Date: Thu, 26 Aug 1999 23:33:19 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Emilie Nichols" <email@example.com>
Subject: America's 'civilizing' efforts abroad?
From: Doug Hunt <dhunt@NEERUCC.NET>
From the Common Dreams News Center . . .
America's 'civilizing' efforts?
By Sean Gonsalves, Cape Cod Times staff writer, 17 August 1999
"Reflecting growing alarm in Washington about leftist rebels strengthened by the cocaine trade, a leading U.S. diplomat met with Colombian President Andres Pastrana last week to discuss drug trafficking and the country's civil war," the Associated Press reported.
The "leading" U.S. diplomat is Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, who has vowed to "battle drug trafficking and negotiate an end to the country's 35-year civil war."
Also, last week, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times that discussed the need to sever the alleged ties between leftist rebels and traffickers in narcotics.
The propaganda machine is in full-swing. Albright and Pickering, with the indispensable aid of the "liberal" media, are side-stepping what lies at the root of that nation's civil strife.
"Latin America has been the most rapidly urbanizing Third World region in this century, in large part due to the failure of the existing land system to provide the minimum livelihood for survival," says U.S. foreign policy scholar Gabriel Kolko in his book "Confronting the Third World: United States Foreign Policy 1945-1980."
From 1930 to 1960, the percentage of the population living in urban areas had doubled to reach 33 percent. "The social causes of the misery the masses lived in were diverse, but the inequitable structure of land tenure was by far the most important...In Colombia 0.3 percent owned 30 percent of the land (in 1960)," Kolko points out.
"This basic pattern in land ownership showed up in income distribution statistics. In 1960, the richest five percent of the population (in Latin America) earned 33.4 percent of all income...with 29.2 percent for the next richest 15 percent - or 62.6 percent for the wealthiest fifth. Peru and Colombia had the most inequitable distribution in the hemisphere and among the worst in the entire Third World," he continues.
American excursions into the region go back to the days when President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to "show those Dagos that they will have to behave decently," as he so eloquently put it. Over the years, U.S. planners insisted that Latin American nations organize their economies to benefit foreign investors.
"The land distribution system, as all knew in 1961, was the origin of social misery for the peasants who comprised the vast majority of the region. While the United States had acknowledged this at the Alliance for Progress inception, it abandoned this definition of the problem immediately because virtually all of the political forces it might identify with - and above all, the generals - opposed changes with far-reaching implications to the existing framework of wealth and power," Kolko observes.
"In Colombia, for example, large landlords helped to write the so-called land reform law to forestall the re-emergence of the post-1948 poor peasant upheavals that had traumatized the nation and resulted in tens of thousands of deaths," Kolko elaborates.
He concludes: "In the end, the United States' manifest destiny merged and made common cause with the oligarchies' and corruptionists' mission to save themselves from the radical Left and the nationalist Center....By resorting to covert warfare in most places, or its own troops, as in the Dominican Republic, Washington had tried to rely on its military power to circumvent the failure of its economic efforts to integrate the hemisphere even more thoroughly - guaranteeing that all the advocates of change throughout the hemisphere, whatever their ideological hue, would be required to make resistance to Yankee imperialism a prerequisite for progress."
As late as 1996, half of all U.S. military aid went to Colombia - the hemisphere's leading violator of human rights. In May 1995, the bishop and priests of the Diocese of Apartado issued a "Communiqu to Public Opinion."
"The paramilitary groups have mercilessly decimated entire towns," while the authorities, "facing the tragedy of the people...remain indifferent without opposing the advance of this macabre plan of death and destruction," the communiqu said. Even the mayor of Apartado says the paramilitary groups are "virtually running wild with an escalation of murders and horrible mutilations."
Our tax dollars support that. And we are supposed to believe that our policy makers are concerned about human rights, as they claimed was the purpose of America's savage bombing of Yugoslavia. Right now, the Colombian government is seeking $500 million in U.S. military aid "to help it regain the upper hand against Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia," the AP further reports.
A war on drugs? It's a war on peasants fighting against rich U.S. allies, who will remain allies only as long as those "damned Dagos" give in to our "civilizing" efforts. If not...does the name Manuel Noriega or the 1989 illegal U.S. invasion of Panama in which thousands of innocent civilians were killed sound familiar?
Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and syndicated columinist. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 1998 Cape Cod Times. All rights reserved.
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