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Goodman writes: "The two main pillars of US foreign policy - increasing neoliberalism and increasing militarism around drugs - continue. They feed off of each other and have created a crisis in that corridor, running from Colombia through Central America to Mexico."

A US-trained 'jungle commando' disembarks from a Blackhawk helicopter, while a crop-spraying plane flies past, during an anti-drug operation in an illegal coca plantation, in 2000, under the US-backed, billion-dollar Plan Colombia. (photo: Reuters/Eliana Aponte)
A US-trained 'jungle commando' disembarks from a Blackhawk helicopter, while a crop-spraying plane flies past, during an anti-drug operation in an illegal coca plantation, in 2000, under the US-backed, billion-dollar Plan Colombia. (photo: Reuters/Eliana Aponte)



The Real Scandals of Obama's Latin America Summit

By Amy Goodman, Guardian UK

21 April 12

 

resident Barack Obama's re-election campaign launched its first Spanish-language ads this week, just after returning from the Summit of the Americas. He spent three days in Colombia, longer than any president in US history. The trip was marred, however, by a prostitution scandal involving the US military and secret service. General Martin Dempsey, chair of the US joint chiefs of staff, said:

"We let the boss down, because nobody's talking about what went on in Colombia other than this incident."

Dempsey is right. It also served as a metaphor for the US government's ongoing treatment of Latin America.

The scandal reportedly involves 11 members of the US secret service and five members of the US Army special forces, who allegedly met prostitutes at one or more bars in Cartagena and took up to 20 of the women back to their hotel, some of whom may have been minors. This all deserves thorough investigation, but so do the policy positions that Obama promoted while in Cartagena.

First, the war on drugs. Obama stated at the summit:

"I, personally, and my administration's position is that legalization is not the answer."

Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told me that, despite Obama's predictable line, this summit showed "the transformation of the regional and global dialogue around drug policy …":

"This is the first you've had a president saying that we're willing to look at the possibility that US drug policies are doing more harm than good in some parts of the world."

He credits the growing consensus across the political spectrum in Latin America, from key former presidents like Vicente Fox of Mexico, who supports legalization of drugs, to current leaders like Mexico's Felipe Caldéron, who cited the rapacious demand for drugs in the US as the core of the problem. Nadelmann went on:

"You have the funny situation of Evo Morales, the leftist leader of Bolivia, former head of the coca growers' union, lecturing the United States about – essentially, sounding like Milton Friedman – that 'How can you expect us to reduce the supply when there is a demand?'

"So there's the beginning of a change here. I don't think it's going to be possible to put this genie back in the bottle."

Then, there is trade. Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos also announced that the US-Colombian Free Trade Agreement would take full force 15 May. Colombian and US labor leaders decried the move, since Colombia is the worst country on Earth for trade unionists. Labor organizers are regularly murdered in Colombia, with at least 34 killed in the past year and a half.

When Obama was first running for president, he promised to oppose the Colombia FTA, "because the violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements." That year, 54 Colombian trade unionists were killed. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the announcement "is deeply disappointing and troubling". Republicans, on the other hand, are offering grudging praise to Obama for pushing the FTA.

On Cuba, Obama took the globally unpopular position of defending the US embargo. Even at home, polls show that a strong majority of the American people and businesses support an end to the embargo. The US also succeeded, once again, in banning Cuba from the summit, prompting Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to boycott the meeting this year.

Responding to overall US intransigence, other western hemisphere countries are organizing themselves. Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at New York University, told me:

"Latin Americans themselves are creating these bodies that are excluding the United States, that are deepening integration, political and economic integration. This seems to be a venue in which they come together in order to criticize Washington, quite effectively."

Grandin compared Obama's Latin America policies to those of his predecessors:

"The two main pillars of US foreign policy – increasing neoliberalism and increasing militarism around drugs – continue. They feed off of each other and have created a crisis in that corridor, running from Colombia through Central America to Mexico. That's been a complete disaster, and there's no change."

It will take more than a prostitution scandal to cover that up.

• Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

 

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+24 # charsjcca 2012-04-21 07:46
America is about guns, oil and drugs (legal or illegal). Nothing else matters.
 
 
+12 # hillwright 2012-04-21 08:31
So, Bolivia boycotted the meeting and Argentina nationalized its largest oil company. China will soon have supertankers in the Gulf filled with Cuban and Canadian oil. And the demand for illegal drugs keeps the market rolling.So, what else is new?
 
 
+9 # KittatinyHawk 2012-04-21 10:05
I wonder if OB was snorting and puffing like the past GW.

I hope Colombia burns themselves out, Labor will win, People will win.

Time you start making the OB Kids aware of Daddy's not caring about children sweat shops in south America and China even here.

OB is a joke at these Summitts...no one believes us, GW and his thugs have made sure we have no credence.

The Governments want to kill our children, and it is pretty sad no one else sees this. Republicans thanks to George Sr set up drug cartels years ago. Resources, money...guns and drugs.
You watched your friends die, now you will watch your children. Up to you to take action.

Powders, Chemicals are not acceptible in USA....OB is not stopping Bayer from poisoning our food, land. Not stopping Monsanto. Not stopping Fracking, Nukes The FDA, EPA are all Bushites.

Time you start taking the Actions needed, Time America is run by, for and of the People. No one is going to do it for you....the deaths of Children and Animals are on Your Shoulders....yo u voted for these thugs. Get GOP out and remind Mr O just who runs this USA. then it will be time to remind all other Countries to shove their Cartels up China's Butt...they have more money than we do go sell you wares there. Leave our kids alone. After that we start on the Pharmaceutical and Chemical Companies!
One step at a time. Time is now to start walking
 
 
+6 # Rita Walpole Ague 2012-04-21 10:19
No big suprise the 'mess media' over covered the sexy side of this story (Advertising 101: good way to MSD - manipulate, spin, distract - the dummies: sexy stuff, cute kid stuff, cute animal stuff) and under covered/no coverage of Oh Bomb Ah's continued reversing of what he promised us during his 2008 campaign.

For example, there's Oh Bomb Ah's signing vs. vetoing of this year's NDAA, resulting in some of the world's best journalists, a member of parliament from Iceland who help support/partect Julian Assange of Wilileaks filing suit against Oh Bomb Ah, Panetta, etc., in fear of civilian arrest by military here and around the world with indefinite detention, no due process, habeas corpus.

Our Dept. of State formally objected to a recorded deposition of the Icelanic M.P. being admitted into the record. Says a lot, does it not? Cannot let more leaking of truth about the actions of our 1%ers and their pol. minions, now can they? Once again, very little or no coverage in the 'mess' media regarding the total dumping of the rule of law/constitutio nal rights into the toilet, and Oh Bomb Ah's flushing of the toilet with his signing of the NDAA.

Lots we gotta do to...UNDO THE COUP!!!

And then there's the

Let's spread the
 
 
+16 # reiverpacific 2012-04-21 10:45
Note well that the few remaining countries who still hew to the US as their boss and mentoring power, are the most failed states in Latin America. Mexico, Colmobia and Honduras with Chile now chasing it's tail since moving to the center from the left.
And about the S' Service -use prostitutes: this is common practice by both government and corporate "suits" visiting many of these countries (there are even 'expense' special credit cards for it) -and not just Latin America, where prostitution is much more open -it's almost expected- and exists in several tiers, whilst babbling about "family values" back home.
Again, status-quo maintained.
It's also a proffered "perk' as leverage on them by their local opposite numbers or joint-venture partners to keep a blackmail option open so they have a modicum of control over "El Hermano Grande del Norté".
I've seen this often and actually confess to have been part of it at one time, to my shame.
The most disappointing aspect of all this is the childish, big -bully-hurt mentality of the Cuban embargo which deeply disappoints me about Obama, -I mean, didn't he start to open up to that country when first elected? The hate groups in Miami have a powerful lobby indeed.
And Moralés is right about the "demand" (but not like Friedman) -and where is the biggest demand? Look around folks. The CIA has been one of the biggest drug-runners up the Central American corridor for decades.
 
 
+1 # jwb110 2012-04-21 13:52
The US is just too Eurocentric. We should have cut that continent off years ago when we claimed independence from Britain. There is more than enough natural resources in N and S America for us to do business and stop our dependance on other parts of the world. The Fortress of the Americas would far outrank any other nation.
Pres. Monroe declared the Americas off limits to Europe and then we never followed thru with the concept. Once again too many Anglo-Saxons to consider how much better we would have been had we joined forces with those brown people and it continues today.
Washington had better look to S America as the best ally we could have and then follow suit.
 
 
+6 # reiverpacific 2012-04-22 08:41
Quoting jwb110:
The US is just too Eurocentric. We should have cut that continent off years ago when we claimed independence from Britain. There is more than enough natural resources in N and S America for us to do business and stop our dependance on other parts of the world. The Fortress of the Americas would far outrank any other nation.
Pres. Monroe declared the Americas off limits to Europe and then we never followed thru with the concept. Once again too many Anglo-Saxons to consider how much better we would have been had we joined forces with those brown people and it continues today.
Washington had better look to S America as the best ally we could have and then follow suit.

Fine, if the US is capable of looking at South and Central Americas as partner-allies rather than just some more 'wog-populated nations' they must dominate, overpower and occupy as cheaply and completely as possible.
I just don't think that this nation of arrogant, plutocratic power seekers (like the old Euro-Royalty and Imperialist rapers and pillagers) is capable of anything like parity with ANY nation -and the folks down there know it!
They are close to a unity as never before led by Brazil, now a huge and growing economic force. I could see a single "Sur" based currency for nations which have a common link in democratic socialist aspirations, make the US beg for equal trade status.
The Colombian CAFTA is how it shouldn't work!
 
 
+4 # jack113 2012-04-22 10:09
It is a disgrace for America to continue it's embargo on Cuba. Cuba would not have thrown us out if our businessmen and politicians had not turned the island into a corrupt playground for the Rich and shameless.

When George H.W. Bush and Reagan set up their terrorist squads and pay for it with drug money they effectively held back democratic nations from getting a foothold in South America.
 

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