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Brazil has been brought to its knees, but Turkey is standing firm against anti-democracy coups

Fethullah Gulen [file photo]
Fethullah Gulen [file photo]

On 15 July, a bloody coup attempt was staged in Turkey; it was unsuccessful. Army officers and soldiers belonging to the Gülenist FETO terrorist organisation barricaded strategic bridges and locations in Ankara and Istanbul, and seized the General Staff Headquarters. They tried to eliminate the elected president and government of the country. However, when the people took to the streets and began fighting, it was clear that the coup would not succeed. Unfortunately, 250 people, most of them civilians, were killed. Since then, a significant number of the organisation’s members — mostly in the military — have been discharged from their positions within state institutions. According to the confessions of those who took part in the coup, it was carried out on the order of the organisation’s leader, Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania and has called those who died during the coup “fools”. A formal request for his extradition has been filed by the Turkish government, but it has yet to be acted upon by the US.

The coup was the third unsuccessful attempt in Turkey since 2013. The first started with the Gezi Park protest between May and June 2013 and was followed by an effort to overthrow the government with allegations of corruption in December that year. A country that has gone through a similar ordeal as Turkey but was forced to its knees at the second attempt is Brazil.

It is interesting to note that both the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in Turkey led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Workers’ Party in Brazil led by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were both elected to govern their country in 2002. Both countries were on the verge of an economic and political breakdown but were stabilised by their respective leaders’ reforms. The election of the AK Party and Workers’ Party was a reflection of the middle and lower classes’ longing for stability in countries that were nearly collapsing as a result of economic mismanagement. The GDP of both countries increased significantly and they became safe-zones for foreign investment.

Lula’s Brazil and Erdogan’s Turkey showed stability and rapid development and began to have more influence in the global arena. While both managed to act in accordance with the free market economy, they also managed to protect their national economy, and after 2007 their economic status went head to head with many Western states. The Brazilian and Turkish leadership developed policies on regional and global issues which differed from those of Washington and other western capitals. Both leaders visited Tehran in 2010 to sign agreements with Iran to support its non-military nuclear programme, despite the West’s embargo and war threats. Although the terms of the agreements comply with the West’s main insistence over nuclear exchange, the moves by Ankara and Brasilia were not taken well by Western leaders.

Similarly, the common stance of both countries against Israel’s occupation of Palestine was very different from the policies of the West. Both made clear their view that Israel should withdraw to its 1967 borders, stop the construction of illegal Jewish colony-settlements and end the blockade of the Gaza Strip. In following policies which differed to those of the hegemonic West, whilst also questioning the organisational structure of the UN, there was thus proof of an alternative approach to that propounded by the Western-centric foreign policy axis.

After serving two consecutive terms of office, Lula handed over to his close friend and colleague Dilma Rousseff in 2011. She followed in Lula’s footsteps in her foreign and domestic politics. Whereas in 2002 the middle class was represented by only 38 per cent of the population, after the 2014 election this figure rose to 55 per cent and has been attributed to Lula’s and Rousseff’s successful and determined economic policies. Turkey’s and Brazil’s stabilised economies, having caught up with the economic level of developed countries in 2007, provided some hope for other countries whose development was being hindered by the West.

Although they may be said to be coincidental, anti-government protests occurred almost simultaneously in Turkey and Brazil. The Gezi Park protest was sparked after a small group complained about some urban development in the park. The protest grew larger and spread across Turkey, fuelled by the Western media pushing for Erdogan to resign. In reality, the media campaign against the popular elected leadership betrayed the fact that this was a campaign against Turkey, not its political leadership. It was later discovered that members of FETO within the police force had enabled the protest to grow so dramatically. This first attempt by FETO against the government was echoed by the western public and media.

In Brazil, meanwhile, people were protesting about public transport; demonstrations spread quickly into nationwide protests and demands for the government to resign. As in Turkey, the protestors in Brazil also attacked public buildings and the protests turned violent. Decisive government action in both countries eventually brought the protests to a halt, but that was not the end of the matter.

In December 2013 four ministers in Turkey were accused of fraud. The individual corruption cases were somehow intertwined and Erdogan was also dragged into them along with his family, after the appearance of fake documents. This was also discovered to be the work of FETO members within the security agencies and judiciary, and was again overcome thanks to decisive government positions. It was later discovered that FETO had received huge amounts of money after threats and blackmail. The Western media, rather interestingly, decided to conceal the fact that FETO was behind this attempt to bring the government down and tried to justify this by accusations against Erdogan’s administration.

Whereas that particular coup attempt failed in Turkey, the Brazilian government was overthrown following corruption allegations. Just as there were FETO-supporting MPs within the government in Ankara, so too were there MPs within the Workers’ Party in Brazil who supported the coup. Some politicians and judges from the coup era began suing Lula and Rousseff.

The second operation against Lula and Rousseff started in mid-2014 with accusations that some managers of the state-partnered energy company Petrobas were being bribed and transferred money to political figures over a period of 10 years. At first, the fingers were pointed only at some minor politicians and managers, but then judges also accused Rousseff and Lula; they were both on the Petrobas board. A year before the accusations were made public it was discovered that America was spying on Petrobas and listening-in to Brazil’s state telecommunications as well as Rousseff herself. This strengthens the argument that the US had an important part to play in Rousseff and Lula being linked to the Petrobas scandal and efforts to bring them down.

As happened in Turkey, the transcripts of hundreds of recorded phone calls were published in order to strengthen the corruption accusations against Rousseff and Lula. Although there was no concrete evidence against Rousseff, on 12 May this year she was suspended from the party after being voted out by other MPs. The former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, who led the way in sidelining Rousseff, was also suspended from his position one month later for corruption, the abuse of power and threatening behaviour. At the same time the resignation of the Minister of Transparency, Supervision and Control of Brazil, Fabiano Silveira, and the Senator from Roraima, Romero Juca after trying to use Rousseff’s impeachment to divert attention from accusations of corruption against themselves is, evidence which suggests that there was a coup attempt against the Brazilian president. It is known that Brazil’s Acting President Michel Temer has close links to the CIA; this has been confirmed by Wikileaks documents, as has the introduction of the IMF and Goldman Sachs to economic positions within the new government.

Although Brazil lost the battle with the second coup, Turkey lives to fight another day. A large proportion of the population believe firmly that the US and other Western countries were behind the July coup attempt. This is not only because Fethullah Gülen lives in America and is not as yet being extradited by the US, but also due to statements coming out of Washington such as, “A number of the US military’s closest allies in the Turkish military have been placed in jail following the coup attempt.” American and Western media support for the coup makes US complicity all the more convincing and likely.

With the coup operations carried out against Lula and Rousseff in Brazil, and Erdogan in Turkey, Brazil may have lost in the second round but Turkey is still standing strong. This time, though, Turkey as a nation is prepared for other probable attempts to derail democracy in the country. While Brazil may have been edged out of the international arena, Turkey remains firm as the only country that continues to inspire the global South with its independent and anti-western foreign and economic policies.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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