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FOR anyone concerned about the prospects for Latin America and its peoples, the election of President Donald Trump in 2016 signalled a danger warning, which has since proved to be the case in practice.
Trump’s approach to Latin America has shown an increasing hostility towards those governments in the region seeking to assert their right to self-determination and chart a course that serves their population’s interests, not those of the United States.
First in the firing line have been Cuba and Venezuela, with Nicaragua not far behind.
On Cuba, Trump has halted or reversed the modest positive changes introduced by the Obama administration. The illegal blockade has been maintained, complete with punitive measures against countries and commercial organisations which trade with Cuba.
Venezuela has also been subjected to US sanctions and extraterritorial intervention. From the early days of Hugo Chavez’s election as president in 1998, the US has sought, in conjunction with Venezuela’s economic and political elites, to topple the Venezuelan government and re-establish its control and influence over the country and its oil wealth.
Sanctions have also been applied against Venezuela, by Obama first in 2015, and justified by bizarrely deeming Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
Trump has ramped these up in a series of increasingly severe measures against individual government members and the country as a whole. The sanctions are designed to put a chokehold on the Venezuelan government and its economy by prohibiting Venezuela from borrowing or selling assets in the US financial system.
The effect of the sanctions, aimed at destabilising the government and forcing “regime change,” is extremely damaging, as it has an impact on the poorest and most vulnerable.
Nor has the US overlooked the potential use of military invasion. Trump has stated that he is not going to rule out a military option against Venezuela and, in a warmongering speech to the UN, has said he is prepared to take further action.
Sanctions are also on the Trump agenda for the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Right-wing US senators and Congress members are currently pushing the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act to effectively to block all loans to Nicaragua from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank.
These attacks, with their historical roots in the infamous US Monroe Doctrine, are part and parcel of an overall strategy to bring freely elected democratic governments to heel and ensure that any radical ambitions are curtailed.
Beyond these three countries, the list of Latin American countries that have been subjected to some form of US intervention or another — be it diplomatic persuasion, economic pressure or military invasion — is lengthy.
The resultant effects, in 1970s Chile where a US-backed coup deposed socialist president Salvadore Allende for example, are to impose reaction, skew development and put back progress by decades.
In Brazil, the architects of the parliamentary coup that removed president Dilma Rousseff through impeachment benefited from the tacit support given by the US.
As a result, the right-wing opposition, which had been defeated at the ballot box, was able to install Michel Temer as president to enforce a neoliberal programme, turning the clock back on the Workers Party’s social programmes.
Trump is intensifying this pattern of malign US policy, with harmful knock-on effects that to some extent come back to create domestic problems for the US.
In Honduras, Trump recognised Juan Hernandez, a conservative US ally, as the presidential election winner in 2017 despite multiple allegations of fraud. Government handling of street demonstrations against the result led to more than 40 people killed and over 2,000 detained.
Subsequently, most of the recent “caravan” of around 1,000 migrants heading to the US through Mexico were Honduran refugees fleeing government repression.
Trump’s policy of building a wall along the border with Mexico does nothing to address the reasons why people risk their lives to leave their homes in search of a better future in the US, although, as recent events have shown, the reception for migrants is all too brutal.
Instead, the US is bolstering its military capabilities in the region. Colombia has just been accepted as a Nato “global partner,” cementing its position as a loyal and subservient ally of the US and enlarging US capacity to police the region.
Neighbouring Venezuela is perhaps most at risk of intervention through this development. Evo Morales’s Bolivia, which, much to the ire of the US has nationalised key businesses and assets, including foreign-owned energy firms and communications companies, is also within easy striking distance.
But all Latin American countries, whether currently compliant to the US or not, are under threat to their development as sovereign nations.
As Morales has said, only “without interference, without military bases, is it possible to free ourselves.”
Trump’s reactionary Latin American agenda must be opposed.
Join the Latin America Against Trump public meeting jointly organised by Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, Cuba Solidarity Campaign and Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group on Monday July 9 at Hamilton House, Mabledon Place WC1H 9BB. Tickets are available via Eventbrite. Sign up for the Latin America Against Trump bloc on the July 13 demo, assembling at 2pm at Portland place bit.ly/latinamericaagainsttrump
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