Monday, April 18, 2011

What we should do

For my paper I will be discussing the neocolonial relationship that the US has with Latin America. In the book I mentioned in my last entry, Grandin argues that Latin America was the beginnings of the US empire. He presents evidence that some of the initial action on Latin America was perhaps truly noble, a civilizing mission, an example of good-hearted Americans trying to better the world by spreading the thing they hold dearest – democracy. But Grandin does not spend too much time talking about those ideas because they represent the minority of reasons behind US involvement in Latin America. Of course, the US was mostly there for economic gain, the same primary reason behind pure colonialism. For the past several decades many countries of Central and South America have been in political turmoil and social unrest. Now some of the largest exports to the US from these countries are coffee, bananas, and illegal drugs (not to mention migrant workers, which will also be discussed in the paper). Like Communism in the Cold War, US political leaders have tried to squelch the evil drug trade of Latin America, like in 1989 “when George H. W. Bush first militarized the ‘war on drugs,’ [and] U.S. troops have [since then] steadily expanded their presence.” US military efforts in the region, both public and covert, have gone under the guise of fighting for the spread Christianity, and then democracy, and now to stop drug trafficking, but the main result has instead been the rise of US-backed dictatorships and mass murder. Today “Washington promotes an economic model that produces not development and stability but desolation and crisis.” Perhaps it is time for the US to stop treating its Southern neighbors as its children, or its puppets. Perhaps it is time to recognize the sovereignty of these nations. As Presidents Lula of Brazil and Kirchner of Argentina stated in their Buenos Aires Consensus, “democracy is meaningless without a commitment to end ‘poverty, unemployment, hunger, illiteracy and disease, which effectively constitute a loss of autonomy and dignity for those afflicted, obstructing them from fully exercising their rights and freedoms as citizens.’” Grandin states that “hardly any U.S. aid goes to alleviating the poverty that even the Pentagon admits fuels war and the drug trade. Needless to say, land reform, planned industrialization, and sustainable rural development are off the table.” Perhaps that’s what we should rethink. At least those sound like good ideas to me. I will end with a paraphrase of what a fellow honors student Gwendelynn Bills posited at a TTU panel discussion about the Middle East on the subject of American involvement in that region. She said she sees the U.S. as Marie Antoinette, trying to give democracy, an advanced political and social system, to these countries when there are so many Middle Eastern people who go without food from day to day. “Let them eat cake”? How about start with the basics – food, water, and shelter. Then we can talk advanced government styles (and religion for that matter). I say we start focusing the money we put into Latin America on developing its ability to support its peoples, not on terrorist regimes whose work will benefit us in the short run. Let’s detach ourselves from our immediate desires for a moment, and think about how to make the world a better place, by helping all of humanity, not just those born on US soil.

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