As a result of the Republican takeover of the House, hard-line right-wingers like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Connie Mack will lead key committees and sub-committees for the next two years. Any hopes to improve US relations with the new nationalist and democratic regimes of Latin America have dimmed sharply.
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, a core member of the Cuban exile lobby, once called for the assassination of Fidel Castro, lobbied for the pardon and release of convicted Cuban exile terrorist Orlando Bosch, fiercely supports the embargo of Cuba, backed last year’s military coup in Honduras, and strongly supports the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ros-Lehtinen is a Cuban-born Jew, a fervent supporter of Israel, and the only Republican member of the House LBGT Equality Caucus, reflecting her South Beach constituents.
The election of another right-winger to the Senate, Sen. Mario Rubio, a son of Cuban exiles, and the retirement of pro-Latin America Rep. William Delahunt [D-Mass] further shifts the balance towards an escalation of tensions.
The newly-empowered Right is wasting no time massing its forces for a new offensive against what they term the “danger in the Andes.” On November 17 the Hudson Institute is planning a Washington DC strategy conference bringing together right-wing activists from Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador along with longtime hawks like Roger Noriega and Otto Reich. The meeting will target the Bolivarian alliance of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua as a threat to US interests from “Iran, foreign and domestic terrorist groups and narcotics traffickers.” In attendance will be former US drug-czar John Walters who supports an escalated Colombia-style war in Mexico, despite the loss of 31,000 lives there since 2006.
The recent failed coup attempt in Ecuador, following the Honduras coup and the Haitian coup under the Bush administration, are reminders that democratic elections are not always protective shields against subversion by reactionary militaries and business groups.
Perhaps the most influential national figure calling for better hemispheric relations to be a foreign policy priority, not an afterthought, is former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who is expected to heighten his engagement in diplomacy after retiring from the state house. Richardson, who is on good personal terms with most Latin American leaders, is a strong advocate of an Obama presidential order to lift the travel ban on Cuba to the extent possible, and a return to the hemispheric visions of John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt. Richardson is expected to announce a new initiative shortly.
Tom Hayden is the author of 17 books, a former California state senator and a longtime peace activist.
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