Revolution #208, July 25, 2010
The U.S. and Latin America
Tell Us, Now, Who Is the Great Respecter of Borders?
The U.S. went to war with Spain in 1898 to drive it out of the western hemisphere and parts of the Pacific and Southeast Asia and take over its colonies. The Spanish-American war was a turning point in the U.S. becoming a world imperialist power. As a result of this war, it gained control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and finally the Philippines—after drowning that country in the blood of hundreds of thousands who resisted. At this time the U.S. also seized Hawaii and Guam.
Where did this war come from? Why did the U.S. seize these areas, and why did they kill so many people to do so? And what does this have to do with today?
Capitalism first arose in the countries of Western Europe, and then in the U.S. and Japan. From its earliest days, the capitalist powers seized lands and established colonies in South and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The capitalist powers plundered the raw materials of these colonies and forced them to buy the goods manufactured in the “mother country.” They instituted slavery or near-slavery and chewed up tens of millions of people in their rise to domination. Capital truly did, as Karl Marx said, come into the world with blood dripping from every pore.
By the late 1800s, capital needed to extend and expand beyond its “home countries” and the capitalist powers began to penetrate the rest of the world in a new way. The capitalists now required places to export capital itself—that is, to invest in and set up capitalist enterprises in these parts of the world. Here they could force people to work for almost nothing and extract super-profits. The pressure to expand was tremendous—which capitalists would live or die, which capitalist powers would dominate and which would lose out—and this led to tremendous rivalry between capitalist powers and a fight to carve up the entire world. This struggle led to wars and conflicts, like the Spanish-American War, as well as the much more horrendous, bloodier world wars. Tens of millions have died in the past century alone in this conflict—a conflict over who would be the chief exploiter.
In this worldwide struggle for the advantage, the U.S. has always counted Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean as its special preserve. And they have shed oceans of blood to keep it that way.
The U.S. cleared the way for the spread of its economic and political tentacles over the entire western hemisphere, backed up whenever necessary through the use of brute force. Here are just some examples of this:
- 1903-1925: The U.S. Marines invade Honduras seven times. During the 1911 invasion, President Miguel Dávila is overthrown by former president Manuel Bonilla, aided by American banana tycoon Sam Zemurray and American mercenary Lee Christmas, who becomes commander-in-chief of the Honduran army.
- 1909: Troops were sent to Nicaragua and forced President José Santos Zelaya to resign after he attempts to impose taxes on American mining and banana companies, appropriate church lands, and legalize divorce.
- 1912: U.S. Marines invade Cuba to put down a rebellion of sugar workers at a U.S. owned sugar mill.
- 1914: U.S. warships were in the harbor in Tampico, Mexico protecting U.S. oil interests when Mexican soldiers intervened against American sailors. Two days later the U.S. warships invade and seize the city of Veracruz.
- 1915: U.S. troops occupy Port-au-Prince, Haiti and stay until 1934 to protect American interests.
- 1916: The U.S. invades and occupies the Dominican Republic for eight years when the Dominican president refuses to appoint American citizens, who work for New York banks and American sugar companies, to senior government posts.
Behind all the justifications that accompanied these crimes, was the reality, summed up bluntly by Smedley Butler, commandant of the U.S. Marines:
“...I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in....I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras ‘right’ for American fruit companies in 1903... Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.” (Raymond Lotta and Frank Shannon, America in Decline, 1984, Banner Press, page 185)
In the second half of the 20th century, this continued and even got worse. Puppet dictators, such as Batista in Cuba, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, the Duvaliers in Haiti, Noriega in Panama, Somoza in Nicaragua, and Pinochet in Chile to name a few, were installed by the U.S. in later decades through direct force or by coups orchestrated by the U.S. These dictators allowed U.S. financial and business interests to run rampant in their countries, ripping off the country’s resources and making super profits off the cheap labor that was plentiful—while they themselves slaughtered thousands to keep their grip on power. In the ’70s and ’80s, in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Argentina, and elsewhere in the region, the pro-U.S. puppets slaughtered tens of thousands of people to crush resistance and maintain American domination. In Peru, tens of thousands were slaughtered by the government, backed up by the CIA, in the repression of the Maoist-led revolution there in the 1980s and ’90s. In Guatemala, approximately 200,000 were murdered by pro-U.S. butchers, advised by the CIA and actively assisted by the U.S. tool Israel. And in this very period the U.S. Army directly invaded the countries of Grenada and Panama.
Because of this system of U.S. imperialist economic and political domination, there is terrible poverty and massive unemployment in these countries. The U.S. will intentionally destroy local industry and agriculture in order to pave the way for its own capitalists. People from these areas of the world are desperate to find work. And here is the U.S., once again—this time “letting” people work in the U.S. itself, at the worst jobs and for the shittiest pay—if they even get paid. And then, when it no longer suits the rulers of the U.S., they try to drive the people out and back into their despoiled and plundered homelands.
Where in any of this history did the U.S. treat the borders of any country as “sacred” and “inviolate”?
And again—this happened because of this system. It happened because the rulers of the U.S. thought they needed to do this to keep their political and economic system functioning and to keep their position over other imperialists. When it suits them they will violate borders and murder people and talk about freedom; and when something else suits them, they will holler about borders and pose as the victims. Why should anybody take seriously, let alone support, their calls to defend their borders? Why should anybody, in fact, do anything—short of making revolution to get rid of such an inhumane and murderous system?
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