(this article first appeared in the Black Agenda Report)
by Roberto Lovato
Many of us had great “hope” for the much-vaunted “change” in U.S. policy towards Latin America. But listening to Barack Obama’s “substantive” speech on U.S. Latin America policy last week and reading his “New Partnership with the Americas” policy proposal, it’s pretty clear that Obama will do nothing to alter the basic structure of George W. Bush’s Latin America policy: trade backed by militarism.
Given the painful failure and generalized destruction wrought by the last century of U.S. policy in the hemisphere, the basic outline of “substantive” policy towards America Latina should look something like this
Immediate de-escalation of tensions between Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and US ally/surrogate Colombia. One would hope that, in the face of the atrocities in Colombia, Ubama would add a condemnation as loud as those Democrats wield at Cuba, whose violation of sovereignty (condemned by OAS) and human rights record-death squad killings, disappearances, torture of thousands-pales before that of Colombia;
Holding up Colombia’s multi-billion dollar military aid package would also indicate some substance;
Dismantling NAFTA, CAFTA and other trade and economic policies (ie some IMF and World Bank programs) that destroy livelihoods and communities (nay regions), bust government budgets and further enrich the elites in these countries;
Ending the embargo on Cuba. Will Obama stop beating the tattered political pinata of Cuba or simply spin it a little differently, hit it more gently?
Re-negotiating Bush’s crop-killing ethanol program;
Aborting Plan Mexico, which is already Colombianzing (ie; drug wars, anti-insurgent war, repression against opposition under cover of national security, etc.) a country that, for more than 80 years, has lived without the imposition of military rule. U.S. Presidents from Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan and Carter have paid for the arming of death squads who kidnap and torture jurists, journalists, union members and ordinary citizens as our “Latin American policy”;
Placing migration policy within the hemispheric context in which it originates;
With some important exceptions – engaging Venezuela, reconfiguring the World Bank and IMF, environmental agreements- his current approach to Latin America veers only slightly to the left of Bushismo. There is little in his speeches and proposals that is “liberal”, “progressive” or very enlightened in terms of easing the crush of poverty and repression in the region. In fact, Obama’s proposals for continuing and expanding the drug war in the hemisphere will only complete the efforts of the Bush Administration to re-militarize the region under cover of fighting drug wars.
In the search for post-Cold War enemies, the Bush Administration found its new excuse to militarize the region in the drug cartels, who, must be dealt with, but not in the Bush way.
Obama should know better.
The full text of Obama’s Miami speech can be found here.
Barack Obama’s “New Partnership For Latin America” also outlines his Latin America policies, and is located here.
Below are quotes from and brief analyses of these documents.
||WHAT OBAMA’S SPEECH & DOCUMENTS SAY||WHAT THEY MEAN|
|On the brutal 46 year embargo of Cuba||“I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice…”||Traveling to, or doing business in or with Cuba will remain illegal under US law. Academics and artists from Cuba will be denied visas, no cultural exchange permitted.|
|On US responsibility for deposing President Aristide and imposing the current regime poverty and terror upon Haiti||Nothing||The policy will not change|
|On US funding of the brutal war and death squad regime of Colombia||“When I am President, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug Program, and update it to meet evolving challenges. We will fully support Colombia’s fight against the FARC. We’ll work with the government to end the reign of terror from right wing paramilitaries. We will support Colombia’s right to strike terrorists who seek safe-haven across its borders. And we will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments. ”||The policy will not change. The Colombian government has a blank check and a green light to murder and engage in cross-border provocations at will.|
|On the US continuing low-intensity war against Venezuela||In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is a democratically elected leader. But we also know that he does not govern democratically. He talks of the people, but his actions just serve his own power. Yet the Bush Administration’s blustery condemnations and clumsy attempts to undermine Chavez have only strengthened his hand.”||Destabilization attempts under an Obama administration may be less blustery and clumsy.|