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Chomsky on Latin America

4 November 2014

From an interview by Greg Granden, published in The Nation (31 October 2014):

GG: Immigration from Mexico and Central America is an issue that, in the United States, reveals the close connection between domestic and foreign policy. Do you see this as one potential source of hope and resistance?

noam_chomsky_cc_imgNC: To this moment, Mayans are fleeing from the consequences of the virtual genocide of the 1980s, primarily at the hands of José Efraín Ríos Montt, whom the historian Stephen Rabe describes accurately as “the Guatemalan butcher who supervised the eradication of 100,000 mainly Mayan people”—or, if we prefer, a man “of great personal integrity” who was getting a “bum rap” from human rights groups, according to the boss in Washington, whose spirit now hovers over us like “a warm and friendly ghost” in the Kim Il-sung–style renditions of Hoover Institution scholars. The flight of Mexicans was anticipated: Clinton initiated the militarization of the border when NAFTA was passed. It was quite predictable that NAFTA would destroy much of the campesino class, unable to compete with highly subsidized US agribusiness, along with other effects by now well-documented. Immigration follows as night follows day. Much the same is true throughout the region. The consequences of these policies engender conflicts within the United States. Super-cheap and highly vulnerable labor is a boon to business. But it is perceived by the white working class as a threat to its subsistence and cultural values, which are already felt to be under threat for many reasons, even more so as whites will become a minority in the not too distant future. These tendencies are being exploited in ugly ways by political leaders who are dedicated to service to the “1 percent” but need a voting constituency. That’s been the natural decision of strategists for the Republicans, who put aside any pretense of being a traditional parliamentary party long ago, also shedding their moderates. Now centrist Democrats are following not too far behind.

There is indeed resistance, a reason for hope, but the prospects will be grim if the US socioeconomic and political system persists in the vicious cycle that became established in the 1970s and escalated since, with a sharp concentration of wealth (increasingly in the financial sector) leading reflexively to concentration of political power and legislation to carry the cycle forward. It’s not inevitable by any means. There are encouraging signs at last of popular opposition, notably in the Occupy movements. But there is sure to be hard struggle ahead.

 

(Sombero tip:  Bill Wilson, San Miguel Allende)

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