According to a variety of sources, the United States government has forcibly overthrown, and attempted to overthrow, foreign governments perceived as hostile, and replaced them with new ones, actions that have become known as regime change. It has been noted that governments targeted by the U.S. have included democratically-elected governments, thus the target "regimes" are not necessarily authoritarian governments or juntas, but in some cases are replaced by such dictatorships. In other cases dictatorships have been replaced by democracies.
Regime change has been attempted through direct involvement of U.S. operatives, the funding and training of insurgency groups within these countries, anti-regime propaganda campaigns, coup d'états, and other, often illegal, activities usually conducted as operations by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The U.S. has also accomplished regime change by direct U.S. military action. It has been argued that non-transparent United States government agencies who work in secret and sometimes mislead or do not fully implement the decisions of elected civilian leaders have been an important component of many such operations.
Shortly after the second world war, the Eisenhauer administration undertook a policy of overthrowing democratically elected governments in Latin America and elsewhere in accordance with the Monroe Doctrine which legitimized interference in other countries in the Western hemisphere and because of hysteria over communism.
The 1953 Iranian coup d’état was the Western-led covert operation that deposed the democratically-elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq. The coup was organized by the United States' CIA and the United Kingdom's MI6, who aided and abetted anti-Mosaddeq royalists and mutinous Iranian army officers in overthrowing the Prime Minister. CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. organized Operation Ajax to aid retired General Fazlollah Zahedi. In the CIA history called TPAJAX, the TP preceding AJAX meant that it was a covert operation taking place in Iran.
After deposing Iran's popularly elected leader who was taken to jail, CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt carried out the plan devised by CIA agent Donald Wilber to install Imperial Guard Colonel Nematollah Nassiri to establish a pro-US and pro-UK government, by bribing Iranian government officials, reporters, and businessmen.
This Anglo–American coup d’état was to ensure Western control of Iran's petroleum resources and to prevent the Soviet Union from competing for Iranian oil. Moreover, the Iranian motivations for deposing Prime Minister Mosaddeq included reactionary clerical dissatisfaction with a secular government, fomented with CIA propaganda.
Thus the much hated Shah of Iran was installed in power by the US. His secret police SAVAK was known for its brutality
The Shah appreciated the coup, Kermit Roosevelt wrote in his account of the affair. "'I owe my throne to God, my people, my army and to you!' By 'you' he [the shah] meant me and the two countries—Great Britain and the United States—I was representing. We were all heroes."
The 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état was a covert operation organized by the CIA to overthrow Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, the democratically-elected President of Guatemala. Arbenz's government put forth a number of new policies, such as seizing and expropriating unused, unfarmed land that private corporations set aside long ago and giving the land to peasants. CIA Director Allen Dulles' concern that Guatemala would become a beachhead for communism in the Western hemisphere reverberated within the CIA and the Eisenhower administration, in the context of the anti-Communist fears of the McCarthyist era. Arbenz instigated sweeping land reform acts that antagonized the U.S.-based multinational company United Fruit Company, which had large stakes in the old order of Guatemala and lobbied various levels of the US government to take action against Arbenz. Both Dulles and his brother were shareholders of United Fruit Company.
The operation, which lasted from late 1953 to 1954, planned to arm and train an ad-hoc "Liberation Army" of about 400 fighters under the command of a then-exiled Guatemalan army officer, Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, and to use them in conjunction with a complex and largely experimental diplomatic, economic, and propaganda campaign. The operation effectively ended the experimental period of representative democracy in Guatemala known as the "Ten Years of Spring", which ended with Arbenz's official resignation.
The operation was preceded by a plan, never fully implemented, as early as 1951, to supply anti-Arbenz forces with weapons, supplies, and funding, Operation PBFORTUNE. Afterwards there was an operation, Operation PBHISTORY, whose objective was to gather and analyze documents from the Arbenz government that would incriminate Arbenz as a Communist puppet.
Democratic Republic of the Congo 1960
Patrice Émery Lumumba, an African anti-colonial leader and the first legally elected Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after he helped to win its independence from Belgium in June 1960, was deposed in a US CIA-sponsored coup during the Congo Crisis. He was subsequently imprisoned and assassinated under controversial circumstances.
The 1964 Brazilian coup d'état was a coup d'état (though self-denominated Revolution) against President João Goulart by the Brazilian military on the night of 31 March 1964. Democratically elected as vice-president to Jânio Quadros, João Goulart (a moderate nationalist also known as "Jango") acceded to the presidency upon Quadros' resignation under difficult circumstances.
At the time, the Brazilian military forced Jango into a compromise with the Congress, where his powers would be reduced through the approval of a constitutional amendment changing Brazil to a Parliamentary Democracy with Jango as a weakened head of state in order to halt his plan Plano Trienal.
In 1963, however, Jango successfully re-established the presidential system through a referendum. His reforms, contemporaneously interpreted as socialist in a world increasingly polarized by the Cold War, went against the interests of the military and right-wing sectors of society.
The coup d'etat is generally referred as a Revolution by its sympathizers. Brazil went into a military dictatorship lasting until the election of Tancredo Neves in 1985. The Brazilian military coup is framed as part of the Cold War and a response to the perceived threat of communism, but its actual motivations were mostly internal, ranging from the increasing inflation under Goulart to the shift in the capitalist accumulation pattern, with the rise of monopolist capitalism. It stands alongside the 1973 Chilean coup d'état and the 1976 Argentine coup as a military intervention in Latin American democracy during the Cold War.
Republic of Ghana 1966
On February 24, 1966, Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah of the Ghana was overthrown by a claimed CIA-backed coup.
Nkrumah wanted Ghana to have modern armed forces, so he acquired aircraft and ships, and introduced conscription. He also gave military support to those fighting the Smith administration in Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia. In February 1966, while Nkrumah was on a state visit to Vietnam, his government was overthrown in a military coup, which some claim was backed by the CIA. Today, Nkrumah is one of the most respected leaders in African history. In 2000, he was voted Africa's man of the millennium by listeners to the BBC World Service.
The leader of the new Baathist government, Salam Arif, died in 1966 and his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, not a Ba'athist, assumed the presidency. Said K. Abuirsh alleges that in 1967 the government of Iraq was very close to giving concessions for the development of huge new oil fields in the country to France and the USSR. PBS reported that Robert Anderson, former secretary of the treasury under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, secretly met with the Ba'ath Party and came to a negotiated agreement according to which both the oil field concessions and sulphur mined in the northern part of the country would go to United States companies if the Ba'ath again took over power. In 1968, with a claimed backing of the CIA, Rahman Arif was overthrown by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr of the Baath Party, bringing Saddam Hussein to the threshold of power. Roger Morris in the Asia Times writes that the CIA deputy for the Middle East Archibald Roosevelt (grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt and cousin of Kermit Roosevelt, Jr.) stated, referring to Iraqi Ba'ath Party officers on his payroll in the 1963 and 1968 coups, "They're our boys, bought and paid for, but you always gotta remember that these people can't be trusted." General Ahmed Bakr was installed as president. Saddam Hussein was appointed the number two man.
Salvador Isabelino Allende Gossens served as the President of Chile from November 4, 1970 until the U.S. backed September 11, 1973 coup d'etat that ended his democratically elected Popular Unity government. He was a physician and the first democratically elected Marxist socialist to become president of a state in the Americas.
In office, Allende pursued a policy he called "La vía chilena al socialismo" ("The Chilean Way to Socialism"). This included nationalization of certain large-scale industries (notably copper), of the health care system, continuation of his predecessor Eduardo Frei Montalva's policies regarding the educational system, a program of free milk for children, and land redistribution. The previous government of Eduardo Frei had already partly nationalised copper by acquiring a 51 percent share in foreign owned mines. Allende expropriated the remaining percentage without compensating the U.S. companies that owned the mines.
Chilean presidents were allowed a maximum of 6 years, which may explain Allende's haste to restructure the economy. Not only did he have a significant restructuring program organised, it had to be a success if a successor to Allende was going to be elected.
At the beginning there was broad support in Congress to expand the government's already large part of the economy, as the Popular Unity and Christian Democrats together had a clear majority. But the government's efforts to pursue these policies led to strong opposition by landowners, some middle-class sectors, the rightist National Party, financiers, and the Roman Catholic Church (which in 1973 was displeased with the direction of the educational policy). Eventually the Christian Democrats united with the National Party in Congress.
The land-redistribution that Allende highlighted as one of the central policies of his government had already begun under his predecessor Eduardo Frei Montalva, who had expropriated between one-fifth and one-quarter of all properties liable to takeover. The Allende government's intention was to seize all holdings of more than eighty basic irrigated hectares. Allende also intended to improve the socio-economic welfare of Chile's poorest citizens; a key element was to provide employment, either in the new nationalised enterprises or on public works projects.
The Chilean coup d'état of 1973 is a landmark in the history of Chile and the Soviet-American Cold War. On 11 September 1973, the government of President Salvador Allende was overthrown by the military in a coup d’état.
The coup occurred two months after a first failed attempt, the Tanquetazo — Tank putsch — and a month after the Chamber of Deputies (with an Opposition majority) condemned President Allende’s alleged breaches of the Constitution. President Allende died during the coup; the cause of his death remains disputed.
General Augusto Pinochet assumed power after deposing President Salvador Allende, establishing a military government that ruled until 1990. This right-wing military deposition of an elected Socialist president by a U.S.-sponsored caudillo licenced the U.S.S.R. to retract from Russo-American détente in pursuit of foreign policy ambitions in the Third World.
Alan Greenspan personally instructed Pinochet in how to run his economy based on free market principles of privatization, deregulation and laissez faire capitalism. These policies enriched the upper class while making the lives of Chile's peasants more miserable.
The 1976 Argentine coup was a coup d'état that overthrew Isabel Perón on 24 March 1976, in Argentina. In her place, a military junta was installed, which was headed by General Jorge Rafael Videla, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera and Brigadier Orlando Ramón Agosti. The junta took the official name of "National Reorganization Process," and remained in power until 1983.
Although political repression (the so-called "Dirty War") began before the coup, as soon as Operativo Independencia, it was heavily extended after the coup and resulted in the "disappearances" of approximately 30,000 persons. The United States Department of State learned of the preparations of the coup two months before. Two days after the coup, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, William D. Rogers, stated "This junta is testing the basic proposition that Argentina is not governable...I think that's a distinctly odds-on choice." and "I think also we've got to expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood, in Argentina before too long. I think they're going to have to come down very hard not only on the terrorists but on the dissidents of trade unions and their parties." US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger stated that "Whatever chance they have, they will need a little encouragement" and "because I do want to encourage them. I don't want to give the sense that they're harassed by the United States." In June 1976, when human rights violations by the junta were criticized in the US, Kissinger reiterated support to the junta, directly addressing himself to Argentine Foreign Minister Admiral Cesar Augusto Guzzetti during a meeting in Santiago de Chile .
Although political repression (the so-called "Dirty War") began before the coup, as soon as Operativo Independencia, it was heavily extended after the coup and resulted in the "disappearances" of approximately 30,000 persons.
The United States Department of State learned of the preparations of the coup two months before.
Two days after the coup, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, William D. Rogers, stated "This junta is testing the basic proposition that Argentina is not governable...I think that's a distinctly odds-on choice." and "I think also we've got to expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood, in Argentina before too long. I think they're going to have to come down very hard not only on the terrorists but on the dissidents of trade unions and their parties." US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger stated that "Whatever chance they have, they will need a little encouragement" and "because I do want to encourage them. I don't want to give the sense that they're harassed by the United States."
In June 1976, when human rights violations by the junta were criticized in the US, Kissinger reiterated support to the junta, directly addressing himself to Argentine Foreign Minister Admiral Cesar Augusto Guzzetti during a meeting in Santiago de Chile .
CIA directed the Contra revolution, planted harbor mines and sunk civilian ships to overthrow the revolutionary Sandinista government of Nicaragua. After the Boland Amendment was enacted, it became illegal under U.S. law to fund the Contras; National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, Deputy National Security Adviser Admiral John Poindexter, National Security Council staffer Col. Oliver North and others continued an illegal operation to fund the Contras, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal.
The U.S argued that:
The United States initially provided substantial economic assistance to the Sandinista-dominated regime. We were largely instrumental in the OAS action delegitimizing the Somoza regime and laying the groundwork for installation for the new junta. Later, when the Sandinista role in the Salvadoran conflict became clear, we sought through a combination of private diplomatic contacts and suspension of assistance to convince Nicaragua to halt its subversion. Later still, economic measures and further diplomatic efforts were employed to try to effect changes in Sandinista behavior.
Nicaragua's neighbors have asked for assistance against Nicaraguan aggression, and the United States has responded. Those countries have repeatedly and publicly made clear that they consider themselves to be the victims of aggression from Nicaragua, and that they desire United States assistance in meeting both subversive attacks and the conventional threat posed by the relatively immense Nicaraguan Armed Forces.
In 1993 the CIA helped in overthrowing Jorge Serrano Elías. Jorge then attempted a self-coup, suspended the constitution, dissolved Congress and the Supreme Court, and imposed censorship. He was replaced by Ramiro de León Carpio.
The crisis in Honduras, where members of the country’s military abruptly awakened President Manuel Zelaya on Sunday and forced him out of the country in his bedclothes, is pitting Mr. Obama against the ghosts of past American foreign policy in Latin America.
The United States has a history of backing rival political factions and instigating coups in the region, and administration officials have found themselves on the defensive in recent days, dismissing repeated allegations by President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela that the C.I.A. may have had a hand in the president’s removal.
And from Jeremy Scahill:
While the US has issued heavily-qualified statements critical of the coup—in the aftermath of the events in Honduras—the US could have flexed its tremendous economic muscle before the coup and told the military coup plotters to stand down. The US ties to the Honduran military and political establishment run far too deep for all of this to have gone down without at least tacit support or the turning of a blind eye by some US political or military official(s).
Here are some facts to consider: the US is the top trading partner for Honduras. The coup plotters/supporters in the Honduran Congress are supporters of the “free trade agreements” Washington has imposed on the region. The coup leaders view their actions, in part, as a rejection of Hugo Chavez’s influence in Honduras and with Zelaya and an embrace of the United States and Washington’s “vision” for the region. Obama and the US military could likely have halted this coup with a simple series of phone calls.