Saturday, May 14, 2005

Central and South America move away from the US

For decades, Central and South America have been a land of fun and profit for those we would come to know as "neocons." Consider this from The Daily Star,

A brief look at the historical record may help provide an answer. While the neocon movement sprouted wings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as Israel found itself increasingly isolated at the UN, neoconservatives first tasted real power under former President Ronald Reagan, who was especially taken with Jeane Kirkpatrick's attacks on Jimmy Carter's human rights policies. According to her, these were disastrously undermining "friendly authoritarian" regimes in Iran, Nicaragua, South America, and even apartheid South Africa - all governments enjoying friendly relations with Israel. Instead of hectoring such regimes on reform, she argued, Washington should have provided them with unstinting support as allies in the global struggle against Soviet communism, both because Moscow was the far greater evil, and because authoritarian regimes could become "democracies," while "totalitarian" ones could not.

Reagan applied these ideas. During his first term, Washington not only renewed military and other forms of support to "friendly authoritarians," but also began the Reagan Doctrine - the sponsorship of right-wing "freedom fighters," such as jihadists in Afghanistan, tribal nationalists in Angola and ex-National Guard figures in Nicaragua, who distinguished themselves more by fanaticism and brutality than by the democratic arts. At the same time, neocons were ecstatic with Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon - not because it furthered the cause of democracy, but because it meant the expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon and a shift in the regional balance of power against Soviet-backed Syria.

So, if neocons were not big democracy boosters during their period of greatest influence under Reagan, when did they discover their religion? Most analysts date their conversion to the last half of the 1980s, when the "people power" movement ousted Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and when Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet was defeated in a referendum to extend his rule. In both cases, prominent neoconservatives Paul Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams were serving at the top of the State Department bureaus dealing with Asian and South American affairs. Neocon pundits were quick to embrace these perceived deviations from the "Kirkpatrick doctrine" as a necessary correction, particularly in light of the winding down of the Cold War.
We reinforced dictators and aided in the overthrow of democratically elected governments. From www.rgj.com,

Pinochet came to power with a coup d’etat (assisted by the U.S. government) on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 1973. On that day democracy violently died in Chile. Many years went by before the winds of freedom swept the long and narrow country again. The transition to democracy wasn’t easy, and that was in part why Gen. Pinochet was able to evade the dictates of justice in Chile for so many years. He was exempt from any punishment as an ex-president, a title that he bestowed upon himself.
One nation already had reason to mourn September 11th. Our choice of John Negroponte to lead our embassy in Iraq was one of the worst choices we could make. Central America had not forgot him. From AP.TPO.com,

Negroponte assisted the U.S.-backed Contra rebels in their attempt to overthrow Nicaragua's left-wing Sandinista government. In the process, activists claim, he ignored human rights abuses by the rebels and their Honduran hosts.

The effort to oust Daniel Ortega's Moscow-leaning Sandinista regime produced a huge scandal in the United States when it was learned the United States secretly sold arms to Iran and used the money to fund the Contra operation.

Honduras probably chose to leave the "Coalition of the Willing" because of Negroponte. From www.americanprogress.org, (some links have broken over time, these are removed from the quote)

IRAN-CONTRA ECHOES – THE IMPORTANCE OF NEGROPONTE'S RECORD: Negroponte, who has no prior experience in the Middle East and does not speak Arabic, is sure to face new questions about his Iran-Contra past, given the circumstances of his Iraqi post. As the LA Times reports, human rights advocates charged that during his tenure as Ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s, "Negroponte underplayed human rights abuses by death squads to ensure that the country would continue to serve as a base for U.S.-backed Contras." Negroponte denies this, but according declassified documents, "U.S. officials knew what was happening in Honduras and engaged in a willful deception to avoid confronting Congress with the truth." As Molly Ivins notes, this record is important because Negroponte was a key player in a "plot that sold U.S. arms to Iran" in its war against Iraq. That means "our first ambassador will be a man who armed Iraq's enemy" – a fact that might not be lost on local Iraqis with whom he must work closely. Negroponte will also be charged with convincing U.S. allies to desist from removing troops from Iraq. The problem is some of these key allies are from Central America, where Negroponte's sordid record is well-known and where his name might not be well-received. In fact, just yesterday Honduras – the country where Negroponte made his most indelible mark – said it was planning to remove its troops from Iraq. Finally, Kenneth Roth of Human Rights watch notes the "serious unanswered questions about Negroponte's complicity with the atrocities in Honduras" are important as the issue of "U.S.-sponsored forces avoiding complicity in atrocities" could arise in Baghdad.
And we haven't stopped interfering with the government of Latin and South America. From www.CommonDreams.org,

The U.S. government knew of an imminent plot to oust Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chávez, in the weeks prior to a 2002 military coup that briefly unseated him, newly released CIA documents show, despite White House claims to the contrary a week after the putsch.

Yet the United States, which depends on Venezuela for nearly one-sixth of its oil, never warned the Chávez government, Venezuelan officials said.

The Bush administration has denied it was involved in the coup or knew one was being planned. At a White House briefing on April 17, 2002, just days after the 47-hour coup, a senior administration official who did not want to be named said, "The United States did not know that there was going to be an attempt of this kind to overthrow - or to get Chávez out of power."

Yet based on the newly released CIA briefs, an analyst said yesterday that did not appear to be the case.

"This is substantive evidence that the CIA knew in advance about the coup, and it is clear that this intelligence was distributed to dozens of members of the Bush administration, giving them knowledge of coup plotting," said Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive in Washington.

However, Kornbluh said that while the documents show U.S. officials knew a coup was coming, perhaps implying tacit approval, they do not constitute proof the United States was involved in ousting Chávez, Venezuela's elected leader. That is partly because the briefs are from the intelligence side of the CIA, not the operational side.
Bush and the neo-cons have only begun to understand that the nations we have abused want to pull away from us. Central and Latin America forming ties with Arab states. Considering that we have propped up dictators and supported coups in the middle east, it kind of makes sense... From The London Line,

This week saw leaders of the Latin American and Arab worlds meet in a historic summit in Brazil - and the US was denied even the courtesy of observer status. Washington is outraged, fearing that this was more than just a diplomatic slight: it sees it as the latest gesture of defiance from the two regions that bear the deepest grudge over recent US foreign policy.

The Summit of South American-Arab Countries, which concluded on Wednesday and was attended by Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, furthered Latin America's drive to strengthen relationships away from the United States. Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva led moves by South American states to cement alliances outside the US, which has traditionally held the South on a short leash economically.


...

Washington's most throbbing Latin American headache takes the form of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Birns believes Chavez, a man who has publicly called President Bush a "dickhead", was "instrumental in orchestrating the summit".

Venezuela, which controls 40% of the US' oil imports, has moved closer to Cuba, the bête noire of US-Latin American relations, since Chavez was elected president in 1998. He survived a US-backed coup in 2002 and, with the example of his radically socialist "Bolivarian revolution", is giving the rest of the continent a lesson in bucking the north's neo-liberal agenda.

Of course, some would call this "Blaming America first." The reality is that actions have consequences. Some of the actions of the US have hurt our nation in the long run. Learning from mistakes is what make liberals who they are. Treating other nations as though they didn't matter, that our actions occur in a vacuum, and with no forethought of making allies is what make neo-cons something other than conservative.

by Robster @ 5/14/2005 10:01:00 PM PERMALink
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