US election: what can Latin America expect?

Relations between the US and Latin American countries have always been tense, from economic rivalry to political assassinations. During his first term, Barack Obama has failed to build bridges between the Americas - what can peoples from Latin America and the Caribbean expect from the next president?

What is in dispute in the USA is not only the destiny of the US people, but of the whole planet in the next four years.

Looking from the perspective of Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) peoples, I dare to make a few statements. 

  1. Obama is the only sensible choice, if the dispute is limited to the two traditional parties. Obama’s administration did not fulfill promises such as closing Guantanamo and defrosting the Cuba blockade. Hillary Clinton was not the progressive public manager one expected. The Democratic and the Republican parties agree on many key items of foreign policy, and the impression left by the last debate between their candidates is that America’s imperial premise will not be challenged anytime soon. But certainly Obama has been relatively sensitive to the needs of the impoverished in the US and in the world.
  2. Obama highlighted ending two wars and increasing taxes on the wealthy as means to build up education, infrastructure, and renewable energy sources at home. Meanwhile, both candidates displayed a utilitarian approach to relations with LAC countries. Romney remarked that economic opportunities presented by Latin America “have just not been taken advantage of fully.” The U.S. has a long record of “taking advantage” of LAC economically, and of being ready to use any means – from economic hit-men to assassination of democratically-elected presidents – to keep the region under US control.
  3. A true democracy is still far away in the US. Outside the USA, and even inside, who hears the voice of Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson? Why were they not in the debate between presidential candidates? Stein is the Green Party candidate, and Anderson belongs to the Justice Party. Why should small parties not be allowed to address the voting masses? Because they may create in the silent majority a sense that now is the time to really change the course of their nation, giving democracy and ecology a new chance.

What do LAC peoples want from the USA?

  1. A foreign policy based on international law, human rights and the use of diplomacy, to establish a global culture of peace;
  2. Respect the right of LAC nations to run their own countries, territories and regions on a sovereign basis - the same the US claims for itself; and to design democratically managed local and national development plans with no foreign interference;
  3. Overcome America’s belligerence syndrome that left a disastrous record of interventions in LAC, from the 1954 military coup against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, through the hit list that victimized democratically elected Presidents Jaime Roldós in Ecuador and Omar Torrijos in Panama, support to a wave of dictatorships in the 60s and 70s, killing democracy in the name of democracy, and reducing whole nations to servitude to US corporate and geopolitical interests;
  4. End wars for oil, expanded military presence and weapons trade;
  5. Instead, set public policies aiming to overcome poverty and the factors of impoverishment at home and abroad; excessive public debt and the factors of over indebtedness; climate change and the factors that are making it evolve exponentially;
  6. Recognize LAC right to their natural endowment for the betterment of their peoples’ lives;
  7. Recognize the right to life for the region’s massive impoverished majority, which implies food sovereignty, healthy food through agro ecological practices and no GMOs from global biotech corporations; the right to development of nationally- and locally-managed industries by breaking US oligopolies and cartels, and the right to cancel large fractions of their public debt, which are illegal, illegitimate and even odious;
  8. The right to manage their budgets with no interference from foreign banks or the IMF;
  9. The right to endogenous development, which implies the nationalization of services such as education and health, massive investment in research and development and the equitable sharing of productivity gains with workers and society as a whole;
  10. A profound and effective reform of the global financial architecture, including the closure of tax havens, the establishment of international rules, regulations and taxation on the movements of capital; an innovative policy of bailing out people, rather than banks and other financial institutions directly responsible for the 2008 global financial crisis and the current public debt crisis that struck most of the Northern Hemisphere and still afflicts the Southern as well;
  11. Effective attention to the factors of climate change, which impact growing numbers of people and living beings, generating huge diseconomies and the loss of crucial funds for socially responsible and ecologically sustainable development.

The era of empires is not gone. And the era of true democracy has not yet begun.

This article is part of the 'How it looks from here' openDemocracy feature on the 2012 US elections. For more worldwide perspectives on the presidential race, click here.

About the author

Marcos Arruda is an economist and veteran popular educator, who has worked closely with Brazilian labour, co-operatives and solidarity economy movements for many years. He is Director of Políticas Alternativas Para o Cone Sul, a nonprofit organization for development, and an associate of the Transnational Institute.