Operation Condor 2.0: After Bolivia Coup, Trump Dubs Nicaragua ‘National Security Threat’ & Targets Mexico

Left-wing forces in Latin America are warning of a revival of a Cold War era campaign by the U.S. of violent subterfuge and  support for right-wing dictatorships across the region, Ben Norton reports.

By Ben Norton
The Grayzone

One successful coup against a democratically elected socialist president is not enough, it seems.

Immediately after overseeing a far-right military coup in Bolivia on Nov. 10, the Trump administration set its sights once again on Nicaragua, whose democratically elected Sandinista government defeated a violent right-wing coup attempt in 2018.

Washington dubbed Nicaragua a threat to U.S. national security, and announced that it will be expanding its suffocating sanctions on the tiny Central American nation.

President Donald Trump is also turning up the heat on Mexico, baselessly linking the country to terrorism and even hinting at potential military intervention. The moves come as the country’s left-leaning President Andrés Manuel López Obrador warns of right-wing attempts at a coup.

As Washington’s rightist allies in Colombia, Brazil, Chile and Ecuador are desperately beating back massive grassroots uprisings against neoliberal austerity policies and yawning inequality gaps, the United States is ramping up its aggression against the region’s few remaining progressive governments.

These moves have led left-wing forces in Latin America to warn of a 21st-century revival of Operation Condor, the Cold War era campaign of violent subterfuge and U.S. support for right-wing dictatorships across the region.

Nicaragua Declared ‘National Security Threat’

A day after the U.S.-backed far-right coup in Bolivia, the White House released a statement applauding the military putsch and making it clear that two countries were next on Washington’s target list: “These events send a strong signal to the illegitimate regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua,” Trump declared.

On Nov. 25, the Trump White House then quietly issued a statement characterizing Nicaragua as an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

This prolonged for an additional year an executive order Trump had signed in 2018 declaring a state of “national emergency” on the Central American country.

Trump’s 2018 declaration came after a failed violent right-wing coup attempt in Nicaragua. The U.S. government has funded and supported many of the opposition groups that sought to topple elected Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, and cheered them on as they sought to overthrow him.

The 2018 national security threat designation was quickly followed by economic warfare. In December the U.S. Congress approved the NICA Act without any opposition. This legislation gave Trump the authority to impose sanctions on Nicaragua, and prevents international financial institutions from doing business with Managua.

Trump’s new 2019 statement spewed outlandish propaganda against Nicaragua, referring to its democratically elected government — which for decades has been targeted for overthrow by Washington — as a violent and corrupt “regime.”

This executive order is similar to one made by President Barack Obama in 2015, which designated Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security.

Both orders were used to justify the unilateral imposition of severe economic sanctions. And Trump’s renewal of the order paves the way for an escalated economic attack on Nicaragua.

The extension received negligible coverage in mainstream English-language corporate media, but right-wing Spanish-language outlets in Latin America heavily amplified it.

And opposition activists are gleefully cheering on the intensification of Washington’s hybrid warfare against Managua.

More Aggressive U.S, Sanctions Against Nicaragua

Voice of America (VOA), the U.S. government’s main foreign broadcasting service, noted that the extension of the executive order will be followed with more economic attacks.

Washington’s ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Carlos Trujillo, told VOA, “The pressure against Nicaragua is going to continue.”

The OAS representative added that Trump will be announcing new sanctions against the Nicaraguan government in the coming weeks.

VOA stated clearly that “Nicaragua, along with Cuba and Venezuela, is one of the Latin American countries whose government Trump has made a priority to put diplomatic and economic pressure on to bring about regime change.”

This is not just rhetoric. The U.S. Department of the Treasury updated the Nicaragua-related sanctions section of its website as recently as Nov. 8.

And in September, the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control announced a more comprehensive set of regulations,” strengthening the existing sanctions on Nicaragua.

Voice of America’s report quoted several right-wing Nicaraguans who openly called for more U.S. pressure against their country.

Bianca Jagger, a celebrity opposition activist formerly married to Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger, called on the U.S. to impose sanctions on Nicaragua’s military in particular.

“The Nicaraguan military has not been touched because they [US officials] are hoping that the military will like act the military in Bolivia,” Jagger said, referring to the military officials who violently overthrew Bolivia’s democratically elected president.

Many of these military leaders had been trained at the U.S. government’s School of the Americas, a notorious base of subversion dating back to Operation Condor. Latin American media has been filled in recent days with reports that Bolivian soldiers were paid $50,000 and generals were paid up to $1 million to carry out the putsch.

VOA added that “in the case of the Central American government [of Nicaragua], the effect that sanctions can have can be greater because it is a more economically vulnerable country.”

VOA quoted Roberto Courtney, a prominent exiled right-wing activist and executive director of the opposition group Ethics and Transparency, which monitors elections in Nicaragua and is supported by the U.S. government’s regime-change arm, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Courtney, who claims to be a human rights activist, salivated over the prospects of U.S. economic war on his country, telling VOA, “There is a bit of a difference [between Nicaragua and Bolivia] … the economic vulnerability makes it more likely that the sanctions will have an effect.”

Courtney, who was described by VOA as an “expert on the electoral process,” added, “If there is a stick, there must also be a carrot.” He said the OAS could help apply diplomatic and political pressure against Nicaragua’s government.

These unilateral American sanctions are illegal under international law, and considered an act of war. Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has characterized U.S. economic warfare “financial terrorism,” saying it disproportionately targets civilians in order to turn them against their government.

Top right-wing Nicaraguan opposition groups applauded Trump for extending the executive order and for pledging new sanctions against their country.

The Nicaraguan Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, an opposition front group that brings together numerous opposition groups, several of which are also funded by the U.S.government’s NED, welcomed the order.

Trump Dubs Drug Cartels in Mexico ‘Terrorists’

While the U.S. targeting of Nicaragua and Venezuela’s governments is nothing new, Donald Trump is setting his sights on a longtime U.S. ally in Mexico.

In 2018, Mexican voters made history when they elected Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president in a landslide. López Obrador, who is often referred to by his initials AMLO, is Mexico’s first left-wing president in more than five decades. He ran on a progressive campaign pledging to boost social spending, cut poverty, combat corruption and even decriminalize drugs.

AMLO is wildly popular in Mexico. In February, he had a record-breaking 86 percent approval rating. And he has earned this widespread support by pledging to combat neoliberal capitalist orthodoxy.

“The neoliberal economic model has been a disaster, a calamity for the public life of the country,” AMLO has declared. “The child of neoliberalism is corruption.”

When he unveiled his multibillion-dollar National Development Plan, López Obrador announced the end to “the long night of neoliberalism.”

AMLO’s left-wing policies have caused shockwaves in Washington, which has long relied on neoliberal Mexican leaders ensuring a steady cheap exploitable labor base and maintaining a reliable market for U.S. goods and open borders for U.S. capital and corporations.

On Nov. 27 — a day after declaring Nicaragua a “national security threat” — Trump announced that the U.S. government will be designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.”

Such a designation could pave the way for direct U.S. military intervention in Mexico.

Trump revealed this new policy in an interview with right-wing Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. “Are you going to designate those cartels in Mexico as terror groups and start hitting them with drones and things like that?” O’Reilly asked.

The U.S. president refused to rule out drone strikes or other military action against drug cartels in Mexico.

Trump’s announcement seemed to surprise the Mexican government, which immediately called for a meeting with the U.S. State Department.

The designation was particularly ironic considering some top drug cartel leaders in Mexico have long-standing ties to the U.S. government. The leaders of the notoriously brutal cartel the Zetas, for instance, were originally trained in counter-insurgency tactics by the U.S. military.

Throughout the Cold War, the U.S. government armed, trained and funded right-wing death squads throughout Latin America, many of which were involved in drug trafficking. The CIA also used drug money to fund far-right counter-insurgency paramilitary groups in Central America.

These tactics were also employed in the Middle East and South Asia. The United States armed, trained and funded far-right Islamist extremists in Afghanistan in the 1980s in order to fight the Soviet Union. These same U.S.-backed Salafi-jihadists then founded al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

This strategy was later repeated in the U.S. wars on Libya and Syria. ISIS commander Omar al-Shishani, to take one example, had been trained by the U.S. military and enjoyed direct support from Washington when he was fighting against Russia.

The Barack Obama administration also oversaw a campaign called Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious, in which the U.S. government helped send thousands of guns to cartels in Mexico.

Mexican journalist Alina Duarte explained that, with the Trump administration’s designation of cartels as terrorists, “They are creating the idea that Mexico represents a threat to their national security.”

“Should we start talking about the possibility of a coup against Lopez Obrador in Mexico?” Duarte asked.

She noted that the U.S. corporate media has embarked on an increasingly ferocious campaign to demonize AMLO, portraying the democratically elected president as a power-hungry aspiring dictator who is supposedly wrecking Mexico’s economy.

Duarte discussed the issue of U.S. interference in Mexican politics in an interview with The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal and me on our podcast Moderate Rebels:

Now, a whisper campaign over fears that the right-wing opposition may try to overthrow López Obrador is spreading across Mexico.

AMLO himself has publicly addressed the rumors, making it clear that he will not tolerate any discussion of coups.

“How wrong the conservatives and their hawks are,” López Obrador tweeted on Nov. 2. Referencing the 1913 assassination of progressive President Francisco Madero, who had been a leader of the Mexican Revolution, AMLO wrote, “Now is different.”

“Another coup d’état will now be allowed,” he declared.

In recent months, as fears of a coup intensify, López Obrador has swung even further to the left, directly challenging the U.S. government and asserting an independent foreign policy that contrasts starkly to the subservience of his predecessors.

AMLO’s government has rejected U.S. efforts to delegitimize Venezuela’s leftist government, throwing a wrench in Washington’s efforts to impose right-wing activist Juan Guaidó as coup leader.

AMLO has welcomed Ecuador’s ousted socialist leader Rafael Correa and hosted Argentina’s left-leaning Alberto Fernández for his first foreign trip after winning the presidency.

In October, López Obrador even welcomed Cuban President Díaz-Canel to Mexico for a historic visit.

Trump’s Operation Condor 2.0

For Washington, an independent and left-wing Mexico is intolerable.

In a speech for right-wing, MAGA hat-wearing Venezuelans in Miami in February, Trump ranted against socialism for nearly an hour and threatened the remaining leftist countries in Latin America with regime change.

“The days of socialism and communism are numbered not only in Venezuela, but in Nicaragua and in Cuba as well,” he declared, adding that socialism would never be allowed to take root in heart of capitalism in the United States.

While Trump has claimed he seeks to withdraw from wars in the Middle East (when he is not occupying its oil fields), he has ramped up aggressive U.S. intervention in Latin America.

Though the neoconservative war hawk John Bolton is no longer overseeing U.S. foreign policyElliott Abrams remains firmly embedded in the State Department, dusting off his Iran-Contra playbook to decimate socialism in Latin America all over again.

During the height of the Cold War and Operation Condor, thousands of dissidents were murdered, and hundreds of thousands more were disappeared, tortured, or imprisoned with the assistance of the U.S. intelligence apparatus.

Today, as Latin America is increasingly viewed through the lens of a new Cold War, Operation Condor is being reignited with new mechanisms of sabotage and subversion in play. The mayhem has only begun.

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a reporter for The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast,” which he co-hosts with Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.

This article is from The Grayzone.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment Policy. Allegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive or rude language toward other commenters or our writers will not be published.  If your comment does not immediately appear, please be patient as it is manually reviewed. For security reasons, please refrain from inserting links in your comments, which should not be longer than 300 words.


22 comments for “Operation Condor 2.0: After Bolivia Coup, Trump Dubs Nicaragua ‘National Security Threat’ & Targets Mexico

  1. December 8, 2019 at 15:40

    America’s establishment is literally sick and choking with the corruption of power.

    It isn’t just Trump. Not at all.

    Eight years of Obama was eight years of the same with slight variations. He bombed people for eight solid years.

    America’s establishment responsible for all of it consists of both political parties in both Houses of Congress and the powerful lobbyists and plutocrats who get them elected and hold their loyalties.

    All of it is served and supported by an immensely powerful and almost unaccountable (to the people, that is) military/security establishment.

    That is the formula for America’s endless violence abroad, its wars and coups and dirty tricks and abusive interventions.

    It also just happens to be the formula for a state with only the window-dressing of democracy and broad rights.

    Except for part of Tulsi Gabbard’s views, a candidate who will not be allowed to succeed, America does not have a single “liberal” candidate who opposes any of it, and certainly no conservatives.

    America, whatever fantasy notions it still retains of itself as an honest and true and decent force in the world, as “a shinning light on a hill,” is in fact the most malignant force at work on the planet. In America, opposing Trump does not mean opposing America’s ugly role in the world.

    America even runs a hi-tech version of the old Argentine Junta’s machinery for “disappearing” people, by the thousands in other lands, people incinerated for getting their names put on a list.

    Machinery, by the way put in place by Obama with the keen encouragement of Joe Biden.

    And NSA’s comprehensive intrusion into literally everyone’s privacy makes the old East German Stasi look rather amateurish. By the way, this was another growth industry under “liberal” Obama.

    • December 8, 2019 at 16:21

      I do get the impression from progressive Americans sometimes – what few of them there are – that they almost welcome having Trump around. He serves the same purpose Satan does for a priest, a figure upon which to heap the blame for countless sins. It is definitely an exercise in avoiding truth.

  2. Locomotivv
    December 6, 2019 at 12:09

    “…adding that socialism would never be allowed to take root in heart of capitalism in the United States.”

    DJT truly displayed ignorance on this part here in so that both socialism and communism have already penetrated through the likes of the typical university (ex: Georgetown, Jefferson, Princeton, MIT, etc.).
    Aside from that point out, Condor 2.0 is essentially yet another ploy to remove any role model (regardless of political paradigm points of views) from their home nations and (as usual) install a willing “cucked” up counterpart to reap benefits and care nothing for citizens of targeted nations, except for enforced assassinations of course.

  3. George
    December 6, 2019 at 08:39

    Yair Klein, former IDF colonel and founder of mercenaries for hire company, Spearhead Limited trained and armed the militias founded and controlled by the Medellin Cartel’s military leader.

    An Israeli investigation of Klein and his company revealed a 1986 document signed by the Defence Minister (and later Nobel Peace Prize winner) Yitzhak Rabin, giving Spearhead permission for “the export of military know-how and defence equipment.”

    An Israeli defence ministry spokesperson said later that the transaction via a front company to ship the weapons to Pablo Escobar’s death squads was carried out “under all the usual procedures at the Defence Department” even though state owned Israel Military Industries shipped the guns in a sealed container marked “machine parts” in a clear attempt to cover their tracks.

  4. Occupy on!
    December 5, 2019 at 18:51

    Excellent article, Ben, but you must include more references to the death squads throughout Central and South America during our heady 60’s, 70’s, 80’s days of “anti-communism”. The deaths of nuns, priests, Archbishop Romero, labor activists, left-leaning students and faculty werek burned into our hearts through those terrible times. Mass graves of the disappeared, I understand, are still being combed quietly for signs of lost ones. Back then Democrats begged through CSpan for Americans to wake up and demand an end to those Elliot Abrams and Ken Adelman-type, anti-communist projects. Now both parties have bought into the US as the only legitimate empire; deniers must be snuffed. … and the US under Trump is plowing right back into those horrors!!!

    • michael
      December 6, 2019 at 07:38

      Those ’60s, ’70s, ’80s (and ’90s, ’00s and early ’10s) were Establishment-run genocides and narco-state building; pre-Trump, so basically acceptable. Obama’s ongoing National Emergencies against countries, all with sanctions, were aimed at Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Venezuela and Burundi. Trump has ongoing National Emergencies only against Myamar (to protect the Rohingya; no chance!) and Nicaragua, but he really needs to pick up the pace if he wants to keep his job (and maybe become a Nobel Peace laureate!)
      “The child of neoliberalism is corruption.”– accurate summary by AMLO, and so fitting for the USA.

  5. John Drake
    December 5, 2019 at 14:54

    This President needs a leash, he is behaving like a mad dog; enabled by a gutless and ignorant Congress imbued with the myth of “American exceptionalism”.
    Hopefully the countries that are victim to his new Monroe Doctrine will pay their military and police forces well-that is the key to democratic stability. An underpaid force is vulnerable to nefarious influence.

  6. rosemerry
    December 5, 2019 at 14:14

    All of the “national Security” problems of the USA are internal. The constant interference and sanctions on any country not bowing down to the dictates of whatever regime is in place in Washington is targeted by vicious responses. The USA is drastically corrupt, has massive infrastructure faults, lack of decent healthcare and education for the majority, excessive emphasis on militarism and wars (without any success this century at least) and an incarcerated population much higher than any other nation. The banking disaster from 2008 has not been dealt with in a way which will avoid a similar disaster soon. Inequality and racism affect large numbers.
    Instead of facing and trying to solve its own obvious needs, every “Administration” blames outsiders and attacks. Trump is just the latest version.

  7. December 5, 2019 at 12:40

    These people are insane.

    • Maria S Calef
      December 5, 2019 at 17:41

      Operation Condor never stopped, since the bloodiest days when Latin Americans countries as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazi, Uruguay and Paraguay turn into a states of terror.

  8. Hide Behind
    December 5, 2019 at 11:38

    Can Remember clear ack to when President Nixon’s trips to South and Latin America caused the people to demonstrate by burning US flags and attacking US embassy, only to be shot beaten and imprisoned by the dictatorial regimes US bankrolled;.
    School of America’s was founded to protect US economic interest South of US Mexico border, and it was no secret to US population as to what kinds of training , including how to torture, assassinate, and channel funds to dissident groups.
    when US Congress, due to population of US pressure, alked at funding of Regans Invasion of Nicaragua, the US military and CIA, FBI, ordered by even then a Deep State, just circumvented Congress and thus began the real influx of drugs into US as a means of funding.
    There arose within US a generation of idealistic youths whose abhorrence to US foreign policies and domestic Bankers and industrials who also helped and armed right wing low life peasantry of rightwing para-military killer groups; this group led to popular uprisings against US invasion of Vietnam.
    The very same tactics as used by US to quell popular uprisings elsewhere were used here in States, that included assassinations and beyond legal beatings, into corrupting legal systems , to jail, surveil, and harass popular movement leaders.
    What that youthful group did not fully realize a ould not do was break the mindsets of their parents and grandparents of WWII and Korea who did not know or care a out anything but becoming wealthy nor difference of need to know reality of rulerships they lived under, in the main they were and always remained in the primitive brutality and false patriotism of military instilled bmpFerenheitemMy country Right or wrong.
    The leaders of Viet era revolt joined with that older generation and aided it to remain in power.
    Every Nations people in America’s from Northern Canada to Argentina are owned by Corporate and Financial interest, and the populations of those European and US Brit interest have never realy gave a damn about the peoples of souther

  9. December 5, 2019 at 11:24

    Venezuela bought 100,000 sniper rifles from Russia when Chavez was alive and had a militia trained to use them. ( They have a 2 million strong militia) I think that is probably the best reason that the US has not invaded that country. One sniper can stop a lot of military people from advancing think what 100,000 can do. Mexico and Nicaragua need to take note and negotiate a good price with Russia. A million sniper rifles in the hands of Mexican civilians dedicated to the security of their country would be enough to make any government think twice about invading. The US military remembers well Vietnam and what a national civilian army can do to them over time. There has been no other event so satisfying in my long life as watching the US Military beat a hasty retreat out of Vietnam with their tail between their legs. That video of the last US Soldier scrambling aboard a helicopter from the top of the US Consulate in Saigon was priceless.

    • Maria S Calef
      December 5, 2019 at 14:09

      Why not? USA is arming the whole area, since Reagan Plan Colombia, and is given funds to militarizes the Colombia national security. The entire region is training, buying and receiving weaponry from USA. Even Panama, a Central America country that has not army, is training now with USA special forces. Indeed, Latin American is a booming market for USA military industrial complex. In sum, all the “shitholes countries” have been being armed by USA.

    • Maria S Calef
      December 5, 2019 at 15:02

      70 percent of weapons in Mexico come from USA. Always USA puts the weapons and Mexico dead bodies, but later, USA points fingers about the violence in Mexico, as if in USA the violence in the street and mass shooting is not our daily bread. The weaponry in Mexico has empowered the cartels, plus the drugs that are coming from Colombia. Why USA and its famous DEA are so quiet now, when cocaine is sow and harvest in Colombia soil, and the Narcos are in business again.

      Now the narcos do not have to bring the coca leaf from Peru or nowhere else because they are growing the coca seed. But it is suspicious that the state department just looks at Mexico and just point finger at that direction. But about Colombia? Oh ok! of course, Duque is an oligarch neo liberal and unconditional puppet to Washington policies. Colombia cartel are very strong again. Ask Panama, a country that every day seized hundred of tons of cocaine from Colombia. The double standard of USA department Demos and Reps both are in bed covered with the same blanket of corruption

    • December 6, 2019 at 12:19

      It is a great idea for mexicans to do just that;the problem is that AMLO is a Gandhi`s follower;and is afraid to be confused with the Great Comandante Hugo Chavez.Other than that Vladimir Putin,is open for business.What happened to Evo Morales is going to happen to AMLO;I`m afraid…

  10. December 5, 2019 at 11:23

    Thought Trump was doing away
    with the “Deep State “?

  11. December 5, 2019 at 10:10

    Excellent article by Ken Norton of the Grayzone and hats off to consortiumnews.com for disseminating informative events of the world often omitted by the corporate media government propaganda outfits. It appears that the sham war on drugs will likely be another cover for regime change wars in Latin America. Looking forward to future articles of discussion from this site.

    • Nick
      December 6, 2019 at 00:52

      I agree. CNN and MSNBC need to be shut down. Total liars also know. As fake news.

  12. December 5, 2019 at 10:01

    Thanks for a great article Ben. Welcome to the 1980’s redux.

  13. December 5, 2019 at 08:42

    This country’s government, military industrial complex and mainstream media are the epitome of the seven deadly sins!

  14. December 5, 2019 at 06:00

    Basic rule of thumb for the US occupation/invasion/targeting the world over is this: it all goes to sh** for the country and the people left alive. Its the golden rule of Imperialism Colonial occupation.

  15. Jeff G#
    December 5, 2019 at 05:35

    “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.”
    —Henry Kissinger, June 27, 1970
    Here, “communist” means democratic socialist, a government that tries to serve its people. “It’s own people” means the voters of Chile.
    The elites in the US still believe they can veto the elections of the smaller countries of Latin America by claiming their citizens have been “irresponsible.” National sovereignty doesn’t matter. Are we reasserting the antiquated Monroe Doctrine from 1823 again?

Comments are closed.