Latin America Takes a Step Away from U.S. Policies and Towards Independent Future

"This weekend marked the first time in years that El Salvador, who leads the world in youth homicide rates, had no homicides. At the same time, the Latin America summit is going on where Latin America is pleading America to change its war on drug policies, there's a connection there", writes author Hector Gonzalez.

The Latin American Summit took place this weekend in Cartagena, Colombia where all Latin American countries including the U.S.A. and Canada met to discuss foreign policy. The outcome was a testimony of what is occurring in the Americas in regards to foreign policy and the U.S.’s de-escalation of influence, power and clout towards the Americas. Simply stated, the tables are turning.

It was an interesting weekend to say the least, the growing feelings that Latinos have been holding on to for years have now finally surfaced! Feelings like, lack of trust towards the U.S., a sense that the U.S. has let the America’s down, and most importantly that after the U.S letting down the America’s so much; perhaps there are other Super Powers willing to treat the continents south of the border with a bit more dignity. China, for example, appears able and willing.

Reports on media wires report that the U.S. and Canada where isolated by the President’s of the Latin American countries, that they rolled their eyes when Obama spoke, cut him off in conversation, condescended him, and let it be known that the unified collective was a taking a stance against American foreign policy.

The American perception towards Latinos

During the 80’s and 90’s it was cool to say that you were Latino/ Latina- an exotic culture with exotic women, vibrancy, and festive identity. The references were everywhere in American pop culture such as Daisy Fuentes, Gloria Estefan, Salma Hayek and Jennifer Lopez. By the late 90’s I remember a commentary on television talking about Latino Culture in popular media boldly stating “Latinos are in style”. It was during this time that Carlos Santana released yet another classic album, Ricky Martin was regarded as a sexual icon and everyone wanted to be a Salsa dancer, or at least wanted to date one.

The tables quickly turned in the years that followed. In the year 2000 an article was released in the San Jose Mercury News where on the front page of the editorial in big bold and black letters it read, “Latinos Are Now the Largest Minority in America”, it was a big deal -- not only were Latinos now the biggest minority group, the article was fore telling of a near future where 1 out of every 5 kids born in the U.S.A would be Latino, 25% of the population would be Spanish speaking, and surely there would be a day that the Latino power in numbers would be a force to be reckoned with. Whatever positive image that the general public had towards Latinos, it was quickly thrown out the window and was replaced by a different representation of Latinoss, invading aliens who were bringing down America.

To understand why in one generation; Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek are such iconic representatives of Latin Americans, to a new generation where on the Jimmy Kimmel Late Night Show he has a stereotypical depiction of a Mexican, the character ‘Guillermo’, who is overweight and ugly, is in fact to understand America’s Latin American foreign policy. How such a character is accepted in American culture this day in age, be allowed on national television, and have it be funny to the general American public is a testimony to the negative growing sentiment that Americans have towards Latino’s, especially during the past decade when immigration has been a hot topic. ‘Guillermo’s’ is a stereotypical Mexican fat guy, it’s no secret that Mexico has an obesity crisis as it is the second most obese nation in the world only second to the U.S.A., what does appear to be a secret though is the direct correlation of NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement) to Mexican obesity. The policy literally not only contributes to malnutrition in Mexico but the policy is responsible for shipping all of Mexico’s fruits and vegetables to the U.S.A. depriving them of their own food and instead replacing the Mexican diet with processed food, giving them a diet where it is cheaper to drink Coca Cola then it is to drink water!

Guillermo isn’t the only one used to stigmatize Latinos, there are other iconic images also circulating in the media, images of gang members with Tattoo’s on their faces, home grown immigrant policies boiling up the immigration debate, and of course the infamous Mexican Cartels—all of them directly products of American Foreign Policy.

The United States loosing it’s clout in the Americas

There was a time when the U.S.A. would give orders to Central and South American countries and they would follow, not so much anymore. Here in the U.S., the general public has a negative portrayal of Fidel Castro. Years back the U.S. might have been able to convince its allies down below to isolate Castro -- the only problem is that the U.S. and the Americas have already played this game. In the 70’s and 80’s the Americas were heavily militarized. The story was always the same, the government of a designated Latin American country went to battle with the leftist guerrilla groups of that country—the leftist mostly supported by the Soviets and Cubans would battle the governments who were fighting for democracy supported by the U.S. Common logic would suggest that the governments of such countries not only believed in democracy and America, but were willing to divide their countries in battle to catastrophic proportions believing that one day their sacrifice would pay off. In places like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras the general consensus might suggest that such sacrifice never paid off.

During the summit, one of the most embarrassing topics was that all 33 countries participating in the summit with the exception of the U.S. and Canada, all voted to invite Cuba to the next summit in 2015 -- a shift in view points as Cuba has historically been demonized by the U.S. and it’s supporters. Yet, the Latin American nations all agreed that lifting the embargo on Cuba would be the fastest way to pushing Cuba to one day be a democratic nation. The only real conclusion as to why Obama did not vote in favor of inviting Cuba to the 2015 summit in Panama was that in doing so, he would lose votes in Florida since the Cuban exiles in Florida are a strong voting block. A disingenuous and truly an embarrassing move by Obama. Many participants in the summit vowed that if Cuba is not invited in 2015, they would not participate in the summit, expressing a symbol of unity for the Latin American nations and backhand at America, that Latin America doesn’t just have to follow, it could also make its own conclusions and determine its own policies.  10 years ago it might have been blasphemous to question the U.S., not anymore.

By American’s accepting such characters as Guillermo, the general public has literally under-minded Latin America’s capabilities. Brazil for example is the 6th largest economy in the world, more powerful then Canada, with Colombia, Chile, Argentina, and Peru trailing right behind. All along while the U.S. has been focusing on the Middle East, China and Russia have crept-in, heavily investing in the growth of South America so much to the extent that many countries in South America identify their business relations more with Asia and it’s developing countries more so then they identify with the U.S.

In regards to Cuba, it was interesting to see that all Latin nations stood up for Cuba to have a voice in the summit, recognizing the Cuban people as brothers as they have a common lineages to Spain and colonialism, Catholicism, and further more the ultimate martyr against America’s foreign policy. Latinos may not agree with Castro, but they understand the sentiment of poor relations with the U.S.A. Cuba might be the black sheep of the family, never the less, still a brother.

Obama tried to stigmatize Cuba at the summit, it didn’t work. The Americas rolled their eyes and laughed it off.   The Red Scare propaganda of the past does not work anymore.

The War on Drugs

Interestingly enough the main topic of the summit was the War on Drugs as the Americas called on Obama to change his drug policies. Obama, knowing that the Americas are having a growing interest in legalizing drugs all together, refused before even attending the summit to engage in an open and honest debate about the War on Drugs.

Drugs are the truest form of free market there is, with no respect to foreign policy, law or borders, drugs simply fill the demand. The Americas argue that by the U.S. changing its War on Drug policies including legalizing drugs all together, Latin America would be able to eradicate its violence problem mostly stemming from powerful cartels operating a drug flow from South America, through Central America- Mexico and ending up in the United States. Leaving a trail of bloodshed along the way.

President Otto Perez of Guatemala, Filipe Calderon of Mexico and Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia led the pack in boldly stating that the War on Drugs is simply not working, and the U.S. needs to change its drug policies.

At the core of the argument lies a dichotomy based on Latin identity, criminality. In one end of the spectrum is the criminalization of Latinos in the American Judicial system helping perpetuate the ongoing depiction of the Latino as a criminal. On the other end of the spectrum lies what the debate would ultimate address which is that; drugs only travel North, legalizing drugs would mean the decriminalization of Latinos who make up 50% of the California correctional system for almost always drug related crimes, and lastly- the core of the problem, that all of this violence stems from the U.S.’s addiction to drugs. Not because the Americas is inheritably a violent place, but because the U.S. has a high demand for drugs, a market so unregulated.

The legalization of drugs in America would also mean the demise of the prison industrial complex. I’m not sure what is more embarrassing to admit, that the U.S. has a prison industrial complex where it houses 25% of the entire prison population in the world- 80% of them being drug related crimes or having to admit that the bloodshed in Latin America is all because of the U.S.’s heavy addiction to drugs.

There’s Hope

In all reality the U.S. and Latin America do have hope in being able to maintain their ties as close allies. Mainly because of two reason, one being that the U.S. is becoming more Latino and secondly because the Americas are becoming more developed.

In actually, most Latin Americans do have admiration and respect for America, mainly because they have family members who live in the U.S. But Latinos are also weary of America’s special interest having exploited the Americas for so long and not been giving anything back in return.

A perfect way to illustrate the point would be that of a person who stole, cheated and lied to his family. That person will always be welcomed back to the family with open arms so long as the person has corrected their ways and admitted to their wrong doing.

To Obama’s credit, according to the President Calderon of Mexico, this was the first time an American president ever sat down for the entire summit and listened quietly to everyone else’s concerns.

About Hector Gonzalez

Hector Gonzalez is a writer, hip hop artist and proud father originally from San Jose, and now is based out of Southern California. He has been published in numerous books and publications and also has performed across the U.S as an emcee by the name of "Hegotistic".

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