Latin America Still Under a U.S. Microscope

By Jesús Arboleya on May 10, 2018

Some will tell you that Latin America is not a priority for the United States. Truth be told: it is hardly mentioned in the most important documents of its foreign policy; its leaders do not like to visit our countries; their respect for Latin American governments is very limited; and the press gives less attention to its southern neighbors than to other regions of the world. However, Latin America is still under the microscope of the U.S. because it is an indispensable element of its global hegemonic system.

Embassies, intelligence agencies, military delegations, economic groups, academic and cultural institutions, the media, social networks and a multitude of organizations of all kinds make up an immense network of governmental, paragovernmental and non-governmental mechanisms that provide a more or less accurate view of the Latin American reality.

This structure, diverse and sometimes contradictory, allows the U.S. government to detect gaps in the system of domination and articulate actions aimed at amending them. Although these actions tend to correspond to the characteristics of the governments in power, their strategic objectives are the same. One of its characteristics is that the result of these observations usually leads to the use of old methods to solve new problems. There is not much imagination in the U.S. policy towards Latin America.

Although now it is more complicated to resort to the invasions, occupations and military dictatorships of yesteryear, the hard line prevails in the North American strategy towards the region. This is so even in periods where the so-called “soft power” was supposed to rule politics in the area — for example, John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress, or the “new politics” of Barack Obama. What can we say, then, of a government like Donald Trump’s, which claims the Monroe Doctrine as the U.S.’s right over the hemisphere.

Only Cuba managed to escape their grasp, and at a tremendous cost. Especially when you consider that the disappearance of the Soviet Union deprived the Cuban system of the alternative that until then had made possible its insertion in the international arena. This provoked a necessary structural adjustment that has not yet concluded, that incorporated its own uncertainties to the Cuban model. Under these conditions even other political processes inspired by the Cuban Revolution have been prevented from repeating the experiment, and have had to navigate without a guide to orient their actions, which explains many of those others’ failures from the political and administrative point of view.

The so-called “progressive governments” were not the result of a properly articulated popular conscience, or the organic and programmatic unity of its actors. They emerged almost spontaneously, from an amalgam of organizations, groups and individuals, often divided among themselves, and driven by the concrete effects of neoliberalism, the deterioration of the type of governance that the model promotes, and in its interest to free the market of any type of ties to this system.

By its very nature, reforms to the system were proposed based on a complicated consensus regarding the established norms, and its popular policies focused on imposing improvements on the mechanisms of distribution of the national surplus that were vulnerable to the vagaries of the economy. The decline of progressive governments in Latin America has been closely related to the deterioration of the price of raw materials in the world market, a demonstration that we are in the presence of a structural problem determined by neoliberal globalization, which applies equally to the governments of any political persuasion.

To this we must add the contradiction between the dysfunctionality of true capitalism and the apogee of the ideology that sustains it. This creates a situation whereby goals of the progressive processes have been strongly influenced by individualism and consumerism, which hinders the collective call and establishes the paradox that social improvements, oriented to the poorest sectors, are weakened precisely to the extent in which they improve their living conditions.

In the current conditions, the so-called progressive movements that contain many “lefts” — of itself a very relative term — also requires policies to attract and educate the middle class, depository of the most attractive myths of capitalist ideology, and one of the most dynamic elements of political life in most countries.

From the political point of view, progressive governments barely managed to establish limitations to the ruling powers; in other words, economic groups, political parties, the media, the judicial system or the military and security bodies, which have maintained their power to affect their policies and recover areas of influence in the population.

Nor can they afford to commit sins, such as the divorce from the masses, corruption, arbitrariness, or the repression of the population, since the source of their power lies in their moral legitimacy. It is true that the right has shown capacity to manipulate reality and has done so without scruples, but sometimes the left has facilitated the work for them enabling them to lose credibility and affect the basis of popular support. This explains the loss of some elections and, above all, the deterioration of their capacity, in some cases, to mobilize. This situation has made possible the impunity with which the right has carried out coups, the manipulation of the judicial system and scandalous electoral fraud.

It is not news that we are facing a rebound of the right in the continent and that the United States, with the voluntary or conditioned collaboration of its allies, takes advantage of the situation to apply all its resources while suffocating the progressive governments that still exist — especially in the case of Venezuela. They do so by dismantling the integration mechanisms that characterized the regional process in the recent past, and by imposing the old Pan-Americanism through the OAS.

The problem to consider is whether the United States is in a position to carry this policy to a successful conclusion. In today’s world there are many governmental and non-governmental actors that intervene in each specific scenario. For example, China’s economic competition in Latin America, whose elimination constitutes the center of Trump’s policy towards the region, is a phenomenon with objective bases that the United States does not have the economic capacity to avoid, no matter if the right or the left governs a certain country. It is enough to look at the recent history of Brazil, Chile or Argentina to understand this statement.

Even the protectionist policies promoted by the current U.S. government, conditioned by domestic economic and political needs, further limit their ability to face competition from the Chinese and other countries, and run into open opposition in important national economic sectors whose transnational interests are opposed to this supposed chauvinist interest expressed as “America First.” If it was indispensable previously, at present the United States has a scant, real possibility of “helping” its Latin American allies, which explains why the policy of rejecting them when they cease to be functional predominates.

Right-wing Latin American governments, which have done nothing but reproduce the old neoliberal forms that were previously unsuccessful, sooner or later are destined to face renewed popular opposition, increasing the levels of ungovernability of their countries.

A good question to ask is whether the right, cornered by these events within the framework imposed by representative democracy, will break these limits to turn towards the most brutal repression and impose dictatorships, as happened in the past. In some Latin American countries there are already expressions of these processes and the advancement of neofascism is an international reality, present even in the United States itself.

Regardless of the conjunctural setbacks, the objective conditions continue to act in favor of progressivism in Latin America. But that is not enough. It is necessary to develop a doctrine of “intelligent counterpower,” based on the articulation of true processes of popular participation that ensure the continuity of the social movements in power.

Source: Progreso Weekly