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200 years of Monroe Doctrine leave traces of American atrocities in Latin America

Cuban activists and supporters gather outside the Cuban Embassy during a rally for Cuban freedom on July 26, 2021 in Washington, DC. [Photo/Agencies]

MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his Bolivian counterpart Luis Arce this week affirmed their refusal to attend the June 6-10 Summit of the Americas in the United States if the host insists on excluding Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Their position reflects regional opposition to the exclusion of these countries from the summit, but this is not the first time that the United States has tried to impose its will on the entire American continent, and it will not be the last.

In the nearly 200 years since the United States adopted the so-called Monroe Doctrine in 1823, American atrocities in Latin America have overshadowed bilateral relations.

MILITARY ASSAULT

The history of the development of the United States is also a history of Latin American resistance marked by blood and tears.

After its founding, which involved dispossessing North American Indians of their own land, the United States embarked on a policy of expansion against Mexico, its southern neighbor.

Through the war, the United States appropriated half of Mexico’s territory, including all or part of the current states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, of Colorado and Wyoming.

Mexico has lost significant mineral resources, which has had an impact on its economic development.

At the end of the 19th century, the United States launched another offensive, taking possession of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea through the Spanish-American War and occupying Cuba.

At the turn of the 20th century, frequent US military aggression in Latin America gradually brought the countries of the region into its sphere of influence.

In 1903, the United States forcibly rented Guantanamo, Cuba’s natural port in the Caribbean, turning it into the first American military base abroad. To date, Washington refuses to return it to Cuba.

In 1915, the United States sent troops to occupy Haiti under the guise of “protecting the diaspora” from local unrest. He will not retire until 1934.

The United States occupied the Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1924 to collect debts incurred by Dominican governments.

American troops invaded the island again in 1965, when the Dominican Republic’s civil war toppled the pro-American government and Washington sent some 40,000 troops to “restore order”.

In 1989, the United States sent elite troops to invade Panama under the guise of “protecting the lives and property of American citizens”, overthrowing the military government and attempting to gain permanent control of the Panama Canal.

ECONOMIC OPERATION

In 1904, American writer O. Henry used his experience in Honduras to write his novel “Cabbages and Kings”, in which he exposed the ruthless plunder of American monopolies in Central America and the Caribbean, and coined the term “banana republic”, referring to countries under the control of American capital and whose economies depended invariably on a single crop, such as bananas.

In 1930, the United Fruit Company of the United States controlled approximately 1.4 million hectares of land in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama and more than 2,400 kilometers of railroads, as well as customs, telecommunications and other essential services of the countries.

In 1947 alone, American companies accounted for as much as 38% of gross domestic product (GDP) in Honduras, 22.7% in Guatemala, 16.5% in Costa Rica and 12.3% in Panama.

Exploited and plundered by the United States, these countries became its economic vassals as suppliers of raw materials and dumping grounds for American-made commodities, with economies far behind.

In addition, Washington has imposed and continues to impose indiscriminate sanctions and tariffs on several Latin American countries, further restricting the region’s economic development.

In 1962, the United States launched a trade embargo against Cuba that turned into an all-out blockade of the island nation, resulting in over US$150 billion in economic losses by mid-2021.

“The blockade is suffocating our economy, causing shortages, hampering development and is the greatest violation of Cubans’ rights,” said the island’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez.

Venezuela has also suffered the impact of more than 430 sanctions imposed since 2015 by the United States and its allies, with losses to its economy of more than US$130 billion.

The sanctions have caused a 99% drop in Venezuela’s revenue and have had a negative impact on all social and economic spheres, according to Venezuelan Foreign Minister Felix Plasencia.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MONROE DOCTRINE

At the beginning of the 21st century, as Latin American countries recovered from recurrent political and economic crises, their relations with Washington began to be characterized by contradictions and conflicts.

In 2011, the 33 countries of the region created the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the first regional organization in the Americas to drop the participation of the United States and Canada.

Faced with the continuous decline of its influence, the United States is forced to adjust its policy towards Latin America.

“The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over,” then Secretary of State John Kerry declared in 2013 at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS), announcing the dawn of a new era “of interests and common values” between the United States and the region.

But that doesn’t paint an accurate picture. The shadow of Uncle Sam still lurks behind many political developments in Latin America, said Adalberto Santana of the Center for Latin America and Caribbean Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Washington’s fingerprints are everywhere in the 2009 military coup in Honduras, the ousting of Fernando Lugo in Paraguay in 2012 and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil in 2016, the forced resignation of Evo Morales in Bolivia in 2019 and the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela.

In a speech to the US Senate in February, Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders acknowledged that the United States had undermined or overthrown governments in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“For the past 200 years, our country has operated under the Monroe Doctrine, based on the principle that as the dominant power in the Western Hemisphere, the United States has the right to intervene in any country that might threaten our so-called interests. Under this doctrine, we have undermined and overthrown at least a dozen governments,” Sanders said.

As recently as 2020, the United States named American hawk Mauricio Claver-Carone president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), ignoring the practice of always appointing a Latin American to the post because he wants exert more diplomatic pressure on countries. like Venezuela.

At the start of the COVID-19 epidemic in Latin America, the United States, then the global epicenter of the pandemic, summarily deported undocumented Central American migrants without the usual safeguards, increasing the risk of the disease spreading in countries with weak health systems.

Moreover, in response to reasonable requests for assistance from Latin American countries to fight the pandemic, the United States has chosen to ignore them, even to block its cooperation with countries outside the region, falsely alleging “debt traps” or “neocolonialism”, politicizing a health issue and forcing them to take sides to the detriment of their own development.

The United States, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said, fails to see that Latin America and the Caribbean has changed and that the Monroe Doctrine can no longer be reinstated.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion