By Juan Jose Paz y Miño Cepeda *
There was no problem in supporting the Allies during World War II (1939-1945), because there was clear awareness against the Nazi-fascist axis, despite initial resistance from groups in countries like Argentina and Brazil, due to the existence of families of German migration, who even acquired social or political influence.
In Latin American countries, “black lists” were drawn up with the guidance of US embassies, as happened in Ecuador, where not only Germans were listed, but also some Italians, several Japanese and also Ecuadorians linked to them for business reasons.
But, the forced alignment during the Cold War -since the 50s and until the collapse of socialism in the USSR and Eastern Europe- was a clear imposition. It was obligatory to join the “free world”, against “totalitarian communism”. The CIA acted in the 60s to destabilize and even overthrow Latin American governments that did not want to subordinate themselves (it happened in Ecuador, 1963) and the military, which was convinced of anticommunism by the direct technical and ideological work the US did on them from the TIAR (1947), acted as an instrument of McCarthyite Americanism.
By the way, the Cuban Revolution (1959) and the appearance of guerrillas inspired by its process in different countries, served to justify military interventionism.
The establishment of Augusto Pinochet´s dictatorship in Chile (1973-1990) and of the terrorist military states in the Southern Cone, left a history of crimes against Humanity, under the assumption of waging an “internal war” of “national security”. These governments were convinced to save the region by exterminating left-wing human beings.
Once the institutions of representative democracy were recovered, while there were attempts to try the former repressors, it was not possible to do so in all countries. By order of Judge Baltazar Garzon, of Spain´s National Court, Pinochet was arrested in the United Kingdom (1998-2000) on charges of having committed genocide, international terrorism, torture and the disappearance of persons. A political earthquake took place in both the UK and Chile, internationally and even in the Vatican.
His liberation by Minister Jack Straw guaranteed his impunity. Only in Argentina a successful trial held against the military was and several chief officers were convicted, which is very well treated in the film “Argentina1985”, which has won several international awards.
Cuba, on the other hand, subjected to a ruthless and unjustified blockade, which even worsened during the Covid pandemic of2020 (any company would be sanctioned for providing medical resources to the island), and it is a country that enjoys undoubted international prestige for its lessons of dignity and sovereignty, which now maintains relations with several Latin American states. It has received the direct support of different progressive governments in the region, has deserved the almost unanimous pronouncements of the UN General Assembly against the blockade, consecutively since 1992, and advances in the midst of severe limitations and attacks of all kinds against its path of socialist construction.
In this long and still unfinished process of the development of Latin Americanism of the 21st century, the most recent crack of Monroeism was evidenced at the IX Summit of the Americas, held in Los Angeles, California, in June 2022. By its own unilateral decision, the United States excluded Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, although Manuel Lopez Obrador, president of Mexico, was the first to question that behavior. Several Latin American countries did not attend or only sent delegates. And, although the issue of Ukraine was not directly addressed, it was at least hinted.
On the other hand, the statements of general Laura Richardson, Commander of the US Southern Command, who considers a set of Latin American natural resources (lithium, but also water) as part of her country´s “national security”, are explicit and categorical. In addition, she warned against the presence of China and Russia in Latin America, considered as “adversaries”, and even asked that countries that have Russian military equipment “donate” them to Ukraine.
Taking advantage of this condemnable and painful war, a new international crusade has arisen to divide the world between an area of “freedom” and “democracy” and one of “authoritarianism”, to mark a wall between “civilization” and “barbarism”, paraphrasing the terms of Argentinian Domingo Faustino Sarmiento in his famous work published in 1845.
The issue of Ukraine was directly addressed at the recent II Summit for Democracy (March 29-30, 2023), a virtualinternational meeting convened by President Joe Biden.
The final document refers to Russia´s “aggression” and demands its withdrawal. But,it was not backed by Presidents Lula da Silva, of Brazil, and Lopez Obrador, of Mexico. In this line of behavior, we must remember that the II CELAC Summit (2014) declared Latin America a Zone of Peace, and this was ratified at the VII CELAC in Buenos Aires in January 2023.
Despite this, there is still no common Latin American geostrategic force capable of imposing itself, because the aforementioned document was signed by other rulers and because there is a clear division of the bloc of progressive governments in the region, if one notices, among others, the pronouncements of Chile´s President Gabriel Boric questioning Cuba and aligning himself with the United States. Right-wing governments, for their part, have no brakes on the calls of the great powers for an alignment in their favor.
This does not relieve them of their historical responsibilities for domestic politicos. In Ecuador, President Lenin Moreno (1917-1921) is today subjected to a criminal process with a request for preventive detention by the Prosecutor´s Office due to alleged bribery and corruption plot, and present President Guillermo Lasso is at the gates of a political trial before the National Assembly, empowered by the Constitutional Court, on the basis of alleged embezzlement, that could lead to his dismissal.
As can be seen, Latin America is a region under external pressuresthat is being challenged to maintain itself as a Zone of Peace, to strengthen Latin Americanism in the face of Monroeism and to question the Manichean international division of two spheres of civilization, which does not represent the multipolar, multicultural and politically diverse world that Humanity has since the beginning of the 21st century.
*The writer is an Ecuadorian collaborator for Prensa Latina.