In light of the Syrian civil war, Egypt’s coup d’etat, and the Israel-Palestine negotiations, the mainstream media’s foreign policy coverage has largely been about the Middle East, with Latin America disappearing into the background. Throughout the Cold War, Latin America had been the most prominent domain of U.S. influence. But even today, in the age of Obama, it serves as a battleground for American interests; little has changed in the way we conduct our foreign policy in “our backyard.”
Obama’s tried to make it seem that his administration wants to improve relations with Latin America. A close look at his actual policies disproves that instantly. Noam Chomsky recently wrote a great article about how American imperialism in the region seems to be in decline, and while that may be generally true, it’s important that we look at two particular cases where this trend’s been broken: Honduras and Paraguay.
The US-Sponsored Coup in Honduras
In June 2009, Manuel Zelaya, the democratically elected President of Honduras, was taken out of the country at gunpoint and removed via military coup. Wikileaks documents further reveal that America had full knowledge of, and even supported, a coup that’s resulted in human rights abuses. In the aftermath of the coup, Honduras became home to the highest death rate in the world, mostly due to the brutality of the security forces. Yet, we continue to give our taxpayer money to the Honduran police so that they can continue killing their own citizens.
The US-Sponsored Coup in Paraguay
Just last year in Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, the democratically elected President of Paraguay, met a somewhat similar fate. Unlike Zelaya, he wasn’t removed by the military, but by a vote of the Parliament. This may seem legitimate unless we analyze this further. Paraguay is a largely unequal and “feudal” country, where the prime source of income, agriculture, is concentrated in few hands, including the local oligarchs and large U.S. food corporations like Monsanto. The Parliament is made up of these elite interests. On top of their concerns, the U.S. was angered at Lugo’s audacity to refuse more American military presence in the country. It’s no wonder Obama’s refused to denounce the coup and military aid to Paraguay has more than doubled since.
What This Means for Us and Why We Should Care
It’s important to recognize that America still holds a lot of clout in the region, and thus, where we throw our weight can mean the difference between a Latin America littered with dictators and death squads, and a more democratic Latin America. The onus is on us to prevent our government from protecting the interests of large multinational corporations at the expense of the people there; if we don’t fight to preserve democracy in Latin America, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to preserve our own fledgling democracy here.