As you watch a “weaker”, but still dangerous Hurricane Felix flood and devastate the communities of some of the poorest people in the hemisphere, you might want to take special note of the US’s first priorities in response: its own interests. A report in today’s UK Guardian lays these priorities out succinctly:
“On Tuesday, in the final hours before Hurricane Felix hit, Grupo Taca Airlines frantically airlifted tourists from the Honduran island of Roatan, popular for its pristine reefs and diving resorts, while the U.S. Southern Command said a Chinook helicopter evacuated 19 U.S. citizens, including tourists and members of U.S. Joint Task Force-Bravo who were visiting the island.”
Felix’s path covers lush, verdant lands dotted with volcanoes, almond trees – and a long, painful history of US military presence. As the impacts of the hurricane become clearer, watch how the men and women in fatigues become the heroes of the story, a mainstream media story that will likely lack any explanation about why, for example, almost half of the people living in Honduras live on less than $2 a day. Neither will they report on how “Joint Task Force Bravo” is staging rescue operations from the same military bases where they trained and housed the infamous Contras as these “freedom fighters” killed more than 30,000 mostly noncombatant poor people in their failed Cold War quest to overthrow the Sandinistas who are now back in power.
If the mainstream media did report on this, it’d be obliged to mention that these same est. 2,000-5,000 US military personnel have a mission to help the governments in this economic desert of a region combat the new post-Cold War enemy: the poor. As you hear the media tell you how US and Honduran troops are helping rescue poor campesinos and their children, compare that with how this recent “exercise” of the US Southern Command in Belize conflates poor migrants with terrorists, traffickers and other “transnational security threats”:
Security, Illegal migration and illicit trafficking Exercises
One example of this type of multinational maritime exercise called TRADEWINDS which addresses transnational security threats in the Caribbean. Recent TRADEWINDS exercises have been crafted to provide Caribbean nations training for the security requirements they will have for the upcoming World Cricket Cup. This year, Belize hosted TRADEWINDS 2007 in which 16 countries enhanced their collective abilities of maritime and ground security forces to prepare for and respond to security threats.
While the hurricane of US economic policies like CAFTA are the primary source of the region’s poverty and propensity to migrate (ie; about 80,000 Hondurans try to migrate annually), the volcano of militarism also does its part to displace – and silence- the poor, especially poor youth, as noted in this report from Amnesty International, which documents how the same Honduran military that was trained for rescue operations is also being trained in counterinsurgency strategy and tactics targeting those most likely to rebel against a $2-a-day future: youth.
For a local perspective on the relationship between land, environment and militarism, see this excerpt from campesina leader and former refugee, Elvira Alvarado’s Don’t be Afraid Gringo. Though written during the height of the Central American wars of the 80’s and 90’s, it documents well how the elite “Gringos” saw powerful refugee women named Elvira and others as communist threats in need of a military solution. Hurricane felix provides another tragic object lesson about how, in the post-Cold War age of migration and other “national security threats”, hurricane survivors, environmetal refugees and other migrants named Elvira are now seen as requiring a military solution. Le Plus Ca Change… Le Plus C’est La Meme Chose.