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America’s Civilizing Efforts


Sean Gonsalves

"Reflecting

growing alarm in Washington about leftist rebels strengthened by the cocaine

trade, a leading US diplomat met with (Colombian) President Andres Pastrana

(last week) to discuss drug trafficking and the country’s civil war,"

Associated Press writer Jared Kotler reports.

The

"leading" US diplomat is Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, who

has vowed to "battle drug trafficking and negotiate an end to the country’s

35-year civil war." Also, last week, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times that discussed the need to sever

the alleged ties between leftist rebels and narco-traffickers.

The

propaganda machine is in full-swing. Albright and Pickering, with the

indispensable aid of the "liberal" media, are side-stepping what lies

at the root of that nation’s civil strife.

"Latin

America has been the most rapidly urbanizing Third World region in this century,

in large part due to the failure of the existing land system to provide the

minimum livelihood for survival," says U.S. foreign policy scholar Gabriel

Kolko in his book "Confronting the Third World: United States Foreign

Policy 1945-1980."

>From

1930 to 1960 the percentage of the population living in urban areas had doubled

to reach 33 percent. This trend until the 1980s. "The social causes of the

misery the masses lived in were diverse, but the inequitable structure of land

tenure was by far the most important…In Colombia 0.3 percent owned 30 percent

of the land (in 1960)," Kolko points out.

"This

basic pattern in land ownership showed up in income distribution statistics. In

1960, the richest five percent of the population (in Latin America) earned 33.4

percent of all income….with 29.2 percent for the next richest 15 percent – or

62.6 percent for the wealthiest fifth. Peru and Colombia had the most

inequitable distribution in the hemisphere and among the worst in the entire

Third World," he continues.

American

excursions into the region go back to the days when President Theodore Roosevelt

wanted to "show those Dagos that they will have to behave decently,"

as he so eloquently put it. Over the years, U.S. planners insisted that Latin

American nations organize their economies to benefit foreign investors.

"The

land distribution system, as all knew in 1961, was the origin of social misery

for the peasants who comprised the vast majority of the region. While the United

States had acknowledged this at the Alliance (for Progress) inception, it

abandoned this definition of the problem immediately because virtually all of

the political forces it might identify with – and above all, the generals -

opposed changes with far-reaching implications to the existing framework of

wealth and power," Kolko observes.

"In

Colombia, for example, large landlords helped to write the so-called land reform

law to forestall the reemergence of the post-1948 poor peasant upheavals that

had traumatized the nation and resulted in tens of thousands of deaths,"

Kolko elaborates.

Kolko

concludes: "In the end, the United State’s manifest destiny merged and made

common cause with the oligarchies’ and corruptionists’ mission to save

themselves from the radical Left and the nationalist Center…By resorting to

covert warfare in most places, or its own troops, as in the Dominican Republic,

Washington had tried to rely on its military power to circumvent the failure of

its economic efforts to integrate the hemisphere even more thoroughly -

guaranteeing that all the advocates of change throughout the hemisphere,

whatever their ideological hue, would be required to make resistance to Yankee

imperialism a prerequisite for progress."

As

late as 1996, half of all U.S. military aid went to Colombia – the hemisphere’s

leading violator of human rights. In May of 1995, the Bishop and priests of the

Diocese of Apartado issued a "Communiqué to Public Opinion."

"The

paramilitary groups have mercilessly decimated entire towns", while the

authorities, "facing the tragedy of the people,…remain indifferent

without opposing the advance of this macabre plan of death and

destruction," the Communiqué said. Even the Mayor of Apartado says the

paramilitary groups are "virtually running wild with an escalation of

murders and horrible mutilations."

Our

tax dollars support that. And we are supposed to believe that our policy-makers

are concerned about human rights, as they claimed was the purpose of America’s

savage bombing of Yugoslavia. Right now, the Colombian government is seeking

$500 million in U.S. military aid "to help it regain the upper hand against

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia," Kotler further reports.

A

war on drugs? It’s a war on peasants fighting against rich U.S. allies, who will

remain allies only as long as those "damned Dagos" give in to our

"civilizing" efforts. If not…does the name Manuel Noriega or the

1989 illegal U.S. invasion of Panama in which thousands of innocent civilians

were killed sound familiar?

 

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