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A ‘new relationship?’

May 13, 2009

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Despite the condemnation he knew would come from many Americans, President Barack Obama walked up to President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and greeted him warmly. “I want to be your friend,” Chavez responded. Imagine the benefits for their people if these two Black presidents could work together – or even talk with each other. - Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Despite the condemnation he knew would come from many Americans, President Barack Obama walked up to President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and greeted him warmly. “I want to be your friend,” Chavez responded. Imagine the benefits for their people if these two Black presidents could work together – or even talk with each other. - Photo: AFP/Getty Images
As U.S. President Barack Obama treks to the Caribbean to sit and sup with Latin American leaders, he does so amidst a promise of a new relationship with America del Sur.

While this brand of quiet and thoughtful presence is indeed profoundly different from the thoughtless bravado and bluster of his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush, it still hearkens back to a bygone era, one rarely recalled today, that of John F. Kennedy.

Yet is this merely a difference of style or substance?

From the time of the fifth U.S. president, James Monroe (1817-1825), this country has pursued a policy of domination, interference and control over the countries to the south. The U.S. has toppled governments it doesn’t like, supported dictators, backed military coups, and both trained and funded armies to oppose trade unionists and social activists, all in the name of the so-called Monroe Doctrine.

And while some presidents have thundered and bellowed and others have whispered, the essential elements of U.S. foreign policy have remained virtually unchanged in a region many Americans think of as their “backyard.”

But Latin America is experiencing a renaissance of late, one caused, in part, by popular resistance to U.S. domination of their economies, governments and politics.

There is a wave of leftist governments arising in Latin America today. Any serious student of U.S.-Latin American history can’t be surprised by this trend.

The U.S. has either intervened, invaded or supported dictators in Chile, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, Grenada, Dominican Republic and Haiti – just to name a few.

It must be said, only slightly tongue-in-cheek, that the U.S. has never met a dictator it didn’t like – especially when opposed by a populist or a nationalist.

The best exemplar of this imperialist trend may be seen in the U.S. response to the 1963 election of Dr. Juan Bosch as president of the Dominican Republic, after the CIA-backed assassination of dictator Rafael L. Trujillo in 1961. Bosch was shortly thereafter overthrown by a military coup.

The U.S., under President Lyndon B. Johnson, moved heaven and earth to insure the installation and election of Joaquin Balaguer, a Trujillo clone who outdid his former boss at repression. *After the armed intervention, Johnson invited two leading Republican congressmen to the White House to boast that he’d “just taken an action that will prove that democratic presidents can deal with Communists as strongly as Republicans” (p. 80).

Because of U.S. intervention – and occupation, with some 40,000 troops! – the country endured some 60 years under brutal dictatorships – backed, trained and funded by the U.S.

What would be a “new relationship” would be an abandonment of U.S. interference, intervention, invasion and subversion of neighboring states to the south.

Kennedy smiled and he was a brilliant politician, but he sent in Green Berets when he couldn’t get his way.

A new relationship would be an end to U.S. imperialism.

*Source: Chester, Eric Thomas, “Rag-Tags, Scum, Riff-Raff and Commies: The U.S. Intervention in the Dominican Republic, 1965-66.” (N.Y.: Monthly Review Press, 2001.)

© Copyright 2009 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s brand new book, “Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A.,” available from City Lights Publishing, www.citylights.com or (415) 362-8193. Keep updated by reading Action Alerts at www.mumia.org and www.moveorg.net. To download mp3s or podcasts of Mumia’s commentaries, visit www.prisonradio.org. For recent interviews with Mumia, visit www.blockreportradio.com. Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews to inspire progressive movement and help call attention to his case. Send our brotha some love and light at: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Greene, 175 Progress Dr., Waynesburg PA 15370.

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