People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 08

February 21, 2010

Obama Bares Imperial Fangs

R Arun Kumar


I speak of peace, while covert enmity
Under the smile of safety wounds the world

                                        Shakespeare, Henry IV


THE aura around Nobel laureate Barack Obama is fading fast. As events are proving he got the prize for his talk and appears not inclined to earn it. The US administration is watering down all the expectations that Obama, as a candidate for presidency had roused. The entire world looked eagerly for the 'change' that was promised by him and was belied. Irrespective of his speeches in Prague and Cairo, the administration is moving towards more confrontation and interventionist positions.

Obama had clearly stated that he would maintain the embargo on Cuba. During the campaign, he accused the Bush administration of �losing Latin America� and allowing China, Europe, and �demagogues like Hugo Ch�vez� to step �into the vacuum�. He even raised the spectre of Iranian influence in the region, pointing out that �just the other day Tehran and Caracas launched a joint bank with their windfall oil profits�. He endorsed the Bush administration's drive to transform Colombia's relations with its Andean neighbours into the one Israel has with most of the Middle East. He swore that he would �support Colombia's right to strike terrorists who seek safe-havens across its borders�. Now that he had become the president, he appears to be carrying out a series of course correction measures.

The US administration under Obama had increased its efforts to regain its lost influence in Latin America. No efforts are let gone for achieving this purpose. The recent victory of right-wing forces in Chile elections had proved to be a shot in its arm. Even the recent earthquake in Haiti is used to further its penetration in the region.

Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the region was hit hard by the earthquake with thousands of people dead, homes destroyed and millions of property lost. Many countries of the world and individuals have responded immediately with aid. Cuba is the first country to send in its doctors brigade while Venezuela announced that it is writing-off the debt Haiti owes to it. This is humanitarian assistance.

In contrast, US is using this tragedy to further its imperialist designs and regain its control over the region. The US Air Force has taken over air traffic control functions as well as the management of Port au Prince airport. In other words, the US military regulates the flow of emergency aid and relief supplies which are being brought into the country in civilian planes. The US Air Force is not working under the instructions of Haitian Airport officials. These officials have been displaced. The airport is run by the US military. It is using this control over the airport to regulate the landing of relief material prioritising US planes and delaying the landing of those of other countries like China, France etc. Various governments have complained that their aircraft have not been able to land and deliver the human and technical resources and emergency relief material.

In the midst of the Haitian tragedy, thousands of US marines, 82nd Airborne Division troops and other military forces have occupied Haitian territory. On a per capita basis there are more troops in Haiti than in Afghanistan. Three amphibious ships, one aircraft carrier, a guided-missile cruiser and a guided missile frigate were sent to Haiti. This renewed US military presence in Haiti is sought to be used to establish a foothold in the country as well pursue America's strategic and geopolitical objectives in the Caribbean basin, largely directed against Cuba and Venezuela.

This is intended to further their 'gains' in Honduras. It is a well-known fact that US administration played a covert role in the Honduras coup against elected President Manuel Zelaya. The US had initially denied the coup, but was forced to acknowledge the coup due to popular pressure. It refused to follow the call of Latin America and the OAS to cut all relations with the coup regime and instead retained relations. It pushed client Costa Rican President Arias as the mediator in the discussions that were to be doomed and finally recognised the electoral process organised by the military junta against the position of all Latin American regimes except Colombia. The US administration had resorted to this move to check the growing influence of the ALBA, issue a notice to the Latin American governments that they cannot easily by-pass the US in their policy initiatives and that it is back in 'business'.

To drive this point home more clearly, the Obama administration had nearly completed an agreement with Colombia to grant the US military access to Colombian bases. The Uribe administration announced that it had nearly reached an agreement on the terms of a decade-long lease to allow US military personnel to use Colombian military bases. The reasons given, �to conduct anti-drug trafficking and anti-terrorism operations� are superficial with the real intention being to train its guns on Venezuela. This lease agreement has drawn widespread criticism both from Colombian congressmen across the political spectrum and also the countries in Latin America. Fidel Castro called it as �seven daggers� pointed towards �the heart of Latin America� and termed it as �annexation of Colombia� due to many draconian conditions attached to them. This is one important event that had not received the attention it should have, because of the other events taking place in the region like the coup in Honduras.

The Pentagon expanded its base facilities in Panama, Aruba, Curacao and Honduras. These, together with the decision to add a nuclear powered aircraft carrier to the Fourth Fleet cruising off the Atlantic shore of Latin America demonstrate the military intentions of the US and its desperation to regain its 'loss of presence' in this region.

It should also be remembered that Obama administration had not withdrawn the economic embargo imposed on Cuba nor eased the sanctions. US, along with its cronies Israel and Palau voted against the UN resolution demanding the lifting of the inhuman economic embargo on Cuba. Moreover, they have added Cuba to the list of countries whose passengers have to undergo extensive screening because it clubbed along with the countries termed as 'terror suspects'. Obama still retains the Bush-era rhetoric of branding Cuba and Venezuela as countries sponsoring terrorism and Venezuela being a 'danger to democracy in Latin America'. Hillary Clinton even threatened to act against Latin American countries that continue with their economic ties with Iran.

Apart from these moves, the US is aggressively pursuing its 'covert operations' in the continent utilising the USAID and other 'masked' NGOs. Millions of dollars are spent by these organisations to flare discontent in countries like Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. Recently a CIA agent working under the mask of one such organisation was caught in Cuba. Similarly the role of USAID in funding opposition parties in Bolivia and even encouraging them in their secessionist activities is well documented. With the help of some reactionary intellectuals and monetary aid from the US, a university - El Cato-CEDICE University - was started in Caracas to ideologically corrupt students and egg them to organise measures to destabilise Venezuela.

Another measure actively pursued by the US is slowly investing in companies that help weaken the economic power of the Bolivarian countries. It has recently invested in private Brazilian gas production companies like HRT and through them is trying to influence the government of Brazil to stop its gas purchase deals with Bolivia. Through these measures its wants to wean away customers for the products of the countries that are standing up to it and thus bleed their economy to a slow death. The design is that once the money from gas sale dries up, the government would be forced to go back on its social welfare programmes and thus loose support of the people. The US hopes that the subsequent unrest among the people would help its supporters to usurp power and once again revert back to the neo-liberal policies.

Obama administration is thus aggressively pursuing policies of intervention in Latin America. As the recent developments show, Obama is not shy of flexing his military muscle to achieve the imperial objectives. He got the Congress to sanction $680 billion military budget and is actively supplying arms to his client regimes across the globe (Taiwan and UAE, being glaring examples). The US wants to use this as one of the means to come out of the present economic crisis in which it is submerged neck-deep. In this way it also wants to cut the growing influence of China and Russia among these countries. The US also intends to weaken the evolving South-South unity and also deny a 'rallying point' to all the progressive forces in the world. To achieve this, Obama is ready to ditch the peace movement on whose shoulders he piggy rode for becoming the president. Let us not forget that it is under his administration that more drone attacks were carried out in Afghanistan than under Bush.