American adversaries become South American conquistadors

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In November 2013, then Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking to the Organization of American States, made the headlines by announcing, “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.

He was of course referring to the policy declared by President James Monroe in 1823: that the United States would oppose foreign intervention in the Western Hemisphere and, as Kerry put it, “would act as a protector of the region “.

Kerry added that “throughout our country’s history successive Presidents have reinforced this doctrine and made a similar choice.” He and former President Barack Obama, however, had decided not to dictate “a policy that defined the hemisphere.” Instead, they would build “a more solid foundation for the future on the basis of our common democratic values ​​and beliefs”.

Eight years later, I think it’s clear: what Kerry and Obama saw as enlightened restraint America’s adversaries took as an invitation to replace Washington’s influence and power in Central and South America. .

In 2015, Obama continued by visiting Cuba, where he re-established diplomatic relations with the Castro regime. “I came here to bury the last vestiges of the Cold War in the Americas,” he declared triumphantly.

He then had his photograph taken in the Plaza de la Revolución in front of a giant fresco by Che Guevara, a totalitarian communist and what one might today call a “violent extremist”.

Obama’s concessions were not reciprocal. On the contrary, the regime has continued to imprison dissidents and peaceful protesters (more than 150 last month) while strengthening its relations with the People’s Republic of China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Russia and Turkey.

This partnership provided crucial support to Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, a once free and prosperous country, now decidedly nonfree and so impoverished that one in five Venezuelans have fled.

Nonetheless, far-left leaders with close ties to Cuba and Venezuela were elected last year in Peru, Honduras and Chile.

Venezuela has become “Iran’s forward operating base in South America,” my colleague Emanuele Ottolenghi wrote last month. “Tehran agents have access to genuine Venezuelan identity documents and passports, which allows them to travel freely throughout the region. Meanwhile, Iran has established cultural centers and mosques across Venezuela, recruiting and radicalizing locals. “

Of more immediate concern: Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying precision weaponry have been positioned in Venezuela just over 1,200 miles from Miami. There’s more to come: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian recently announced that Tehran and Caracas will soon sign a 20-year strategic accord.

Not only by coincidence, Venezuela has become a safe haven for foreign terrorists and drug lords. Tareck al-Aissami, appointed by Maduro in 2017 as vice president and chief intelligence officer, is linked to Hezbollah, Tehran’s most effective proxy.

The son of immigrants from the Middle East, al-Aissami currently holds the post of Minister of Petroleum, although he was named to the U.S. government’s most wanted list in 2019. A year later, the Department of Petroleum The US state has offered $ 10 million for drug-related information about him. trafficking and narco-terrorism.

Tehran has launched a Spanish-language television station “to broadcast its propaganda in the Western Hemisphere,” Ottolenghi noted, and recruited “activists, journalists and academics.”

“Iran’s influence operations through cultural centers are thriving in virtually every country in Latin America, from Mexico to Chile, regardless of the political leanings of local governments,” he added. “And Shia mosques, whether they serve Lebanese and Iranian Shiite expatriates or Latin American converts to Shia Islam, are mostly under the control of Iranian clerics and friends of Hezbollah. “

At the same time, Hezbollah “has become the entrepreneur of choice for Mafia activities abroad,” Senator Bill Cassidy recently wrote. “Through networks of front companies, messaging systems and friendly relations with antagonistic countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua, they carry out money laundering operations for a significant part of the illicit trade in drugs, weapons and human beings in the region. The service they provide to drug cartels is to divert markets from international trade to hide their illicit transactions, a process known as trade-based money laundering.

Chinese leaders have also developed close ties with Nicaragua. Last month, President Daniel Ortega severed relations with Taiwan and ordered Taiwanese diplomats to leave the country within two weeks. Diplomats attempted to donate their land and buildings to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Managua. Ortega seized the properties and gave them to Beijing.

Panama, long closely linked to the United States, dumped Taipei in favor of Beijing in 2017. The following year, El Salvador followed suit. Chinese leaders have reportedly bribed officials in that country and are now preparing to build a deep-water port and manufacturing zone from which US companies will be excluded. Across Central and South America, Beijing is funding infrastructure projects through its Belt and Road Initiative, charging countries with debt they may be unable to repay.

Chinese influence “is everywhere in this hemisphere and growing alarmingly,” Admiral Craig Faller, head of US Southern Command, recently said. NBC News. The goal, he said, appears to be both substantial military presence and economic dominance over the next decade.

I could give you other examples, but I think you get it. Kerry and Obama thought that they were smarter and more virtuous than their predecessors, that the American leadership – call it hegemony if you will – in the Western Hemisphere was worse than the alternatives, than if we Yanquis remained only our hand, surely peace, freedom, democracy, prosperity and social justice would flourish.

Our authoritarian and neo-imperialist adversaries have heard a different message: that the United States retreat and that the nations, peoples and resources of Central and South America are within their grasp.

Clifford D. May is founder and chairman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for the Washington Times.


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