In early March, President Obama issued a surprising and unexpected Executive Order declaring Venezuela, that mighty South American military behemoth, has become “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
Obama’s alarm may be great news to Miami’s affluent exiles interested in spreading some money around Congress. But what prompted it? Was it another “Wag the Dog” tactic to take everyone’s mind off the Republican Neanderthals he daily confronts? Or possibly a good way to show the Imperial City’s homefront warriors that he too can be a tough guy, especially when it comes to those who call themselves Bolivarian socialists.
The Union of South American Nations, representing twelve independent countries, was furious at the statement, which it saw as a threat. And former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica framed his protest in a rational way that too often eludes Washington’s contentious bubble. “Whoever looks at the map and says that Venezuela could be a threat to the United States has to be out of his mind,” adding, “Venezuela has problems and they should be solved by Venezuelans.” Smart guy.
Fact is, most Latin Americans have had enough of American imperialism. Obama’s order sounded like most of our past presidents whose policies have led to so much injustice and suffering. All that is but Herbert Hoover, raised a Quaker, and was one of the few who, “In Latin America, refused to resort to the gunboat diplomacy the U.S. has practiced intermittingly since 1898,” wisely concluded Gary Scott Smith in Religion in the Oval Office.
The Guatemalan people were one of the first post-WWII victims of America’s alliance with the Latin American uber-right. In 1954, the U.S. organized a coup against Jacobo Arbenz’s democratically elected government. Thanks to Karen Weld’s new and important book Paper Cadavers and her scrutiny of Guatemalan police archives, as well as Peter Canby’s perceptive essay-review in The Nation, the CIA once put together a list of 70,000 opponents of the Guatemalan junta which it then sent to our new far-right friends who promptly slaughtered many on the list. Before the bloodletting was over, some 200,000 non-military men and women were killed including about 45,000 murdered by death squads, a specialty of many of allies throughout the continent. At least Bill Clinton had the decency to apologize to the Guatemalan people after he won the White House.
This was by no means unique but which led directly to American, essentially Reagan administration and neoconservative, enthusiastic support for the Dirty Wars of a later era in Argentina and Central America. The same was true for Nixon’s warm feelings for Pinochet’s murderous regime in Chile, where once again a democratically elected President was overthrown.
But back to Venezuela and Obama’s Executive Order. Whatever the Madero government is or is not, dare any reporter at the next presidential press conference ask if Caracas is thinking of attacking Dallas or Miami? Or if the CIA and its private army is planning another coup attempt as it supposedly did in 2002 against Hugo Chavez?
Meanwhile, Obama has made a smart move aimed at reinstating civilized relations with Cuba, hopefully shutting down Eisenhower’s mindless 1959 embargo, which was no surprise given that before Fidel arrived, Washington just loved Fulgencio Batista.