One of the hopes many people had with the election of Barack Obama was some improvement in the diplomatic relations between the US and Latin America. The past thirty years have been among the worst of the previous century with regards to this varied issue, though hardly were they unusual in terms of the pattern set by the preceding hundred years. At nearly every turn the US has pursued a base form of self-interest, most often to the direct benefit of large corporations, at the expense of human rights, democracy, and sovereignty. (For a better understanding of the history of these relations, I highly recommend Greg Grandin’s Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism.)
The Cold War might have at times seemed like an exception to this, but it was not. The question of whether or not a communist or socialist government was good for parts of Latin America (which is itself a perversion, since the only question for anyone outside of a nation is whether or not the government came to power legitimately) was never entertained by the US. If it was communist, it was bad. The US never worked to make those government work better; it just naturally saw these interest as counter to their own.
So far–between Honduras, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, and, to an extent, Brazil–the US in the age of Obama has seen little improvement over the past. A reminder of this is yesterday’s announcement of the list of 14 countries whose travelers will undergo automatic full-body searches when entering the US. Among the list is Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Oh yeah, and Cuba.
That’s right, Cuba. Whether or not you like Castro or think the last 50 years of Cuban history have been more of an improvement or more of a tragedy when compared to the past, you can not legitimately think Cuba is a hotbed of Islamic terrorists, or any terrorists for that matter. We have more of a threat–numerically and by percentage–from Canada than we do from Cuba. And yet Cuba finds itself on this list, the governmental equivalent of racial profiling.
Washington Post writer Eugene Robinson has an interesting (though uneven) opinion piece in today’s paper. You can read it here. In part, he says:
Yet Cuba is on the list because the State Department still considers it — along with Iran, Sudan and Syria — to be a state sponsor of terrorism.
Really? Despite the fact that the U.S. Interests Section in Havana was one of the few American diplomatic posts in the world to remain open for normal business, with no apparent increased security, in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks?
The Obama administration has made many admirable moves to bring U.S. foreign policy into closer alignment with objective reality. But progress toward a fact-based relationship with Cuba has been tentative and halting, at best. Obvious steps that could only serve U.S. interests — and, in the process, almost surely make Cuba a more open society — remain untaken.