By Rudis Yilmar Flores Hernández:
The announcement of Barack Obama’s visit to the countries of Brazil, Chile and El Salvador was revealed at an event of great political importance: the president’s annual State of the Union address to a joint session of the Congress of the United States.
It is encouraging that Obama and his diplomatic advisors chose these three countries as emblematic and as representative of the region, and not other countries that have become strategic allies, like Colombia, or countries that constitute new types of governments, like Argentina.
These three countries have a history of cruel dictators and torturers who counted on the support of previous U.S. administrations: Pinochet in Chile, the military dictatorship in Brazil, and the long dictatorship in El Salvador, which resulted in civil war. And the three countries have taken different paths to construct new models of society, leading them, in any case, to face democratic processes, while dragging along the burden of their pasts.
It is acknowledged that Salvadoran presidents in the past have had ways of flattering the representatives of the empire: Napoleón Duarte kissed the U.S. flag while he was president of El Salvador. President Francisco Flores said that his greatest pride was that George W. Bush had called him a friend. (As if there are friends in politics.) President Funes said in his inaugural address that one of his political reference points was Obama. Without a doubt, the most successful style compared to other governments in the region has been that of President Funes, because Obama announced, with his visit to El Salvador and the other countries, a turning point in the history of Inter-American relations.
It is important to reflect on the parameters that Obama set out in his speech: His government wants partners who take responsibility with regard to security and drug trafficking. President Funes has proved to be the most loyal ally to the empire in the Central American region by managing his foreign policy as determined by Washington and international financial bodies like the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Since Funes took power in 2009, he boasts about the “democratic values” of President Obama, who continues with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, expanding his warmongering policy in Latin America, against the people of Venezuela, setting up military bases in Colombia and Panama, the military occupation in Haiti, the landing of troops in Costa Rica and the coup d’état in Honduras in June 2009.
This trip — the first to Latin America for President Obama since he entered the White House — takes place, coincidentally, while celebrating the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Kennedy Administration’s Alliance for Progress after the Cuban revolution, with the intention of counteracting the advance of revolutionary movements in the majority of Latin American countries and spreading the dominant ideology of capitalism. In El Salvador, televisions were installed in public schools where they aimed to disseminate prevailing economic models; a feeding program for children was launched; and development was initiated on the famous experiences in planning driven by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
Obama’s visit to these countries generated reactions ranging from rising expectations to doubt with respect to his true intentions. At the Fifth Summit of the Americas, in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009, he said, “I didn’t come here to debate the past — I came here to deal with the future. […] As neighbors, we have a responsibility to each other and to our citizens.” In view of these words, it is valid to ask oneself: Why must the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean continue to trust their neighbor, after two centuries of policies of plundering and aggression? Will these “new alliances” consider fundamental change, or are they just captivating rhetoric full of promises?
So far, the current U.S. administration maintains the same strategic interests in Latin America and the Caribbean as its predecessors did, aimed at maintaining access and control over natural resources, access to primary sources of energy, the control of markets, the preservation of the system of cultural ideological colonization and the containment of revolutionary processes that attempt to challenge the fundamental basis of its hegemony. It keeps the economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba intact; it continues the hostility towards the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela; it legitimized the coup d’état in Honduras; and it installed seven military bases in Colombia.
The relevant aspect of Obama’s trip is his visit to Brazil, considered the eighth largest economy in the world, which has displaced the U.S. for the leadership of South America. Brazil, along with India, Russia and China, make up the BRIC countries, the new emerging powers bidding for a more dominant role in the establishment of a multi-polar world.
In the case of El Salvador, Obama’s visit is a courtesy call to President Funes. Recall that earlier presidents allowed the establishment of a monitoring base at Comalapa International Airport and sent contingents of troops to support the military intervention in Iraq. Therefore, it is a way of ingratiating oneself with the current government, which is the principal ally in Central America for the fight against drug trafficking and the one that promotes the illegal recognition of Porfirio Lobo and the reinstatement of Honduras to the Organization of American States (OAS). And it gave regional consent to the militarization of Costa Rica, where 46 warships and 11,000 marines are deployed, which are there, in the logic of los gringos, to reinforce the fight against drug trafficking.
The partnerships in the recent past between the U.S. and the governments of the Salvadoran right materialized during the fight against communism and terrorism. Now, the “government of change” wants a partnership against drug trafficking and for social development and economic growth, even when that implies being subjected to the foreign policy of Washington. The only credible way to begin to forge new partnerships is to start dismantling the system of hemispheric dominance. Otherwise, rhetoric and promises will be the basis of the alliance.
Obama is also visiting El Salvador for two things in particular: first, to make sure that political change does not jeopardize the Comalapa military base, where the so-called “Anti-Drug Monitoring Center” operates; it is a satellite monitoring station linked to the military bases in Colombia. And, second, [to secure] the operation of the International Law Enforcement Academy, known by its initials ILEA, which is a police training base considered to be a thinly disguised version of the School of the Americas, which trained the most criminal military leaders that led the military dictatorships against Latin American peoples.
And, as was to be expected in Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador, Obama’s visit was greeted by protests. In our case, the social movements also had their agenda, which has to do with national interests.
Representatives of the Salvadoran social movement delivered a letter to a U.S. embassy diplomat, containing a series of requests and suggesting that the global economic crisis, climate change, drug trafficking, insecurity and the food crisis have their roots in an economic model imposed on our peoples by the great powers and mainly the United States. They call on Obama to assume responsibility for the consequences that these evils bring on our peoples.
Among other things, the representatives call for the legalization of fellow workers and the full respect of their human rights as migrant workers; the end of deportations from the U.S., which approached 20,000 Salvadorans in 2010; respect for our sovereignty; and the rejection of any interference in our democratic process. We hope that assistance from the U.S. government for our country responds to the necessities and priorities of the great majority of our people; that it helps to overcome the current model of consumerism; and that it will build our productive capacity without involving conditions of any kind or serving hidden political agendas, like those we have experienced in the past — for example, with the Alliance for Progress. The only credible way to begin to forge new partnerships is to start dismantling the system of hemispheric dominance. In this context, it is also necessary to respect the right of our people to establish political, economic, diplomatic and cultural relations with any nation in the world and to take part in initiatives such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). The relations between the U.S. and El Salvador are based on the respect for the sovereignty of our people and the full respect of human rights, not based only on market principles.
Obama’s visit also coincides with the celebration of the 31st anniversary of the martyrdom of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who is, and will remain, the pastor of the poor and the San Romero of America, even though the Vatican resists his canonization. We must understand that Romero’s tomb and his martyrdom have a symbolic value: Monsignor Romero represents all of the innocent victims of the period of the Salvadoran civil war.
The visit of the president of the empire to the tomb of the monsignor was nothing more than a political act because he did not consider apologizing for having financed a war with over a million dollars a day for the military bases — both in the Southern Command in Panama and in the School of the Americas — where soldiers and battalions were trained who massacred Salvadorans and assassinated the prophet.