Obama to Latin America

The United States is counter-ing the Independent development of Latin American countries by using its military power and influence.

For more than two centuries, the United States has viewed Latin America as its "backyard", a geopolitical sphere of influence where it acts as undisputed hegemon. The history of the Western hemisphere, broadly speaking, reflects this reality as the US has influenced, dominated, and otherwise controlled the political and economic development of most of the countries of Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean.

However, recent years have borne witness to a growing independence and assertiveness from many nations in the region, owing in no small part to the rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Indeed, with Venezuela as the exemplar, and Chavez as the initiator of the process of regional integration and collective security, Latin America has grown increasingly independent of its imperial neighbour to the north.

And it is precisely this political, economic, and cultural independence that the US has moved to counteract in the most effective way it can: militarily. Using pretexts ranging from the "War on Drugs" to humanitarian assistance, and the "War on Terror", the US seeks to regain its military foothold in the region, and thereby maintain and further its hegemony. Despite resumption of bilateral relations between Cuba and America, Washington's basic policy towards Latin America remains the same.

In many ways, Barack Obama's trip to Cuba and Argentina lived up to the hype.

Since making the announcement of his trip on 18 February 2016, there had been a whirlwind of speculation as to what exactly Obama would do and say on the island. Over 1,400 journalists were on hand for the moment that the US president arrived in Cuba's Revolutionary Square, with the iconic backdrop of the Guevara's image looking on from the Interior Ministry. The symbolic significance of the entire ordeal was compelling, and much of the world watched with awe.

While the visuals were undeniably powerful, the content of the US leader’s speech was less impactful. Rather, many Cubans were more impacted by what Obama did not say: I'm sorry.

Everyone knew Obama would meet with US-financed opposition activists, and so it was no surprise that he made no mention of any foreseeable end to destabilization efforts against Cuba's government. And while it is true that he has said his administration would attempt to close the Guantanamo prison, at no point has he said that the United States would return the base to Cuba, as the country has been demanding for over 50 years.

Similarly, despite commitments to end the economic blockade, there is no clear end to this policy which has crippled Cuba's economy for half a century. Surely no one expected Obama to make some major announcement while in Havana—though he does have the power to—but the fact that he did not acknowledge the culpability of his country in keeping Cuba poor is revealing. Far from apologising for a policy that drains billions of dollars from Cuba annually and that at one point looked to starve its people into submission, he actually continued to promote the imperial myth that Cuba ruined its own economy!

Days later in Argentina, Obama stayed on the same message, repeating but adapting his previous message for Cubans.
Arriving at the Casa Rosada to meet with newly-minted Argentine leader Mauricio Macri, Obama was quick to heap praise on the Latin American billionaire. Obama said his administration was "impressed" by the work done by Macri in his first 100 days, including his advocacy of "human rights" and said that Argentina should be an example for the region. Macri of course has laid off more than 100,000 public employees, negotiated a deal with vulture fund creditors that will burden Argentines with a US$10 billion debt, while also jailing opposition leaders.

"Free markets create wealth", Obama told a crowd of 'young entrepreneurs' before going on to say that Cuba "looks like it did in the 1950's" because of the failure of its own people and government. The message to Argentine—'we want you to adopt pro-market policies', even though this market orthodoxy collapsed Argentina's economy in 2001.

Vol. 49, No.1, Jul 10 - 16, 2016