Latin America in Republican cross hairs

The Nov. 2 elections gave the Republicans a new sense of self confidence that is expressed in bold and reactionary plans for foreign and domestic policy. This is particularly dangerous in terms of U.S. policy toward Latin America.

While the Bush administration was elsewhere occupied, the working class in Latin America, with its allies among poor farmers, indigenous people and other minorities, and youth, made very big advances.

In Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua, radical governments have come to power. They have erected the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) as a counterweight to regional U.S. imperialist hegemony. Until the Honduras coup of June 2009, this grouping included Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela.

Beyond ALBA, left-leaning governments came to power in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay and Uruguay. Through mechanisms of regional integration such as MERCOSUR and UNASUR, this group works in amity with the ALBA group to realize the dreams of major protagonists of Latin American history such as Simon Bolivar and Jose Marti, whose fear was that once independent of Spain and Portugal, the region would fall under an equally oppressive and restricting hegemony of the United States. Jose Marti’s famous statement that “I have lived in the monster and I know it from its entrails” expressed this. And it was prophetic: President William McKinley intervened in the Cuban war of independence against Spain, seized Puerto Rico and also put humiliating restrictions on Cuban national sovereignty.

U.S. hegemony in Latin America has been felt in many ways: profoundly unequal trade arrangements that keep U.S. corporations rich and millions poor, a mind-bogglingly long list of direct military interventions and support for some of the most revolting despots that the world has ever produced: Duvalier, Trujillo, Rios Montt, Stroessner, Pinochet, Videla and more.

The “Bolivarian” project aims to reverse that history. For this reason, it has become the ray of hope for millions of Latin American workers, farmers, indigenous people and other minorities, urban and rural poor, and youth.

But none of the left and center-left governments are securely in power, except Cuba (and even Cuba keeps its guard up). The right recently won the presidency of Chile. Leftist President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was overthrown by a coup.  Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of Saint Vincent is threatened by intrigues cooked up against him in the United States and Britain.

Powerful internal and international groups plot to reverse the Bolivarian dynamic and restore U.S. hegemony: traditional and new ruling classes (landowners, bankers and various major business interests), the top military, people on the payroll of transnational corporations, the conservative hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, militant evangelical churches and the oligarchy-controlled press. Some countries are governed by right-wing regimes that connive in destabilizing the left-led countries: Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and now Chile.

As always, major government and non-government forces within the United States play a large part keeping the right in power in Latin American countries.

This was emphasized last week with a remarkable meeting in Miami of right wing Latin American leaders out of power and right wing Republican U.S. politicians. According to various reports, participants included U.S. reactionaries such as Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Connie Mack, Republicans of Florida, both linked to the Miami Cuban exile circles; former Ecuadorian president Lucio Gutierrez, who is credibly accused of fomenting the recent police uprising in Ecuador; and various other U.S. and Latin American reactionaries. The purpose of the meeting, called “Danger in the Andes,” was to find ways to force the Obama administration to take a harder line against the ALBA countries.

While, the Obama administration has not been terribly friendly to these governments, nor to socialist Cuba, these people are talking about overthrow and regime change, and they will have the backing of the most powerful transnational corporations as well as some in the U.S. military and security establishments. Of course, the pretext is going to be “protecting human rights and democracy.” Oh, and fighting terrorism, of course.  

This is not just talk.  Many of these individuals were up to their necks in the plotting that brought about the coup in Honduras, and in keeping the coup regime in power against the pressure of most Latin American governments.  Rep. Mack talks about allying with right-wing Democrats to achieve his objectives, starting with pending free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. This is a perfectly achievable goal.

These are very powerful forces. We are in for a fight.

Image: Left-wing President Correa of Ecuador, left, speaks with reporter. Photo supplied by the Office of the President of Ecuador // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Born in South Africa, he has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He writes from Northern Virginia.