By Tamara Pearson
The U.S. government says it is going to help Central America fight corruption, will combat the “root causes” of migration in Mexico and Central America, and it wants to help the Cuban people with freedom too.
But the U.S. domestic and foreign track record demonstrates that Washington isn’t qualified to teach anyone about democracy, combating poverty, ending corruption or anything related to human rights. Instead, its recent discourse regarding Latin American countries is aimed at dressing itself, the bully, as the savior.
By manufacturing problems (i.e. by directly causing hunger and medicine shortages), as well as by magnifying or distorting existing problems and combining those with real hardships, the U.S. has been framing its intervention and dominance in certain countries as help that no one can reasonably oppose. The help discourse makes it hard for many people to perceive the real agenda and political interests of the U.S. and makes it very easy for the mainstream media to cover up the U.S. desire to increase its exploitation of Latin America.
In U.S. help speak, financial support for anti-government (read pro-U.S. agenda) groups is spun as aid, particularly through USAID. Bringing a pro-U.S. leader to power is framed as toppling a cruel dictator. Building towns where U.S. corporations and manufacturing plants can do whatever they want (i.e. the ZEDES, or zones for employment and economic development, in Honduras; or industrial parks in Mexico) and imposing privatization policies on poor countries is called “freedom,” “democracy,” “investment” or “economic support.”
While the U.S. blockade of Cuba for the past six decades has caused over $144 billion in losses to the country’s economy, U.S. President Joe Biden last week sided with protests there, and called for “relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic … and economic suffering.” The blockade is what is causing severe shortages in Cuba, an oil crisis and making it hard for the country to manufacture enough vaccines.
Democracy Now! talked to Daniel Monterro, an independent journalist in Havana who was arrested during the protests. He noted that the media had skipped over the fact that most people arrested were released the same day and that there was violence by both police and protesters. He said the sanctions were the main cause of economic hardships, and the Cuban-USians in Florida calling for a military intervention in Cuba was “some of the most colonial behavior I’ve seen in my life.”
Biden called on the Cuban government to “refrain from violence” — a hypocritical stance given the police murders and repression in his own country. “We are assessing how we can be helpful to the people of Cuba,” said White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, using the savior discourse, but not considering repealing the sanctions.
Crazy how the US needed to implement the longest embargo in modern human history with the explicit objective to cause starvation and unrest among the Cuban people for an ideology that is destined to fail ?? https://t.co/5nZunhvEDY
— Cryptocurrency Scarface (@danieteebee) July 15, 2021
Meanwhile, U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris has been making a show of helping Central America and Mexico by ostensibly addressing corruption and the “root causes” of migration in the region. Seven months into the year and no actual help has arrived, but she did tell migrants fleeing for their lives not to come to the U.S. and the U.S. has kept its border closed — in stark violation of human rights and its own asylum seeker laws.
In June, the White House declared a “fight against corruption” in Central America and made it a U.S. national security interest. In general, a security interest is code for war, intervention and attacks on countries that don’t conform to U.S. interests. Further, the State Department was involved in the Car Wash anti-corruption operation in Brazil which saw pro-poor president Luiz Inacio Lula arrested. “A gift from the CIA,” said one U.S. prosecutor of Lula’s imprisonment. The main liaison for the FBI at the time, Leslie Backschies, boasted that it had “toppled presidents in Brazil.”
During a press conference in May, Harris hinted at the real U.S. intentions with the latest so-called fight against corruption, “In the Northern Triangle, we also know that corruption prevents us from creating the conditions on the ground to best attract investment.” Even the White House statement admits the anti-corruption efforts are about securing “a critical advantage for the United States.”
The U.S. government recently released its list of powerful corrupt figures in Central America who will be denied U.S. visas. The list includes former Honduran President Jose Lobo, whom the U.S. helped bring to power by supporting a coup in 2009, and a current legal adviser to the Salvadoran president. But it doesn’t include proven criminal and current Honduran President Juan Hernández — suggesting that political interests underlay the chosen figures.
The U.S. also wants to increase the financing, resource support and “political assistance” for actors in foreign countries who “exhibit the desire to reduce corruption” (conveniently vague phrasing) and promote “partnerships with the private sector.” An Anticorruption Task Force will provide “training” to Central American authorities and U.S. law enforcement experts will be deployed to “provide mentoring.” Here, it is worth noting the long U.S. record in training coup leaders, repressive military leaders and counter-revolutionaries.
Strategy to Ensure Compliance
For at least a century, the U.S. has had an abusive relationship with Latin America, using it as a source of cheap labor, gutting its land for minerals, pillaging its resources and demanding (in an authoritarian way — ironic, given its overtures to “freedom”) total compliance with its self-benefiting trade policies.
When countries refuse to obey, when they assert their identity, strive for dignity, and combat poverty (and therefore that cheap supply of labor), the U.S. reacts. It supported the counter revolution in Nicaragua with money and training, the CIA carried out a coup to remove Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz and end the revolution there, the U.S. sided with the coup plotters recently in Bolivia, it repeatedly supported anti-democratic movements to overthrow Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, and time and again it has tried to kill or remove the Cuban president.
It systematically supports repressive, conservative governments because they are the ones that protect its business interests. And despite its current discourse on the “root causes of migration,” the U.S. consistently and violently opposes movements and governments that side with the poor and could actually decrease inequality and prevent forced migration.
The U.S., and the U.S.-centric mainstream media, have two sets of standards: one for rebellious countries, another for pro-U.S. countries.
That’s why the U.S. and the media are speaking out about arrests in Cuba, while staying silent about disappearing activists and journalists in Mexico. It’s why the U.S. State Department talked about the “violence and vandalism” of the protesters in Colombia recently instead of criticizing the brutal repression. Biden has publicly supported Plan Colombia (currently called Peace Colombia), which makes the country one of the largest buyers of U.S. military equipment.
The two sets of standards are also why U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked about Cubans being allowed to “determine their own future” — something he would never call for in most other countries of the world where the majority are excluded from economic and political decision making.
What we’re seeing at the moment regarding the U.S. attitude towards Cuba is nothing new. I witnessed very similar tactics being employed in Venezuela. It was #SOSVenezuela placards and tweets when I was there, then #SOSEcuador was used against President Rafael Correa while I was working in Ecuador, and now #SOSCuba is being used.
The formula also includes versions of the following: causing or worsening food and medicine scarcity through blockades and hoarding, a media campaign portraying the government as a dictatorial regime, marches by mostly white and upper-class people, media and social media coverage of anti- government marches that exaggerates their size with selective visuals or even photos from other countries (or in the recent case of Cuba, using pro-government rallies as photos of opposition rallies), and a total media boycott of any pro-government marches. There is a focus on “freedom” and an absence of any context, historical causes of problems, or any real solutions, while everything is blamed on the government the U.S. seeks to change.
The #SOSCuba social media campaign began just a week before the marches. The first tweets came from an account in Spain (with over a thousand tweets in a few days and automated retweets), which was then supported by other bots and recently created accounts. The tweets coincided with an increase in Covid-19 cases in Cuba, though the figures (around 40 deaths a day) are well below even the U.S.’s current death rate.
Any help or aid from the U.S. always comes with conditions and ulterior motives. No matter how intricate his manipulations are, the bully isn’t actually going to help anyone.
Tamara Pearson is a long-time journalist based in Latin America, and author of The Butterfly Prison. Her writings can be found at her blog. Twitter: @pajaritaroja
This article is from Common Dreams.
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An old saying of mine…’wherever the US goes, shit is sure to follow’. For crying out loud, this country can’t even take care of its own problems – always distracting people’s attentions by stirring up havoc in some other country. Charity starts at home…
Possibly an invasion of Cuba looks easier than invasions of China or Russia. Every president must have a war against “lesser breeds outside the law.”
Now that WOULD bring terrorism to the streets of the USA, including attacks on US politicians, media figures, businesses and public utilities. It would be Northern Ireland redux. Cubans would not limit such a war to their own territory, especially since the American “promised land” lies only 90 miles away. The American economic siege of Cuban has gone on for 60 years. Attacks on American businesses, government facilities and personnel could go on within our borders for an equally long time. The CIA and the sociopaths running the Deep State had better be careful about what they wish for.
Thanks for an excellent summary of the consistently hypocritical and duplicitous foreign policy of the U.S. I have one suggestion which I believe would, perhaps, enable the generally uniformed and misinformed people of the U.S. to better understand the message of your article. That suggestion is to explain that the term “U.S. interests” is intentionally used by the government to trick the people into thinking that these illegal and immoral “interventions” are in their interests. I realize that you understand this very well. However, I think it is a mistake to think that most people also understand it. I think it is a grave mistake to underestimate the level of ignorance of the American people. To communicate effectively, it might be helpful to write in large words on a Big Chief tablet. Failing that, perhaps just a few words pointing out that when you use the words “U.S. interests” you are really talking about the twofold goals of U.S. foreign policy: 1. the fantasy of U.S. “leaders” of U.S. domination of the world; and 2. allowing the most favored thieves to loot the invaded countries. We see the conflation of those words consistently by members of the establishment, e.g. when Trump (although not technically a member of the “traditional” establishment) when he bragged about stealing Syrian oil as a U.S. interest (or at least implying such). That nitpick aside, I think your article is very well done and makes a necessary rejoinder to the renewed clamor for yet another invasion of Cuba. The treatment of that Country for the last 60+ years is shameful, which is to say, standard U.S. foreign policy.
I agree with what you say, but allow me to offer a Canadian take on “US interests.”
“UN interests” would include the right of Canadian mining companies to pollute the land surrounding gold deposits in Guatemala and their right to violently expel Guatemalan indigenous who object. However, “US interests” would not include the right of US aboriginals to decent living conditions.
As many of us on the real left knew it would be, the Deep State owned Biden administration is much worse than the Trump administration with respect to meddling and malevolent intervention in other country’s.
This is NOT an endorsement of the Trump administration!!!
In realistic terms, Trump was perhaps the ‘best’ U.S. president since Carter or maybe forever in terms of U.S. imperial/colonial power. Yeah, he did some terrible things – assassinations, bombings, sanctions – and Pompeo and Bolton were/are farcical fascists. So was/is Trump. And that is his virtue besides a populist (however misguided it is) platform that was more skeptical of the interventionist establishment then any other president since perhaps Carter (or before, or ever?). No ‘no-fly zones’ were enacted (unlike Obama). No new interventions (unlike everyone since Carter). But most importantly, he was a clown and the rest of the world saw the true face of the U.S. = Backstabbing, vile, war-mongering hypocrites hell-bent to remain in control. And no expansion of territory or colonialist conquest as with everyone in the first 170 years. So, Guillermo, we can despise Trump while finding positive outcomes from his buffoonery. If only they would let Biden speak freely and expose his demented views (and perhaps dementia), the empire would fall further. As it is, we have to suffer the “America is back” lunacy.
Outstanding description of actual reality, Tamara. What Washington describes and calls for is the exact opposite of what they intend and what would be beneficial for ANY country in Latin America. It is just the usual litany of false narratives and deceitful empty promises. THEY precipitated every coup and every corporate takeover in the hemisphere since Smedley Butler first exposed their treachery approximately one hundred years ago.
None of it was done to make life better for any part of Latin America. Every bit was done to enrich the coffers of American oligarchs and the global empire that the US government and its obscenely powerful but absurdly expensive military have created. If Washington did not put any given regime which it wants to target into power, it decries that government as repressive and illegitimate, even if it has been voted in numerous times by the populace. Washington has repeatedly preferred to trade freely-elected social democratic leaders for rank militaristic fascists, like Galtieri, Pinochet and their ilk.
It’s the same dirty trick they’ve imposed on countries around the world, most notably now in Ukraine. Sometimes it’s even worse, as in Libya, Iraq and Syria where millions of natives have not only been killed but displaced thousands of miles from home in cultures that have, from the start, mixed like oil in water with their own. The phenomenon is far more problematic than the historical Kulturkampf between the Protestant and Catholic ethnic groups in Bismarck’s Reich, which drove a lot of migration to North America in the years before the World Wars.
In a similar vein, Washington must have deliberately blinded itself if it does not see that a major part of the blowback from its campaign of coups against populist Latin American governments is the flood of migrants spilling over its Southern border who will sadly become a massive problem for future assimilation into an American culture that many still wish to preserve. What is the purpose of this, beyond Democrats wanting to inflate their voting roles? I’m sure it’s not to assuage a guilty conscience from all the personal turmoil caused to millions by a century of unrestrained imperialist American geopolitical policy. Simple observation suggests the sociopaths in power have no conscience.
The last data I saw related that over 11 million illegal immigrants now reside in this country. Europe’s quite serious dilemma almost pales in comparison. And let’s be real, most of those 11 million have been allowed in for the privilege of being exploited as cheap labor, not because they wish to assimilate into Anglo society, should they even be invited or allowed to so! Most will get squeezed into barrios where they will understandably organise into gangs of their own countrymen (just as polyglot Europeans did about 150 years ago when the huddled masses began to arrive in serious numbers) where they will come into conflict with the already extant black street gangs. It’s been a pattern for generations now. Please, the jails and the morgues are full enough as it is.
Being nothing but a bemused fraud, Joe Biden has no genuine plan to alter matters one bit. My advice to Loco Joe is to bring home the half million troops stationed in the 1,000 bases around the world to prop up Washington’s rotting empire. It will save some money and keep us from sparking World War III at so many possible combustion sites. Sorry if I focus too intently on what really will happen (because it is already a work in progress) rather than Washington’s load of malarkey being peddled by Biden.
Excellent comment and elaboration by Realist on Pearson’s fine post. I wholeheartedly agree. It’s vital to understand our immigration crisis is blowback for what we’ve done and continue to do in Central America. In terms of domestic politics, it’s a self-licking ice cream cone: what passes for debate in this country ignores the elephant in the room of decades of support for corruption and oligarchy, causing the migration crisis. And that migrant wave is a continued source of cheap labor abetting the decades-long race to the bottom here. The fact nothing changes is apparently a feature, not a bug, as Biden himself promised that nothing would fundamentally change. When it fact, nearly everything must change at a fundamental level.