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Just because you’re paranoid…

24 January 2010

“Lfarkins” (Lawyers, Guns and Money) writes:

Apparently, if Hugo Chavez says something stupid, Evo Morales has to follow suit:

President Evo Morales said Wednesday that Bolivia would seek U.N. condemnation of what he called the U.S. military occupation of earthquake-stricken Haiti. “The United States cannot use a natural disaster to militarily occupy Haiti,” he told reporters at the presidential palace.

The “stupid quote” from Hugo Chavez turns out to be something Chavez never said (but is attributed to him by a Russian website, and picked up by Fox News) about super-secret nuclear tests causing the Haitian earthquake * .  The Evo Morales comments come, not from the Bolivian President, but from the VICE-President, Alvaro Linara, and were misreported (or sloppily reported is more the point) by the Miami Herald.

There is a cognitive disconnect between what Latin Americans of all political persuasions think of U.S. intervention and how those same interventions are viewed in the United States.  Certainly, it’s a good thing that the U.S. did send immediate assistance to Haiti, and disaster relief requires the healthy young people, heavy equipment and communications/logistics organization that are immediately available from military forces.  None of which says the United States hasn’t historically used military intervention (under any number of pretexts) to enforce “yanquí imperialismo”.  This has been a complaint of Latin Americas, from the extreme right (Bolivarianism was originally a far-right movement, after all) to the extreme left for a long time.  It’s history, not good intentions, that is seen here.

Case in point.  USAID — the United States Agency for International Development — although it has financed useful and welcome projects, is designed to further U.S. economic penetration of recipient countries:

U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America’s foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world.

This historically has included close collaboration with the Central Intelligence Agency, and probably still does, most recently in Honduras.  Certainly the left in Latin America tends to reject “America’s foreign policy interests in expanding …free markets” more readily than the right, but — regardless of persuasion, there is an assumption in Latin America that any USAID program is a cover for the CIA.  I know people who refused to use the rather harmless (and very nice) Biblioteca Benjamin Franklin in Mexico City, on the assumption that the (now formerly) USAID sponsored English-Language library was a cover for spooks, and something as harmless as reading Time Magazine made you a target for foreign intriguers.  And, I’m not talking about political people, but ordinary, well-educated, apolitical types.

From the “progressive” Rachel Maddow (one of the few U.S. news readers who actually has a PhD in a real academic field, and isn’t by training a journalist) — who at least has had the decency and intelligence to mention Haitian history in her broadcasts, spent ten minutes on 13 January propagandizing for USAID and its representation of  “America’s power in the world”.

Of course, working in conjunction with the massive U.S. military presence, and the complaints from Latin Americans and others that they have been pushed aside in favor of U.S. efforts (and U.S. military programs designed to provide “security” to relief workers who don’t feel particularly threatened), USAID is seen as just another manifestation of that “power” and the United States’ willingness to project that power, even as the rest of the planet is more concerned with providing immediate relief to suffering people.

Notice what’s NOT in the CNN article, but is in the Toronto Sun.

CNN Toronto Sun
Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) — Rescue workers pulled a woman out of rubble near Haiti’s national cathedral Tuesday, a week after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck.

The rescue crews believe two other people may be alive under wreckage nearby, in part because of a text message the crews believe was sent from under the rubble, a CNN crew reported.

Men carried the woman, Ena Zizi, who is in her 70s, from the rubble on a wooden board as she grasped its edges.

They took her to a nearby clinic, although it doesn’t have the operating facilities needed to treat her, the CNN crew reported.

Zizi’s right femur was fractured and she was in shock, the crew reported.
Her son, Maxime Janvier, told CNN that he never gave up hope that she’d be found.
“We were praying a lot for that to happen,” he said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that about 90 victims have been saved by 43 international rescue teams, made up of some 1,700 people, in the days after the quake.

The earthquake struck the afternoon of January 12. Its epicenter was just south of Port-au-Prince.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A Mexican rescue team rejoiced Tuesday after finding an elderly woman alive amid the pile of concrete rubble at this Haitian capital’s cathedral.

Salvador Arturo Acuna Rico was one of the Cancun rescuers who found a 70-year-old woman in perfect health after being trapped for a week.

“She was praying,” he said, adding that’s how they heard her in the middle of the collapse building. “She was conscious – really, really healthy. No broken bones.”

Search and rescue workers from Germany believe another person may be alive in the building that once housed the cathedral’s priests. Another two people are believed to be alive in a nearby building, said rescuer Frank Schultes.

If the United States is not “beloved” in Latin America, it’s its own fault and can’t simply be based on the discredited former Administration. A mind set that rejects history, and is terribly provincial may have the best military equipment, logistical capability, and informational resources in the world, but to limit those resources to “projecting power in the world” will not make the country seen as anything but a bully even if its intentions are honorable.

* BoRev has the breakkdown of the tale like this:

1. Some Venezuelan blogger wrote a weird story about the U.S. causing the Haiti earthquake with some sort of earthquake weapon. 2. A website operated by a Venezuelan state TV channel included a link to the post in their roundup of Haiti coverage from all over the country. 3. Some right-wing newspaper in Spain published a story about the link, referring to it as a Venezuelan state “press release.” 4. Fox News reports the Spanish story, saying the earthquake weapon claim comes from “Hugo Chavez’ mouthpiece.” 5. Randomly, Vladimir Putin’s English language teevee channel Russia Today claims that Chavez himself made the statement. This video report is picked up all over the fucking place, Drudge sirens!! 6. Right wing news “analysts” opine about what level of threat this represents to the United States.

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