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(en) Southern Africa, Anarchist journal Zabalaza #9 - OBAMA AND LATIN AMERICA: A FRIENDLY IMPERIALISM? BY JOSE ANTONIO GUTIERREZ D.

Date Sun, 14 Sep 2008 10:07:06 +0300



With the official nomination of Barack Obama as the Democrat candidate for the
next US presidential elections, there are many who are rejoicing in the hope
that this will bring an end to the imperialist and aggressive foreign policy of
the US.1 A wise traditional saying states that it really does not matter what
colour a cat is as long as it can catch mice. Turning their backs on popular
wisdom, many on the Latin American left are full of expectations about Obama,
who is almost certain to follow Bush as the White House leader. ---- What's the
difference between a Black Democrat and a White Republican? ---- "Oh, but he's a
black candidate" we are told. As if the presence of one - 1! - black man in a
racist institutional machinery was going to make any difference to immigrants
and the residents of US ghettos.

Obama has, by the way, already been forced to
distance himself from his pastor Jeremiah
Wright, who denounced institutional racism in the
US and had to embrace fully the discredited rhet-
oric of the "land of opportunities". Being a black
man, with fresh roots in the African continent
and thus an alien body in
the traditional US spheres of power,
Obama has on his shoulders a pressure
none of his political rivals have in order to
demonstrate that he is trustworthy for the
Yankee plutocrats. So there he goes,
adhering with greater fervour than anyone
else to the values and project of the
American Way. With the fanaticism of the
religious convert, he proves his credo to his
associates, in a way that those born into
the faith do not need to.
There also those who believe that the
colour of the skin, due to some curious
intellectual and emotional effect of melanin,
would make the potential US head of State
more sensitive to the sufferings of the Third
World and of its neo-colonies. But has
Condolezza Rice's presence in the govern-
ment meant any change in the policy of the
US towards the Middle East or Latin
America? If anything, we could say without
much hesitation than it's been for the
worse. Did Colin Powell make a difference
in Bush's government or stop the invasion
of Afghanistan, Iraq or Plan Colombia?
"Ah, but he is a Democrat" we are now
told. And do they forget that it was
Kennedy, the Democrat, who pushed for
the invasion of the Bay of Pigs (Cuba) and
that it was he who, applying the theory of
the Carrot and the Stick, carried the developmental-
ist bluff of the Alliance for Progress, while on
the other hand he implemented the "NationalSecurity
Doctrine" towards Latin America? Do they for-
get that it was Clinton who bombed Iraq
(1998) and Somalia (1994)?
Not to mention all of murderous blunders in the
Balkans... Do they forget the criminal embar-
go that Clinton imposed on Iraq, which, according
to UNICEF, cost the lives of at least 500 000
children? Do they forget it was Clinton who
started with the rhetoric of the Iraqi
Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Obama and the (Old) New World Order
Obama certainly is a critic of the Iraqi
invasion, but he is not for an end to the
occupation, only for the reduction of mili-
tary personnel, which will remain neces-
sary to guarantee the loyalty of the Iraqi
regime, to train the Iraqi army and to "fight
the threat of Al-Qaeda".2 His main criti-
cisms of the Iraqi war are of form, not of
substance; they are not about the human
cost on the Iraqi people, and certainly he is
not to question the ravenous logic of the oil
interests behind the occupation, but only
criticises its excessive costs on the US
budget. It seems that, when it comes to
Iraq, differences between Democrats and
Republicans are more of a quantitative
than of a qualitative nature. It seems that
we can have a Yankee praetorian guard
perpetually in the Middle East...
On the Palestinian question, Obama has
been more than clear: in March, he criti-
cised the "view that sees the conflicts in the
Middle East as rooted primarily in the
actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead
of emanating from the perverse and hateful
ideologies of radical Islam".3 Can anyone
point out to me what the difference is
between this view of the Middle East and
that of the Pentagon's hawks? Just like
Bush, he fails to "see" the link that the
Palestinian conflict has with "minor details"
such as the Palestinian occupation, Israeli
State terrorism (a State founded on forced
displacement and violent land expropria-
tion of Palestinians, it has to be said), the
institutional racism in Israel, similar in many
aspects to the South African apartheid and
worse in some respects, or the strangling
of Gaza. If he sees these factors, he quite
convincingly plays the fool...
But what about his positions towards
Latin America? He has made clear what
his programme towards Latin America will
be, starting with a criticism of Bush's poli-
tics towards the region. "We've been
diverted from Latin America. We contribute
our entire foreign aid to Latin America is
$2.7 billion, approximately what we spend
in Iraq in a week. It is no surprise, then,
that you've seen people like Hugo Chavez
and countries like China move into the
void, because we've been neglectful of
that".4

A New Alliance for Progress?
Do we need it? Do we want it?
What is Obama offering to us Latin
Americans? Something maybe worse than
Bush has already given us: more interven-
tion, more domination, more interference in
our own affairs, more death. The lesser-
evil politics turn into a cruel paradox with
the imperial grandeur that Obama adopts
when talking of his "backyard". Now that
the US is being displaced from Latin
American markets by China and the EU,5
who are making a triumphal entrance with
their own Free Trade Agreements, as well
as by the new emerging regional power of
Brazil (not to mention the shivers that the
regional unity projects led by Venezuela
cause in Washington, as they also repre-
sent a further threat to its hegemony),
Obama states openly that he is about to
turn our land into a battlefield for the US to
recover its lost ground. Competition for our
markets is out there, and no matter which
global power is to win, we know who will be
the certain loser: our people.
And not to leave the slightest shadow of
doubt about his imperial pretensions over
our America, on May 23rd at a meeting with
the Cuban American Foundation, the
FNCA (in Miami, where else?), he set out
his complete programme towards Latin
America: 6

1. Direct diplomacy with Cuba, but main-
taining the embargo;
2. He stated his intentions to isolate
Venezuela and its allies in the region, with
the argument that they are FARC-EP sup-
porters;
3. The FARC-EP gets exactly the same
role as Al-Qaeda in the Middle East: the
perfect excuse to justify any intervention in
the region. In fact, he goes as far as to
declare that he will not tolerate members of
that organisation looking for sanctuary
beyond Colombian borders nor any local
regimes giving them any support, in a clear
follow-up to the media harassment of
Ecuador and Venezuela;
4. Absolute support for Plan Colombia and
for the fascist regime of Uribe in Colombia
­ he, however, remains opposed to the
Free Trade Agreement with that country, so
as not to contradict his own supporters in
the US who remain staunchly opposed to
any more trade liberalisation with that
country. Let's see if he remains opposed
after the elections;
5. To increase the budget for the Merida
Plan, which under the excuse of the "War
on Drugs" (local variant of the War on
Terror), is nothing but the latest mechanism
of social control over Latin America. He
went further to declare that he was going to
expand its current area of operations in
Mexico and Central America southwards ...
maybe he will expand it to the Andean axis
which runs from Venezuela down to
Bolivia?
So, there's not much of a novelty in this.
Unless it is the deepening of an aggressive
intervention policy, which is a US tradition
in our region, and the continuity of a dated
paternalism, though in more of a blatant
form.
His view of Latin America is not very dif-
ferent to that of Bush in relation to the
Middle East, save for the fact that the vil-
lains of the story are adapted to local cir-
cumstances: the FARC-EP replaces Al-
Qaeda, War on Drugs replaces War on
Terror, Chávez replaces Saddam Hussein
and Venezuela replaces Iran. The inde-
pendent regional projects of Venezuela,
Bolivia and Ecuador, which are drifting
away from the Washington Consensus,
constitute the new "Axis of Evil".
Obama describes Venezuela as an
authoritarian regime, with a wallet-led
diplomacy and full of Anti-American jargon
that reproduces the "false promises" of
those "failed ideologies of the past".7 But
what is it that Obama has to offer instead?
Unconditional support for authoritarian
regimes such as that of Uribe,8 dollar-led
diplomacy ­ plus more economic interven-
tion, microcredit offers, and some other
filthy handouts to increase our dependency
­ and hollow promises from failed ideolo-
gies such as the Washington Consensus.
All of his platitudes are, indeed, stained
with the old-fashioned National Security
Doctrine. And in an attempt to recycle
failed intervention programmes, he even lit-
erally calls for a New Alliance for the
Americas,9 suspiciously similar to the dis-
credited fiasco called Alliance for Progress
that Kennedy promoted in the `60s.
Obama go home!
It is only natural for Obama to increase
the virulence of the imperialist politics
towards Latin America; after all, he knows
that he will be in command of a sinking
ship, of an empire stuck in a swamp of
political, economic and military troubles.
The depth of the US crisis is not, this time,
a result of the hallucinating desires of a
bunch of utopian leftists ­ tycoons such as
Soros or economists such as Stiglitz are
turning into the main prophets of the new
crisis. And every single empire in crisis has
to resort to higher levels of violence, in a
similar fashion to a drowning man who tries
to remain afloat by blindly slapping the
water's surface. In the same way, Obama
is already threatening Venezuela and Iran.
Every worn-out project needs to refresh
its image, to display some renewal on its
facade in order to conceal its exhaustion.
This wearing out of the "American Way"
made it possible for something unthinkable
to happen... a black candidate! The perfect
chief for this crisis, a cosmetic change for
the substance of the domination system to
remain untouched: imperialism has never
been an issue of melanin.
The imperial politics of the US are not up
to each US president to decide: it is a well
ingrained element in the Yankee State
apparatus, in the social forces which shape
the life of that nation, and the single force
that can alter this order of things is the
grassroots, bottom-up, struggle of the peo-
ple. For let us remember something that
we Latin Americans frequently forget: in the
US there are also people. There is also a
working class. Change depends on them.
A US president, at most, can decide what
version of imperialism he wants to apply,
be it a Neanderthal version of imperialism,
or a "forced consensus" version.
Let us hold no false illusions.
Imperialism cannot be reformed, neither
will it be defeated in the ballot box. It will
be defeated in the streets, in the work-
places, in the schools and universities,
through the struggle we lead in the coun-
tryside and in the urban centres, the strug-
gle we take to every corner of this world.
Difficult as this struggle may seem, is the
only realistic option left.
Let me repeat: in the US, there are also
people. But just as the Salazar dictatorship
in Portugal needed that push from the
African anti-colonial struggles (Angola,
Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau) to fall, and
needed that stimulus for the blossoming of
the Carnation Revolution to happen, US
imperialism and its global dictatorship will
fall with that little push of our anti-colonial
struggles in the Middle East and Latin
America. But that struggle belongs to the
people themselves, to the working class,
and it will have no other unconditional allies
but their own solidarity: if Ayiti (Haiti), if
Colombia, if all of America, if Palestine, if
the Middle East, are to wait for the answers
to their deep problems to arrive from the
White House, they will have to remain wait-
ing for millenia to come, forever and ever...
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
05 June 2008
Notes:
1. A sample of optimism that is a single step away from delirium can be found at
http://espanol.news.yahoo.com/s/ap/080604/latinoamerica/aml_pol_eeuu_elec_latinoamerica
2.
www.barackobama.com/issues/iraq/www.ontheissues.org/Celeb/Barack_Obama_War_+_Peace.htm
3. http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9427.shtml
4. www.ontheissues.org/Celeb/Barack_Obama_War_+_Peace.htm
5. www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=8809
6.
http://espanol.news.yahoo.com/s/23052008/54/latinoamerica-obama-permitir-viajes-familiares-cuba-mantendr-embargo-econ-mico.html,
http://espanol.news.yahoo.com/s/23052008/54/internacional-obama-considera-necesaria-nueva-alianza-latinoam-rica.html,
http://espanol.news.yahoo.com/s/ap/080523/eeuu/amn_pol_obama_latinoamerica
7.
http://espanol.news.yahoo.com/s/23052008/54/internacional-obama-considera-necesaria-nueva-alianza-latinoamerica.html
8. www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=8977 and also
www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=9006
9. http://espanol.news.yahoo.com/s/ap/080523/eeuu/amn_pol_obama_latinoamerica
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