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200 years of Monroe Doctrine leave trail of US atrocities in Latin America

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-05-15 12:59

Cuban activists and supporters rally outside the Cuban Embassy during a Cuban freedom rally on July 26, 2021 in Washington, DC. [Photo/Agencies]

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his Bolivian counterpart Luis Arce this week affirmed their refusal to attend the June 6-10 Summit of the Americas in the United States if the host insists on excluding Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Their stance reflects regional opposition to keeping those countries out of the summit, but this is not the first time the United States has tried to impose its will on the entire American continent, nor will it be the last.

In the nearly 200 years since the United States adopted the so-called Monroe Doctrine in 1823, US atrocities in Latin America have overshadowed bilateral relations.


The history of the development of the United States is also a story of Latin American resistance marked with blood and tears.

After its founding, which entailed dispossessing North American Indians of their own land, the United States embarked on a policy of expansion against Mexico, its neighbor to the south.

Through war, the United States appropriated half of Mexico's territory, including all or part of the present day states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming.

Mexico lost significant mineral resources, impacting its economic development.

At the end of the 19th century, the United States launched another offensive, taking possession of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea through the Spanish-American War, and occupying Cuba.

At the turn of the 20th century, frequent US military aggressions in Latin America gradually brought regional countries into its sphere of influence.

In 1903, the United States forcibly leased Guantanamo, Cuba's natural port in the Caribbean, turning it into the first US military base abroad. To this day, Washington refuses to return it to Cuba.

In 1915, the United States sent troops to occupy Haiti under the guise of "protecting the diaspora" from local unrest. It did not withdraw until 1934.

The United States occupied the Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1924 to collect debts contracted by Dominican governments.

US troops again swarmed the island in 1965, when civil war in the Dominican Republic toppled the pro-American government, and Washington sent some 40,000 soldiers to "restore order."

In 1989, the United States sent elite troops to invade Panama under the guise of "protecting the lives and property of American citizens," overthrowing the military government and attempting to attain permanent control of the Panama Canal.


In 1904, American writer O. Henry used his experience in Honduras to write his novel "Cabbages and Kings," in which he exposed the ruthless plunder of US monopolies in Central America and the Caribbean, and coined the term "banana republic," referring to countries under the control of US capital, and whose economies invariably depended on a single crop, such as bananas.

By 1930, the US United Fruit Company controlled around 1.4 million hectares of land in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama and more than 2,400 kilometers of railways, as well as the countries' customs, telecommunications and other essential services.

In 1947 alone, US business accounted for as much as 38 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Honduras, 22.7 percent in Guatemala, 16.5 percent in Costa Rica, and 12.3 percent in Panama.

Exploited and looted by the United States, these countries have become its economic vassals as suppliers of raw materials and dumping grounds for US-made basic goods, with economies that lag far behind.

In addition, Washington has imposed and continues to impose indiscriminate sanctions and tariffs on several Latin American countries, further restricting the region's economic development.

In 1962, the United States launched a trade embargo against Cuba that grew into a full-on blockade of the island nation, leading to more than 150 billion US dollars in economic losses as of mid-2021.

"The blockade suffocates our economy, causes shortages, hinders development and constitutes the greatest violation of Cubans' rights," said the island's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

Venezuela has also suffered from the impact of more than 430 sanctions imposed since 2015 by the United States and its allies, with losses to its economy of more than 130 billion US dollars.

The sanctions have caused a 99 percent drop in Venezuela's revenues, and negatively impacted all social and economic spheres, according to Venezuelan Foreign Minister Felix Plasencia.


Entering the 21st century, as Latin American countries recovered from recurring political and economic crises, their relationship with Washington began to be characterized by contradictions and conflicts.

In 2011, the region's 33 countries established the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the first regional organization in the Americas to forgo the participation of the United States and Canada.

Faced with the continuing decline of its influence, the United States was forced to adjust its policy towards Latin America.

"The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over," then Secretary of State John Kerry declared in 2013 at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS), announcing the dawn of a new era of "common interests and values" between the United States and the region.

But that doesn't paint a true picture. Uncle Sam's shadow still lurks behind many Latin American political developments, said Adalberto Santana of the Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean at Mexico's National Autonomous University.

Washington's fingerprints are all over the 2009 military coup in Honduras, the ouster of Paraguay's Fernando Lugo in 2012 and Brazil's Dilma Rousseff in 2016, the forced resignation of Bolivia's Evo Morales in 2019, and the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela.

In a speech to the US Senate in February, Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders acknowledged that the United States has undermined or subverted governments across Latin America and the Caribbean.

"For the last 200 years our country has operated under the Monroe Doctrine, embracing the premise that as the dominant power in the Western hemisphere, the United States has the right to intervene in any country that might threaten our alleged interests. Under this doctrine we have undermined and overthrown at least a dozen governments," said Sanders.

As recently as 2020, the United States appointed American hawk Mauricio Claver-Carone president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), ignoring the practice of always naming a Latin American to that post, because it wants to exert more diplomatic pressure on countries such as Venezuela.

At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in Latin America, the United States, then the global epicenter of the pandemic, summarily deported undocumented Central American migrants without the usual safeguards, increasing the risk of spreading disease in countries with fragile healthcare systems.

What's more, in response to Latin American countries' reasonable demands for help to tackle the pandemic, the United States chose to ignore them or even block their cooperation with countries outside the region, falsely alleging "debt traps" or "neocolonialism," politicizing a healthcare issue and forcing them to take sides at the expense of their own development.

The United States, said Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, fails to see that Latin America and the Caribbean have changed and the Monroe Doctrine can no longer be reinstated.

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