Two years ago, a military putsch in the small West African nation of Guinea-Bissau was dubbed a “narco-coup,” with reports claiming the civilian president had been removed for his unwillingness to turn a blind eye to lucrative cocaine smuggling rackets by commanders of the armed forces. On Sept. 16, BBC News reported that the leader of the coup, armed forces chief Gen. Antonio Indjai, was dismissed by the new president, Jose Mario Vaz, who came to power following elections and a return to civilian rule earlier this year. Reuters suggests international pressure was behind the move. Indjai was replaced with Gen. Biague Na Ntan, described as a confidant of Vaz. Reuters notes that he is an ethnic Balanta like Indjai, which could smooth over resentment from the ethnic group that makes up about 60% of the army and security forces but just 25% of the population.
Gen. Indjai became head of the military after leading an army mutiny in 2010, two years before staging his coup. In 2013, he was indicted in the US on charges of plotting a cocaine-for-weapons deal with Colombia’s FARC rebels — although (surprise!) the FARC wasn’t actually involved whatsoever; Indjai had actually been dealing with DEA undercover agents. Weeks before Indjai was indicted, Guinea-Bissau’s former navy chief, Rear Adm. Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, appeared in a New York court on similar charges, having been arrested in international waters in a sting operation by US agents.
Days after Indjai’s removal, Guinea-Bissau launched a special fund to stimulate the country’s cashew industry, its legal economic mainstay. It all signals a push to get off the narco-economy and back in the good graces of the “international community.” But the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is making everything more difficult. The disease hasn’t hit Guinea-Bissau, but it has sealed its borders to keep it out — not exactly conducive to global trade. Let’s hope the country isn’t on a countdown to a counter-counter-coup …
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