lunes, 22 de febrero de 2016

Why has Barack Obama chosen March 24th to visit Argentina?

Why has Barack Obama scheduled March 24th to visit Argentina?
He certainly knows that on that date General Jorge Videla initiated the bloodiest military coup in Argentine history, resulting in the massive torture of opponents and the disappearance and death of an estimated 30,000 persons, the closing down of Congress, the imposition of ironclad press censorship and the implantation of “neo-liberal “policies that sent the country into a spiral of indebtedness, destroying local industry in favor of imports. He certainly knows also that in the context of the so-called “Cold War” in the 1970’s Washington applauded or had a hand in similar rightwing military take-overs throughout Latin-America. Many of the protagonists of those military adventures were trained in the School of the Americas, in anti-subversive tactics inherited from the war against Vietnam, tactics which included the systematic abuse of prisoners and techniques of psychological warfare.
Obama's arrival will be met with flag waving by government supporters and strong protests by those opposed to U.S. policies in Argentina and Latin America. The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a group that has been struggling to find disappeared since 1976, declared: “Are we going to receive (Obama) in the exEsma? (A center for torture under the dictatorship, now a museums of the horror). This man has his hands spotted in blood and here we don’t want him. Our organization, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, repudiates with all of our strength the arrival of Obama in Argentina.”
So why has the U.S. given the cold shoulder to progressive or populist governments in Latin America which for the past few decades have replaced militarist and rightwing regimes in countries such as Argentina (until the recent presidential election of Mauricio Macri), Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Brazil and Venezuela? A common characteristic of these governments is an attempt to even off the impressive disparity in income—among the greatest in the world. Likewise, many of them have adopted social measures such as same sex marriage and rights for minorities. The problem is that as ex-President Bush once said, in order to be a “friend” of the United States countries must compromise themselves with democratic political organization and free enterprise economics. Populism in any of its expressions is and has always been considered to be an "enemy" by the State Department. .
Although Latin America is not on Washington’s priority list, foreign policy planners continue to insist that the acceptance of free market economics is a key for entering into the circle of “friends.” Countries which have done so, and joined U.S. trade agreements, such as Peru, Chile and Mexico, also have shown a persistent and potentially explosive increase in the disparity of income. Marketing or neo-liberal economics may be a boom for the economic elite but in practice it means lower wages, a loss of decision making power for local governments and an erosion of local culture.
During the period of military coups in the area, country after country became saddled with unpayable foreign debts. The policy of the presidency of Mauricio Macri, a businessman whose interests flourished during the Dictatorship, is based precisely on the notion of getting loans and opening up the economy to foreign investment—in the context of a world still suffering from financial crisis. The hope of the Argentine government is certainly to get fresh loans from U.S. and international financial organizations and to stimulate multinational corporations to invest in the country.
Obama’s visit would appear to be aimed at slapping the back of a government whose shock policies implemented during its first two months in government include:
--A devaluation of over 45%
--Price increases of nearly 40%
--The firing of approximately 25,000 State workers, most for no cause other than their sympathy for the previous government.
--Removal of export taxes for agricultural interests and the mining industry.
--The erasing of thousands of journalistic investigations by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, including many involving cases related to the Dictatorship.
--Protocols greatly limiting the ability of opponents to protest, including the use of rubber bullets to disperse them.
--The arrest and continued imprisonment of Milagro Salas, an indigenous leader who organized cooperatives during the previous government.
--The abusive use of presidential decrees, including a long debated law breaking up monopolies of radios and TV. (Thus re-establishing the complete dominance of the corporate media).
It is clear that Obama’s visit is to further insist on the need for governments in the area to adopt “free market economies.” The problem is that inevitably supposes a loss of local decision making power in the face of the enormous influence of global corporate capitalism. Many also consider it a potential risk for the environment, because multinational corporations are generally much less concerned about contamination in their foreign operations.
Many view Obama's visit also as a message to those countries which still resist the marketing blast. They say it is a new tactic: instead of military coups, the rightwing and the corporate owned mass media use charges of alleged corruption and other unverified irregularities to put populist regimes in check, thus favoring the entrance of rightwing free marketers. This is a clear abuse of journalistic and judicial principals because it smears the reputation of public figures before the charges have actually been verified and subverts the principle of innocence before conviction. There certainly have been cases of corruption in populist governments, but the rightwing corporate mass media greatly exagerate them and smear popular politicians before they have a chance to defend themselves.

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