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Coup d'tat

A coup d'tat (French, golpe in Spanish and Putsch in German), pronounced
koo-deh-TAH (SAMPA: ku: detA:), often simply called a "coup", is the sudden
overthrow of a government, usually done by a small group that just replaces
the top power figures. It is different from a revolution, which is staged by
a larger group and radically changes the political system. The term is
French for "a sudden stroke, or blow, of a nation."

Tactically, a coup usually involves control of some active portion of the
military while neutralizing the remainder of a country's armed services.
This active group captures or expels leaders, seizes physical control of
important government offices, means of communication, and the physical
infrastructure, such as streets and power plants. The coup succeeds if its
opponents fail to dislodge the plotters, allowing them to consolidate their
position, obtain the surrender or acquiescence of the populace and surviving
armed forces, and claim legitimacy.

Coups typically use the power of the existing government for its own
takeover. As Edward Luttwak remarks in his Coup d'tat: A practical
handbook: "A coup consists of the infiltration of a small but critical
segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the
government from its control of the remainder." In this sense, use of
military or other organized force is not the defining feature of a coup
d'tat. Any seizure of the state apparatus by extra-legal tactics may be
considered a coup, according to Luttwak.

Coups have long been part of political tradition. Many Roman emperors, such
as Caligula and his successor Claudius, came to power in coups. Indeed,
Julius Caesar was the victim of a coup. Modern dictators such as Francisco
Franco and Juan Pern also benefited from coups.

In the late 20th century coups occurred most commonly in developing
countries, particularly in Latin America, Africa and Asia, but also in the
Pacific (Fiji) and in Europe (Greece, Portugal, Spain, Soviet Union). Since
the 1980s, the coup has been seen somewhat less frequently. A significant
reason is the general inability to resolve the economic and political
problems of developing nations, which has made armed forces, particularly in
Latin America, much more reluctant to intervene in politics. Hence, in
contrast to past crises, the armed forces have sat on the sidelines through
economic crises such as the Asian crisis in Thailand in 1998 or the
Argentina crisis of 2002 and have tended to act only when the military
perceives itself as institutionally threatened by the civilian government,
as occurred in Pakistan in 1999.

Coups d'tat have often been a means for powerful nations to assure
favorable outcomes in smaller foreign states. In particular, the American
CIA and Soviet KGB were well known for engineering coups in states such as
Chile and Afghanistan. Such actions are substitutes for direct military
intervention which can be kept secret from the domestic public to prevent
their interference. The governments of France and Britain have been accused
of engineering coups as well.

One form of military intervention which some regard as a coup d'tat is the
use of the threat of military force to remove a particularly unpopular
leader. This has occurred twice in the Philippines. In contrast to previous
coups d'tat, the military does not directly assume power, but rather serves
as an arbiter for civilian leaders.

Types of coups

Samuel P. Huntington has divided coups into three types (ignoring Luttwak's
non-military coups)

   * Breakthrough coups - In which a revolutionary army overthrows a
     traditional government and creates a new bureaucratic elite.
     Breakthrough coups are generally led by NCOs or junior officers and
     only happen once. Examples include China in 1911 and Egypt in 1956.
   * Guardian coups - These coups have been described as musical chairs. The
     stated aims of this form of coup is to improve public order,
     efficiency, or to end corruption. There is usually no fundamental shift
     in the structure of power. Many nations with guardian coups undergo
     many shifts between civilian and military governments. Examples include
     Pakistan, Turkey, and Thailand.
   * Veto coups - These coups occur when the army vetoes mass participation
     and social mobilization. In these cases the army must confront and
     suppress large-scale and broad-based opposition and as a result they
     tend to be repressive and bloody. Examples include Chile in 1973 and
     Argentina in 1975.

Coups can also be classified by the level of the military that leads the
coup. Veto coups and guardian coups tend to be led by senior officers.
Breakthrough coups tend to be led by junior officers or NCOs. In cases where
the coup is led by junior officers or enlisted men, the coup is also a
mutiny which can have grave implications for the organizational structure of
the military.

There is also a category known as bloodless coups in which the mere threat
of violence is enough to force the current government to step aside.
Bloodless coups are so called because they involve no violence and thus no
bloodshed. Napoleon accessed to the power that way in 1799. More recently,
Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan came to power in such a manner in 1999.

Post-military-coup governments

After the coup, the military is faced with the issue of the type of
government to establish. In Latin America, it was common for the post-coup
government to be led by a junta, a committee of the chiefs of staff of the
various armed forces. A common form of African post-coup government is the
revolutionary assembly, a quasi-legislative body made of members elected by
the army. In Pakistan, the military leader typically assumes the title of
chief martial law administrator.

According to Huntington, most coup leaders act under the concept of right
orders: they believe that the correct approach to government is to issue
correct orders. This view of government underestimates the difficulty in
implementing government policy and the amount of possible political
resistance to certain orders.

Important coups in the 20th Century:

   * 1917: February Revolution and October Revolution in Russia.
   * 1923: The Beer Hall Putsch a failed coup attempt by Adolf Hitler in
     Germany.
   * 1935: Coup in Greece
   * 1936: General Francisco Franco seizes control of parts of Spain
     commencing the Spanish Civil War.
   * 1943: Military coup in Argentina.
   * 1947: Coup in Thailand.
   * 1948: Coup in Czechoslovakia.
   * 1952: Military coup in Egypt.
   * 1954: Military coup in Paraguay.
   * 1963: Military coup in South Vietnam, overthrowing Ngo Dinh Diem.
     Military coup in Ecuador.
   * 1964: Military coup in Brazil.
   * 1967: Military coup in Greece.
   * 1969: Colonel Qadhafi overthrows monarchy in Libya.
   * 1970: Coup in Bolivia, soon followed by a leftist countercoup.
   * 1973: Military coup in Chile. The President of Uruguay dissolves
     Parliament and heads a coup.
   * 1974: Military coup in Portugal.
   * 1976: Military coup in Ecuador.
   * 1991: Failed coup attempt in the Soviet Union.

Recent coups and coup attempts

   * 1999: Military coup in Pakistan.
   * 2000: Military coup in Fiji.
   * 2002: Unsuccessful coup to overthrow Hugo Chvez in Venezuela.
   * 2002: Attempted coup in Cte d'Ivoire.
   * 2002: Military coup in Central African Republic.
   * 2003: Attempted coup in Mauritania.
   * 2003: Military coup in So Tom and Prncipe.
   * 2003: Military coup in Guinea-Bissau
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