John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations and former White House national security adviser in the Donald Trump administration, acknowledged on Tuesday that he had helped plan coup attempts in other countries that he avoided specifying. Bolton made these statements while he was being interviewed on CNN about the January 6, 2021, assault on Capitol Hill by a mob of Trump supporters, an event that is being investigated by a congressional committee. The nine members (seven Democrats and two Republicans) of the parliamentary panel are accusing Trump of having incited and planned the violence ahead of time, after losing the 2020 election.
During a conversation with CNN host Jake Tapper, the journalist stated that “one doesn’t have to be brilliant to attempt a coup,” to which the former adviser replied, “I disagree with that. As somebody who has helped plan coups d’etat - not here, but, you know, other places - it takes a lot of work. And that’s not what he did. It was just stumbling around from one idea to another.”
When the interviewer insisted on this point, Bolton declined to comment on “the specifics.” However, immediately afterwards, he alluded to the political crisis in Venezuela in 2019, while he was still a national security adviser, when the US government of which he was a part recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the interim president.
Bolton went on to state that he “saw what it took for an opposition to try to overturn an illegally elected president [Nicolás Maduro], and they failed.” In addition, he said that “the notion that Donald Trump was half as competent as the Venezuelan opposition is laughable.”
Bolton, considered a Republican hawk who favored US interventionism in other countries, served as White House national security adviser from 2017 to 2020, when Trump fired him precisely because of disagreements over policy towards Venezuela.
“I feel that there’s other stuff that you’re not telling me about,” interjected the CNN host, to which Bolton responded: “I’m sure there is.”
“John Bolton, who has served in the highest positions in the US government, including UN ambassador, casually boasts that he has helped plan coups in other countries,” wrote Dickens Olewe, a BBC journalist from Kenya on Twitter.
John Bolton, who's served in highest positions in the US government, including UN ambassador, casually boasting about he's helped plan coups in other countries. https://t.co/v01CqssJSL— Dickens Olewe (@DickensOlewe) July 12, 2022
There was an outcry on Twitter after Bolton’s statements, especially because of the matter-of-fact way he assumed US interventionism. Latin American social media users were especially vocal, since the region has been historically considered America’s “backyard” and fertile ground for destabilization tactics, due to the economic and political interests at stake.
The most serious example was the invasion of Panama in December 1989. It was officially called Operation Just Cause and its objective was to oust Manuel Antonio Noriega from power. In 2020, the National Security Files revealed Washington’s involvement in the destabilization of Chile, which was substantiated in the 1973 coup d’état against President Salvador Allende and orchestrated in the shadows by the all-powerful Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Many foreign policy experts have criticized Washington’s record of intervention in other countries over the years, from its role in the overthrow of then-nationalist Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh (1953) and its involvement in the Vietnam War (1965 -1975), until its invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) in this century. However, it is very rare for US officials to openly acknowledge their role in fomenting riots or coups in foreign countries.