By Dr. Henry Flores, NewsTaco
One thing that has been lacking for many years and from many United States Administrations is a Latin American policy. We have had policies, don’t get me wrong. But, we have never had a comprehensive policy since the early nineteenth century and then it was only warning the world that Latin America was our backyard and there was no room for other exploiters.
A review of our policies over the almost last two centuries, going all the way back to the Mexican War of 1848 when the United States acquired half of Mexico as its own indicates nothing but a belligerent and imperialistic attitude toward any and all Latin American countries. A brief review will suffice here.
The Mexican War, which really began earlier than 1848, expanded US control over half of all of Mexico plus several million dollars. This war, which saw the desecration of Catholic churches to such an extreme that an entire brigade of Irish Catholic soldiers disserted and joined the Mexican Army, did not leave a good taste in the mouth of our neighbor to the south.
Then we went to war with Spain in the 1890s and received Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico and other concessions bolstering our empire.
Don’t you just love this! While nativists scream about us speaking Spanish, the United States kept adding Spanish Speaking countries to its growing empire!
Anyway, during both World Wars we added a military presence in almost every country in the hemisphere to use as logistic, training, and strategic centers. So by the time we overthrew the Guatemalan government in the 1950s we were well established militarily in the region. Beginning with Guatemala we expanded control by backing dictatorships, mostly military, throughout Central America, with the exception of Costa Rica down through Panama and into South America.
The 1960s saw us begin waging war against communism by blockading Cuba and supporting Operation Condor throughout South America. This last operation was supporting the oppressive military dictatorships in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. All these repressive regimes since have fallen, mostly through the anger of the people who have now instituted liberal-type democracies.
But the issue is that these countries have not forgotten that the United States always supported the dictatorships, murder squads, political prisons, torture centers, biased media outlets and anti-democratic movements throughout the hemisphere. This may be our “backyard” but we have not played well with our neighbors.
Latin Americans, I have found throughout my travels, see a role model for democracy in the United States regardless of our past reputation. Many see the political actions of our leaders as those of misguided individuals and not a reflection of who Americans are as a people. I tend to agree with this perspective.
Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, just passed away. He was a vocal and stern critic of American foreign policy. He even lectured President Obama on the ugly history of America’s track record throughout Latin America.
His passing leaves a great void because Chavez, for all his craziness, did provide other Latin American leaders with a voice of protest and leadership against United States interests in their countries. These countries, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay, became a union that could stand up to the United States and get some respect.
It is not clear what will happen now that Chavez has gone. I do know this, however, now that he is gone we have an opportunity to engage Latin America in ways other than we have in the past. Now is the time for President Obama (I know his plate is full) to step into the breach and extend a hand of friendship and constructivism to the countries of Latin America.
What we need, is friends, true friends in this hemisphere and now that our president can speak Spanish, he needs to go down there and practice.
This article was first published in NewsTaco.
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