“As the US election draws nearer, so does Trump’s xenophobic & warmongering rhetoric, reminding us of the build-up to so many failed US-led interventions of the past.”Gemma Bolton
The first thing that politicised me to take an active role in politics was the 2012 vote in Parliament on whether the UK should join United States in bombing Syria. I grew up in the context of a failed Iraq war and consistent intervention in the Middle East. Even from a young age, I knew how morally wrong such intervention was and how these interventions consistently and without exception failed. It seemed almost ridiculous to me that we might once again continue down as path of the UK being United States’ lap dog, running along at the heels of another horrifying intervention that would lead to countless deaths, loss of homes, refugees and misery for so many people. So, after secondary school that day, I printed off a banner from the school computer, stuck it to a piece of cardboard and got on the train with my friend to London. For the first time ever in my life, I went to march against the possible actions of our government.
I’m a Blair baby, I grew up almost exclusively under the Labour government of Tony Blair and his consistent warmongering. I saw the Labour Party as the actions I had seen it take and, to me, little of that had been good. This vote on Syria was the first time I had seen, after all the bombs and drones and allying with the United States, a Labour Party that could stand for what is right. Of course, Ed Miliband got many things wrong during his time as Labour leader but, to his credit, this was a major achievement and, although it was not until the leadership bid of Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 that I joined and became active in party politics, his stand against the government (and much of his own party) opened my eyes to a different side of a Labour leadership.
Fast forward to today and, as the US election draws nearer, so does Trump’s xenophobic and warmongering rhetoric, reminding us of the build-up to so many failed US-led interventions of the past.
This very much includes Trump’s hostility towards Latin American governments he does not like, and Latin American migrants, and those of us interested in campaigning for peace and dialogue must take Trump’s threats seriously.
In this regard, it is clear that intervention and imperialism in Central and South America, just as in the Middle East, boils down to one thing, and it’s not freedom from tyranny or dictators and the promotion of democracy, as the US tries to paint it but the exploitation and control of other countries’ natural resources.
The USA has consistently seen Central and South America as its own backyard to do in as it pleases, and Trump’s administration has been no different although it has taken hostility in terms of sanctions and other interventionist measures to a different level than during the Obama years.
From 1998 on, there was a movement in Latin America, often termed the pink tide, for social democracy or socialism within South and Central America, and this movement delivered great material gain for the people of those countries that enjoyed these progressive governments. However, this of course threatened the interests of the rich and many US corporations. When movements like this occur, the people – taking control of resources as is their right – take power and wealth away from the US and global corporations, as well as the local elites. Inevitably this then provokes a backlash from powerful forces.
This pink tide therefore resulted in numerous US coups, sometimes military as in Honduras, but now often taking a slightly more subtle form in the arrest and subsequent trial of leaders, under trumped up changes, in order to imprison them or stop them from standing for election. This is becoming increasingly known as ‘lawfare’. Take Lula in Brazil, for example, and ‘operation car wash’ whereby many officials in the Workers’ Party were taken to court. Despite being the most popular politician in Brazil and the polls widely suggesting he would win the next presidential election, he was barred from standing and imprisoned. The absence of Lula is really how Bolsanaro managed to build his far-right coalition and win, although we hope the people of Brazil will remove this increasingly unpopular leader before too long.
And there was the recent military-led coup in Bolivia, which was as ever about resources, for Bolivia is a country rich in lithium, a mineral essential for mobile phone production. Evo Morales had achieved significant wealth redistribution and nationalised much of the country’s key infrastructure. He won another term in government by democratic means and with a strong majority but doubts were subsequently cast over the election results. A later report completely absolved him of election rigging or wrongdoing but by that time he had already been forced out by a military coup and replaced with a US (and, of course, British) backed far-right leader.
Alongside these coups, Trump has also rolled back all the limited progress that was made under Obama with regard to Cuba, the illegal, UN-condemned blockade now harsher than ever, and he has more than once threatened military action and war on Venezuela, in what would clearly be another illegal war for oil.
Going forward, we have to show solidarity with and oppose US imperialism in South and Central America. I am always inspired by the Rolls Royce workers in East Kilbride in Scotland who went on strike in order to stop arms sales from reaching the forces that were attempting to overthrow the Allende government in Chile in the 1970s, captured so poignantly in the fantastic film Nae Pasarán. While we are not all able to perform such heroic actions, there are some things we can do.
We must defend the sovereignty of countries to determine their own affairs, defend international law and defend UN treaties. Within the Labour Party, we must always make the case that the party should oppose such interventions, whether in Latin America, the Middle East or elsewhere.
We may feel individually helpless but together we can make our voices heard and show solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world. We must endeavour to forge a resolutely internationalist party. A sustainable and equitable future for humankind cannot and must not be based on competing national interests but on our international common interest, for the future of the planet lies in the hands of us all.
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