals
The two paths to 21st
century empire-building-via-proxies are illustrated through
the violent seizure of power in the Ukraine by a US-backed
junta and the electoral gains of the US-backed Colombian war
We will describe the 'mechanics' of US
intervention in the domestic politics of these two countries
and their profound external effects - that is how they
enhance imperial power on a continent-wide basis.
Political Intervention and
Proxy Regimes: Ukraine
The conversion of the Ukraine into a US-EU vassal state has been a prolonged
process which involved large scale, long term financing, indoctrination and
recruitment of cadres, organization and training of politicos and street
fighters and, above all, a capacity to combine direct action with electoral
Seizing power is a high stakes game
Ukraine, in the hands of clients,
provides a NATO with a military springboard into the heart of the
Ukraine's industrial and agricultural
resources provide a source of enormous wealth for Western investors
Ukraine is a strategic region for
penetrating the Caucuses and beyond
Washington invested over $5 billion dollars in
client-building, mostly in 'Western Ukraine', especially in and around Kiev,
focusing on 'civil society groups' and malleable political parties and
By 2004, the initial US political 'investment'
in regime change culminated in the so-called 'Orange Revolution' which
installed a short-lived pro-US-EU regime.
This, however, quickly degenerated amidst major
corruption scandals, mismanagement and oligarchical pillage of the national
treasury and public resources leading to the conviction of the former-Vice
President and the demise of the regime.
New elections produced a new regime, which
attempted to secure ties with both the EU and Russia via economic
agreements, while retaining many of the odious features (gross endemic
corruption) of the previous regime.
The US and EU, having lost thru democratic
elections, relaunched their 'direct action organizations' with a new radical
agenda. Neo-fascists seized power and established a dictatorial junta
through violent demonstrations, vandalism, armed assaults and mob action.
The composition of the new post-coup junta
reflected two sides of the US-backed political organizations:
neo-liberal politicos for managing
economic policy and forging closer ties with NATO
neo-fascists/violent nationalists to
impose order by force and fist, and crush pro-Russian Crimean
'autonomists' and ethnic Russians and other minorities, especially
in the industrialized south and east
Whatever else may ensue, the coup and the
resultant junta is fully subordinated to and dependent on the will of
Washington: claims of Ukrainian 'independence' notwithstanding.
The junta proceeded to purge the elected and
appointed government officials affiliated with the political parties of the
previous democratic regime and to persecute its supporters. Their purpose is
to ensure that subsequent managed elections will provide a pretense of
legitimacy, and elections will be limited to two sets of imperial clients:
the neo-liberals, (self-styled "moderates") and the neo-fascists dubbed as
Ukraine's road to imperialist power via a collaborator regime illustrates
the various instruments of empire building:
the use of imperial state funds,
channeled through NGOs, to political front groups and the build-up
of a 'mass base' in civil society
the financing of mass direct action
leading to a coup ('regime change')
the imposition of neo-liberal policies
by the client regime
imperial financing of the
re-organization and regroupment of mass direct action groups after
the demise of the first client regime
the transition from protest to violent
direct action as the major backdrop to the extremist sectors
(neo-fascists) organizing the seizure of power and purge of the
organizing an 'international media
campaign' to prop up the new junta while demonizing domestic and
international opposition (Russia)
political power centralized in the hands
of the junta, convoking "managed elections" limited to the victory
of one or the other pro-imperial pro-junta candidates
In summary, empire-builders operate on
several/levels: violent and electoral; social and political; and with
selected incumbents and rivals committed to one strategic aim: the seizure
of state power and the conversion of the ruling elite into willing vassals
Centerpiece of the Imperial Advance in Latin America
In the face of a continent-wide decline of US influence in Latin America,
Colombia stands out as a constant bulwark of
US imperial interests:
Colombia signed a free trade agreement
with the US
provided seven military bases and
invited thousands of US counter-insurgency operatives
collaborated in building large-scale
paramilitary death squads prepared for cross border raids against
Washington's arch enemy
Colombia's ruling oligarchy and military have
been able to resist the wave of massive democratic, national and popular
social upheavals and electoral victories that gave rise to the
post-neo-liberal states in,
- While Latin America has moved toward
'regional organizations' excluding the US, Colombia strengthened its
ties to the US through bilateral agreements.
- While Latin America reduced its dependence
on US markets, Colombia expanded its commercial ties.
- While Latin America reduced their military
ties to the Pentagon, Colombia tightened them.
- While Latin America moved toward greater
social inclusion by increasing taxes on foreign multinational
corporations, Colombia lowered corporate taxes.
- While Latin America expanded land
settlements for its landless rural populations, Colombia displaced over
4 million peasants as part of the US-designed 'scorched earth'
Colombia's "exceptional" unwavering submission
to US imperial interests is rooted in several large-scale, long-term
programs developed in Washington.
In 2000, President 'Bill'
Clinton committed the US to a
$6 billion dollar counter-insurgency program (Plan
Colombia) which greatly increased the brutal repressive capacity
of the Colombian elite to confront the popular grass roots movements of
peasants and workers.
Along with arms and training, US Special Forces
and ideologues entered Colombia to develop military and paramilitary terror
operations - aimed primarily at penetrating and decimating political
opposition and civil society social movements and assassinating activists
The US-backed Alvaro Uribe, notorious
narco-trafficker and the very personification of a ruthless imperial vassal,
became president over a 'Death-Squad Democracy'.
President Uribe further militarized Colombian society, savaged civil society
movements and crushed any possibility of a popular democratic revival, such
as were occurring throughout the rest of Latin America.
Thousands of activists, trade unionists, human
rights workers and peasants were murdered, tortured and jailed.
The 'Colombian System' combined the systematic use of para-militarism (death
squads) to smash local and regional trade union and peasant opposition and
the technification and massification of the military (over 300,000 soldiers)
in fighting the popular insurgency and 'emptying the countryside' of rebel
Large-scale multi-billion dollar drug
trafficking and money laundering formed the 'financial glue' to cement a
tight relationship among oligarchs, politicos, bankers and US
counter-insurgency advisers - creating a terrifying high-tech police state
bordering Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil - countries with substantial popular
The same state terror machinery, which decimated the pro-democracy social
movements, has protected, promoted and participated in 'stage-managed
elections', the hallmark of Colombia as a "death squad democracy".
Elections are held under a vast overlapping network of military bases, where
death squads and drug traffickers occupied towns and villages intimidating,
terrorizing and 'corrupting' the electorate. The only 'safe' protest in this
repressive atmosphere has been voter abstention.
Electoral outcomes are pre-ordained: oligarchs
never lose in death-squad democracies, they are the empire's most trusted
The cumulative effects of the decade and a half-long bloody purge of
Colombian civil society by Presidents Uribe and his successor,
Santos, have been to eliminate any consequential electoral opposition.
Washington has achieved its ideal:
a stable vassal state
a large-scale and obedient military
an oligarchy tied to US corporate elites
a tightly-controlled 'electoral' system
that never permits the election of a genuine opponent
The March 2014 Colombian elections brilliantly
illustrate the success of US strategic intervention in collaboration with
The vast majority of the electorate, over
two-thirds, abstained, demonstrating the absence of any real legitimacy
among the eligible voters. Among those who 'voted', ten percent
submitted 'spoiled' or blank ballots. Voter abstention and
ballot-spoilage was especially high in the rural regions and working
class areas which had been subject to state terror.
Given the intense state repression, the mass of
voters decided that no authentic pro-democracy party would have any chance
and so refused to legitimize the process.
The 30% who actually voted were largely urban
middle and upper class Colombians and residents in some rural areas
completely controlled by narco-terrorists and the military where 'voting'
may have been 'compulsory'.
Of a total of 32 million eligible voters in
Colombia, 18 million abstained and another 2.3 million submitted spoiled
ballots. The two dominant oligarchical coalitions led by President Santos
and ex-President Uribe received only 2.2 million and 2.05 million votes
respectively, a fraction of the number who abstained (14 million).
In this widely scorned electoral farce,
the center-left and left parties made a miserable showing. Colombia's
electoral system puts a propaganda veneer on dangerous, highly-militarized
vassal state primed to play a strategic role in US plans to "reconquer"
Two decades of systematic terror, financed by a six-billion dollar
militarization program, has guaranteed that Washington will not encounter
any substantial opposition in the legislature or presidential palace in
This is the 'acrid, gunpowder-tinged smell of
success' for US policymakers: violence is the midwife of the vassal state.
Colombia has been turned into the springboard
for developing an US-centered trade bloc and a military alliance to
undermine Venezuela's Bolivarian regional alliances, such as ALBA and Petro
Caribe as well as Venezuela's national security.
Bogota will try to influence neighboring right
and center-left regimes pushing them to embrace of the US Empire against
Large-scale, long-term subversion and organization in Ukraine and Colombia,
as well as the funding of paramilitary and civil society organizations (NGO)
has enabled Washington to:
construct strategic allies
build ties to oligarchs, malleable
politicians and paramilitary thugs
apply political terrorism for their
seizure of state power
The imperial planners have thus created "model
states" - devoid of consequential opponents and 'open' to sham elections
among rival vassal politicians.
Coups and juntas, orchestrated by longstanding political proxies, and highly
militarized states run by 'Death Squad Executives' are all legitimized by
electoral systems designed to expand and strengthen imperial power.
By rendering democratic processes and peaceful popular reforms impossible
and by overthrowing independent, democratically elected governments,
Washington is making wars and violent upheavals inevitable.