The freedom of the New World is the hope of the universe.
A new and vibrant type of OAS Summit
The Organization of American States recently hosted the Sixth Summit of the Americas with the theme of “Connecting the Americas: Partners and Prosperity”. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos welcomed over 30 heads of state from all of the Americas to the city of Cartagena with only a few countries not in attendance. Bending to U.S. pressure, Cuba was once again excluded from the summit and membership in the
Latin American leaders came to the summit hoping to resolve problems that affect their people.
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OAS. In response to this, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador was not present and stated that he would refuse to attend any summit until Cuba was treated with respect and invited to participate. President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua also did not attend and sent a representative in his place. Venezuela’s President Chavez was unable to make the trip as he was recuperating from cancer treatment. Four major issues dominated the discussion at the summit which were: the lack of multi-lateral cooperation and reform on immigration; the ongoing U.S. war on drugs; and the issue of Cuba. A petition was also accepted on the 30-year anniversary of the war between England and Argentina to discuss the sovereignty of the Malvinas Islands. England was supported in this war by the U.S. and still controls these islands near Argentina which it calls the Falkland Islands.
Decadent behavior by U.S. security forces overshadow the meeting
Unfortunately, before the summit could even begin it was marred by a public scandal created by members of the U.S. security contingent. A sizable number of Secret Service Agents, military personnel and snipers had arrived in advance in order to organize security protection for President Obama. Instead, they were observed in public bars getting drunk, causing disturbances and eventually bringing over 20 prostitutes into their rooms at the expensive Caribe Hotel where they were assigned to stay at. A late night argument between a U.S. security agent who refused to pay a prostitute eventually involved the Colombian police who were summoned to the hotel to put a stop to
The Hotel Caribe became party headquarters for certain U.S. security personnel.
the arguments and rowdy scene. This alcohol-fueled sex scandal was the talk of Cartagena and the Latin American press and created a major embarrassment for President Obama and U.S. prestige as it ended up overshadowing the vital and pending issues that were to be discussed at the summit. This type of behavior was a blatant violation of security policies and standards as this unprofessional conduct endangered Obama by compromising his safety and resulted in a number of agents having to be sent home. Adding to this scandal were the large amount of tax dollars that were spent on fancy hotel rooms, expensive bottles of liquor and $800. per night prostitutes. This shameful incident resembled some sort of spring break frat party or boys gone wild reality show rather than a security mission assigned to protect the president at an important summit. The reaction of the Latin American leaders at the summit was that this scandalous behavior projected a lack of respect and seriousness for the important discussions that were to be held at this hemispheric meeting.
A sad and tragic chapter in Latin America is coming to a close
The OAS has been historically dominated by the U.S. and used as an instrument for the imposition of pro-U.S. policies in the region. The objective of these past policies which were usually approved by obedient Latin American heads of state was to protect American corporate investments. The history of the OAS has been intertwined with a dismal and bloody period in Latin America that
The ex-dictator of Chile General Pinochet meets with his ally U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
covered the last half- century of the 1900′s as many of these countries were dragged into the politics of the Cold War then being waged by the U.S. against the old Soviet Union. This violent period included the overthrow by the U.S. of democratically-elected and reform-minded governments in Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and the subsequent installation of brutal and pro-U.S. military dictatorships in those countries. This list also includes the U.S. supported Cuban dictator Fulgencio Bautista prior to the Cuban revolution, the Duvaliers in Haiti and the U.S. invasions of Grenada and Panama during the 1980′s. These dictatorships which were funded with our tax dollars resulted in thousands of people being tortured and killed and were responsible for the subsequent emergence of guerilla wars against these regimes throughout the continent. This chaotic period was characterized by widespread violence that set back the democratic process in the region for years to come. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet were both young victims of U.S. organized torture during their country’s dictatorships. This tragic period in
Many mothers in Argentina are still trying to find out what happened to their family members that the military kidnapped during the dictatorship.
U.S.-Latin American relations has left deep scars and a lingering resentment throughout the region with calls to oppose U.S. gunboat diplomacy and imperialism still resonating from these countries due to these horrible events and suffering that they experienced. These anti-democratic policies and actions on the part of past U.S. administrations have now resulted in a strong wave of nationalism and pro-democracy movements in Latin America that vow to defend their national sovereignty and to oppose foreign interference. Recent incidents such as the failed attempt by President Bush in 2002 to overthrow democratically-elected President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Obama’s tacit approval of the military coup that deposed the government of Honduras in 2009 have not helped matters. These actions have once more raised criticism and anger that a U.S. policy of imperialistic intervention has re-surfaced. All of this has strengthened the resolve of Latin Americans to defend their right to self-determination and oppose any meddling in their internal affairs.
A new era of independence results in economic and political progress
With the U.S. busy waging wars in the Middle East and Asia, Latin America has been given a breathing space to develop economically and politically. While past summits have been criticized as mere formalities where leaders gave prepared speeches and automatically endorsed U.S. policies, the Latin American nations at the 2001 meeting began to express new nationalistic and democratic sentiments. This Third Summit of the Americas approved the Inter-American
Most Latin American leaders united to promote economic development, democracy and the defense of national independence.
Democratic Charter which opposed any unconstitutional alteration of the democratic order either by domestic military forces or from outside military intervention. This Charter was aimed at defending and promoting the growing democratic trend within the region against dictatorships and possible foreign interference. One of the principal instruments that has given rise to this surge of people’s power and democracy within Latin America has been the creation of broad-based constitutional assemblies within the last fifteen years. These independent assemblies have given people the opportunity to organize and mobilize in order to break free from the tight control of the traditional political structures and parties that have been historically dominated by the region’s wealthy oligarchies. This democratic process has resulted in the creation of new political parties that represent the voice and basic interests of the broad majority of people. Also, this democratic process gave rise to the creation of ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) which is an organization that promotes cooperation within the region through economic and political integration. Its membership includes the countries of Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba and six other Caribbean nations whose objective is to protect their natural resources and political independence from foreign manipulation and control. ALBA has also raised the issue of Puerto Rico’s colonial status and its right to self-determination. Present-day Latin America can then be characterized by three growing trends: the emergence of economic growth especially by Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela; the growth of nationalism and self-determination that resists foreign domination and interference in their internal affairs; and the strengthening of internal democracy and the expression of the will of the people. China, India and other developing countries are now becoming major trading partners with the countries in the region and this commercial diversification has resulted in breaking the traditional dependency on U.S. trade and the domination of the International Monetary Fund and its banks. A major shift has occurred in Latin America as the majority of people in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, El Salvador and a host of smaller Caribbean nations have mobilized to elect left-center governments that are attempting to improve conditions in their societies. The conservative leaders of Mexico, Colombia and Central America, with the exception of Nicaragua, who still obediently follow Washington’s dictates to further militarize their countries and accelerate the futile war on drugs are viewed by the other Latin American countries as traditional and submissive yes-men. A recent example of this was vice-president Joe Biden warning Mexico’s presidential candidates that calling for the elimination of the bloody war on drugs would not be tolerated!
Four contentious issues end up isolating the U.S. at this summit
One of the main issues discussed at this summit pertained to the continuing U.S. war on drugs which has resulted in the increased militarization of the region and has particularly affected Colombia, Mexico and Central America. The direct effect of this decades-long drug war is a spiraling rate of violence that has been created by the drug cartels and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff asserted that good relations can only be achieved by treating each other as equals.
civilians which is endangering the emergence of democracy and peace within the region. President Santos of Colombia, Perez of Guatemala and other Central American leaders whose countries are suffering greatly from this rapid growth of organized criminal gangs, took the lead at the summit in calling for the decriminalization and regulation of drugs in order to curtail the violence in their countries. They contend that all of this bloodshed is being fueled by the enormous and growing demand for illegal drugs by the U.S. public which consumes over 50 percent of the world’s drugs. Most of the leaders at the summit declared to Obama that if the end of Prohibition decriminalized and regulated liquor and thus ended the rampant violence of the 1920′s, then this strategy should also hold true for decriminalizing drugs and putting the drug cartels and their criminal activities out of business. Obama responded negatively to this proposal. The second issue discussed was the need for multi-lateral cooperation on immigration and the lack of reform on this issue by the U.S. A proposal was made and discussed that the flow of people and labor to the U.S. should be regulated which would prevent families from being separated and also eliminate the misery and violence created by human smuggling. Again, Obama’s response was that the resolution of this issue was not possible at this time. Thirdly, over 30 of the leaders at the summit demanded that the fifty-year embargo of Cuba and its exclusion from the summit which was imposed by the U.S. back in the 1960′s should be ended once and for all. Only the U.S. and Canada voted no. Colombian President Santos who is a conservative U.S. ally stated at a final press conference that “The isolation, the embargo have been ineffective, If the countries of the region want Cuba to be present, Cuba can participate.” Evo Morales, the indigenous president of Bolivia was even more critical on the last day of the summit when he
Bolivia's indigenous President Evo Morales defending the sovereignty of Latin America's countries.
also stated at a press conference that “The U.S.thinks that it can still manipulate Latin America, but that’s ending…what I think is that this is a rebellion of Latin American countries against the U.S.” Argentine President Cristina Fernandez also raised the issue of her country’s claim to the Malvinas which are controlled by England who calls them the Falkland Islands. This issue was not resolved as Argentina’s claim was rejected by Obama as the U.S. has traditionally sided with England on this issue. Lastly, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was critical of the past domination of the region by the International Monetary Fund and its U.S. banks and of the present U.S. monetary policy that is harming Latin American economies by flooding the region with U.S. currency. Dilma, who once fought against the military dictatorship in her country and was jailed and tortured for it, presented her stern criticism to Obama at a panel discussion when she bluntly told him that “good relations meant treating each other as equals.” President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opposed all of these issues that were proposed and supported by the majority of leaders from the Americas. Ironically, some of these same issues such as the lack of immigration reform and the decriminalization of drugs also negatively affect Latinos in the U.S. The final voting by the majority left Obama isolated and dejected. All of these issues that were raised at this summit and opposed by Obama are also being vehemently opposed by the political right-wing in the U.S. Cuban-American politician Marco Rubio, the new Republican token Latino and instant expert on Latin America, is also going around promoting these same narrow and outdated views. Since Obama is in an election year, his Democratic Party platform has him locked in support of these regressive positions and prevents him from compromising on issues such as the decriminalization of drugs, immigration reform or Cuba out of fear that Republicans and Cuban-Americans in Florida will attack him for being “soft and too liberal” on these issues.
The Americas in transition
The progressive block of countries that has charted an independent political course are also those that are having the most success at developing their economies and slowly improving the lives of their people. Many of these countries are rejecting the failed policies of free market economics and privatization and taking control of their natural resources from foreign corporations and utilizing them for national development rather than exporting the profits to enrich foreign banks as has been done in the past. An example of this is Argentina’s
A demoralized President Obama was isolated as he attempted to defend U.S. policies that were rejected by over 30 Latin American leaders.
recent decision to nationalize its oil industry as President Kristina Fernandez wants to use this resource to lower prices for working people and to improve their lives. After hundreds of years of domination by Spain, Portugal, Britain and the U.S., Latin America’s long historical struggle to defend its independence and resist political and military intervention is finally beginning to be realized. This has been achieved by mobilizing its people and bringing them actively into the historical process so that they can actively create change. On the negative side, there are still millions of people suffering from hunger, poverty and social inequality in Latin America and this needs to be dealt with and resolved. Meanwhile, the U.S. still holds tremendous economic power and leverage over the region. Also, the fifty-year war between the FARC guerillas and the corrupt Colombian government is still continuing as well as the increasingly murderous struggles generated by the well-organized drug cartels. The continuing U.S. policy of further militarization and repression in Latin America will not resolve these problems as the war on drugs has been an expensive and bloody failure. Both guerilla warfare and drug activities can be resolved by eliminating social injustice, decriminalizing and regulating the growing demand for drugs in the U.S. and by combining this with systematic rehabilitation programs as has been done in Switzerland and other countries. President Obama had hoped that this summit could have expanded opportunities for U.S. trade and scored points with Latino voters at home. Instead, the president ran into a tsunami of criticism and opposition from angry Latin American leaders and ended up being outvoted and isolated by over 30 countries. While Obama may mean well, he is the prisoner of an antiquated political system and policies that do not correspond to changing conditions and to the present situation. History and reality have moved forward especially in Latin America and those who lag behind and try to cling to past policies are doomed to being relegated to a position of isolation and ineptitude. Latin America is demanding that a new relationship be developed, one that is based upon equality and mutual self-respect. Almost 200 years ago, Simon Bolivar attempted to unify
Simon Bolivar's vision of a united, independent and democratic Latin America is slowly being realized.
the countries of Latin America to defend their independence and promote the development of their human resources and economies. Perhaps his vision is finally coming close to achievement as the people of Latin America who are comprised of different races and ethnic groups are finally taking history into their hands and making the principle of self-determination a concrete reality.