FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

US Spying and Resistance in Latin America

US imperialism spreads across Latin America through military bases and trade deals, corporate exploitation and debt. It also relies on a vast communications surveillance network, the recent uncovering of which laid bare Washington’s reach into the region’s streets and halls of power. Yet more than McDonald’s and bullets, an empire depends on fear, and fear of the empire is lacking these days in Latin America.

The controversy stirred up by Edward Snowden’s leaked documents reached the region on July 7th, when the first of a series of articles drawing from the leaks were published in the major Brazilian newspaper O Globo. The articles outlined how the US National Security Agency (NSA) had for years been spying on and indiscriminately collecting the emails and telephone records of millions of people in Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Argentina, just as it had done in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

0-1-0-coltel-2

The articles pointed out that data collection bases were located in Bogota, Caracas, Mexico City and Panama City, with an additional station in Brasilia which was used to spy on foreign satellite communications. The NSA gathered military and security data in certain countries, and acquired information on the oil industry in Venezuela and energy sector in Mexico, both of which are largely under state control, beyond the reach of US corporations and investors.

As with the spying program in the US, Snowden’s leaks demonstrate that this method of collecting communications in Latin America was done with the collusion of private telecommunications companies in the US and Latin America.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called the spying a “violation of sovereignty and human rights.” The presidents of Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela and other nations in the region condemned Washington for its actions and called for an inquiry into the surveillance.

“A shiver went down my back when we learned that they are spying on us from the north,” Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said in a speech. “More than revelations, these are confirmations of what we thought was happening.”

Indeed, the region is no stranger to US spying and interference. And with the election of leftist presidents across Latin America over the past decade, it should come as no surprise that the US has been spying into what Secretary of State John Kerry recently referred to as Washington’s “backyard.”

The shadow of 20th century dictatorships hangs over much of Latin America, orienting the region’s democratic processes and struggles for justice. Brazil’s Rousseff and Uruguayan President José Mujica are among today’s various Latin American presidents who were active in the social movements fighting against brutal US-backed dictatorships in their respective countries.

Rousseff was jailed for her activism from 1970-1972, and Mujica was shot by the police six times, tortured and imprisoned for 14 years, including being confined to the bottom of a well for over two years. Under the leadership of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner, Argentina has sought justice for the some 30,000 people disappeared during that nation’s dictatorship. Needless to say, the legacy of US-backed coups, right-wing spying networks, and police states looms large in Latin American politics and recent memory.

So when Snowden’s leaked documents pointed to contemporary spying, it harkened back to Washington’s Cold War allies who, through coordinated efforts like Operation Condor, collaborated regionally to monitor dissidents and supposed communists, intercepting mail and spying on phone communications as a part of their continental nightmare.

But the Cold War is over, and from Argentina to Venezuela leftist politics have dominated the region’s landscape over the past decade, labor and indigenous movements have been on the rise, and a decidedly anti-imperialist stance has been common on campaign platforms and political policy.

While Washington has succeeded in supporting coups against left-leaning leaders in Honduras and Paraguay in recent years, a US-dominated regional trade agreement was shot down, its military bases have been pushed out of certain areas, US policy in the war on drugs is meeting resistance in key countries, and Latin American governments are going elsewhere for loans and aid. As a historic shift in politics has taken place south of the US border, Washington has often appeared out of touch and grasping for allies.

In this context, leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane was grounded in Europe upon its return home from Russia on July 2nd. US officials behind the grounding of the plane believed Snowden, currently based in a Moscow airport, was on Morales’ flight, as the whistleblower was seeking asylum in South America.

Upon returning to Bolivia, where a meeting was convened among Latin American leaders to address the US and European nations’ action against Morales, the Bolivian president said “the United States is using its agent [Snowden] and the president [of Bolivia] to intimidate the whole region.”

Latin American presidents across the board were outraged at the actions against Morales, and Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia all offered asylum to Snowden in a protest against the US and in solidarity with the whistleblower. Others said they would help to protect him from US prosecution.

When US Vice President Joe Biden pressured Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa to not give asylum to Snowden, Correa thumbed his nose at the US, renouncing $23 million in US trade benefits, and offering those funds instead for training of US officials on civil liberties and human rights.

In regards to the spying revelations and to the grounding of Morales’ plane, Correa told reporters, “We’re not 500 years behind. This Latin America of the 21st century is independent, dignified and sovereign.”

In all of the data that the US gathered across the region, it missed one crucial fact: that Latin America is no longer Washington’s backyard. In spite of the empire’s wide reach, there are places where it will always be defied, in the telephone booths and dreams of a world that it will never truly own.

Benjamin Dangl’s latest book Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (AK Press) is on contemporary Latin American social movements and their relationships with the region’s new leftist governments. He is editor of TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events, and UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America. Email BenDangl(at)gmail(dot)com.

More articles by:

Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America, covering social movements and politics in the region for over a decade. He is the author of the books Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, and The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. Dangl is currently a doctoral candidate in Latin American History at McGill University, and edits UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America, and TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events. Twitter: https://twitter.com/bendangl Email: BenDangl(at)gmail(dot)com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
George Wuerthner
The Highest Use of Public Forests: Carbon Storage
Ralph Nader
It is Time to Rediscover Print Newspapers
Nick Licata
How SDS Imploded: an Inside Account
Rachel Smolker – Anne Peterman
The GE American Chestnut: Restoration of a Beloved Species or Trojan Horse for Tree Biotechnology?
Sam Pizzigati
Can Society Survive Without Empathy?
Manuel E. Yepe
China and Russia in Strategic Alliance
Patrick Walker
Green New Deal “Climate Kids” Should Hijack the Impeachment Conversation
Colin Todhunter
Encouraging Illegal Planting of Bt Brinjal in India
Robert Koehler
The Armed Bureaucracy
David Swanson
Anyone Who’d Rather Not be Shot Should Read this Book
Jonathan Power
To St. Petersburg With Love
Marc Levy
How to Tell a Joke in Combat
Thomas Knapp
Pork is Not the Problem
Manuel García, Jr.
Global Warming and Solar Minimum: a Response to Renee Parsons
Jill Richardson
Straight People Don’t Need a Parade
B. R. Gowani
The Indian Subcontinent’s Third Partition
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: The Black Body in LA
Jonah Raskin
‘69 and All That Weird Shit
Michael Doliner
My Surprise Party
Stephen Cooper
The Fullness of Half Pint
Charles R. Larson
Review: Chris Arnade’s “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America”
David Yearsley
Sword and Sheath Songs
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail