Friday, December 26, 2008


"People don't give one shit [about Latin America]."
- Richard M. Nixon -

"Well, I learned a lot. You'd be surprised. They're all individual countries."
- Ronald Reagan -

"[Latin America] is a dagger pointed at the heart of America."
- Henry Kissinger -

Gone are the days we could smugly consider Central and South America "ours." The arrogance and ignorance which led then-Vice President Nixon to dismiss Cuba's Fidel Castro as "a communist" after meeting with him for only one hour in 1959 (and for President Eisenhower to blow off that meeting altogether to play golf), and for President Ronald Reagan to assume that Latin America was monolithic, was as fatally flawed then as that condescending attitude is today. Nixon and Reagan would shit hemorrhages if they could see the state of Latin America at present. For what was once an entire region wholly dominated by the United States is now one acting completely independent of, and often contrary to, the wishes of Washington. Nixon, Reagan, corporate America, and even Bush never realized it, but their short-sighted and self-centered policies have pushed nearly all of our southern neighbors into the varying degrees of anti-Washington frenzy they are now in. Unless we soon alter our course and apractice, we will feel negative consequences from this for many years to come.

One might assume that our current dicey scenario in Latin America is all the fault of Republican rule. That is not the case. Democratic Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson also contributed, albeit with GOP pressure and influence never far removed. The Cuban embargo, begun under Eisenhower (but tightened under Kennedy) remains in force to this very day. The ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion (another Eisenhower/CIA gem) was foolishly followed through upon by Kennedy. Both actions pushed Cuba further away from us and firmly into the outstretched arms of the Soviet Union. Johnson sent American troops into the Dominican Republic in 1965 to "restore order," but the end result was the same it has always been: The overthrow of a democratically-elected leftist government and its replacement by a military junta or repressive right-wing dictatorship beholden and subservient to the United States. There is a shamefully long list of countries in this region we have directly or indirectly interfered with just in my lifetime: Guatemala, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Grenada, Panama, and Haiti. Our business interests and CIA have also worked diligently and clandestinely in Honduras and Mexico to influence their economies and politics. These actions have not spoken well for our supposed desire to spread freedom and democracy all across the globe, our moral and ethical standards, or our credibility. For, in much of Latin America (as in Iraq) we have often attempted to forcibly install democracy at the point of a gun. In extreme cases, we haven't even attempted to install a democracy, but have instead overthrown governments we felt would threaten our business or strategic interests, and then accepted whatever new, U.S.-friendly group came in to fill the power vacuum. In 1973, for example, our CIA (with Nixon White House backing) even directed the coup in Chile which resulted in the death of the first democratically-elected Marxist President, Salvador Allende. No matter that he won fair and square, or that he was committed to democracy and a free press: He threatened our business interests and was too friendly with Cuba. His replacement? The brutally repressive and murderous military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Shameful indeed. But, at last, there are clear signs today that Latin America as a whole is finally throwing off the burdensome yoke of Yankee domination in favor of radical reform designed to greatly reduce our influence and relieve longstanding, widespread poverty.

Since 1959, Fidel Castro's Cuba had been a lonely voice repeatedly calling out for an end to U.S. domination of Central and South America. In 1999 it was finally joined by Hugo Chavez's Venezuela. Both countries nationalized American and foreign-owned companies and subsidiaries and began a long series of radical reforms designed to aid their poor and end the poor's exploitation by big business interests. Regrettably, Cuba's revolution evolved into a dictatorship, with murder and imprisonment of opponents and political prisoners, as well as suppression of press freedom. But Cuba now has universal education and a literacy rate of 96%, compared with an ILLITERACY rate of 95% when its 1959 revolution began. It also has universal health care in many ways superior to that received by the "free" citizens of many other Latin American countries! Thankfully, subsequent change in Venezuela and other Latin American nations has not been as brutal or undemocratic. In the past few years, Cuba and Venezuela have been joined by a tsunami of popularly-elected leftist governments dedicated to similar reforms. Their degree of radicalism varies from Cuba's, Venezuela's, and Bolivia's to more moderate forms found in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. The extent of this wave of change is phenomenally widespread, from Daniel Ortega's Nicaragua, to Evo Morales' Bolivia, to Rafael Correa's Ecuador, to Fernando Lugo's Paraguay, to Argentina's Cristina Fernandez De Kirchner, to Michelle Bachelet's Chile, and beyond. These are indeed monumental and exciting times south of our border! ALL of these governments are leftist, which would give both Nixon and Reagan severe indigestion. In fact, a recent conference of Latin American countries held in Costa Do Sauipe, Brazil, was attended by 33 like-minded nations and included our neighbor, Mexico. They called for a regional union of these countries (to EXCLUDE the United States), and for the U.S. to end its unnecessary 49 year embargo against Cuba. A number of these governments are now even courting direct Chinese investment. Such occurrences would have been unthinkable even 15-20 years ago!

Naturally, little of this amazing transformation has been covered in much detail by our corporatist, sensationalist media. They have been far too busy dazzling us with stories about the excesses of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, Sarah Palin's clothes and calendars, Barack Obama's beach physique and basketball prowess, and Joe the phony Plumber's attempts to secure a country music recording contract. They have severely underreported the breadth and scope of Latin American change. The overwhelming majority of Americans are as painfully ignorant about events in our own back yard as Sarah Palin is about foreign affairs generally. Unforgivable. Our media provides us with more info on the planet MARS than it does on our southern neighbors! This is disgraceful and cannot serve us well long term. For the days are gone where we can immorally prop up corrupt and friendly Latin American regimes doing our bidding and representing only the 1-2% wealthiest elite while the rest of the population struggles and suffers. Our government, media and people MUST begin developing a better knowledge and understanding of our southern neighbors. Continued ignorance and benign neglect of these countries is inexcusable and cannot continue.

We are NOT the center of the universe! Readers of this blog, and ALL Americans, can take the lead by Google-ing each Latin American country and each leader and learning more about them. Hopefully, with a new and more enlightened administration set to take office soon, our CIA will finally be directed to keep its nose out of Latin America's private affairs and will begin to aim its focus where it should, as in defeating the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The incoming Obama administration can work wonders in Latin diplomacy right off the bat by ending the ridulous Cuban embargo. ALL of our friends and allies alike, including Canada, Mexico, and the European community, trade with Cuba. So does China. And so, at long last, should we. Our new administration can also encourage new and greatly expanded cultural, educational, and trade relations with Latin America. Properly doing so will restore good will and may also limit China's penetration and influence in our own neighborhood. We can even learn from these countries and gain from their experience, but not if they hate us or we have blinders on. Brazil, for example, took only about a decade to become fully energy independent, and achieved this long ago. Rather than fight the forces of change, as we have so often done in Latin America in the past, we now have a golden opportunity to embrace and ride the crest of this exciting new wave of Central and South American independence. Doing so will benefit all nations in this hemisphere immeasurably!



davecardin said...

My wife and I (US citizens) own a small beach resort called Playa Roca (see the Pacific Ocean 13 miles west of the colonial city of Leon, Nicaragua. We employee 11 Nicaraguans. In this small fishing community of Las Penitas there are only 3 of 10 or so small hotel/hostels that are run by locals or Nicaraguans. There are American, Canadian, French and German owners that make up the other 70%. All these establishments employ locals from the community or from the Leon area. 5 years ago 90% of these people now employed were unemployed.
The whole economy has been bolstered by the Western influence in Nicaragua. From bus drivers, vegetable vendors, hotel/restaurant workers the investment of time and money that has been infused into the economy is immeasurable. For a nation with an unemployment rate around 20%, and rated as the 2nd poorist country in this hemisphere (Haiti #1) this infusion of money and therefore opportunity for the nation to grow and prosper.
80% of our reservations come from North America. If Europeans (10%)and North Americans no longer feel safe to travel to Nicaragua, then what happens to the locals who depend on tourism to make a living.
We hosted 26 members of the Peace Corps for Thanksgiving this last month. These young Americans give their time and energy to the Nicaraguan people. They live alone within their little communities for $200 month. Some don't have water, electricity or even a toilet. Why? They are there as volunteers to only benefit the citizens of Nicaragua, and to get an education of a lifetime. Not a bad exchange, it's FREE, college educated Americans giving their lives for the betterment of Nicaragua
As North Americans or our European bothers continue to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into their economy, we are at a point that the government must support the peoples that are investing in their future in a major way.
The fraud and deception of the Nov. 9th elections show that Nicaragua is falling into a trap that only the powerful will win. If the powers that "BE" can fix an election without verifiable evidence, all credability is lost. Lose all funding that the West brings to the table and all the serious economic upturn that has come to Nicaragua recently will be lost. How much influence will be replaced by Russia, Iran, Cuba or Venezuela? Where are the tourists coming from if we are alienated? How many NGO's are in Nicaragua? Missionaries? How many surgical teams have given free tratment to those who need it? Clothes, food, medicine, technology? How many are there from the above countries that are the newest allies/friends of Nicaragua.
Health, education, infrastucture, employment issues are the main concerns that keep Nicaragua from rising from the poverty levels that exists today. North America and the EU "GIVES" more than the majority of GNP needed to run this impoverished nation, and all we ask for is to have fair and transparent elections, and put the money we give to its best use which is the above concerns of health, education, infrastucture. Employment is a by product of satisfying these needs.
Politics in the leftist countries and that of the US have many obsticles to overcome, but one of them should not be the "bad mouthing" of the "Devil of the North" or the United States of America.
What are the percentages of Nicaraguans that left Nicaragua during or after the revolution and went to Russia, Iran, Cuba or Iran? How many went north to start a new life in the Americas?
If the US is so bad why are there more Nicaraguans in the US than anywhere else?
I love Nicaragua, my life savings and that of my wife are invested in this small but wonderful paradise by the ocean. I want my last breath, hopefully a long time from now, to be taken at Playa Roca.
We plan on contributing to the community in the recyling area ("if it doesn't burn, throw it" mentality) solar, and create educational opportunities for the elementry students in the math and language arenas. We would like to melt the plastic bottles, etc., and make their own desks and chairs.
I hope that Obama does listen to the beat of our southern neighbors, but I want to world to know that the US and the EU have not created the poverty that most of the world lives in. I would beg to differ who has given more to humanitarian needs than North America and the EU!
Give me a statistic of how much payroll is spent per year on employees from each nation on earth in Nicaragua. How much money is spent on food and lodging and other tourist activities? Who is flying into and out of Managua on business and pleasure? What does it really mean? Americans are not politics, but a people of ethics and charity. We give more than all the other countries in the world combined. Why? We care about others and their plight. Governments come and go, but the people always come to the aid of others. Does anyone ever produce a fact of how much money is spent worldwide by the American PUBLIC, not the coffers of the government?
And we are the "bad" Yanki?
Think not who was Reagan, Bush, Nixon. All politicians with a different agenda than most normal Americans. Good or bad, their decisions bring many differing opinions from those who affected by those decisions. Name me a country that has had a stable economy that doesn't have good relations with the US? Name me the nations that are against the "US" and you will see a country that can't support itself.
Where would the world be if the US never gave a dime to those countries that want to stab us in the back? Where? How many would have died from hunger or lack of medical treatment? It is from the American people and the spirit of humanity that compels us to act out on behalf of our fellow man. Are we the "evil ones"?
Do you think the average Nicaraguan wants the US and the EU to suspend all operations in their country? The election fraud shows that they spoke and their votes were trashed. Their president didn't even get 40% of their vote to get into office to begin with. If his positive rating is hovering around 22% how would you think that his party won the elections he dictates they won? And he is glad that the EU and US is freezing over $100,000,000 in much needed aid. Only thing that prevents these funds from being spent the way they are supposed to is because all agreements for these funds are not being adhered to by the government who signed the agreements to begin with. The president of Nicaragua is stifeling the advancement Nicaragua has seen in recent years. He calls the signed agreements as "strings" attached to recieve the funds. The only "strings" were that the funds must be spent in an organized and credible way. All funds were agreed to be spent for the betterment of Nicaragua in the areas of health, education, infrastructure, welfare. Also, elections were to be transparent and overseen by impartial overseer's. Measurable accountability was necessary for continued funding. Nicaragua has not even come close to 50% of the required accountability to continue this "FREE" money.
The world cannot justify such blasphamy of a leader a an impoverished nation who needs every penny it can get to help his people survive and prosper. He is killing the "Golden Goose" and I don't know why in reality.
I would like to know the per capita income of Nicaraguas new found friends of Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia. Add all the other leftist governments to the list, and you see mass povery and mangled government. You see the leaders with tremedous wealth and the masses with nothing. And the leader of Nicaragua says "thank-you" for stop giving millions of needed money to my impoverish nation.
I have asid the same thing more than once, meaning the election votes that didn't get counted properly, giving the people a different mayor than they voted for. No way Nicaragua can turn aside their true friends from the north and Europe and keep an economy growing.
The people of Nicaragua voted and they were denied their right of seating the candidates of THEIR choice. The democratic world will not tolerate such a farse, and is doing the only thing that is reasonable and rational, which is freezing the funds tied to honest elections and accountability of funds already contracted.

David Cardin or

Jack Jodell said...

Dave, let me thank you for your passsionate reply and for your investment in Nicaragua. When I write of Americans being ignorant of Latin American affairs, or of exploiting their people, it is certainly not with folks like you and your wife in mind. You two, and other investors like you, are a gleaming example of what America SHOULD be doing in Latin America:Providing gainful employment for locals and encouraging other Americans to live among and invest in these countries. When I write of negative American influence in Latin America, I am speaking of clandestine CIA efforts, big business exploitation, and past attempts by both our government AND American big business to keep all economic and political power in the region in the hands of the wealthiest (and often very corrupt) 1-2% of the population, doing so for our big business community to be able to take advantage of cheap local labor on a mass scale. THAT is what leads us to being called "bad Yankis" and "Devil of the North", not efforts like yours. For this long tradition we have had of support tiny economic elites throughout Latin America is the reason the majority of the population, NOT because leftist governments have now come into power. The economic elite and the many former right-wing governments and military juntas have done very little to alleviate poverty or even the balance of wealth distribution over hundreds of years. It is not as if these leftist governments have suddenly come into power and then robbed the overwhelming majority of their citizens blind! Regarding the tendency of the leftists (especially in Nicaragua and Cuba) to lash out at the U.S., that can only be expected when we try to overthrow governments (as Reagan tried doing with the Contras, and the CIA tried many times in Cuba). In lieu of this, these governments, rightly or wrongly, could hardly be expected to not be nervous about and critical of our past actions.

Your point about our benevolence is a valid one. We are indeed the most generous people on earth. If only our government's and big businesses' actions would match the kindnesses of our churches, charities, Peace Corps, and private entrepreneurs like yourselves, revolutions like what occurred in Cuba, and vast changes like what have occurred recently in most of the rest of Latin America would never have occurred. And many from Nicaragua and other Latin American countries, be they left-wing or right-wing governments, will continue to flock northward rather than to Russia or Iran because we are far closer than they, and we have a tradition of openness and acceptance, whereas they do not. As far as emigration to Cuba or Venezuela is concerned, few will choose that course due to lack of opportunity there. For those countries continue to be poor, mainly because prior governments did little or nothing for their people and, in Cuba's case, because we have crippled them with our embargo.

The corruption you mention in Nicaragua is disheartening. Corruption in all of the Latin American countries, though, has been widespread for a very long time. Your firsthand portrayals of this corruption underscore my piece's criticism of our media. We get very little useful info on other countries, and what little tidbits we get are brief, narrow in scope, and are repeated endlessly with little depth or background explanation. That MUST change!
Thank you again for your excellent comments, and keep up the great work in Nicaragua!

SJ said...

outstanding piece on Latin America. It is a region and hemisphere whose fortunes have been determined by outside greed for far too long and with far too little of the kind of neighborliness, good trade (real capitalism, not the exploitation that passes for it) exemplified by Davecardin, who represents the best future for all people, everywhere sharing and grwoing across borders for the the betterment of all. Money may not buy happiness, but it makes life easier, and people everywhere need to employ each other everywhere, in a fair and equitable manner, in Latin America; in India and Pakistan; in the Middle East and and all of the places where a neighborhood grocery store can stamp out a black market.
One thing that Latin America and the United States have in common however is a mainstream culture that does not truly value or protect the free press and government that suppresses investigative journalism.
Castro's achievements for the population are notable, regardless of whether they were largely Soviet funded in the past, -he put the money in the right places. But as he has exponentially increased literacy, he has also had writers imprisoned and assassinated.
It's a mixed legacy to say the least.

Jack Jodell said...

Thanks for your comments and analysis, SJ. Castro's legacy is indeed a mixed one, and let us hope the rest of these leaders, especially Chavez and Morales, do not establish brutally repressive regimes as well. So far so good. If Dave Cardin's allegations of vote fraud in Nicaragua are indeed as bad as he claims, that country bears watching, too...

Marc McDonald said...

>>>The people of Nicaragua voted
>>>and they were denied their
>>>right of seating the candidates
>>>of THEIR choice.

Well, I recall back in 1984, the Sandinistas were honestly and fairly elected in one of the most heavily monitored elections in history (there was one international election observer for every three voters in the country). But the Reagan administration said, in effect, "Screw the will of the Nicaraguan people" and declared an illegal war on that nation, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilian men, women and children.

Reagan funded and supported the brutal terrorists called the "contras" (laughably termed "Freedom Fighters") not because they wanted to bring democracy to Nicaragua---but simply because they were anti-Sandinista.

And once again, American hypocrisy in foreign affairs was revealed. The U.S. demands "democracy,"---except when the party wins that we don't support. Then, we declare war on the nation in question, or have the CIA go in and stage a coup. (And we wonder why much of the rest of the world hates us these days).

I mean, who do you think brought Saddam to power in the first place? It was the CIA---the same people who've been going around the world, overthrowing democratically elected governments for decades (Guatemala, Iran, etc.).

David, we in America need to stop with the hypocrisy before we lecture the rest of the world on "democracy" and "freedom."

Oh, and we need to fix our own rotten-to-the-core political system before we lecture others.
By the way, the U.S. government is NOT the most generous in the world when it comes to foreign aid. In fact, as a PERCENTAGE of GDP, we are in fact one of the stingiest givers of foreign aid among First World nations. And most of the "aid" we give is in fact nothing more than backdoor military aid.

And given that the U.S. is in fact a broke, Third-World-like nation these days, any "aid" we give is actually money loaned to us by the East Asian central banks that prop up our Ponzi-scheme economy with the trillions of dollars of our debt that they hold.

Jack Jodell said...

Thank you for that excellent and superbly accurate summation, Marc!

opit said...

I could really admire dave cardin's initiative and approve the beneficial results of his choices.
Talking about not appreciating the U.S., though, is really asking for it. If I take that in its archaic sense of 'to evaluate justly' - and Free Trade - I could give a couple of notes.

Ana said...

Thank you for this great text.
I'm Brazilian and you touched me.