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Is Washington Losing Latin America To Democracy?

By Ed Nelson

12 January, 2006
Axis Of Logic

Is Washington Losing Latin America? This is the title of an article from the Jan. / Feb. 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs, an important journal for policy wonks around the world. But the real title should have been: Is Washington Losing Latin America to Democracy?

The basic contradiction which confronts the U.S. in Latin America and the Caribbean is the antagonism between the spread of democracy and the adherence to the pro U.S. neo-liberal policies. As democracy spreads in the region, the democratic regimes, in accordance with the wishes of the people entitled to vote, tend to abandon neo-liberal policy, which often suffer from these policies. The U.S. imperialist who are anxious about this process must choose between real democracy in the region, or its neo-liberal policies. So far, U.S. imperialism has tried to peruse both democracy and neo-liberal policy, but the bottom line for U.S. Imperialism is that neo-liberal policy has always trumped democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Alarmed at the possibility that democracy, as reflected by recent events in Latin America, is undermining neo-liberal policies in the region, bourgeois neo-liberal policy wonks are pointing their fingers at George W. Bush and wondering how the U.S. capitalist class can put the preverbal Jennie back into the “U.S. hegemonic” bottle; they are not encouraged by the prospects.

In order to make Latin America and the Caribbean safe for U.S. capitalist exploitation, U.S. imperialism must confront the fact that democracy in Latin American is contrary to U.S. corporate interest in North America. The Latin American democratic dominos are falling fast, and there is no Soviet Union bug-a-bear to scare the folks at home, so the imperialist apologists must deal with the issue head on. That is what Peter Hakim, the author of the above cited Foreign Affairs article, has tried to do. Hakim is President of the Inter-American Dialogue, a neo-liberal organization and think-tank that promotes free trade (sic) in the Latin America region.

Hakim begins by stating that “…for a time the Americas seemed to be heading in the right direction: between 1989 and 1995, Central Americas brutal wars were largely settled [and I might add, to the advantage of the U.S. capitalist class who sponsored these wars]; the Bradley debt-relief proposal…helped to end Latin America’s decade-long debt–induced recession [induced by U.S. banks]; the United States, Canada, and Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); and the United States hosted the hemisphere’s first summit meeting in more then a generation [but, only after U.S. imperialism defeated leftist democracy in Nicaragua and El Salvador]; and in 1995 a bold Washington-led rescue package helped prevent the collapse of Mexico’s economy”.

I insert this long quote because I think that Peter Hakim distinctly sums up the magnitude of U.S. imperialist investments to secure U.S. hegemony in Latin America, and why the U.S. bourgeois are so alarmed by the democratic gains by the emergent left in Latin America and the Caribbean

Hakim blames both Bush and Clinton for allowing these democratic gains, by allowing “…U.S. policy on Latin America [to] drift without much steam or direction”. Bush, however, gets most of the blame from Hakim for being distracted from Latin America by 9/11 and the war in Iraq.

For U.S. imperialism, “loosing Latin America” through real democratic elections is a hard pill to swallow. The U.S. bourgeois have perfected the art of controlled elections, designed to guarantee the installation of U.S. puppets and useful idiots in countries all around the world. But in Latin America the U.S. bourgeoisie are confronted by a specter not seen since the real democratic election of Chilean President Salvador Allende Gossens in 1970. That problem, and the nasty little affair in Nicaragua during the Reagan years, was dealt with in the old fashion cold war way; the regimes were declared communist dupes of the Soviet Union and snuffed out with the big stick, both covertly and not so covertly.

Today, almost everyone that the U.S. imperialist hate in Latin America and the Caribbean is either democratically elected, are may soon be democratically elected, and this creates real PR problems for the neo-liberals. How to sell U.S. intervention against democracy in Latin America to “protect” democracy in the U.S: Joe six pack may be slow, but he isn’t stupid. Yet, if the U.S. imperialist fail to stop the Latin American democratic dominos, the U.S. bourgeoisie may find themselves on the sideline, forced to deal with Latin America as an equal-- a disgusting prospect.

Mr. Hakim’s list of concerns about Latin America, naturally starts with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whom Hakim berets and disparage as a populist usurper of U.S. interest in the region. Hakim sites a number of crimes against neo-liberal policy interest committed by President Chavez. I have listed them in numerical order, with comments.

(1). Hakim holds President Hugo Chavez responsible for the “possibility” that Bolivia (to late for that one), Ecuador, and Nicaragua may soon fall victim to the democratic domino, and so become hostile to neo-liberal policy.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I think it is a good thing, and apparently so do many, if not most, of the people of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.

(2). According to Hakim, Hugo’s crimes “…are not limited to stirring up trouble in a few neighboring countries…” because Hugo sells oil to poor countries in the Caribbean through Petrocaribe, “…designed [by Hugo Chavez] to deliver subsidized oil from Venezuela to the small states of the Caribbean.”

What is interesting is that for years, the Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA, was loosing money on its Citgo refineries in the United States. Often, the Venezuelan government had to subsidize these refineries to keep them going. In fact, Citgo refineries only started making a profit two years ago, but one never heard the hue and cry from the neo-liberal policy wonks about “subsidies” to U.S. consumers.

Perhaps the real grievance Hakim has with Venezuelan “subsides” in the Caribbean Region is more related to the limits these “subsidies” place on U.S. oil companies to exploit the Caribbean consumer with outrageous fuel prices.

(3). Hakim is also alarmed that Chaves is “…financing Telesur, a regional news network intended to compete with BBC’s and CNN’s Spanish-language programs.”

Compete with the BBC and CNN? Why that alone is enough reason to have him shot on sight; but since when is more news and information a bad thing? BBC isn’t even a part of the “Americas”. Why should BBC and CNN have a monopoly on news and information in Latin America? Can you say propaganda? Mr. Hakim won’t say it publicly.

(4) Of course, Hakim couldn’t fail to mention the “threat” to the U.S. oil industry posed by a real democratic Latin America. “[O]il and natural gas supplies from politically troubled [read democratic] Venezuela and other energy-rich Andean nations [can you say Evo Morales] are less secure then ever.”

Of course, one must ask the question; less secure for whom? The oil and gas belongs to the people of Venezuela and the other “energy-rich Andean nations.” So, why is it a problem if the elected officials in these countries decide how to use it, who to sell it too, and how to spend the proceeds from their oil? The answer should be obvious, but again Mr. Hakim would never be so explicit.

(5) Another issue which sends a chill down Hakim’s bourgeois spine concerns Venezuela’s economic relations with other Latin American countries. Hakim laments that Venezuela will soon be a full partner in “Mercosur, South America’s most-important free-trade zone, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay (Bolivia, Chile, and Peru are associate members).”

The concern here seems to be that Venezuela, but not the U.S. imperialist, will soon become a member of Mercosor. Neo-liberal policy rule number one: It is a violation of neo-liberal policy to form a trading alliance without the master’s approval, consent and control.

(6). Finally, Hakim plays the China card. According to Hakim, “some members of [the U.S.]congress view China as the most serious challenge to U.S. interest in the region…they sight the huge financial resources China is promising to bring to Latin America, its growing military-to-military relations in the region, and its [China’s] clear political ambitions there, all as a potential threats to the long-standing pillar of U.S. policy in the hemisphere, the Monroe Doctrine.”

In a real democracy, the issue of foreign policy belongs to the body of people elected by the people entitled to vote. No one in Latin America elected “some members” of the U.S. Congress to determine foreign policy for them. The Monroe Doctrine is an anti- democratic, U.S. imperialist devise to maintain control over Latin American and the Caribbean’s foreign policy. A democratic Latin America and Caribbean will not abide this doctrine in the future. So get over it.

Furthermore, the Monroe Doctrine violates the essence of the free trade rhetoric espoused by neo-liberal policy wonks. They can’t have it both ways; a new world order based on free trade, and a Latin America with restrictions on who they can trade with.

To sum up, the democratic movement in Latin America and the Caribbean can only be stopped by U.S. military intervention, covert or otherwise. Neo-liberal policy wonks are struggling with how to resolve this dilemma and preserve U.S. hegemony in Latin America’s affairs. The old fashion “big-stick” policy is tempting, but it carries severe repercussions in terms of U.S. international standing. In the mean time, all that the U.S. imperialist have to work with is to degrade and vilify real Latin American democracy in public, and to undermine it covertly. The neo-liberal policy wonks, i.e. the U.S. capitalist class, are looking at George W. Bush and wondering; isn’t it about time to get off the big stick and use it?

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