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Reflections on the real U.S. role south of the border

Published Apr 28, 2010 6:13 PM

People here get insufficient and biased corporate media coverage of news south of the border. Yet, the upcoming May Day that millions of immigrant people in the U.S. resurrected in 2006 arouses reflection over the situation in the rest of the Western Hemisphere — and why the U.S. government and corporate media is so determined to hide it or, more often than not, present a completely distorted picture of those countries’ reality.

Perhaps it’s because U.S. imperialism has caused most of the suffering and misery in the south. The destruction of Mexico’s economy, for example, is why so many millions of Mexico’s sons and daughters come here in a desperate quest to survive.

Washington’s real role in those countries is hardly reported. Whether through its embassies or CIA-sponsored organizations, U.S. imperialism falsifies its role. Instead of admitting it defends its transnational companies’ interests — often spilling innocent blood in the process — it claims it acts through freedom-loving entities whose only purpose is to defend democracy and justice.

Corporate media often demonize Latin American presidents who disagree with U.S. imperialism’s policies or try to regain their country’s sovereignty. Consider the aggressive U.S. government and media attacks against Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua’s leaders.

Yet governments in countries where human rights are abused daily and murders are committed in the name of “democracy” — as in Colombia, Peru and now Honduras — are Washington’s best allies. So too is the rightist president of Panama, who is taking rights away from the population.

Obama increasing hostilities

President Barack Obama’s administration has sharpened hostilities against the peoples and sovereign states of Latin America and the Caribbean. U.S. acts are trashing any hope raised by Obama’s somewhat friendly comments about establishing relations in a new base of respect, made during the Organization of American States summit in 2009 in Trinidad and Tobago. Since that speech, the Pentagon has dangerously increased the militarization in the region by taking control of at least seven new military bases in Colombia and at least four in Panama.

Washington has also promoted a vicious anti-Cuba media campaign praising the so-called Ladies in White, calling these counterrevolutionaries “dissenters.” They are really puppets at the hands of the U.S. Interest Section on the island. The U.S. government hypocritically condemns Cuba with accusations of human rights abuses while keeping in U.S. prisons the five Cuban heroes who tried to prevent acts of terrorism against Cuba by Miami-based terrorists.

In Honduras, U.S. officials supported last June’s military coup, then recognized the present Pepe Lobo administration even though Lobo represents the continuation of the coup against democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. Washington has reestablished all aid to the present administration, even adding $2.8 million more, though the current regime has committed blatant human rights abuses.

Human rights groups register nine violations a day, including murders, since Lobo took office at the end of January. In an effort to silence the opposition, rightists have killed seven journalists in this militarized country since then. Meanwhile the people have been organizing courageous resistance since the coup and are demanding a new constitution.

Justifying U.S. recognition, in mid-April U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens said that Honduras has done “everything” necessary to rejoin the OAS, from which it was expelled after the coup. The Pentagon has recently opened a second military base in Honduras, ominously close to the border with Nicaragua.

In a visit to Mexico in late April, former President Bill Clinton proposed a plan allegedly to combat the drug violence plaguing Mexico. Clinton’s plan is similar to the Plan Colombia he imposed on that country while in office. Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s alleged war against organized crime had unleashed this wave of violence in the first place.

Even Mexican Secretary of Government Fernando Gómez Mont had to reject Clinton’s arrogant proposal. Gómez Mont said, “We need [U.S.] Americans to recognize the shame of selling weapons that kill Mexicans. That they recognize that it is their money, their consumer market, which promotes and encourages violence in Mexico.” (La Jornada, April 26)

Much has been reported in the U.S. about violence in Mexico, but nothing mentions that U.S. ally Calderon’s anti-popular policies have increased Mexico’s extreme poverty. Six months ago Calderon decreed that the electric company that served the Federal District be closed, effectively laying off 44,000 workers.

Electrical workers fight back

Since then, the union representing these workers, the Mexican Union of Electrical Workers (SME), has been on the streets demonstrating against the government policies and building support from other sectors. The SME is a class-conscious, militant union. The hero of Mexico’s 1910 revolution, Emiliano Zapata, once was a member.

The people’s struggle and resistance receives scant coverage here in the corporate media. Few outlets reported the mass demonstrations in Mexico a year ago that prevented the privatization of PeMex, the national petroleum company. Such a struggle could set an example for the workers’ struggle in these times of economic and financial crisis.

The reason Gómez Mont rejected a Plan-Colombia-like plan for Mexico is clear. Initially presented as a “war on drugs,” Plan Colombia was obviously a fight against the people and particularly against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Army of National Liberation (ELN), two armed revolutionary movements.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe extended this war against the workers organized in unions, Indigenous peoples, women, youth, peasants, Afro-descendants and other peoples in their organizations.

Uribe is the closest U.S. ally in the region. He is known internationally to have ties with the deadly paramilitaries who work hand-in-hand with the Colombian army and police. Throughout their existence, these joint forces have killed thousands of Colombians. Under Uribe, the paramilitaries have gained access to all spheres of the government. There they have operated with impunity on behalf of private corporations, many of them U.S.-based.

Salvatore Mancuso, former head of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary group, testified April 21 to the Colombian Supreme Court of Justice. Mancuso, who is currently in a U.S. prison after being extradited here in 2008, told the court that members of the Colombian army, the Security Administrative Department and the Office of the Prosecution collaborated with the AUC. He also implicated the current presidential candidate of the “U” Party (Uribe’s party), Juan Manuel Santos, who was defense minister (2006-09) under Uribe.

The Ecuadoran Office of Prosecution has accused Santos of murder for being the intellectual author of the bombing that the Colombian army carried out on this neighboring country in 2008, killing 25 people in a FARC encampment close to the border with Colombia.

U.S.-sponsored campaigns continue against Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, and most virulently against Venezuela, using Colombia as an agent for destabilizing and mounting hostile media campaigns against its neighbor to the east.

Anti-imperialists in the U.S. must be vigilant and expose the aggression that U.S. imperialism carries out against the people of the south and show solidarity with the peoples there; as the union slogan says, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Students strike in Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, workers and students suffer from the U.S.-centered financial crisis. Last October the announcement of layoffs of thousands of workers (Workers World, Oct. 21) sparked the formation of a united front to struggle against the right-wing, privatizing policies of the current pro-U.S. Gov. Luis Fortuño administration.

The University of Puerto Rico — the most prestigious institution of higher learning on the island — is currently under attack. It differs from U.S. Ivy League colleges in that it is a public university that offers subsidies to students; most families can afford its average tuition. Now Fortuño wants to use privatization to change that too.

On April 13, UPR students held a general assembly to plan actions in the face of an intransigent administration that wants to increase the tuition and eliminate special tuition rates for certain students with scholarships, among other anti-people, anti-student measures. The students voted overwhelmingly for a strike if there was no response to their demands.

On April 23, students started the strike and since then have been occupying the university. Solidarity from unions has been strong and steady. On April 26, students, unions and other political organizations are demonstrating in front of the UPR in solidarity with the students and opposing the governor’s neoliberal policy.

More on Latin America and on this struggle in coming issues.

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