The “increasingly large chorus of nations” in Central America arguing for decriminalization of drugs instead of Washington’s failed drug war seem not to have received their warranted share of focus at the Summit of the Americas conference this weekend. The havoc and blood wrought by drug prohibition and efforts by Washington to militarize the issue have been so detrimental to nations like Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, et al. that they are pushing the Obama administration for a change. Obama said no, although apparently “agreed to direct the Organization of American States to name a group of experts to study the issue.”
Instead of confronting this vital issue, the Obama administration’s focus at the Summit was apparently Cuba. New York Times: “Americas Meeting Ends With Discord Over Cuba.”
A summit meeting of Western Hemisphere nations ended without a final statement of consensus on Sunday, after the United States and some Latin American nations remained sharply divided over whether to continue excluding Cuba from such gatherings.
The issue of Cuba’s exclusion from events like the Summit of the Americas gathering has been a perennially divisive one, and increasingly so lately, more than 50 years after the United States imposed its embargo of the island nation after the military takeover by Fidel Castro in 1959. While the push to include Cuba was led by leftist governments in the region, including Venezuela and Bolivia, Mr. Santos also joined in the effort, calling the American position a cold war anachronism.
“Cuba, unlike the other countries that are participating, has not yet moved to democracy,” Mr. Obama said. And referring generally to other Latin American countries’ success in overcoming dictatorship and oppression in favor of democracy, Mr. Obama asked “why we would ignore that same principle here.”
Maybe because the U.S. has a history of preventing democracy in Central America, not promoting it. Over 100 years ago, the U.S. took advantage of the Cuban revolution against colonial Spain and intervened on behalf of the revolutionaries only to betray an initial promise not to “exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island,” and instead President McKinley announced that the U.S. would rule Cuba under “the law of belligerent right over conquered territory.” Fast forward through the state terror towards Cuba during the Cold War to present day. Decades of sanctions and non-engagement has almost certainly helped keep the undemocratic Castro regime in power.
The U.S. also overthrew the democratically elected government of Nicaragua in a military coup early in the 20th century, replacing it with a right-wing paramilitary regime. Fast forward to Reagan’s illegal support of terrorist proxies to overthrow the Sandinistas which helped keep the country in bloody conflict and poverty for another generation.
Washington overthrew another democratically elected regime in Guatemala in 1954, replacing it with a military junta headed by Colonel Carlos Castillo. Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. “not only covered up, but aided and abetted war crimes and genocide in Guatemala.” Now, Guatemala receives approximately $1oo million in aid annually from the U.S., despite a record of corruption and ties to the drug gangs. Also currently wreaking mayhem, The Kaibiles, the ruthless U.S.-trained Guatemalan state militia infamous for their role in killing civilians during Guatemala’s civil war, are being recruited in large numbers to violent Mexican drug gangs.
We can go on like this with similar stories for Chile, El Salvador, etc. And support for undemocratic regimes and practices, under the rubric of the war on drugs, continues to this day in places like Colombia, where we’ve supported atrocities by paramilitaries and government lawlessness, and in Honduras, where the Obama administration has supported the coup regime which is cracking down hard on the population. So where does Obama get off complaining about Cuba’s prospective inclusion in regional diplomacy?