The Pink Tide Rumbles In, South of the Border

Photograph Source: Kyle wyss – CC BY 2.0

November was a good month for sanity and anti-capitalism. A leftist won the presidency in Honduras. Socialists prevailed in elections in Nicaragua and Venezuela. And the supposedly massive, U.S.-backed protest in Cuba against the communist government simply fizzled. Throughout the Americas people voted for what they want: freedom from poverty, freedom from death squads, freedom from diseases like covid and freedom from imperial control. They voted for it, and they got it.

Faced with a choice in Honduras between a sterling socialist candidate who just won an election in a landslide and a loser associated with the previous narco-dictator, the U.S., to its credit, did not foment a coup. It gulped down its pride and grumbled congratulations to Xiomara Castro, the new leader. She’s the wife of Manuel Zelaya, you know, the slightly left former Honduran president, kidnapped in 2009 by the military at night and flown out of the country in his pajamas.

The Hillary Clinton state department’s unforgettably awful performance at that time included tacit support for this coup and for the thugs who installed themselves in power. Those goons later made such a mess of the nation with drugs, gangs, death squads, privatizations and other forms of rank criminality, that Hondurans set new records, fleeing the country by the thousands to the U.S. border, where they were not, to put it mildly, exactly welcomed by the nation that helped wreck their country.

And it was truly wrecked. The U.S.-supported president Juan Orlando Hernandez schemed to eliminate term limits and thus extended his power. Meanwhile his brother, Antonio Hernandez, received a life sentence for drug trafficking from a U.S. court. Found guilty in October 2019 of smuggling tons of cocaine into the U.S., Antonio Hernandez was, according to prosecutors, complicit in at least two murders.

“By 2008,” the BBC reported March 31, 2021, “[Tony] Hernandez was running his own cocaine lab in Colombia which produced tonnes of the drug, some of which was stamped with his initials.” All this bolstered accusations that his brother the president was actually a narco-dictator, as did the president’s now infamous remark that he wanted to “shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos.” Indeed, prosecutors said that Tony Hernandez “conspired with his brother, the president of Honduras” to engage in “state-sponsored drug trafficking.” Drug money financed his 2013 presidential campaign, according to court documents cited by the BBC.

Prosecutors also alleged that jailed Mexican drug lord, El Chapo, “had given Tony Hernandez $1 million…as a bribe destined for Juan Orlando Hernandez.” This is the so-called president that Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly dubbed his “good friend.” This is the regime Hillary Clinton ushered into power, one that presided over Honduras becoming the second most dangerous country on the planet due to its astronomical murder rate. Killings, gangs and drugs flooded the country post-2009-coup, making it unlivable. Destitution for multitudes as a result of idiotic neoliberal economic policies made it worse. No wonder tens of thousands of Hondurans scrambled to the U.S.

So Honduras’ second chance in the form of president-elect Xiomara Castro is nothing short of a miracle. It brings to mind the miraculous 2020 undoing of the fascist Bolivian coup. Also it comes in the same month as yet another socialist win in Venezuela. How big was that win? Well, despite North American sour grapes that the election was rigged, in fact the socialist party won 20 governorships.

For once, the opposition didn’t boycott the election. But they won only three governorships, so I guess even though they distanced themselves from the absurd, U.S.-backed puppet Juan Guaido, he and his American sponsors cast such a long, ugly shadow over Venezuela’s future that most voters shunned anyone even remotely associated with him. Voters seemed unconcerned with President Nicolas Maduro’s stewardship of the economy, smeared in the corporate media as ruinous. It hasn’t been great, but several causes lie beyond his control, and U.S. sanctions sure don’t help. In fact those sanctions devastated the country, killing tens of thousands of Venezuelans.

“The poor performance by the opposition,” according to Reuters November 22, “could hurt its ability to contest the presidential elections in 2024.” Well, duh. And if the U.S. keeps supporting Guaido, who looks shadier by the day, the opposition might just as well throw in the towel now. Also, most citizens know that the U.S. and U.K. conspired to steal billions of Venezuelan funds. This, too, does little to endear U.S.-associated candidates to the Venezuelan electorate. But don’t try telling that to U.S. foreign policy types, who all, bizarrely, consider such theft – from any so-called enemy – acts of chess-grandmaster genius. It’s not. All it does is make ordinary people wretched and fill them with hatred for the U.S.

Then there’s Nicaragua. The leftist Sandinistas and their leader Daniel Ortega won big in November, maybe because Nicaraguans appreciate the country’s social safety net and not having to flee poverty, death squads, gangs and drug dealers to Texas. But how did Biden respond to what can be viewed through a right-wing lens as the Nicaraguan choice not to have to emigrate to the U.S.? He signed the RENACER Act, imposing more sanctions on the country. Because the best way to prevent people from becoming refugees is impoverishing them, right? This loathsome move, premised on lies about the Nicaraguan elections, proves to anyone who didn’t know that the U.S. doesn’t give a hoot about democracy. It only cares that its guy gets elected.

Now the reason for focusing on how the U.S. creates refugees is not just to prevent their suffering. It is also to deny Trump fascists their excuse to return to power. Because it’s as simple as two plus two: if U.S. policies smash Central American countries by making life there intolerable, those citizens will, as they have every right, leave. Many will come here. That churns up nativist hysteria via wall-to-wall Fox News coverage of “chaos at the border” and voila! Trump or a Trump clone retakes the white house. Then good-bye to the little that’s left of American democracy.

The leap by the Organization of American States (OAS) onto the bash-Nicaragua bandwagon doesn’t help. But since the OAS is a U.S. marionette, it’s to be expected. Remember its despicable behavior in the run-up to the fascist 2019 Bolivian coup. The Sandinistas sure did. They saw through OAS shenanigans and so, when that group started condemning the election results, the Nicaraguan government wisely decided to exit the OAS. Other countries with left-leaning governments, that is, Bolivia, Honduras, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina and Peru, would all do well to consider this course of action.

Lastly, November was the month of a much ballyhooed, supposedly massive anti-government protest in Cuba. When this flopped miserably, Bloomberg ran with the headline, “Cuban Human-Rights Protest Quashed Amid Harassment, Intimidation.” Not to be outdone, the Washington Post trumpeted, “Cuba Harasses, Detains Activists on Eve of Planned Protest.” You get the idea. These U.S. government stenographers evidently bristled at Biden not slapping more sanctions on Cuba and decided to shove him in that direction with frantically alarmist headlines. But maybe he thought it would look peculiar to sanction a country for its inaction regarding a protest that didn’t occur. If so, that is the single most notable piece of sanity in U.S. policy toward Latin America in many, many years.


Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Lizard People. She can be reached at her website.