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