Latin America & Obama


Scientists could probably work out an algorithm to give a predictable correlation between media disinformation, economic crisis and militarist adventurism. Corporate media news production is now so skewed and poorly bashed together, one can almost take a wrench to the perception management nuts and bolts sticking out at the seams. No need to x-ray the welding. It came apart years ago in Palestine and Iraq.

Apologies may well be in order for continuing to point to the obvious. But it may be that the increasing blatancy of media bias means they no longer feel much need even to pretend attempts at veracity. Recent coverage of Latin America offers many ready examples of shoddy corporate media news fabrication. Their anti-reportage of events in Bolivia ignored almost completely that Evo Morales won majority approval in 95 of Bolivia‘s 112 provinces. Mostly, they reported the referendum results as splitting Bolivia in two politically.

Their anti-reportage on Mexico regularly ignores the devastating effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement on Mexico‘s rural economy. The militarization of Mexico proposed via Plan Merida has only tenuous links to the bogus "war on drugs". Rather its military emphasis will help enforce "free market" agricultural policies in rural areas and also repress the consequent conflict in over-stressed slums, as the population shifts even more emphatically from rural areas to urban centres.

But feel-good media gobbledygook on NAFTA has masked that reality. Mainstream media fail to report the role of Monsanto and its fellow agri-business corporate monsters destroying Mexico through their rapacious assault on Mexico‘s farming economy. The UN reckons Mexico‘s population is worse off than people in Cuba in terms of human development. No mainstream media outlet ever reports that mute but crushing indictment of NAFTA.

Likewise, in Colombia, the corporate media tend emphatically to leave every stone unturned when un-reporting the narco-terror connections of Alvaro Uribe’s corrupt, murderous regime. By contrast almost every report one reads about the FARC guerrillas alleges connections to drugs trafficking. But dates of shipments, amounts conveyed, numbers of guerrillas convicted on drugs charges – such supporting evidence never appears.

As in so much quasi-news, smears are deemed sufficent proof in themselves. Now that Colombia has been invited to send troops to supplement NATO forces in Afghanistan, international coverage is likely to give Colombia’s narco-terror President Uribe an even more comfortable free ride than they did before. Mainstream media invariably apply quasi-reporting’s more cosy varieties to NATO-country allies.

Conversely, they un-report economic and social progress by Venezuela, Cuba and their allies under the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) agreements. For example, hardly any Western Bloc media have noted that the Cuban-Venezuelan Mission Miracle program has now helped 1,300,000 people in Latin America recover their sight for free. Nor have they reported a far more significant piece of news in the Americas than Barack Obama’s ritual anointment in Denver: Honduras signed up to ALBA on August 25th.

Similar media silence greeted Costa Rica‘s application to join ALBA’s junior, Petrocaribe. Guatemala joined Petrocaribe in July. They joined not only because Petrocaribe helps resolve these countries’ energy problems. Petrocaribe is also generating  food and development aid programmes whose likely eventual corollary will be those countries’ subsequent involvement in the wider ALBA framework.

None of these developments have been reported adequately, if at all, in the corporate media. They drop awkwardly into into the spurious logic of the dismissive "pink tide" pap-reporting so beloved of liberal and not-so-liberal commentators. One can hardly accuse Presidents Alvaro Colom of Guatemala or Oscar Arias of Costa Rica of leading radical governments. Nor are the governments of Petrocaribe members like Jamaica, Belize or Dominica regarded as progressive. Those countries work with Venezuela and Cuba because the Venezuelan and Cuban governments help them solve, or at least begin to address, otherwise intractable difficulties.

An accurate view of events in Latin America is impossible without looking at the problems facing people in that vast diverse region in their own terms. One sees this very well in some recent thoughtful articles by North American writers who have touched on possible Latin America policy under a future Barack Obama presidency. Of the three, Tom Hayden, Laura Carlsen and Mark Weisbrot, only Weisbrot takes real note of the perspective of representatives of Latin American governments. Tom Hayden touches briefly on Latin America via some comments on Colombia.

He writes, "In Latin America, Obama supports the Colombian military, riddled with drug lords, against the Columbia guerrillas, with ties of their own to narco trafficking. Beyond that, he has been out of step and out of touch with the winds of democratic change sweeping Latin America. His commitment to fulfilling the United Nations anti-poverty goals, or to eradicating sweatshops through a global living wage, is underwhelming and-given his anti-terrorism wars-will be underfinanced….And so on. The man will disappoint as well as inspire."

Hayden’s piece was dealing with much broader matters than just Obama and Latin America. But it is worth noting that US support for Colombia is not just some policy that can be changed on a whim. It is a deep-rooted manifestation of the US plutocrat elite’s wider strategic view of United States‘ interests. Mass poverty and injustice in Colombia will never be eradicated or even palliated under the current power structure there, which depends almost entirely on US and allied military support.

For that reason, the civil war in Colombia will continue so long as that structure of power and alliances exists and drives people in Colombia to resist it. Were genuine democratic change in Colombia to occur, the United States would lose power and influence. So Barack Obama as US president, along with his NATO country partners will continue to support the murderous narco-terror regime in Colombia. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt so famously said of Anastasio Somoza. "He may be a sonofabitch, but he’s our sonofabitch."

FDR looms large in Laura Carlsen’s wide-ranging look at possible US policy in Latin America under Barack Obama. Carlsen argues the case for a leap of faith in favour of Obama and invokes the prospects for a return to FDR’s "Good Neighbour" policy in Latin America. That may make sense from a US perspective. But from a Latin American perspective, and more especially a Central American perspective, it raises nightmares.

Throughout FDR’s time in government, military dictators ran Central America. Along with Somoza in Nicaragua, in El Salvador it was the time of Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez, responsible for "La Matanza"  in which over 30,000 rural workers were killed. In Honduras, the US government supported General Carías Andino’s murderous anti-communist, anti-trades union repression. In Guatemala, the FDR administrations supported another military dictator, General Jorge Ubico. FDR’s "four freedoms" never made it past the Rio Grande, let alone as far as the Darien gap.

Few in Latin America will welcome a reprise of US policy under FDR.  It may not be fair to make too much of that history. But it is a real history and one with all too real nefarious consequences. Recalling it reminds one how easy it is to fall into wishful thinking. An Obama presidency will categorically promote US interests in tune with the longstanding perceptions and policy varieties that have persisted since long before the Clinton and Bush years.

Mark Weisbrot probably offers the most realistic prognosis, "…Obama’s expressed willingness to possibly meet with Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro do not offer much cause for optimism, and indeed there is not much hope for change among Latin American diplomats here in Washington…..maybe Obama is just kidding when he adopts the Bush Administration’s rhetoric and policy stances on Latin America. For now, at least, that is the best hope we can hold on to."

With Joe Biden as Obama’s running mate, the chances of any change in US foreign policy in an Obama presidency recede even further. The Georgian aggression against South Ossetia was not some kind of Gidean acte gratuit. It derived from US-led NATO support, as did the equally murderous Israeli bombing campaign in Lebanon in 2006. These are the outcomes of long-standing strategic decisions taken by the two-headed US corporate plutocracy and their allies. The same motives drive US and allied policy in Latin America.

Events will overtake whichever candidate ends up in the White House in January next year and force their hand as the full effects of the US financial and economic crisis continue to break through 2009 and perhaps on into 2010. Faced with confronting Russia or China or Iran, the United States and its allies may well baulk at the prospect of global destruction and mayhem. Instead they may choose what look like less costly options of covert and overt action to access strategic resources in a less militarily prepared region like Latin America.

In Mexico, PeruChile, and Brazil the position of US government sympathisers and collaborators is probably as good as it is likely to get. The continent-wide imperialist media propaganda machine is already cranked up. The huge US bridgehead in Colombia is armed to the teeth. Local allies in Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Central America are primed and ready. The Fourth Fleet is active. Hoping for the best for Latin America from a future Obama presidency is all too likely just whistling in the dark.

toni writes for tortillaconsal.com

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