Varieties of imperial decline : another setback for the US in Latin America

by toni solo, May 23rd 2011

The NATO system of hypocrisy and sadism is matched by a financial economy dependent on taxpayer-funded bailouts, crude covert market-rigging and money laundering of all kinds. The NATO regimes' growing criminality marks the accelerating pace of their decline. Child-killer-and-family-destroyer-in-Chief Barack Obama seems fated to preside over a decisive phase in the continuing decline of the United States relative to its global competitors.

The latest event marking the particular decline of US political and economic influence in the world took place in Central America on Sunday May 22nd. Presidents Mauricio Funes of El Salvador, Alvaro Colom of Guatemala and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua met in the Nicaraguan capital Managua to formally recognise the government of President Porfirio Lobo of Honduras. These Central American Presidents announced the normalization of relations with Honduras permitting the normal working of the Central American Integration System and the reintegration of Honduras into the Organization of American States.

This historic regional diplomatic breakthrough resulted from months of discussions and negotiations between President Lobo and ex-President Manuel Zelaya over how to reconcile the demands of the Honduran resistance led by Manuel Zelaya and the position of Lobo's hitherto illegitimate regime. The negotiations were decisively facilitated and backed by Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Hugo Chavez Frías of Venezuela. They took place against clear displeasure and low-key resistance from the US State Department.

Historic significance

The peaceful return of former President Zelaya to Honduras after almost two years of enforced exile may only be a first flawed step towards healing the deep constitutional wounds caused in Honduras by the military coup of June 28th 2009. But, regardless of events over the next couple of years prior to new elections in Honduras in 2013,  the move towards peaceful reconciliation has very deep political and economic significance. It takes place when Latin American and Caribbean governments are due to meet in Caracas in July to form a new regional forum without the United States and Canada.

That July meeting in Caracas may well mark the beginning of the demise of the Organization of American States. Politically, the leadership shown by Colombia and Venezuela to resolve the Honduran crisis has few precedents, especially given the deep ideological divisions between the two governments. It demonstrates a growing awareness in Latin America that dependence on the US government for leadership is counterproductive in terms of the region's political and economic development. In terms of relations within the region, the move by Colombia and Venezuela also sets a marker in relation to the regional political dominance of Brazil.

The political dilemma facing right-wing governments like those of Colombia and Honduras – and, by implication Peru, Chile and Mexico – is that if they do not cooperate with regional neighbours, all they can expect from the United States is moral and increasingly irrelevant and counterproductive military support. That still incipient political dilemma is many times more acute from an economic perspective. One of the key factors influencing the decision of the Lobo regime to cooperate with the Colombian-Venezuelan initiative is the recognition that Latin American economic growth can no longer depend on a strong US economy or on potential new markets in Europe.

The economic perspective

The recent Agreement of Association between the European Union and Central America represents Central America's efforts to maximise potential benefits of trade with the ancien regime North Atlantic powers. However, for oil-import-dependent governments managing small national economies, the prospect of another oil price shock is a sobering reminder of the failure in terms of their economic development of discredited, speaking-in-tongues free-market economics. The corresponding success of the Venezuelan-led Petrocaribe framework, guaranteeing regional countries oil and oil derivatives on highly preferential terms, only emphasises the relative decline of US regional economic leadership.

When Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Perú recently signed a joint Free Trade Agreement on April 28th this year, they were responding to the challenges presented by Mercosur and the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA), dominated by Brazil and Venezuela respectively. All these initiatives respond  in turn to the increasing trade importance to Latin America of China, India and South East Asia. The normalization of the Central American Integration System is a decisive move along the same lines by the countries of Central America.

Latin American and Caribbean nations are forging a common strategy with different ideological variations on the same theme. They need to get the best they can from existing commercial and financial relations with North America and Europe. They also need to engage effectively with rapidly growing markets in Asia. For both purposes they must integrate regionally so as to negotiate and trade from a position of combined strength.

Central America and the US

For Central America the meeting in Managua on May 22nd was  an encouraging sequel to the devastating Honduran coup of June 2009. It seems ever more likely now that the coup will be seen as a kind of last stand by Central America's repressive oligarchies against historical trends they are ultimately powerless to resist. The dominant trend is the relative political and economic decline of the United States and the corresponding impact of global powers like Brazil and China.

That impact entails far-reaching regional diplomatic, commercial and financial adjustments that herald the end of the North American and European ancien regime. Those adjustments reflect a massive continent-wide social and cultural emancipation, a phenomenon far deeper and broader than the glib “pink tide” confection of NATO country propaganda media assets. North American and European politicians will continue for a few more years to parrot ridiculous false beliefs in relation to their non-existent moral authority and their rotten-corrupt democracy.

But in Central America and elsewhere those absurd claims will receive less and less respect and attention. Perhaps for another ten to fifteen years, the US, Canada and their European allies will continue to exert gangster-like extortion on the very weak Central American countries as they have always done. But their ability to do so will diminish as Central America integrates both inwardly and regionally.

The threat of military intervention, of punitive immigration measures against Central American migrants in the US, of economic sanctions, of commercial and financial skulduggery – all these will diminish as Central America consolidates. That consolidation, effectively halted by the Honduran military coup, was boosted by two declarations at the May 22nd meeting in Managua. One declaration confirmed moves towards a regional customs union. The other confirmed a range of measures on security cooperation and organised crime.

Central America and Nicaragua

The meeting was definitive in fixing the determination of the Guatemalan, Honduran, Nicaraguan and Salvadoran authorities - the CA-4 bloc - to advance towards integration at their own pace. As the CA-4 countries' integration progresses, pressure will increase on Costa Rica and Panama to integrate as well. For Nicaragua, the May 22nd meeting confirms the abysmal failure of Costa Rican diplomacy to isolate the Nicaraguan government over the dispute in relation to the two countries' common border at the delta of the Rio San Juan.

The meeting categorically prioritized peaceful diplomacy, assigning the armed violence that characterized the Honduran coup the status of an illegitimate aberration. For President Porfirio Lobo, the price of regaining legitimacy has been some degree of acceptance of the demands of Manuel Zelaya. By defending Manuel Zelaya while facilitating a successful political deal, President Daniel Ortega has enormously strengthened his own government's legitimacy in the region  as well as that of the Venezuelan and Cuban led ALBA economic bloc.

The United States government and its allies will continue in their constant efforts to discredit the Nicaraguan government as illegitimate. Once back in Honduras, Manuel Zelaya will face ruthless and relentless opposition from the US government backed Honduran oligarchy. But Nicaragua's forthcoming elections in November this year are likely to deal a further blow to the regional credibility of the US, Canadian and European governments. At some point, those governments are bound to consider some kind of military aggression to compensate for their categorical loss of political and economic influence in the region.