Latin America and the Caribbean in the US National Security Strategy

4-23-06, 9:00 am

The updated overview of US National Security regarding our hemisphere, contained in a document approved by President Bush on March 16, 2006, comes to reconfirm some of the tendencies in US policy towards the region, particularly exposing some of the major “security concerns” in the [US] imperial agenda. 

The US reaffirms its traditional posture of dealing with its Latin America and Caribbean priorities separately. To accomplish its objectives, the US resorts to different schemes – from diplomatic pressures, to threats of reducing the precarious assistance it offers or modifying the existing practices, as has happened with regulations on remittances for several Central American countries. What the 2006 National Security Strategy states regarding our nations is not new. However, the White House document expands the view of US national security “priorities” towards the South. 

On the other hand, if we take a general look at the objectives in the recently released Security Strategy, we’ll find an outstanding element: once again Latin America and the Caribbean are not priorities for the United States. It is very important to highlight this because the fact that national security rhetoric on our region appears toned down in comparison, for example, with the “Broader Middle East” or China, it does not mean that the United States, true to its past behavior, does not get directly involved in regional or local hemispheric issues whenever it is convenient to its “national interests.” The traditional “backyard” approach also accounts for the no less traditional “case by case” way of acting.  

In the previous document, issued in 2002, only two important points regarding the hemisphere were made clear by the United States: the implementation of the Free Trade Area for the Americas (FTAA) agreement and the so-called Colombian conflict. Four years later —when  the US world strategic priorities went beyond the monothematic rhetoric about the war against terrorism and added the “struggle against tyrannies”— other points have been included, such as encouraging the establishment and implementation of some so-called “democracy charters” based on the ones adopted by the Organization of American States (OAS) on September 11, 2001. Just like the one subscribed by the OAS, all those codes will support Washington’s double standard concerning democracy. One needs mention two examples from this part of the world: the overthrow of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide, who was democratically elected, and the coup d'etat against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in April, 2002, which were not seen as violations of democracy. 

For 2006 it remains a high-priority for the United States to see the approval of Free Trade treaties in the region, something that would reinforce the instruments of economic domination and will make free trade and the free market easier for Washington. This, too, is considered a priority for national security. 

What is also remarkable is the fact that of the seven “regional challenges” in the world as seen by the US, three are located in our hemisphere. The first of those challenges is Colombia, which is still a priority, because it is “a democratic ally fighting the persistent assaults of Marxist terrorists (read “guerrilla movements”) and drug-traffickers.” Not a word about the Colombian paramilitary forces, or other key factors in the conflict. The US vision of the conflict is reduced to drug trafficking and terrorism. 

The second challenge is Venezuela, whose leader is defined as “a demagogue awash in oil money undermining democracy and seeking to destabilize the region.”  It is under this repeated slogan that the aggressive policies of the US government against the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela are structured. The third challenge identified by the US is Cuba, a country whose leadership “continues to oppress [the] people and seeks to subvert freedom in the region.” Cuba could of course not be missing from the inventory of US power.

The strategy also demands that, in addition to the plans and actions already being conducted by the US in Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba, international support be shown so that they can be turned into crusades, similar to those being carried out in other parts of the world. 

Finally, the National Security Strategy 2006 outlines some ideas about our hemisphere that are worth comment. There is a direct reference to the so-called “anti-free-market populism” which, according to the United States, cannot be allowed to “erode political freedoms.” That reference is directed against the regional movement that opposes the FTAA and supports integration and cooperation mechanisms. Of all of this, the most worrying for the United States is the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), backed by Venezuela and Cuba. The term populism is also applied to national processes in Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil. 

The 2006 National Security Strategy summarizes the hemispheric vision of the United States in the following sentence: “If America’s nearest neighbors are not secure and stable, then Americans will be less secure.” Such a prediction, which recalls concepts like the “third frontier,” has at least two basic interpretations: first, that they won't allow any actions or initiatives in the region that can be considered threats to the US government’s imperial and hegemonic plans; and second, that a remarkable part of the national security of that country continues to rely on the national security of each of our respective countries. 

The empire persists in the mad pursuit of reaching its absolute security out of the insecurity of the rest of the world.  

From Periodico 26

--Dr. LUIS M. GARCIA CUNARRO is Deputy Director of the Center for the Study of Information on Defense (CEID).