Sunday, April 1, 2012

Coup in Maldives

The Maldives is an island nation off the coast of India. Like many post-colonial societies, it was turned into a dictatorship with a strong tourism economy. They were devastated by the 2004 tsunami, when only 9 of its 1,192 islands escaped any sort of serious damage. In 2008, the Maldives held its first democratic election.

Activist Mohamed Nasheed, who had spent years being imprisoned and tortured by the regime, beat out the decades-long dictatorship. He wasted no time getting to work. Nasheed became famous kicking and screaming and raising a huge fuss at the U.N. climate change summit. If climate change continues and the sea rises by only a couple inches, the Maldives would cease exist. Nasheed vowed to make the Maldives the world's first carbon neutral country. A new documentary just came out about Nasheed and the Maldives. I haven't actually seen it yet, but here's a trailer.

On February 7th, Mohamed Nasheed was ousted from office at gunpoint. The Vice President collaborated with the police, who went out to the streets and began protests. Nasheed asked the military to put a stop to it, but they refused to act, and it became apparent that they were in on it as well. Nasheed was interviewed on Democracy Now last week:

And on the 7th, they staged a rebellion. And they were sitting on the—they were sitting—they were protesting on the Republican Square. And I asked the military to restrain them. I asked them at 11:00 in the evening that day. By 5:00 in the morning the next day, the military was—the military still hadn’t done that. So I went to the military headquarters. And then, there, I found that sections of the military had also joined with the rebellion, and they were refusing to restrain the police. Then, around early that morning, about 9:00 in the morning, the generals started asking me to resign, and they told me that if I did not resign, they would resort to using arms. They would use arms on me, and they would also use arms on the people. Then, I had no choice, really, because sections of the military who were in the headquarters were with the rebellious police, and also I saw more than a hundred other soldiers coming from the other barracks in Malé and also another hundred soldiers coming from another barracks near Malé. And so, at the end of the day, it was about 500 soldiers and policemen against about a hundred or so soldiers who were loyal to the government and to the constitution.

The U.S. defended the coup, and recognized the new dictatorship within a day. The State Department has confirmed that the Obama administration was in contact with the ousters. Nasheed:

Well, it was really shocking and deeply disturbing that the United States government so instantly recognized the former dictatorship coming back again. We were hoping that they would look into the facts and understand what was happening on the ground. And we would still hope that they look into it and urge the dictator, or urge Dr. Waheed, the former vice president, to resign and, therefore, to allow for fresh elections in the Maldives. We have to have democracy back on track in the Maldives. It’s very young. It’s a very young democracy. We only were able to have our first multi-party elections in 2008. And it was only three years down the line, and suddenly there was a very well-planned coup, and Dr. Waheed has been installed as a facade, and Gayoom is back. We were shocked that the United States acted so swiftly in recognizing the new regime.

Especially disturbing was, all throughout our last three years, we worked very closely with American ideals, with democracy. We wanted to have better relations with Israel. We wanted to have a more moderate Islamic country in the Maldives. And we’ve been fighting for all the civil liberties and all the human rights, fundamental rights of the people. And therefore, it’s deeply, deeply disturbing that your government has not been able to understand what was happening in the Maldives.

I'm going to bold Juan Gonzales' entire response, because it's exactly what I've been suspecting, and I'm glad someone finally said it.

"Well, what’s even more disturbing is that we’ve seen this script so many times now in recent years, whether it’s in Haiti with President Aristide or in Honduras with Manuel Zelaya Salaya or with Chávez in Venezuela. The U.S. government seems always to jump in immediately, as the coup is occurring, to support the coup plotters rather than the legally elected officials. And so, on the one hand, I understand your shock, but on the other hand, it’s amazing how it keeps happening, and no one seems to say anything about it here in this country."

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