In Honduras and Haiti, the U.S.
Rules by Proxy
by Glen Ford, Black Agenda Radio
December 1, 2009
The Barack Obama presidency was supposed
to signal a new era in U.S. foreign policy, including in Latin
America, which had turned decisively against George Bush's blustering,
bullying and coup-making. What has emerged under Obama is not
a reversal of historic U.S. imperial policies in the Americas,
but a cosmetic adjustment. President Obama uses far less warlike
language than his predecessor, but he deploys every trick and
deceit in the book to maintain U.S. dominance in the region. And
like all bullies who have had their noses bloodied, he tries to
create fear in the hemisphere by picking on the smaller countries.
For most of the 20th century, Haiti and
Honduras were de facto colonies of the United States. Haiti was
occupied by the U.S. military for nearly 20 years, between 1915
and 1934. Honduras was the original, prototypical "banana
republic," ruled by a local oligarchy totally subservient
to the United States. Both Haiti and Honduras are prime examples
of a U.S. strategy to under-develop its neighbors - a deliberate
policy of impoverishment and petty tyranny.
But blatant gunboat diplomacy doesn't
work very well anymore for the United States in most of Latin
America, where a popular consensus has been achieved that rejects
U.S. hegemony. Recognizing the drawbacks of overt American aggression,
President Obama artfully pursues a policy of smiles and handshakes
all around - while undermining democratic forces through proxies
whenever the opportunity arises.
"What has emerged under Obama is
not a reversal of historic U.S. imperial policies in the Americas,
but a cosmetic adjustment."
In Haiti, the U.S. proxy is the United Nations, which took over
the job of military occupier from George Bush in 2004, after the
Americans sent democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide into exile. Aristide's Lavalas Family party has been
suppressed ever since.
In Honduras, the Americans still find it possible to act in the
old-fashioned way, through the local oligarchy and its U.S.-dominated
military. Back in June, the Honduran military bundled democratically
elected President Manuel Zelaya into a plane, made a stop at a
U.S. airbase, and sent him into exile in Costa Rica. Zelaya then
snuck back into Honduras, living under the protection of the Brazilian
embassy. The U.S., standing virtually alone in the hemisphere
and the world, refused to call the removal of President Zelaya
a coup, and announced that Washington would recognize the results
of last weekend's elections to succeed Zelaya even though they
were held under military martial law. Hondurans who opposed the
coup had no one to vote for, so of course, the oligarchy's candidate
won in a very low turnout.
President Aristide's party was last week
barred from taking part in legislative elections scheduled for
February, in Haiti. The oligarchy-controlled elections commission
claimed the party failed to fill out some forms properly. Back
in June, only about ten percent of the people turned out for elections
in which Aristide's party was excluded.
These two electoral travesties are the
true face of President Obama's policy on democracy in the Americas.
Wherever the U.S. has the power to thwart the democratic process,
it does so, and then bides its time, waiting for another opportunity
to stab its neighbors in the back.