Contextual Content

When did the US "lose" Latin America?

The United States first lost its influence in Latin America because of deals it made during the Cold War to prop up any dictatorship as long as it was anti-communist. Even Bill Clinton with his "free-trade" and drug eradication projects was not open to South American autonomy from Washington.


Story Transcript

PEPE ESCOBAR, ANALYST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Welcome to The Real News. I’m joined again by Forrest Hylton, one of the foremost US specialists in Bolivia and South America. Forrest, how is South America watching what’s happening in Bolivia? What kind of lessons in terms of integration of South America can we derive from this whole process?

FORREST HYLTON, AUTHOR, "REVOLUTIONARY HORIZONS": As other countries look at what’s happening in Bolivia, what they see is that the United States will try to promote the fragmentation of territorial units such as the Bolivian nation state through the promotion of secession movements in the name of democracy. And we can see this sort of thing in the state of Zulia in Venezuela. And probably countries throughout South America are looking very closely at the role that the US is playing in promoting these types of movements in Bolivia. And probably they will be looking for ways to strengthen their democracies, in which social movements are demanding an ever greater share of participation. So it is to be hoped, anyway, that left and center-left governments throughout the region will realize that their strength in the face of these types of secessionist movements will certainly be the popular and social movements that have brought them to power in the first place.

ESCOBAR: Would you see a change of direction in case of a Democratic presidency, Obama or Hillary?

HYLTON: Would there be a change of direction in Bolivia? I think it’s quite unlikely. I think either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is likely to ask the question "Who lost Latin America?" in the same way the Democrats asked "Who lost China?" in the late 1940s, which is to say Latin America has clearly drifted away from the imperial US orbit, and I think any Democratic president is going to want to try to pose as the leader of the United States who can bring Latin America back into the fold. Of course, the way to do that probably would be through some type of revamped good-neighbor policy in the region, which of course was forced on Roosevelt by the national popular forces in Latin America in the late 1920s and early 1930s. That would be the most sensible thing to do, but it’s very hard to see any type of initiatives coming from either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in that direction. I think it’s much more likely that either leader would simply continue with the status quo towards Latin America, which, after all, was established under President Bill Clinton, particularly when we think of NAFTA and the free trade agenda for the hemisphere, as well as Plan Colombia and the militarization of the war on drugs. I think we’re likely to see more of the same, because as I said, these policies were very much strengthened under Bill Clinton and simply continued under George W. Bush.

ESCOBAR: Forrest, suppose Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would ask you personally, "Who lost Latin America?" What would you tell them?

HYLTON: I would say, you know, you really have to study the history of the Cold War, and you have to study the extent to which the United States supported radical right-wing regimes of terror against independent nationalism, frequently moderate independent nationalism, in the name of fighting communism. And in order to avoid repeating mistakes that were made throughout the Cold War, we would have to know that history in the first place. After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Jimmy Carter was asked by the press corps in Washington, DC, what he thought of the overthrow of Mosaddeq in 1953, and he replied that he didn’t think it was appropriate to go into that, because it was ancient history. And I think that’s precisely the kind of attitude that we need to reverse at the highest levels of leadership if we are to begin to have better policies toward Latin America and closer relationships with the countries and peoples in Latin America.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.