What Is the ‘Soft Coup D’Étatt’ Denounced by Gustavo Petro About?

In LatinAmerican Post we explain the definition of the 'soft coup d'état' theory with which, according to Colombian President Gustavo Petro, the opposition is trying to remove his party's representatives from Congress.

Gustavo Petro

Photo: TW-petrogustavo

LatinAmerican Post | Christopher Ramírez Hernández

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Leer en español: ¿De qué trata el ‘golpe de Estado blando’ denunciado por Gustavo Petro?

In a recent message posted on his Twitter account, the president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, expressed his opinion regarding the suspension and departure of some congressmen from the Pacto Histórico (government party). According to the Colombian president, this situation is having a negative impact on his party, since he considers that their votes are being "taken away" through administrative orders. “By the way, have you noticed that they are taking away the votes of the congressmen of the Pacto Histórico by suspending them with administrative orders? In other words, they are de facto changing the political representation in Congress that the people elected,” the head of state wrote through the social network. Now, the term that most caught the attention of Colombians came from a phrase that the Petrista government has been using in recent weeks: “They took away from the Pact the presidency of Congress and now its votes. It is the soft coup d'état ”.

What Is A 'Soft Coup D'État'?

It is not the first time that a president uses the term 'soft coup' to define a series of judicial and state actions that, supposedly, have the purpose of removing representation before the authorities of power in a country.

For example, the Chavista media in Venezuela defined the student demonstrations that took place in 2014 against the government of President Nicolás Maduro as such. For Telesur, a media outlet financed by the Venezuelan government, this was one of several "soft coups d'état" that were nothing more than "destabilization attempts orchestrated from abroad, focused on the economic boycott and the manipulation of information."

Now, it was not the governments of the Latin American left that invented this term. In fact, it is a theory that was born within one of the countries that has fought the most against these mandates: the United States. The concept was introduced by Gene Sharp, a renowned American political scientist, philosopher, and writer, in 1973, and refers to a set of tactics and techniques used to destabilize and undermine a political regime from within, without resorting to direct violence. These strategies include disinformation campaigns, citizen mobilization, peaceful protests, civil resistance, civil disobedience, and international pressure, among others.

However, although it was born as a theory, it would have been Sharp himself who took the first step to see it in worldwide practice. As detailed by the famous French journalist and political activist, Thierry Meyssan, "the soft coup d'état" did not go unnoticed among the US political and military intelligence elites, who saw it as an option to accommodate the world according to the US interests of this time.

“In 1989, the CIA commissioned Sharp to carry out the practical application of his theoretical research in China. The United States wanted to overthrow Deng Xiaoping in favor of Zhao Ziyang. The intention was to deliver a coup with a semblance of legitimacy by organizing street protests, in the same way that the CIA had given a popular front to the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh (in Iran) by recruiting demonstrators from Tehran (Operation Ajax, 1953). The difference here is that Gene Sharp had to rely on a mix of pro-Zhao and pro-US youth to make the coup look like a revolution," Meyssan said in a web article.

It should be noted that this is a multi-layered story, so it is important to note that the events surrounding Tiananmen Square in 1989 were complex and subject to different interpretations.

You can also read: Colombia: Why Hasn't Gustavo Petro Fulfilled Some of his Campaign Promises?

Is There a 'Soft Coup D'État' against Petro?

After knowing what this term ultimately means, it is valid to wonder if it is a phenomenon that is occurring in Colombia or not. Based on the facts, it could be said that this is not the case.

Although it is true that in recent weeks several positions of the Historic Pact have been annulled in the Congress of the Republic, it is clear that these are situations in which the Council of State has acted in a manner consistent with what Colombian law dictates. Senator César Pachón was the first to be suspended by the Council of State due to an alleged double militancy, while Roy Barreras, president of Congress, had his election annulled for the same reason.

The investigation revealed that Pachón, a member of the MAIS party, campaigned for candidates from Colombia Humana in 2022. Despite the fact that his group belonged to the Pacto Histórico as a coalition, the truth is that Pachón's party had its own candidacies. His acts were considered a violation of the electoral law.

For his part, Barreras, although he won his seat with the Pacto Histórico in the last elections, did not resign his position as senator of the U Party in time, which is considered double militancy. The Council of State made the decision to annul his election, highlighting the irregularity of his situation.

In addition, Senator Álex Flórez has been suspended by the Attorney General's Office due to his inappropriate behavior in Cartagena. Flórez attacked uniformed National Police officers while intoxicated, generating outrage at the national level. In a recorded video, the parliamentarian is heard describing the agents as “murderers”.

Another important point to highlight is that the Historical Pact participated in last year's legislative elections with a closed list. For this reason, despite the suspensions and annulments, the Pachón and Barreras seats have already found their respective replacements on said list. This means that the number of seats in favor of President Petro's collective remains intact, despite the controversies.

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