United States policy towards Latin America

The assassination of candidate Fernando Villavicencio in Ecuador once again highlights the crisis of governance of right-wing governments allied to the United States in Latin America.

The betrayal of Lenin Moreno and the rise to power of the banker Guillermo Lasso undid the progress achieved in the two periods of government of Rafael Correa (2007-2017), where poverty was reduced by 14% and the country reached levels of political and economic stability not seen before or since.

According to Correa himself, Ecuador has become a failed state governed by the crudest neoliberalism and subordination to the United States, where drug trafficking has penetrated very deeply into government structures, including the presidency, and violence is at an all-time high in Latin America. Seven out of ten adults do not have a job in the formal economy and one in three children is malnourished.

Besieged by popular rejection and contradictions with the rest of the political forces, Lasso resigned from the presidency, but dissolved congress and governs by decree until the early elections on August 20. In another show of surrender, the FBI will be in charge of “investigating” the crime in Villavicencio; It would not be strange if, once they cease to be useful for cleaning their image, some of the current rulers of the country end up in US prisons, as has happened in other cases.

Despite his conflicts with the United States, most of Correa’s tenure coincided with the Barack Obama administration. The North American strategy then was to try to reconcile with the progressive wave that swept through Latin America and the Caribbean in those years and, except in Venezuela, where other interests determined few margins for dialogue, even in Cuba the Obama administration applied the so-called ” soft power”, with a view to damage control in the region.

Although Biden is not Donald Trump and his policy is not aimed at promoting the empowerment of the extreme right in the subcontinent, a policy of conciliation with progressivism, similar to that carried out by Obama, is not being carried out. Despite the fact that the Latin American political pendulum once again swings to the left, it is a reality that the United States does not seem willing to accept and the US’ “firm hand” policy governs relations with these countries.

The cases of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are the most obvious, but more than once Mexican president López Obrador has complained about US interference against his government, Lula has not received the welcome that Obama gave him as a “stabilizing force on the continent,” and the pressure against Argentina’s Fernández, especially through the IMF, has been constant in the hope of a change of government in the next elections. It seems that the only “progressive” saved is Boric in Chile, in payment for being particularly affectionate with the United States.

Not even diplomatic gestures, such as the inclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua in the last Summit of the Americas, a requirement of most of the countries in the region, or Biden’s attendance at the CELAC summit, where he was invited by President Fernández, have found space in North American politics, even at the risk of endangering the functioning of the Pan-American system.

This policy is the reflection of a strategy on a global scale that, with nuances determined by its own internal reality, seeks to stop the deterioration of US hegemony on a global scale, through the application of “hard power,” but in its least compromising version. This consists of avoiding direct military interventions without demobilizing the national war machine or affecting the Pentagon’s budget, as is the case with the war in Ukraine.

In turn, the heavy hand of US policy is applied against anyone who does not submit to its designs. Around 25 countries are currently subject to US sanctions and these sanctions extend to entities and citizens of third countries that do not comply with US provisions. The UN itself has pointed out the illegality of this proceeding:

“The United States has spent years imposing sanctions on individuals and entities without national criminal jurisdiction and in the absence of universal jurisdiction,” Alena Douhan, UN Special Rapporteur, declared last March. “This is a clear violation of the right to due process, including the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial,” said the official, who stressed that these rights are guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that the United States has ratified and must fully implement.

“The sanctions are directed against individuals abroad for alleged activities outside the United States, including activities that are legal where they occur,” Douhan added. The rapporteur also pointed out that secondary sanctions occur when they are directed against foreign individuals and companies for their alleged interaction with the penalized parties or for evading sanctions imposed.

Under the leadership of a government team that came to power wanting to imitate Franklin Delano Roosevelt and has ended up resembling Harry Truman, the United States is committed to rebuilding a unipolar world order, which implies taking its main competitor out of the game, namely China, and imposing its rule on any country or groups of countries that do not abide by its guidelines.

The difference is that if Truman invented the cold war based on the enormous economic and military power of that country, as well as the political prestige of the United States for its contribution to the defeat of fascism, Biden tries it as these capabilities decline and the US is discredited internationally, sometimes as a result of its own problems of national governance and the quality of its leaders.

It does not seem sensible to expect a change in this policy regardless of the outcome of the next elections, because it is a vision of the establishment with respect to preserving its own interests and there is nothing to indicate that, in the short term, a phenomenon will occur that will change this reality.

The progressive governments of Latin America and the Caribbean will have to continue facing US intolerance and be subjected to pressures and aggressions that hinder their stability. It has been shown that when it does not work in their favor the right is the one who first breaks with the canons of representative democracy or distorts its operation; also that only progressive governments that have the loyalty of the armed forces are the ones that have been able to stay in power. The good news is that they lose today and win tomorrow, because the United States is not capable of burying popular forces forever.