Autogolpe —Another Word for Seizing Power

By Maeve Maddox

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During the recent unsettled times, I have come across a new word (new to me) to describe an extralegal maneuver to seize power in a country that has an established government: autogolpe.

autogolpe (noun): a situation in which a nation’s leader, who came to power by way of legal means, retains a hold on office by unlawfully assuming extraordinary powers.

The prefix auto is, of course, the Greek word for self, but golpe is from Spanish. Like French coup, golpe refers to a strike or a blow, delivered suddenly and quickly.

In Latin America, the word autogolpe refers to a military coup initiated by a country’s elected leader to take over the government.

On 5 April it was 14 years since former president Alberto Fujimori’s autogolpe, which suspended the 1979 constitution and dissolved congress before drafting a new constitution adopting a unicameral system.—Latin News

An autogolpe differs from a coup d’état in that the latter overthrows the established government—including the current head of state—and puts another in its place. The autogolpe retains the established government, but extends the powers of the legally elected leader beyond what was intended under law.

The German equivalent of French coup and Spanish golpe is putsch, and like them, putsch can be used to refer to an attempt to overthrow a government, especially by violent means.

For example, the Beer Hall Putsch (8-9 November 1923), also known as the Munich Putsch, was a failed coup d’état by Adolf Hitler to seize power in Munich, Bavaria.

English is especially rich in words for attempts to resist the established order. Some imply armed revolt with the intention of overthrowing the government. Others suggest resistance or disobedience without necessarily intending to change the government.

insurgence: the action of rising against authority; a rising, revolt.

insurrection: the action of rising in arms or open resistance against established authority or governmental restraint.

mutiny: a rebellion of a substantial number of soldiers, sailors, prisoners, or the like against those in authority.

rebellion: an organized armed resistance to an established ruler or government; an uprising, a revolt.

revolt: An act of renouncing allegiance to established authority, especially through collective armed rebellion; an insurrection, an uprising.

revolution: the overthrow of an established government or social order by those previously subject to it; forcible substitution of a new form of government.

riot: a violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd; an outbreak of violent civil disorder or lawlessness.

sedition: a concerted movement to overthrow an established government; a revolt, rebellion, mutiny. Sedition also refers to any conduct or language inciting to rebellion against the constituted authority in a state.

subversion: the action of overthrowing a nation, government, or ruler.

uprising: an insurrection; a popular rising against authority or for some common purpose.

Whereas most power grabs have as their goal the establishment of a different government, the insurgency of anarchists has as its ideal an absence of government.

anarchy: A theoretical social state in which there is no governing person or body of persons, but each individual has absolute liberty.

The literal meaning of anarchy, from Greek words for state and head, is “a state or nation without a chief.” As a political movement, anarchy is limited in its success because it’s extremely difficult to organize people who won’t take directions.

Another word I’ve learned from the endless articles about civil unrest is anomie.

anomie: the absence of accepted social standards or values; the state or condition of an individual or society lacking such standards.

In my view, anomie is scarier than all of the others.

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2 Responses to “Autogolpe —Another Word for Seizing Power”

  • Raymona Anderson

    How msny ways can one label thuggery?

  • Gloria Tran

    What a relevant column–especially after the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6!

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