US Should Join Latin America's War on Poverty
The continent’s growing push for unity and determination to fight poverty and exclusion is something that should be hailed instead of rejected by the United States.
The expansion of free market policies in the region under the Clinton and Bush administrations gave US corporations their chance to provide the promised development to hundreds of millions of impoverished Latin Americans.
However, virtually all analysts agree that they failed badly, and instead of progress, the majority actually lost ground in their standard of living, access to social services, and hope for a brighter future.
The election in recent years of progressive socially minded governments in Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil, the growing popularity of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and the victory of Evo Morales in Bolivia are a direct reaction to disastrous economic and social policies. A similar result in Mexico and Chile is also on the horizon during the coming year.
Cuba has taken a totally opposite approach from the US in the face of the changes in Latin America. The island has opened the doors of its prestigious universities to thousands of scholarship students from throughout the continent and beyond, and generously provided doctors, educators and sports trainers to a host of nations both with pro and anti-Cuban governments.
The Bush administration, for its part, has fruitlessly spent tens of millions of dollars and scores of CIA operations to support candidates and governments in its pocket, whose promises of neoliberal prosperity are growingly rejected by the majority populations. The presence of US troops in several Latin American countries has also received widespread resentment.
Besides its long track record of assassination attempts and blockade to reverse the Cuban revolution, the US backed a short-lived coup in 2002 against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and most lately ran a highly funded campaign against Evo Morales out of the US embassy in La Paz.
Such a strategy has backfired, not because the private media has turned left, which it hasn’t, but instead because Latin Americans are increasingly seeing through decades of promises that Washington and its closely allied leaders have been unable to deliver on.
So why continue a failed policy? Why allow anti-US imperialism to be a magnet for electoral victories?
A much more sensible strategy –apparently out of the cards with the present administration- would be to embrace the efforts to bring modest improvements to all Latin Americans and allow the continent rich in natural resources and human potential to develop out of the dark ages.
With or without the United States, such change is already underway. It won’t be a short battle because the effects of centuries of exploitation, corruption, oppressive foreign debt, cultural penetration and consumerist influence are not easily erased.
Nonetheless, if the US continues its same course, supporting sell-out leaders and policies that only benefit a small elite, the forging of a new Latin America, the one dreamed of by liberation heroes Simon Bolivar and Jose Marti, may come sooner than thought possible only a few years ago.