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Latin America stands united
In many ways, Latin America resembles the Middle East. The region has had dictatorships, limited democracies, military rule and a hotchpotch of tinpot...
In many ways, Latin America resembles the Middle East. The region has had dictatorships, limited democracies, military rule and a hotchpotch of tinpot dictators before they were ousted in coups by another group of hotchpotch tinpot dictators. Most countries in the region lacked governance and the term 'government by the people, of the people and for the people' was a cruel irony. The Middle East held on to its Islamic traditions. Roman Catholic religion held sway in Latin America. The Pope was God and his diktat was to be obeyed without a murmur. So no family planning, no abortion and no one bothered when the region's population burgeoned and resources shrank.
Both the Middle East and Latin America have suffered from lack of leaders of courage, commitment to democracy, idealism and vision. Occasionally, one sprang up: Simon Bolivar, Salvador Allende, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. They fought tough battles not only from within but trying to escape from the clutches of the US which considered Latin America as its own backyard. During the Cold War period, under the guise of 'saving the world from Communism', the West, with America in the lead, used the worst kind of pressures (military, economic, psychological} to topple regimes which were supportive of the Soviet Union and Communism was an accepted political ideology. Popular leaders like Allende who would not toe this line were eliminated and replaced with pro-West military dictators. The Roman Catholic Church, so long as its interests were not affected, went along with this dirty game. It is a pity that some of the region's leaders who resisted pressure from outside nations succumbed to pressure from the Vatican.
On the other side of the world, Arabs, despite their ancient and famous civilization, could not visualize progress in the modern sense. They still wallowed in religion, distorting the liberal doctrines of Islam to suit their own needs. While the rest of the world, particularly the West, marched ahead with education, science and technology and small doses of liberalism, the Middle East preferred the traditional culture which emphasized the divide between the rich and the poor, the master and the slave and so on. The discovery of oil in the region changed the history at one stroke. Britain and the US, among others, rushed in, either to grab the oil-rich regions or negotiate one-sided terms with the Arab nations.
The huge income was hardly ever used to help the poor or raise the standards of living. It enabled the Arab princes and rulers to lives of sinful luxury. These nations readily succumbed to the wiles of the West provided their coffers were full. No wonder the disunity, despite all the oil wealth, seriously impaired the unity and progress of the Arab world, and the West managed to create the Zionist State of Israel in the heart of the Arab world. Even today, there is lack of unity in the region; the oil-rich nations do not feel safe with the advent of global terrorism. It is in a state of sorry mess.
It was the same with Latin America where, despite American pressure, certain leaders instilled a sense of patriotism among their people. They had a tough time doing so and some of them paid with their lives. Nations like Venezuela and Bolivia benefitted from their oil wealth and brought about economic measures and welfare measures . About half a dozen nations have come together in trying to check American imperialism and they are now slated to play a major role in helping out US citizen Edward Snowden, who is now on the run for revealing the dirty and illegal secrets of the US which branded him a spy and a traitor, along with the boss of Wikileaks, Julius Assange, now holed up inside the Ecuador embassy in London, much to the embarrassment of London and Washington.
European allies of the US, including Germany and France, while making loud protests over the bugging and clandestine information collection from their embassies, would not offer shelter to Snowden. They simply lacked guts despite the serious breach of their security by the US. Shamefully India joined this 'Club of Cowards', China hesitated and Russia allowed Snowden to land at Moscow but would not allow him to board further flights to Venezuela. This never-ending drama could end with Snowden reaching Venezuela through Costa Rica. If this did not materialize he could use offers for asylum from Bolivia and Ecuador.
It is an irony that a group of small but politically independent Latin Americans accepted America's bullying and agreed to help Snowden. While it was acknowledged that the US was the biggest bully in the world, threatening the security of the Free World, Europe failed to live up to its name of being the shelter of hapless refugee. Was this the same region which helped millions of refugees from Nazi Germany or the tyranny of the Shah of Iran? These nations had lost their moral right to speak for individual liberty in organizations like the United Nations.
Cuban President, Raul Castro hailed Latin American initiative in coming to the rescue of Snowden. Such an act would have warmed the heart of that old warhorse, Fidel Castro. The US must understand that it cannot bully the smaller Latin nations or dispatch the Marines to take care of them. For nearly 10 years, Hugo Chavez, as President of oil-rich Venezuela defied the might of the US. Ecuador was ready to take on two big powers, the US and the UK, in sheltering Assange. All over the world, there was sympathy for the 'little fellow' bullied by the most powerful nation in the world.
Snowden was a brave hero because he exposed the American conspiracy in spying on the rest of the world, be it friends or foes. President Obama's weak defence that this spying was needed to save the world from terrorism was not acceptable to many nations. They were fully capable of handling their own intelligence messages and take suitable remedial action. In the never-ending battle against terrorism, the US should take both its friends and not so friendly leaders into confidence but not go behind their backs and snoop legally.