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Catfish and Cod
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
This can't be good: Another day, another coup.
(Link path: CNN)

"It was not immediately clear why the military seized power", says CNN. Well, let's see: oil was just discovered offshore. No one can agree who to hire to pump the oil, and the president recently dissolved parliament and started making deals himself. At a guess, I'd say:


Or rather, the petrodollars that will be flowing into numbered Swiss bank accounts in a very short time. Maybe the US should invade -- at least that way CNN would be able to understand what's happening.

"The apparent coup leader, Major Fernando Pereira, spoke on national radio on Wednesday and called on members of parliament and the government to gather at the police headquarters."

What, so you can be shot or thrown in the gulag? Well, I suppose this will rid the coup leaders of all the gullible leaders...

Here's a question: how big is the Army of Sao Tome? And what precisely do you need with an army at all, in a country of 170,000 on a pair of islands in the Atlantic?

UPDATE: An old Time magazine milestone page states that the Sao Tome army numbers six hundred souls, and that this is not the first coup attempt. The article also indicates that economic pressure may be able to effect a return to democratic rule if the State Department and their European Union counterparts are quick on the ball. Such a move may give the US and EU an "in" to start talking oil contracts...

UPDATE TWO: A warm welcome to visitors from Winds of Change, and a thanks to Dan Darling for our first inbound link!

The CIA World Factbook has tons of data on this little known country in the Atlantic, just off Nigeria. Among many interesting tibdits: $400,000 was spent in FY 2001 on the Sao Tome military. Yes, for only $400,000, you too can have your own oil plutocracy!

To be fair, it actually looks like a fairly nice place, with mountains, good seaports, and nice weather. It has a long history of European interaction, with the typical African-nation history: colonization, then communism, then democracy, with the occasional coup. Its primary problem was a dependence on cocoa exports for international trade, a dependence lifted by the discovery of oil. One can see why the US Navy wanted a base there. Now if only they can get their government straightened out...

The coup has caused the usual protests from world powers. The ousted president agrees: It's all about the oil. But I'm not sure that foreign invasion is a good reaction to the coup, as Nigeria seems to think. (Please note that one of the reasons for the unpopularity of the newly ousted president is his suspected ties to Nigeria.) Predictably, the coup leaders have denied political aspirations, but several reports suggest that the coup is tied to an out-of-power political party that might think otherwise. Concern exists over the fate of the cabinet, who are being held together, but the military says they might be released today.

Finally, the Baltimore Sun argues that the best fix would be to build the proposed Navy base. I think they might be right.

More at C&C: Who's behind the coup in Sao Tome?