by Prof. James Petras, Global Research:
Not since the US pronounced the Monroe Doctrine proclaiming its imperial supremacy over Latin America, nearly 200 years ago, has a White House regime so openly affirmed its mission to recolonize Latin America.
The second decade of the 21st century has witnessed, in word and deed, the most thorough and successful US recolonization of Latin America, and its active and overt role as colonial sepoys of an imperial power.
In this paper we will examine the process of recolonization and the strategy tactics and goals which are the driving forces of colony- building. We will conclude by discussing the durability, stability and Washington’s capacity to retain ownership of the Hemisphere.
A Brief History of 20th Century Colonization and Decolonization
US colonization of Latin America was based on direct US military, economic, cultural and political interventions with special emphasis on Central America, North America (Mexico) and the Caribbean. Washington resorted to military invasions, to impose favorite trade and investment advantages and appointed and trained local military forces to uphold colonial rule and to ensure submission to US regional and global supremacy.
The US challenged rival European colonial powers – in particular England and Germany, and eventually reduced them to marginal status, through military and economic pressure and threats.
The recolonization process suffered severe setbacks in some regions and nations with the onset of the Great Depression which undermined the US military and economic presence and facilitated the rise of powerful nationalist regimes and movements in particular in Argentina, Brazil, Chile Nicaragua and Cuba.
The process of ‘decolonization’ led to, and included, the nationalization of US oil fields, sugar and mining sectors; a shift in foreign policy toward relatively greater independence; and labor laws which increased workers’ rights and leftwing unionization.
The US victory in World War II and its economic supremacy led Washington to re-assert its colonial rule in the Western Hemisphere. The Latin American regimes lined up with Washington in the Cold and Hot wars, backing the US wars against China, Korea, Vietnam and the confrontation against the USSR and Eastern Europe.
For Washington, working through its colonized dictatorial regimes, invaded every sector of the economy, especially agro-minerals; it proceeded to dominate markets and sought to impose colonized trade unions run by the imperial-centered AFL-CIO.
By the early 1960’s a wave of popular nationalist and socialist social movements challenged the colonial order, led by the Cuban revolution and accompanied by nationalist governments throughout the continent including Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. US multi-national manufacturing firms were forced to engage in joint ventures or were nationalized, as were oil, mineral and energy sectors.
Nationalists proceeded to substitute local products for imports, as a development strategy. A process of decolonization was underway!
The US reacted by launching a war to recolonize Latin America by through military coups, invasions and rigged elections. Latin America once more lined up with the US in support of its economic boycott of Cuba,and the repression of nationalist governments. The US reversed nationalist policies and denationalized their economies under the direction of US controlled so-called international financial organizations – like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) Inter-American Development Bank.
The recolonization process advanced, throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, under the auspices of newly imposed military regimes and the new ‘neo-liberal’ free-market doctrine.
Once again recolonization led to highly polarized societies in which the domestic colonized elites were a distinct minority. Moreover, the colonial economic doctrine allowed the US banks and investors to plunder the Latin countries, impose out- of -control debt burdens, de-industrialization of the economies, severe increases in unemployment and a precipitous decline in living standards.
By the early years of the 21st century, deepening colonization led to an economic crisis and the resurgence of mass movements and new waves of nationalist-popular movements which sought to reverse – at least in part – the colonial relationship and structures.
Colonial debts were renegotiated or written off; a few foreign firms were nationalized; taxes were increased on agro-exporters; increases in public welfare spending reduced poverty ; public investment increased salaries and wages. A process of de-colonization advanced, aided by a boom in commodity pieces.
Twenty-first century decolonization was partial and affected only a limited sector of the economy; it mainly increased popular consumption rather than structural changes in property and financial power.
De-colonization co-existed with colonial power elites. The major significant changes took place with regard to regional policies. Decolonizing elites established regional alliance which excluded or minimized the US presence.
Regional power shifted to Argentina and Brazil in Mercosur; Venezuela in Central America and the Caribbean; Ecuador and Bolivia in the Andean region.