U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began a tour of Latin America in Mexico yesterday with the explicit purpose of strengthening bilateral and regional efforts to combat transnational crime and address the issue of immigration with authorities in Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, Costa Rica, Belize and the Caribbean nations. In addition, Tillerson scheduled meetings with President Enrique Peña Nieto and foreign ministers Luis Videgaray, and Canada’s Chrystia Freeland.
Tillerson's visit, it must be said, does not augur well for bilateral relations, nor for relations between the United States and the countries of the rest of the North American continent. Last Wednesday, Tillerson met with three senators (one Republican and two Democrats) who expressed their concern about what they called the malignant influence of the Russian government in Latin America and, particularly, in the ongoing electoral process in Mexico.
In his own way, the secretary of state endorsed that position by pointing out that, in Latin America, there is a growing and even alarming Chinese and Russian presence, which he incidentally labeled predators, criticizing China and Russia for unfair economic practices (alluding to Beijing) and for selling arms to regimes that do not participate in the democratic process (in reference to Moscow). In contrast to those he called imperial powers, the chief U.S. diplomat referred to his own country as a multidimensional partner that helps both sides.
These claims amount to unequivocal signs of cynicism and ignorance; characteristic features of the Donald Trump administration as a whole, given that, if any great power has been characterized by its predatory commercial and economic practices and by its military support for Latin American dictatorships, it is precisely the United States; and it has been characterized by Tillerson’s department itself, where innumerable coups d'état, totalitarian military regimes and massive violations of human rights have taken shape. The great tormentor of Latin American society, together with political oligarchies and local military commanders, has been, since the century before last, the United States, not Russia or China.
And if today these two countries have increased their presence in various areas in the region, this is explained by the ongoing process of globalization, by the greater competitiveness of Chinese trade with respect to the United States, and because after 9/11, Washington lost interest in Latin America, and focused its fight on the Middle East and Asia Minor. Recently, the crusade against free trade and international cooperation undertaken by Trump himself has created space in the subcontinent that have been occupied by China and Russia, yes, but also by economies allied with the White House.
However, ignorant of that multiplicity of factors, Tillerson serves as a spokesman for the basic reaction that is possessiveness – the everlasting American belief that everything located south of the Rio Grande is Washington's backyard – a reaction that comes before the inexorable diversification of political, commercial, technological, cultural and military relations experienced by the region. The paradox is that this kind of possessive instinct currently lacks programming, policy and strategy, and is reduced to being a simple return of the brutal terms of the Monroe Doctrine: America for Americans, which, translated into Spanish, has been, in fact, Latin America for the Americans.
With regard to Mexico, Tillerson’s allegation about Russian presence is pure smoke from the dirty campaigns that proliferate in the current electoral process, and it is deplorable and exasperating that certain opinions lend themselves to serving as a sounding board for rumors without evidence, because judging by the delusion that results, it is clear that Washington has decided to use the allegations as an instrument to interfere in our internal political affairs, which inexorably weakens national sovereignty.
What there is, for the time being, is abundant, solid and incontrovertible evidence of American interventionism in Mexican politics, and Tillerson's own words are part of it.