U.S. policy undermines Latin America

There aren’t many who would deny a South American revolutionary his right to abhor the U.S. government.

Examples abound of American intervention in the growing democracies of the continent south of ours, often after leftist regimes take power.

Some have claimed President Lyndon Johnson’s administration supported a 1964 coup of Brazil’s democratically-elected left-wing President João Goulart.

It has been widely publicized that in the same year he won a Nobel Peace Prize, Henry Kissinger urged President Richard Nixon to support the 1973 overthrow of Salvador Allende, the elected Socialist president of Chile.

Such heinous acts are hardly in the past and will continue to disparage the U.S. government abroad. Despite more than 50 years of criminal and covert foreign action, many ultra-liberals have found a new hero in Hugo Chavez, the 21st century’s most prominent anti-U.S., South American leader.

Lori Zett, an intellectual heritage professor at Temple who has introduced herself to classes as a “big lefty,” stands as an example. Zett, who lived in Venezuela for 12 years, said U.S. hostility toward Chavez and other leftist leaders is an issue of economics, not politics.

“Chavez and others support economics that [the U.S. government] disagree[s] with,” Zett said. “In free-market capitalism, it is a lot easier if everyone is in the same system.”

Zett’s remarks have historical basis. After Allende won the presidency in 1970, among his socialist reforms was to nationalize copper mines – largely owned by U.S. businesses. João Goulart made similar reforms.

Both were met with stiff resistance from the United States and were later driven from power. American politicians understandably support policy favorable to the United States, but ignoring all notions of ethical diplomacy devastates American credibility abroad.

Documents declassified in 2004 show that the CIA was aware that, like Allende in 1973, rebel military officers were staging a coup against Chavez in 2002.

That, coupled with evangelical Christian leader Pat Robertson’s televised remark in August supporting an assassination of Chavez, makes it understandable that the Venezuelan leader is more than a little suspicious of American influence.

The Associated Press reported on Oct. 29 that Chavez is evicting American missionaries because he feels their group, the New Tribes Mission, has ties to the CIA. The missionary group has been in Venezuela for 60 years.

Two days before Nov. 6, when President George W. Bush called for all of Latin America to find an American-supported “vision of hope,” Chavez led an anti-American rally of more than 25,000 people. The hypocrisy of the duality in U.S. foreign policy – preaching a “vision of hope” while undermining foreign regimes – will continue to create anti-American sentiment.

Chavez isn’t the only left-wing leader in Latin America getting attention from Bush. Nestor Kirchner, whose incipient tenure as Argentinean president has been highlighted by sweeping reappointments in the Supreme Court and military, greeted Bush two weeks ago.

The connection of all these regimes, other than leftist tendencies, is, of course, warm relationships with Cuba. In some ways, Castro’s public policy is a model for other Latin American leftist leaders. All have nationalized previously private enterprises, as Castro did with agriculture and oil.

Unlike Chavez and Kirchner – who are in their first terms – Fidel Castro has led for more than four decades. Whether his beginnings were noble or not, Castro’s legacy is marred because there are few who deny the importance of a regular replacement of leaders.

Even Professor Zett questions Castro’s credibility. “I can’t see how after more than 45 years [Castro] couldn’t be corrupt. He isn’t a saint, and absolute power is a scary thing.”

If Bush values his hopes of democratization, it is necessary to halt the intrusion in foreign administrations. Whether or not Chavez and Kirchner are positive leaders, aggressive American influence will only undermine political growth in Latin America.

Christopher George Wink can be reached at cwink32@yahoo.com.

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