Canada’s Paper of Record Is Ignoring Ottawa’s Backing of Right-Wing Coups

The Globe and Mail’s new revelations about socialist poet Pablo Neruda’s death after the 1973 coup in Chile carefully omitted any reference to Ottawa’s complicity in the repression. But in Chile and around the world, Canada has long helped undermine democracy.

Members of the Pablo Neruda Foundation hang a picture of the poet (L) with former Chilean president Salvador Allende during a ceremony in Isla Negra, west of Santiago, Chile, April 26, 2016. (Martin Bernetti / AFP via Getty Images)

When it covers right-wing, US-backed coups in Latin America, the Globe and Mail, Canada’s paper of record, omits Ottawa’s role. From Chile in 1973 to Peru today, the paper erases Canada’s role in undermining democracy.

“Chilean poet Pablo Neruda died with toxic bacteria in his body, say forensic scientists,” read the front page of a recent edition. In the story about the Nobel laureate killed after Chile’s elected government was toppled in 1973, the Globe ignored Ottawa’s complicity in the repression that felled the famed poet.

From economic asphyxiation to diplomatic isolation, Ottawa’s policy toward elected Marxist president Salvador Allende was clear. Canada recognized Augusto Pinochet’s military junta within three weeks of the September 11, 1973, coup. Immediately after Allende was overthrown, Canada’s ambassador to Chile cabled the Department of External Affairs (now Global Affairs) to state that Pinochet “has assumed the probably thankless task of sobering Chile up” from “the riffraff of the Latin American Left to whom Allende gave asylum.” Neruda’s murder was apparently merely part of the process of “sobering Chile up.”

The Globe’s whitewash of Canada’s role in Chile was part of pattern that continues today. Three weeks ago the paper published an op-ed from a University of British Columbia academic criticizing the violence in Peru since elected president Pedro Castillo was ousted on December 7. But it ignored Ottawa’s commitment to consolidating a coup that sparked a furious popular backlash.

Canadian Diplomacy

Ottawa has supported Dina Boluarte’s replacement government in Peru — the selfsame government that has suspended civil liberties and deployed troops to the streets. Security forces have killed sixty and shot hundreds of mostly indigenous protesters. Global Affairs and Canada’s ambassador to Peru, Louis Marcotte, have worked hard to shore up support for Boluarte. Since Castillo’s ouster, Marcotte has met President Boluarte, the foreign minister, foreign commerce minister, environment minister, vulnerable populations minister, production minister, and mining minister.

It is rare for a Canadian ambassador to have so much contact with top officials of any government. The flurry of diplomatic activity reflects Ottawa’s commitment to consolidating the shaky coup government, which has been rejected by many regional governments and had multiple ministers resign. The diplomatic encounters are also an indirect endorsement of Boluarte’s repression.

Amidst large protests a week after Castillo’s ouster, Marcotte met new foreign minister Ana Cecilia Gervasi, tweeting a photo with a message that read: “Today with Minister Gervasi, reiterated support for the transition government of President Boluarte to create consensus leading to transparent and fair elections that will bring social peace.” Three days later, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly bolstered Canada’s support for Boluarte, tweeting, “Spoke with Peru’s Foreign Minister, Ana Cecilia Gervasi, to reiterate our support for the transitional government of President Boluarte.”

Joly’s and Marcotte’s moves followed similar moves by the US secretary of state. Antony Blinken spoke with Boluarte over the phone, and US ambassador to Peru Lisa Kenna met with her at about the same time. On December 23, ambassador Marcotte tweeted, “I met today with President Boluarte to reiterate Canada’s commitment to continue strengthening the relation and to support Human Rights and transparent and fair elections.”

Most of the hemisphere has taken a different tack. Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Barbuda, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Venezuela, and Colombia all expressed some opposition to Castillo’s ouster. In general, consensus for blame has landed on the Peruvian opposition for not allowing Castillo to govern. His opponent in the second round of the presidential election, Keiko Fujimori, refused to even recognize Castillo’s election victory while the media and business elite attacked Castillo viciously. The country’s leading business group, the National Society of Industries vowed to “throw out communism” by making the country ungovernable. Congress has repeatedly sought to impeach Castillo.

All the Exculpatory News That’s Fit to Print

The Globe has also ignored the Canadian ambassador promoting mining interests with Peru’s repressive, unelected, government. After meeting Boluarte’s mining minister, Marcotte tweeted,

with Minister Oscar Vera Gargurevich, we talked about modern mining investments that benefit communities and all of Peru. Ready to support the Peru delegation at PDAC [Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada] 2023, the most important mining exploration convention in the world, March 5-8 in Canada.

Alongside Peruvian diplomats, Canada’s ambassador will open PDAC’s Peru Day next month. Marcotte recently told a Peruvian business outlet that “Peru has an excellent opportunity to be a leader” in energy transition due to its reserves of copper, lithium, zinc, and rare earths. Seventy-one Canadian mining firms have $9.9 billion in assets in Peru. Castillo criticized foreign mining companies, promising stronger environmental regulations and profit sharing for communities in mining regions. But his largely dysfunctional government failed to adopt any major reform.

The Globe ignored Justin Trudeau’s government’s passive support for the 2016 “soft coup” impeachment of Brazilian Workers’ Party president Dilma Rousseff. Ditto for Ottawa actively backing the economic elites, Christian extremists, and security forces who overthrew Bolivian president Evo Morales in November 2019.

A search of the Globe database for coverage of Canada’s role in overthrowing the majority indigenous nation’s first indigenous president will turn up almost nothing. Then foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland released a celebratory statement hours after the military command forced Morales to resign and Ottawa provided significant support for the Organization of American States’ effort to discredit Bolivia’s 2019 vote. This fueled opposition protests and justified the coup. At the time, the Globe deemed none of this newsworthy, publishing only one sentence on the subject. Two and half years later, commentary on the topic included two scant paragraphs critical of Canada’s role in ousting Morales.

Shedding Darkness on Canadian Collusion

Ottawa passively supported the ouster of Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz in 1954, Dominican Republic leader Juan Bosch in 1963, Brazilian president João Goulart in 1964, and Paraguayan leader Fernando Lugo in 2012. Additionally, Canada offered quiet support to military interventions that impeded a progressive leader in Colombia in 1953 and a coup by the president against their parliament in Peru in 1992. In a more substantial contribution to undermining electoral democracy, Ottawa backed the Honduran military’s removal of elected president Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

In its most aggressive-ever subversion of a progressive elected government in the hemisphere, Ottawa helped overthrow Jean-Bertrand Aristide and thousands of other elected officials in 2004. In a rare bit of critical coverage, the December 17 Globe front page read: “The Last Thing Haitians Need is Foreign Intervention.” Most of the opinion section was covered with a photo of Haitians protesting with a coffin draped with the flags of the United States, France, and Canada. But the long article ignored Canada’s role in the 2004 foreign invasion that ousted the elected government.

According to a search of the Globe database, the paper has never reported on the 2003 “Ottawa initiative on Haiti” meeting. Thirteen months before Aristide was ousted the Canadian government brought top US, French, and Organization of American States officials together for a private gathering where they reportedly discussed ousting the elected president and putting the country under UN trusteeship. Prominent journalist Michel Vastel brought the gathering to public attention in the March 15, 2003, issue of l’Actualité, Quebec’s leading corporate news magazine.

Even though the matters reportedly discussed at the Ottawa Initiative played out in Haiti a year later, it wasn’t until seventeen years after the meeting that a major media outlet saw it fit to investigate the stunning coincidence. As part of covering the 10th anniversary of the terrible 2010 earthquake, Radio-Canada’s flagship news program Enquête interviewed Denis Paradis, the Liberal minister responsible for organizing the meeting, who admitted no Haitian officials were invited to discuss their own country’s future during the get together.

Canada has consistently sided with Washington and corporate interests against democracy in the southern hemisphere. But you wouldn’t know it if you only read Canada’s paper of record.