In the video above, Abby Martin describes the farcical ‘press freedom’ event at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.
Fifth president of the USA James Monroe first articulated what was later to become known as the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ on 2 December 1823, at his seventh State of the Union address to Congress. The Monroe doctrine became a central tenet of US foreign policy from that day forth, declaring that the USA would not interfere in European affairs and European powers’ existing colonies so long as the Europeans didn’t interfere in the Americas, while any intervention in the political affairs of any part of the Americas by a foreign power was to be considered a hostile act towards the USA itself.
In practice, what this meant was that Latin America was effectively to be recognised internationally as the USA’s ‘back yard’, where the USA alone was free to interfere, colonise and terrorise in order to plunder the continent’s resources and exploit its labour-power. Since 1890, there have been at least 56 US military interventions in Latin America, against which the masses have again and again risen up, as they previously had done against their Spanish and Portuguese colonisers, forging a proud history of anti-imperialism that still inspires and motivates today’s resistance fighters.
The anti-imperialist resistance
The anti-imperialist movement in Latin America traces its roots to the beginning of the 19th century, most notably with the fight against Spanish colonialism led by Simón Bolívar in the foundation of Greater Colombia. The process of transition from Spanish colonialism to US imperialism lasted almost a century, in which the US sometimes allied itself with the revolutionaries, until the Spanish-American war of 1898 at which Spain ceded Cuba, its last remaining colony in the Americas.
In the 20th century, with almost exclusively US imperialism to contend with, the example of the Russian and Chinese revolutions gave an enormous boost to progressive forces in Latin America. From Tierra del Fuego on Chile’s southern tip right up to the USA’s southern border, anti-imperialist struggles have taken hold in every country – in most cases being brutally suppressed, but in some cases managing to fend off US imperialism and attain sovereignty.
Notable examples that stand proud today are those set by Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
From the OAS to Celac
After the tremendous victory of socialism in WW2 the socialist movement and liberation struggles in Latin America received a great impulse. In response, the USA established the Organisation of American States (OAS) in 1948, headquartered in Washington, as a means to exert more influence over the restive continent.
Despite this, there have been numerous attempts to strengthen integration between Latin-American countries. These include the Latin American Free Trade Association (Lafta) in 1960, the Andean Community (CAS) in 1969, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) in 1973, the Latin American Integration Association (Aladi) in 1980 which replaced Lafta, Mercosur in 1991, the South American Community of Nations (CSN) which integrated the Andean Community with Mercosur in 2004, Unasur (the successor of the CSN) in 2008, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) in 2011 which was established as an alternative to the OAS and designed to facilitate integration of Latin American states whilst excluding imperialists.
With Hugo Chávez winning the 1998 presidential election in Venezuela, the relations between Venezuela and Cuba became fraternal, and, in 2004, Fidel Castro’s Cuba and Hugo Chávez’s Veneuela led the establishment of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, known as Alba (which means ‘Dawn’ in Spanish). Around the same time, the USA tried to establish the Free Trade Area of the Americas (Alca), an extension of Nafta to Latin America, which failed to materialise due to the unwillingness of various leaders at the time.
Alba is the only socialist-oriented union of Latin-American states and, since its establishment, it has included as members Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Santa Lucía.
The aims of Alba were clearly stated on the tentth anniversary of its foundation, at the eighth summit in 2014, where its joint declaration read as follows:
“We, the heads of state and government of the member countries of Alba … express our steadfast commitment with the consolidation and growth of Alba and the struggle for the second and definitive independence of Latin America and the Caribbean, in concert with the ideals of our national heroes, within a complex regional context characterised by an offensive inflicted by globalised transnational capitalism and US imperialism that would like to destabilise and overthrow progressive governments democratically elected by their peoples.”
In 2018, when Lenín Moreno of Ecuador withdrew his country from Alba, the response from the executive secretary gave an insight into the problems the anti-imperialists were facing: “The executive secretariat takes due note and respects Ecuador’s sovereign decision. However, using the Venezuelan people’s current political situation to join some regional governments’ efforts seeking the exit of President Maduro’s government clearly tells the line adopted by Quito regarding these issues, using them as arguments to terminate its participation in Alba.
“The announced withdrawal of Ecuador from Alba is aligned with the political strategy currently developed by some South American governments, aimed at attacking Latin-American and Caribbean integration; such as the case of Unasur, a tendency that will surely extend to other integration mechanisms of Our America.”
This makes it clear that the previously formed blocks like Unasur, which aimed to emulate the European Union, although they may help economic integration under capitalism, have remained tools for US imperialism and transnational capital’s control of the region and looting of its resources. Alba and Celac, on the other hand, seek to facilitate true liberation of the continent from imperialist control.
The ninth ‘Summit of the Americas’
The first Summit of the Americas was convened by US president Bill Clinton in Miami in 1994. Its purported goal was to bring together world leaders from the western hemisphere (OAS countries) to discuss issues such as democracy and human rights, but its real objective was to try and push forward the free-trade zone known as Alca.
As Alba general secretary Sacha Llorenti has pointed out, the Summit of the Americas’ main purpose is to consolidate US control over natural resources, secure markets for US corporations, exploit sources of cheap labour, control commercial routes such as the Panama Canal (hence the USA’s opposition to the construction of a new channel in Nicaragua) and punish any country that tries to interfere with any of these aims.
This year saw the ninth summit, hosted by the USA for only the second time, and held under the theme of ‘Building a sustainable, resilient, and equitable future’. The USA blocked (not for the first time) Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan representatives from attending, labelling their governments ‘dictatorships’ and asserting in its usual high-handed way that these rengades don’t meet the requirements of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
This hubris was concisely expressed by President Joe Biden himself when he publicly told the first lady of Mexico last month, regarding her country: “It’s not our back yard, it’s our front yard.” Perhaps Biden didn’t get the memo after WW2 about countries not belonging to other countries any more.
The exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua sparked a vociferous response from across the continent, which was led by Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Along with the leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and others, he refused to attend the summit.
Many corporate media highlighted this own-goal of US ‘diplomacy’ and the USA’s increasing political isolation: Summit of the Americas snubs threaten to overshadow Biden-hosted gathering (NBC), Biden seeks unity at Summit of the Americas, finds discord (PBS), The Summit of the Americas was meant to counter China’s influence. Instead, it showed how weak the US is (Time), Biden heads to Summit of the Americas amid event turmoil, Mexican president boycott (Fox), Snubs from key leaders at Summit of the Americas reveal Biden’s struggle to assert US leadership in its neighbourhood (CNN).
The picture these headlines paint indicates that all is not well in the camp of the USA and its puppets in the Americas. Their grip on the continent is weakening with the rise of the Brics countries and the transition to the multipolar world that Russia and China are leading.
The real embarrassment for Biden’s handlers came when the majority of leaders who did attend used the platform to variously condemn: the summit’s format; the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua; the embargo on Cuba; and the sanctions on all three countries.
Prime minister John Briceño of Belize said: “This summit belongs to all of the Americas – it is therefore inexcusable that there are countries of the Americas that are not here, and the power of the summit is diminished by their absence … At this most critical juncture, when the future of our hemisphere is at stake, we stand divided. And that is why the Summit of the Americas should have been inclusive. Geography, not politics, defines the Americas.”
Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister Gaston Browne, Bahamas’ prime minister Philip Davis, Barbados’s prime minister Mia Amor Mottley, Chile’s president Gabriel Boric Font and many other leaders condemned the exclusions and many of them the embargo on Cuba also. These sentiments were echoed by a majority of leaders present at the summit, the obvious exceptions being Canada’s Justin Trudeau and Colombia’s Iván Duque, who spent more time talking about authoritarianism, human rights and Russia than about the problems faced by the people of the Americas.
For how long the countries that condemned the summit will continue to participate in it at all is a moot point.
Significance of the summit
As part of the summit, an event was held at the Walter Cronkite school of Journalism in downtown LA on 7 June 2022. To a rather small audience, secretary of state Antony Blinken held forth on the USA’s supposed ‘protection’ of the free press around the world – a protection Julian Assange would no doubt be relieved to hear about. When independent journalist Abby Martin and the Breakthrough News team confronted Blinken with unexpected questions, however, these representatives of the actually free press were met with blank stares and one of them was bundled out by security (see video above).
Peaceful demonstrations held outside the summit venue met a similar fate. As usual, they were given no coverage by the corporate media and police handling of these peaceful events was brutal. One video surfaced on Telegram of a woman with a megaphone being tackled to the ground and punched in the face by a police officer.
Meanwhile, to complete the US government’s discomfiture, a parallel summit open to everyone was organised by Alba and also held in Los Angeles. Named the People’s Summit, it was attended by groups from the USA and Latin America, helping to raise awareness amongst US citizens about the plight of Latin Americans, whilst also no doubt strengthening the resolve of Celac and Alba to persist in the struggle.
This increase in solidarity between and assertion of sovereignty by Latin-American countries is exactly what is needed to accomplish the aims of Alba and to see through the second Bolivarian Revolution, and the international context in which it is taking place can only aid the process.
In a speech delivered by Russian president Vladimir Putin at the recent Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (Speif), the message was clear: all countries under the yoke of US imperialism should show courage and follow the Russian example. President Putin stressed that Russia would be there for any country wishing to free itself. The rouble has exchanged at less than 60 to the dollar for over a week, making it the strongest-performing currency this year, according to Bloomberg – a salutary lesson to those in the US and European ruling classes who believed their economic global power to be unlimited.
Imperialism – the era that has dominated our lives for over a century – is coming to an end. As sure as day follows night, we know that eventually it will be replaced by socialism as humanity travels forward in its long march to a classless and prosperous society.
What forms the struggle will take along the road we cannot know in detail, but we can be sure that it is the exploited and oppressed masses of the region who will together be shaping that future, drawing inspiration in their struggle from their proud revolutionary forebears.
It is time to bury the Monroe Doctrine once and for all.