IN HIS SPEECH last December to the United Nations General Assembly, President Allende of Chile spoke out against imperialism in Third World countries. Unfortunately, many North Americans believe the accusation of imperialism is a communist hoax. U.S. businesses are supposed to be purely economic operations with no responsibility or connections to politics; the U.S. government is not really an aggressor but merely a supporter of sound investment policy. But it's impossible, of course, to divorce international investment from politics. U.S. policy in Latin America represents a perfect example of what lengths the government will go to politically to benefit corporations.
In its 1968 survey of the Alliance for Progress, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee outlined three U.S. interests in Latin America: our "grand strategy" for national defense, the economics of U.S. trade and investment, and the need for Latin American support in U.N. votes. But even in 1964, invoking national defense and U.N. politics provided no more than a flimsy smokescreen for the United States's real motives.
Traditional government policy is to maintain the political stability of Latin American regimes as long as they are anti-communist and friendly to U.S. interests. The government not only extends political recognition but provides military and police aid. Between the end of World War II and 1961, the military emphasis was on collective hemisphere defense in the Cold War. By 1961, after Castro's takeover in Cuba and the emergence of guerrilla groups, the basis shifted to internal security within the hemisphere. The U.S. began to provide counter-insurgency training for officers in the Canal Zone. Equipment aid shifted from jets, tanks, and ships to jeeps, helicopters, grenades, and carbines. U.S. officials justified their actions by playing on the public's irrational fear of encroaching international communism.
SINCE 1961, it has become apparent that the guerrillas do not have ties with Moscow or Peking. The USSR does not want to support another Cuba. The Communist parties of most Latin American countries are more conservative than the guerrillas and call for a government controlled by the middle classes. They label the guerrillas as adventuristic. In a Senate report of 1967, Edwin Lieuwin, a Latin American scholar, stated:
Rationale set forth for the present military assistance and sales programs does not stand up under close scrutiny. The principal threat to internal security is from suppressed populist forces and U.S. military aid contributes to the suppression.
The U.S. government has continued police and military support despite the growing realization that there is now no need for "hemispheric defense" and no threat from Cuba and communist-inspired elements. In 1969, Charles Meyer, the assistant secretary for Inter-American Affairs, claimed:
However, insurgents still represent a nucleus which can be supported in the event of deteriorating economic or social conditions. Coupled with continuance of inadequate social structures, it necessitates maintaining counter-insurgency capabilities.
In other words, since social conditions are bad and will probably become worse, the United States must suppress revolt.
Kennedy's administration departed from traditional policy by creating the Alliance for Progress. The basic argument was that the longterm stability of Latin American governments would require better social conditions. The original objectives of the Alliance charter included a more equitable distribution of income, reduced unemployment, agrarian reform, guaranteed, education, health care, and housing. The Alliance was doomed to failure in these objectives from the beginning.
The upper class Latin Americans would never organize any genuine reform programs which would threaten their own position of power. They opposed any attempt at graduated income or land taxes to fund the programs. Meanwhile, as the Cuban threat diminished, Congress cut funds at each session.
The State Department and the the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) betrayed the original objectives of the Alliance. Instead of bettering social conditions, the loans started to aim towards narrowly-defined economic development. The theory is that the growth of business will bring a stable currency and more jobs. The benefits will filter down to the lower classes. Loans thus focused on large-scale enterprises. If a democratic government was economically unstable, it did not get a loan.
With this theory, the U.S. government could bypass any change aimed specifically at the lower classes, such as agrarian reform and equalized distribution of income, which would be touchy politically. The poverty of Latin Americans is so drastic to begin with that the incremental change from "filtering" would barely affect conditions. Since the inception of the program, the population has grown faster than any advantages arising from the growth of business. Though evidence is clear that economic development does not benefit the lower classes, it remains the cornerstone of State Department policy.
U.S. BUSINESSES molded Alliance methods to suit their own ends. Within the AID structure, a group of officials represented business interests in deciding each loan. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1964 required that loans purchase only U.S. products, transport, and consultants' services. The Hickenlooper amendment further required that the President suspend all economic assistance to any country which expropriated a U.S. business.
In 1965, a business group of 20 to 30 heads of corporations formed the Council for Latin America, with David Rockefeller as its head. With 224 member corporations, it represents approximately 85 per cent of U.S. business in Latin America. CLA holds regular meetings with the State Department to present the corporations' interests. This institutionalized relationship must predispose the State Department in favor of business in dealing with conflicts with Latin American countries.
Nixon's policy toward Latin America is turning away from the explicit purposes of the Alliance. In his first policy speech, given on Oct. 31, 1969, he maintained that social and economic progress would henceforth depend more on the initiatives of Latin Americans. Nixon also sees the answer to Latin America's problems through economic development. Furthermore, he recommended that the ceiling on military sales be raised to $150 million for 1972, though between 1966 and 1970, sales had averaged only $38 million.
THROUGH THE MAZE of changing foreign policy, U.S. corporations emerge as the primary benefactors. The policy of aid to economic growth and price stability followed by AID and U.S. support for stable governments insure the necessary climate for the growth of American business. The failure of the Alliance for Progress demonstrates that gradual social reform is impossible. The U.S. must, therefore, rely on aid to military suppression to maintain social stability.
The revolutionaries do not present a threat to U.S. security. There is no viable social program which they would disrupt. The success of a revolution, however, would generate social and economic instability and land reforms unfavorable to U.S. business. As long as the United States confines its interests to the support of business rather that long-term peaceful and friendly relations with the peoples of Latin American countries, we will continue to support suppression.