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Wishing Kerry Would Shut Up About Latin America

Now that Andrés Oppenheimer –that obnoxious columnist over at the Miami Herald who routinely bashes Hugo Chávez and supports U.S. military aid to murderous right-wing thugs in Colombia– is saying such nice things about John Kerry, I’m getting a little worried.

The title of Oppenheimer’s recent column, “Kerry stance may force focus on Latin America,” is particularly worrisome. In my view, the less the U.S. government focuses on Latin America, the better. If Kerry’s latest emphasis on Latin America could “force” both Republicans and Democrats alike to “focus” on Latin America, progressive Latin Americans better start bracing for the worst.

There’s nothing like Uncle Sam trying to shove more bad economic advice down Latin America’s throat, or worse yet, to send more weapons to pliant militaries in the region. Such policies never have the interests of ordinary Latin Americans at heart; rather, those policies are designed to:

1) bring more profits to U.S.-based multinationals, at the expense of Latin America’s own economic enterprises and the region’s socio-economic development as a whole;

2) keep the money flowing to U.S. weapons manufacturers and inefficient, militarized bureaucracies like the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Southern Command, which deceptively claim to fight a “drug war” but really work hand in hand with traffickers like the Colombian paramilitaries for the disguised purpose of defeating any efforts by Latin Americans to develop their own independent, democratic and equitable model of social and economic development.

According to Oppenheimer, Kerry claims to have a regional agenda of “supporting a five-year, $2.5 billion Social Investment and Development Fund for the Americas.” “The proposal,” Oppenheimer continues, “is contained in a congressional bill that would expand U.S. aid for education, health and small startup businesses in the region.”

Gee, that sounds great. But, of course, if history is any indication, such “aid” will be dangled out there before Latin American electorates as a way to bribe them into voting for “pro-American” politicians; such “aid” is almost invariably designed to stifle movements for equitable and democratic socio-economic development. You can bet your hiney that Venezuela, under Hugo Chavez, won’t be seeing much of that “aid.”

Oppenheimer cites Rep. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., as noting –with great concern– that Washington is losing the battle for the hearts and minds of Latin Americans, as indicated by recent polls.

Well, good! Washington doesn’t have anything worthwhile to offer Latin America in the way of social and economic development, so Latin Americans are better off telling Uncle Sam to buzz off.

Noting that “Kerry has become the second U.S. presidential candidate in recent memory to devote a full campaign speech to Latin American affairs (The first one was Bush, in August 2000),” Oppenheimer joyously concludes that this “will most likely force Bush to double the bet in coming weeks, which can only do good.”

Yeah, sure. Latin Americans must be just thrilled at the prospect that a stupid, missile-toting U.S. President who is clearly in the pocket of U.S.-based oil corporations could “double the bet” on new U.S. government initiatives for Latin America.

John Kerry should just shut up about Latin America.

JUSTIN DELACOUR is a freelance writer and recent graduate of the Masters program in Latin American Studies at the University of New Mexico. He has written for Latin America Data Base, a University of New Mexico-based news service. He receives email at jdelac@unm.edu

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