WWORT? The “Alliance For Prosperity”
What would Oscar Romero think?
Whether one considers Romero a saint, or merely a patriot who died trying to save his country from further suffering and violence, somehow I don’t think he’d look down on El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras with anything but sadness. And, as a Catholic Bishop, he might have a few choice words (some rather less than saintly) for Catholic layman Joe Biden.
Biden has been the point man on selling, both in the United States and to the Central American nations, the “Alliance for Prosperity” or “Partnership for Growth”… a billion dollar “investment” in the Central American nations that appears to be nothing more than an extension of the oh-so-successful “Plan Merida” that escalated gangsterism in Mexico into a sporadic civil war (leaving somewhere around 100,000 Mexicans dead) to Central America, coupled with destroying peasant agriculture and food security for low-wage assembly jobs for foreign corporations. A recipe for more civil unrest and exploitation.
As Alexander Main (Senior Associate for International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research) wrote in The Hill (via Counterpunch) writes:
… the “Alliance” plan appears to be largely focused on attracting forms of foreign investment that have arguably made life worse for many Central Americans and had little positive impact on the overall economic situation. These include investments in “strategic sectors”– textile manufacturing, agro-industry and tourism –which all too frequently offer workers poverty-level jobs and provoke the displacement of small farmers and entire communities whose rights and historic claims to land are rarely supported by state authorities.
Security assistance would also increase significantly under the White House’s Central America budget proposal. Funding for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) aid to Central America would double from $100 million in FY2014 to $205 million in FY2016. This assistance, rooted primarily in the U.S. “war on drugs,” includes extensive support for the region’s police and military forces despite abundant reports of their involvement in extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations. All of the INCLE funding would be channeled through the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), a multilateral cooperation mechanism that is notoriously opaque, leaving the public and members of Congress with minimal information on where and how the funds are actually used.
There is little evidence that U.S. security assistance has worked in Central America; in fact, many human rights defenders [PDF] point to the massive impunity around police and military human rights violations and consider that the fire.U.S. has simply been adding fuel to the fire.
Why would the U.S. be so anxious to expand its less than successful “assistance” to Mexico into Central America? Simple… the maintain control of these countries, not from “narcos” but from their own people.
Specifically talking about Romero’s own El Salvador, Kevin Young at NACLA calls the proposal “War by Other Means.” Young quotes labor leader Wilfredo Berríos, who said of post-civil war Salvador, “the political, social, and economic war began again… under the rules of the right, the rules of capitalism, and the rules of the United States.”
The Obama administration has sought to ensure the adoption of corporate-friendly policies in El Salvador by conditioning Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) development aid upon a slew of neoliberal reforms that include privatization, the relaxation of business regulations, and the enforcement of trade provisions that privilege U.S. corporations. Since 2011, the U.S. “Partnership for Growth” has provided the overarching framework for advancing these policies. According to the State Department, the program aims to “promote a business-friendly institutional environment” and “catalyze private investment.”
The “Partnership” exemplifies a more general U.S. strategy in Latin America. Since 1998 the region has elected roughly a dozen left-of-center presidents who explicitly reject U.S. intervention and neoliberal economics. In response, the United States has tried to institutionalize neoliberal policies that can constrain future governments regardless of political affiliation. In effect, Washington has sought to mitigate the danger of elections by insulating economic policy from democratic input.
The Obama Administration has twisted the collective arms of Salvador’s leaders to sign off on a number of “reforms”… everything from permitting Monsanto GM corn imports (which was beaten back by popular opposition), to changing patent laws to keep cheap generic medications off the market, to less restrictive mining laws.
A common thread is the tailoring of development projects to the needs of large business interests rather than small-scale producers, workers, and residents. Ana Dubon, who lives in a community near the northern highway, said that the old road was in “terrible condition” and she wanted it repaired. But the new highway, designed to fit huge trucks and without good connections to rural villages, reflected the priorities of the wealthy. She said it “has brought development for those with economic resources, so they can make more money,” and also warned that it has increased drug trafficking and prostitution in the area. “And that’s development?”, she asked.
… If recent decades are any guide, further neoliberal reforms will produce lower growth and greater inequality. Meanwhile, the militarized U.S. approach to drug trafficking and street crime will also likely increase state violations of human rights, and—judging by recent patterns in Mexico and Central America—amplify violence by non-state actors as well.