Kerry at the OAS: Old wine, new bottle

old wineTHE statement prompted applause and a media stir. “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over,” affirmed John Kerry, the man who seven months ago referred to Latin America as the backyard of the United States.

The doctrine, conceived in 1823 and synthesized in the phrase “America for the Americans,” has served as an ideological support for Washington’s unilateral interventions in any country where it has perceived a danger to its interests.

In a speech at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS), his first to the region since he was appointed Secretary of State, Kerry said, “The relationship that we seek and that we have worked hard to foster is not about a United States declaration about how and when it will intervene in the affairs of other American states, but about all of our countries viewing one another as equals, sharing responsibilities, cooperating on security issues…”

A recycled idea

Although the applauded words were new, the idea is a recycled one. In 2009, having just new bottlesassumed the presidency, Barack Obama stated at the 5th Summit of the Americas in Trinidad & Tobago, that the time had come to develop a relationship among equals, without attempts to impose conditions, given that his country could have made mistakes, people being human.

More than four years later, Latin America is another region, but the U.S. attitude remains immutable. Is it possible to expect any change now that Obama is “on his way out?” Will the Secretary of State’s declarations fall into a vacuum?

According to Jorge Hernández Martínez, director of the University of Havana’s Hemispheric and United States Studies Center, Kerry’s speech is “more of the same.”

Rehearsed and with a heavy dose of demagogy

“Leaders in the United States rehearse phrases, present supposedly new foci which, in the majority of cases, do not result in anything new,” he commented to Granma. “With the passing of time, one can verify that they were nothing more than rhetorical expressions, with a heavy dose of demagogy.”

According to Hernández, Obama has been interested in moving on the Inter-American agenda since he began his second term, as part of a new image, but has been forced to attend to issues such as the financial crisis and economic depression, plus other domestic problems and international dilemmas.

Kerry’s speech was described by the Mexican La Jornada newspaper as “incoherent and even grotesque,” although reflecting a certain implicit recognition of the U.S. loss of influence in the rest of the Americas. However, this was not the consequence of a decision taken in Washington, but the will of peoples and governments to recover and defend their sovereignty.

Pursuing free trade and controlling internal situations

In Hernández’ view, the imperialist project – with public arguments based on prosperity and security – is to pursue free trade and control internal situations, above all in those nations where the United States is concerned about their political direction, and progressive or revolutionary radicalism, which could challenge its hegemony.

At times, one falls into the trap of identifying discourse with a real political course, while history shows that statements and facts do not coincide, the academic noted. “The fact that Kerry has referred to our region as a backyard expresses the continuity of proposals, styles, manipulation and rhetorical games.”

As for the future of relations, Hernández believes that the immediate perspective is more continuity rather than change. “Latin America has changed, left-wing projects, governments and social movements have emerged, in conjunction with integrationist alternatives, but to date, no real will to essentially modify the U.S. projection for the region has been perceived.”
Source:  Granma International;  http://www.granma.cu/ingles/international-i/22nov-End%20of.html

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