The defeated 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela and Haiti's continuing
agony show the US and its allies are as ready as ever to use covert dirty tricks
and outright aggression to get what they want in Latin America. For the moment,
the Bush regime seems content to co-opt countries benighted and foolish enough
to fall for trade-in-your-sovereignty deals.
The objectives of empire change very little from one century to another. Control
of and access to energy and mining resources are only one strong motive driving
imperial policy in Latin America. Control over food and water security is also
a vital factor in imperial executive calculations. To veil the obvious injustice
of the imperial system, co-option of local media is vital so as to manage the
very terms in which political, economic and social issues are discussed.
Earlier empires eradicated whole languages and cultures from subject countries'
public life. Racism has always been an essential imperial tool and continues
in both subtle and overt forms across Latin America. The Venezuelan opposition's
racist characterization of President Hugo Chavez is a contemporary glaring example.
The Mexican ruling elite's attitudes to the indigenous Zapatistas are another.
Racist repression of indigenous peoples continues throughout Latin America from
Chile to Mexico, but seldom makes the international media.
Co-opting "Civil society"
Over the last twenty years, co-option of so-called "civil society"
has become an equally important element of cultural and intellectual control.
"Civil society" sometimes seems to refer principally to "non-governmental"
organizations many of whom finance themselves acting as agents, consultants
or sub-contractors to foreign governments or to international institutions,
like the World Bank, controlled by imperial appointees. These organizations
do not have to be as outrageously politicised as the anti-government Sumate
NGO in Venezuela to serve imperial designs well.
The US government and its corporate allies have long worked to convince people
in Latin America that organizing their own countries' agriculture to satisfy
domestic consumption is uneconomic, Consumers are supposed to be best served
by cheap food imports from the US. Urbanization is assumed to constitute inevitable
progress. In this way, the US and its agri-business corporate allies increase
their control of the agricultural economies of entire countries. For example,
Mexico, once largely self-sufficient in rice, now imports over 80% of its yearly
consumption from the US.
Other sectors of Mexican agriculture will follow suit over the next few years
as the North American Free Trade Agreement comes into full effect.
So the imperial managers will be able to maintain huge pools of cheap labour
in almost total dependency on low-wage maquila-style operations or insecure
work in the informal sector. The damaging national costs of rural depopulation,
urban squalor and social deprivation are not counted. This system not only means
soaring profits for the global agri-business corporations. It will also mean
the political subjugation of targetted countries since the US government and
its corporate allies will control those countries' food security. The role of
"civil society" in rendering that political subjugation "normal"
The Honduran case
One comes across examples of this process constantly in the relevant literature.
The specialists who write it all up have a decisive influence in shaping political
opinion in the countries where they work. They are the experts, after all. Here
is one of the more conscientious examples available, from the conclusion of
a study of rural poverty in Honduras: "... given the facts of the last
decade it seems an inescapable conclusion that the process of urbanization will
probably play an important part in the reduction of rural poverty in Honduras.
Until the rural population density corresponds to the productive potential of
the land there will be a tendency for population to shift from the more densely
populated sectors where soils are most degraded. Successful interventions through
programs and projects may improve this process but it is improbable that they
can halt it altogether.
The alternative to the urban absorption of this flow would be a continuation
of rural-rural migration from the west and south of Honduras to the agricultural
frontier in the north and east with hardly acceptable environmental consequences.
This situation indicates the importance of considering alternatives in this
regard that might avoid new concentrations of poverty in the marginal areas
of the main cities and offer the possibility of a duly regulated expansion of
the country's medium-sized towns."
Appropriate, timely intervention might have changed that "inescapable
conclusion". But the US government and international financial institutions
themselves intervened to impose "free market" solutions tailor-made
to meet US government regional policy priorities. Now, at the end of nearly
twenty years of those "free market" policies, Honduras is a country
unable to guarantee food security for its people from domestic agricultural
production, just the way the imperial managers like it.
Even liberal analysts like the authors of that study note that to mitigate
the resulting rural poverty, rural populations should move to slightly less
impoverished lives in urban centres. That observation simply confirms trends
that have been clear since at least the late 1980s. NGOs and "civil society"
have made a tidy living out of the whole process. Everything is normal. What
else might the outcomes have been?
"Free trade" by the Brothers Grimm
The very question is made to seem irrelevant by established opinion. But the
examples of Venezuela and Cuba demonstrate that such processes are not inevitable.
Things do not have to be like that. Governments can intervene decisively to
prevent the worst outcomes, as the above study itself notes. Clearly, it is
a matter of political will, not economic inevitability. .
The imperial "free market" norm can be seen foisted repeatedly on
peoples throughout Latin America. Right now in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina
mono-cultivation of genetically manipulated soya is set fair to destroy sustainable
agriculture in vast swathes of those countries' rural areas. Even so, experience
in Honduras and Nicaragua indicates that rural communities determined to stay
put will do so.
They will make ends meet with subsistence food production, odd jobs in nearby
urban centres and occasional family remittances from abroad. Those who give
up on rural life will simply migrate to urban centres and beyond national frontiers.
At a national level, food sovereignty in smaller countries has already become
largely a thing of the past.
CAFTA and the Andean trade-in-your-sovereignty deals
Now that the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) has been bullied
and bribed through the US Congress, Central America's agricultural production
for domestic consumption will be decimated beyond recovery within a few years.
Water resources are the next item on the imperial menu. CAFTA treaty commitments
considerably weaken national governments' ability to resist water privatization.
Still, in Nicaragua legislators are trying to lock in place laws that may afford
some protection to vulnerable sectors. In Costa Rica legislative approval for
CAFTA is still uncertain.
Determined defence of their sovereignty by the peoples of Venezuela, Bolivia
and Ecuador has so far checked imperial trade-in-your-sovereignty deals in the
Andes. Many people in the Andean countries are anxious to resist the crude bullying
and trickery that characterised US negotiation of CAFTA and its subsequent ratification.
Venezuela's proposed model of regional integration makes imperial "free
trade" treaty propaganda look as ridiculously self-serving as it in fact
Right now in Ecuador, workers and municipal authorities are in open conflict
with the country's government. The recent resignation of Economy Minister Rafael
Correa signalled a drift to the right by the Ecuadoran government in favour
of a "free trade" deal with the US and a free ride for breaches of
contract by foreign energy companies. Outraged workers and under-resourced muncipalities
are using strikes and occupations to insist the government addresses their needs.
They also want the government to ensure foreign energy companies like Occidental
Petroleum comply with contractual obligations.
Margins get slimmer as the sands run out...
People in all the trade-in-your-sovereignty-threatened Andean countries - Bolivia,
Ecuador, Colombia and Peru - are asking legitimate basic questions. Why should
their resources be sold off cheap to foreigners? Why should vastly wealthy foreign
corporations get the same treatment as relatively vulnerable national businesses
at this stage of their countries' economic development? Why should their agriculture
be geared to cash crops for export to the detriment of production for domestic
Why should small and medium agricultural producers not get preferential treatment,
like they do in the US and Europe? How will government make good revenue lost
from abolishing tariffs and other import taxes at the same time as taking out
loans to implement the necessary institutional and administrative adjustments?
How plausible are claims of massive job creation from fake "foreign investment"
maquila-style operations like textiles when the reverse is happening in Mexico?
The Bush regime is desperate to push through these trade-in-your-sovereignty
deals. That is an indication of how fine the margins for imperial manoeuvre
are getting. Elections are coming up soon in Mexico, Bolivia, Peru and several
Central American countries. Multinational corporate managers, US diplomats,
the CIA, the IMF and the World Bank, the US military's Southern Command - the
multiple tentacles of the imperial Thing are hard at work.
Programs of US electoral intervention specialists like the National Endowment
for Democracy and the International Republican Institute will inflate like balloons
with huge injections of anti-democratic, interventionist funding. All the tentacles
will be working frenetically to choke any signs of sovereign dignity and self-determination
in the countries concerned. With surging oil prices, dodgy US deficits and a
wobbly dollar, time is not on their side.
Sam Beckett imperialism - the sun never sets on the US nothing new
Venezuela is decisively promoting integration alternatives with its Andean
and Caribbean neighbours and with the Mercosur countries (Brazil, Argentina,
Paraguay and Uruguay). Following the failed US-supported coup in April 2002,
futile US State Department attempts to isolate Venezuela have fallen flat. At
a similar moment, after failing to destroy the Cuban revolution in the early
1960s, President Kennedy and his team came up with the Alliance for Progress
initiative. Shortly afterwards, the US government invaded the Dominican Republic
and encouraged a military coup in Honduras.
Parallel to the economic strands of the Alliance for Progress, the US government
instigated death squads in Guatemala, promoted a military coup in Brazil and
organized the military coup in Chile. That ruthless policy to stifle democratic
change heralded nearly two decades of fierce US government-backed State terror
throughout Latin America. Over thirty years after the coup in Chile and the
end of the Alliance for Progress, the empire continues to offer vivid reminders
of its ruthless intentions in Latin America.
The United States authorities are already planning how to cope without Venezuelan
That might just be sensible contingency planning. Equally, it might signal sinister
preparations for some kind of military action against Venezuela once sufficient
troops have been withdrawn from Iraq. In 2001 the US supplied detailed information
for NATO forces war gaming a military intervention called Plan Balboa - the
hypothetical target was a country identical to Venezuela.
The defeated 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela and Haiti's continuing agony show
the US and its allies are as ready as ever to use covert dirty tricks and outright
aggression to get what they want in Latin America. For the moment, the Bush
regime seems content to co-opt countries benighted and foolish enough to fall
for trade-in-your-sovereignty deals. But if that process stalls or collapses,
the viability of the Latin American peoples' inspirational drive towards integration
and autonomy may well depend on stubborn anti-imperial resistance in Iraq and
1. "A 10 aÃ±os del Tratado de Libre Comercio perdiÃ³
la autosuficiencia arrocera" INFODEMEX www.argenpress.info
2. "Desarrollo Rural y Pobreza en Honduras y Nicaragua: Â¿QuÃ©
sigue? PolÃticas, Estrategias y Acciones en Desarrollo Rural y ReducciÃ³n
de Pobreza en Honduras" Ian Walker & Hugo Noe Pino, 2004 paper for
the following UK development organizations, Regional Unit for Technical Assistance,
UK Government's Department for International Development, Overseas Development
3. "Gobierno ecuatoriano decreta en emergencia provincias en paro"
Prensa Latina August 17th 2005
4. "Merco Press: US contingency plan for a Venezuela oil cut off"
www.vheadline.com August 9th 2005