We all know that one person that loves to stick their nose where it doesn't belong, where they have no business interfering: El Metiche. Well, in case you didn’t know, in the very large and complex world of international politics, the United States is most definitely El Metiche.
Almost all of Latin America has been plagued by political issues for centuries, largely stemming from class, racial, and gender inequalities remaining from colonial occupations. Governmental regimes established by colonial invaders thrive for years, making money off the back of the working class and collecting resources to support their capitalistic organizations and personal pursuits. It may seem like until recently with the rise of social justice groups and human rights activists across the world, that these governments were met with silence from citizens, this is not true.
Unjust political leaders have been able to remain in power for so long in many countries with outside aid, and the United States is a country that has provided the most money and resources to government regimes in two major ways:
A US-backed party overthrows a democratic government, as is suspected in 2019’s Presidential elections in Bolivia.
Support a current party that is in power to remain in power, despite wide protests.
(See photo for details)
This article will give a background on three Latin American countries where the United States has intervened in Latin American politics. This serves as a historical overview- a resource to better understand only a few of the many instances of US involvement and does not in any way support the view of any of the political parties described.
In the early months of 1976, The Argentine government was faced with a coup d'état, an overthrow of the current government by an insurgent political party. The controlling party at the time, led by Isabel Peron, the first woman in the world to hold the “President” title, came to an end when she was arrested under accusations of numerous crimes, including embezzlement, and forcing the disappearance of several left-wing students and activists.* Peron was exiled to Spain, where she has remained since, and Argentine courts dismissed counts against her in 2017.
However, the focus here is in the political party that overthrew Peron’s government causing the activation of martial law, where the military forcefully took control of the highest government offices. The military fights and protests that emerged from this coup are known as The Dirty War, mainly because 30,000 lives of activists, protestors, and young protestors of the military regime were taken.*
The military coup in Argentina was supported by the United States military. Reports even came in of the United States Secretary of State at the time, Henry Kissinger, telling its leaders to get the coup done quickly before human rights activists in the United States were able to report human rights abuses.
Those put in power by the coup remained in power until the democratic election of Raul Alfonsin as President in 1983.
Construction of the Panama Canal began in 1881 and was finished in 1914 by US engineering companies. In 1904, the United States had taken over the construction of the canal and in the process had put the land under US command (the land was not returned until 2000).*****
At the time, Panama was under the political control of a relatively popular leader, Omar Torrijos, who had taken power in 1969 and instituted many public works programs to benefit lower class Panamanians.*** In 1981, he was involved in a fatal plane crash, and many since have speculated that the United States was indeed involved in the cause of the crash.
After Torrijos death, Manuel Noriega took control of the country in a coup supported by the United States military since Noriega had sided with the US in negotiations for the land in which the Panama Canal is. In power, Noriega received funding from drug pushers and received protection from the Drug Enforcement Agency because of his close relations with the United States CIA.***
Even so, US President George H. W. Bush declared that the US would no longer support a drug trafficker, which caused the US invasion of Panama.
In 2013, after a chaotic Presidency (and a reported US coup in 2002), Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died in office, leaving his succession of office to Nicolas Maduro. Under Maduro, more than four million Venezuelans have been forced to flee the country due to public military exercises and an estimated number of 9,000 people have been killed.** Maduro has had the lowest approval rating of any political leader in the country’s history (14%), and after an election with the lowest voter turnout in history, Maduro was reelected. However, many leaders across the world did not recognize his win, and in 2018, Juan Guaido declared himself acting President.****** The political unrest continues today, with US officials stating in 2019 that they were intent on removing Maduro from office, through whatever means necessary.****
All of these are very clear examples of the United States’ continued imperialism and colonialism, especially in countries with already fragile political systems because of past colonial actions.
*Blakeley, Ruth. State Terrorism and Neoliberlism: The North in the South. Taylor & Francis, 2019.
**Cumming-Bruce, Nick. “Venezuelan 'Death Squads' Killed Thousands and Covered It up, UN Says.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 5 July 2019, www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/venezuela-death-squads-special-action-forces-killed-thousands-un-a8989616.html.
***Richey, Warren. “Noriega Strategy Unfolds Attorneys Hope To Drag Past U.S. Role Into Trial.” South Florida Sun Sentinel , 1 May 1991, www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1991-05-01-9101220014-story.html.
**** Stevenson, Chris. “Venezuela State Uses Tear Gas on Protestors as Pompeo Threatens US Military Action.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 1 May 2019, www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/venezuela-news-update-live-us-military-guaido-maduro-protest-latest-coup-uprising-a8895041.html.
*****Theodore Roosevelt's Third State of the Union Address, 1903.
******Wyss, Jim. “'The Chain of Command Is Broken,' Guaido Tells Supporters upon His Return to Venezuela.” TribLIVE, 4 Mar. 2019, triblive.com/news/world/the-chain-of-command-is-broken-guaido-tells-supporters-upon-his-return-to-venezuela/.