Obama and Latin America

One area of the world where progressive forces have been most disappointed by U.S. foreign policy has been Latin America. The lack of change there has been a constant. Almost immediately after his first election, Obama’s administration exhibited a deafening silence following the attempt on the life of President Correa of Ecuador in September 2010, when there was an attempted coup. We noticed this same silence during the coup against the legally elected President Fernando Lugo [of Paraguay], who was helpless against the oligarchy that has dominated Paraguay for most of its history. The U.S. Department of State did not condemn the coup.

But the most blatant case was the acceptance of the military coup in Honduras, in which a democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, was detained, expelled from the country and replaced by one of the most repressive regimes on the continent. The political assassination of the regime’s opponents is now a common practice in that country. Eighty-three members of the U.S. Congress sent letters to the then secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, requesting that she condemn the repressive situation in Honduras. Yet President Obama not only did nothing to oppose the coup, he actually supported it, stating that the — fraudulent — election that took place after the coup lent legitimacy to the new government.

Such a situation of brutal repression hardly gains any coverage in the mainstream media in the U.S. and Europe. While major media outlets have continued to demonstrate marked hostility toward the Venezuelan government under Chavez, which tried to achieve socialism by democratic means (there is greater ideological diversity in the mainstream media in Venezuela than in Spain), they have maintained a deafening silence in the face of atrocities and political assassinations carried out by a government whose party belongs to Liberal International, an organization to which many European parties belong, including the ruling party in Catalonia, Democratic Convergence of Catalonia. According to a report by the International Federation for Human Rights based in Paris, in 2012 more than 100 political assassinations were carried out — against trade unionists, journalists and peasants, among others — as well as an even higher incidence of “disappearances,” illegal detainments, torture and rape — repression aimed at creating fear throughout the general populace. Imagine for a moment if such acts had taken place in Venezuela under the government of Mr. Chavez: The international scandal would have been enormous. But instead, there is only a dismal silence that demonstrates a complicity that goes beyond hypocrisy.

But what is worse still in terms of the Obama administration is not its silence but its support for such atrocities. There is evidence, demonstrated and documented by a member of the U.S. Senate, Patrick Leahy, that such assassinations are carried out by the Honduran police force — led by Juan Carlos Bonilla — which the U.S. government has been advising and financing (see Mark Weisbrot, “Will Obama’s Legacy Be a Death Squad Government in Honduras?” in The Guardian, March 30, 2013). In reality, as Senator Leahy points out, such support is illegal in the U.S., since federal law there prohibits aid to police or armies that have committed acts in violation of human rights.

As Weisbrot concludes, Obama has reverted to the standards of brutality that characterized the politics of President Reagan. Today’s neoliberals have thus revived the brutality and oppression of their guru, all of which remains hidden from view in the mainstream media of Western nations.

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