Both Candidates Push Harmful Policies for Latin America

MAPA Newsletter October 2020

Plan Colombia

by Richard Krushnic

What will it matter to Latin America if Trump or Biden wins the presidency?

The Mass. Peace Action Latin American Working Group has focused its activism during the Trump administration on campaigning for an end to economic sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba, and on immigration reform. The sanctions were begun under Obama and made more severe under Trump.

While Trump’s cruel and calculated escalation of anti-immigrant activity – caged children, slashed asylum protections, dangerous migrant camps in Northern Mexico and Central America – has done enormous harm, this article will focus on Latin American foreign policy in general.

We want Biden to win because we believe there’s less chance he will launch an invasion of Venezuela; he might ease sanctions against Cuba; he seems committed to the same tepid level of democracy we’ve had under neoliberal presidents of recent times – limited but not destroyed, as Trump intends; and he seems less likely to push the nuclear button. But we can find little to look forward to in Latin American policy under Biden.

Trump’s foreign policy seems primarily concerned with how it will affect his electoral chances, although it has shown consistency with the imperialistic policy of both Republicans and Democrats, demonstrated by Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and Elliott Abrams.  Abrams in particular has a long bipartisan history of coups and assassinations. Trump himself is inconsistent and impulsive, but his appointees are not.  In any case, his administration has increased Obama administration efforts to overthrow the Venezuelan government, weaken the Cuban government, and supported the coup government of Honduras and the new right-wing coup in Bolivia.

The 2009 Honduran coup was brought to us by the Obama administration, and in particular, by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Since the coup, all progressive leaders in Honduras have been targeted and forced to flee or be killed. Hillary’s coup probably represents what we can expect from a Biden administration.

Biden was the nuts-and-bolts creator of Plan Colombia, as he proudly tells us in his campaign.  Under the guise of the war on drugs, Plan Colombia funneled more than $8 billion between 2000 and 2010 to Colombia’s right-wing government. US taxpayers paid the salaries of the paramilitaries that were massacring labor, peasant and human rights leaders throughout the country, and the populations of the Afro-Colombian villagers on the remote Pacific coast to make way for the palm oil plantations. This was the work of Biden in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Marketed as a war on drugs, the only cocaine eradicated was that under the control of leftist guerrilla armies, while that under the control of the narco-state and its paramilitaries was not.  Plan Colombia was, therefore, not a war on drugs, but a war on unions, peasants, human rights advocates and Afro-Colombians. It won the distinction of the highest per capita murders of labor and human rights leaders in the world.  Biden is very proud of Plan Colombia and features it prominently in his campaign.

This background provided excellent preparation for his work under Obama in creating the Alliance for Prosperity for Central America in 2014, which, in conjunction with Hillary’s right-wing coup in Honduras, created a mirror image of Plan Colombia for Central America.

Under Biden, we will be saved from a foreign policy that is largely driven by how it can help one man. We will be delivered back into an imperial foreign policy that is more dependable, consistent, and within the rules of multinational-corporate neo-imperialism, that has no more regard for human rights than Trump does.

—Richard Krushnic is a member of Mass. Peace Action’s Latin America and Caribbean Working Group, Massachusetts Public Banking, does research and writing on militarism, and community development work in Latin America.