Happily Fragmented Latin America

August 5, 2015

Of all the emails I get, the main recurring themes often involve questions about Latin America; and usually where to go for expatriation to flee oppression.  Latin America has totally fallen off the radar for American mass media news outlets.  But, the interest for ordinary Americans is growing.  You can get news if you go looking for it, but it is not fed to you continually as it is for other parts of the world.  If you get CNN Español on your satellite package or listen to it on XM radio, you will get sound bites of mostly state accommodating news.   The same thing the mass media gives to Americans.  But, at least, if you are a Spanish speaker, you’d hear something, even if it was regime sponsoring.

Latin America, fortunately, is not unified and as such the news is less homogenized than in the U.S.  You can often find honest criticisms of regimes in neighboring countries by looking at news sources and editorial sources across the border who like to sling mud at historical enemies.  Laughing at dictators and authoritarian regimes is commonplace and expected in Latin America.  It is not frowned upon.  The word “revolution” is part of many political campaigns because anti-regime sentiments are almost always strong.  Such language is scary to Americans.

Many writings from the 1960s express a yearning for a unified Latin America where the individual countries would function like one big “United States of Latin America.”  It was thought that such a centralized concept would lend more weight to issues involving labor, resources, education, and health care that were instead handled on a country-by-country basis.  Writers concluded that this failure to unify was lamentable.  It is actually wonderful.  The variety of countries and the lack of ability to concoct a regional currency and implement regional planning have resulted in a much less unified political class.  It may on the surface seem like there is more corruption, crime, and controversy in Latin America, but actually this is just an indication of the failure of mass media to unite and coordinate the news for an area that comprises a continent and then some.  A larger number of smaller weaker governments are continually trying to fend off verbal attacks from within and without.

These verbal battles are a source of entertainment for the residents of these countries.  And, if the government is too powerful and authoritarian (usually from state-snagged petro bucks) to tolerate a lot of internal media criticism, then the neighboring countries will fill the void and blast the regime.  The Latin American media looks closely for corruption and favoritism and digs deep when it is detected or alluded to.  Exposing government hypocrisy still sells papers in Latin America.  If you don’t nail a politician to the wall for his deeds, your rival media outlet will scoop the story and leave you in the dust.

But, life flows on in a normal fashion while the news outlets blast the politicians, cops, and military keeping them on their toes.  People understand that it is the job of journalists to expose politicians and they rarely see anything other than a beneficial impact on their lives from the continual stream of sensational headlines denigrating the political class.  By reading a Latin paper, you may think that the particular foreign country is in turmoil, but a visit reveals that the regular people continue with their lives as usual and consider the politicians to be a joke. These controversies are often covered to a stellar magnitude with recurring reporting that doesn’t stop until every possible drop of shame can be wrung from the story and poured onto the heads of the cringing ne’er do wells.  The feeling that “you can’t say that” about the regime in polite social circles (school, church, work place, and private social functions) is almost non-existent.

So, regimes speak against regimes and no one has enough power to unify the international media.  A lot of truth can be found by reading.  And nowadays, many foreign newspapers can be read on-line for free.  You no longer have to travel to a smaller city like Arica, Chile to get its latest newspaper or live in Miami where you can visit an international newspaper vendor that caters to the Latin community if you want to read about the various cities and towns in Latin America.

In the past, Latin America was a big deal to U.S. Presidents and the U.S. media.  A lot of time was spent talking about how we shared the same hemisphere and how we needed to stay in touch with them.  The Monroe Doctrine was promulgated to stress the importance of the relationship.  The Alliance for Progress and the Organization of American States were heralded as great mechanisms to bolster relations with Latin America.

Why is it ignored now?  Well, there is not now a regular need to beat the jingoistic drums against communism to promote continual intervention.  Since the drug war has subsumed the cold war in Latin America, and since the drug war seeks legitimacy as a general category of action, there is no longer a requirement to build up and then topple a continual series of political dragons with the use of negative publicity.  Going after regime after regime with intervention after intervention requires a lot of U.S. mass media attention to make the masses fearful of politicians in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico, Chile, etc.  The neatly packaged drug war can have the same war benefits for contractors, military, and paramilitary actors under an enduring long-term concept of action that doesn’t require daily legitimization with fake news reports of individual foreigners that want to kill us all.

It doesn’t require the media and the State Department to convince Americans that they need to memorize and recite the evolving names of a bunch of scary foreign groups to obtain cool kid status whenever more taxes are needed.   Americans don’t want to be perceived to be war propaganda boobs, so they must be able to throw words like ISIL, caliphate, or Kurds into the lunch break conversation to legitimize themselves as good little Gulf War mongering state worshippers as they are duped into paying for another pointless war.   They don’t need to know what M-83, P-2, or Battalion 3-16 are to be trendy.

The drug war creates the fear as a general concept concluding that the whole people of the region are dedicated to poisoning us with evil substances and therefore deserve continual intervention.  Americans, therefore, aren’t required to know any news about their own hemisphere.  This knowledge isn’t necessary for them to be good little collectivists.  Accept the party line moron.  Latin Americans are all drug dealers and terrorists who want to steal our jobs and our welfare money after they get us addicted to drugs.  The end.  You don’t need to have any natural curiosity about things that are much closer to your own neighborhood than Iraq, Syria, and Iran.

It is expensive to gin up funding for each individual crisis.  Like Ebola.  Lots of news reporter spin time dedicated to one thing.    It is much easier to demonize a concept one time (like drugs or “money laundering”) and then reap the taxpayer funded benefits for decades.

This blanket demonization of Latin America has worked fairly well.  And since the intervention is not “regime toppling,” the U.S. actors and money are allowed easy ingress by the foreign regimes.  Visas are issued and equipment is ushered in with few hindrances since the drug war doesn’t usually have a political focus.  A C-141 filled with M-16s is not turned away and is happily received as a gift from Santa Claus by whatever regime is currently in power and will continue to accommodate the drug war.  The strengthened government, after all, will have a better chance of holding onto political power if they are better armed with U.S. weapons and air and land vehicles to deploy them with.

Even Bolivia with all of its anti-U.S., DEA expulsing, and pro-coca rhetoric gladly accepts aircraft, equipment, and U.S. funding for the drug war utilizing foreign and U.S. contractor personnel.  DEA is gone from that country, but the C-130s, Hueys with M-60 door gunners, and M-16 armed, camo-garbed forces continue to perform their U.S. funded mission, overflying palm trees, banana plantations, and muddy rivers with all the visual appeal and sounds of the Vietnam War.

So, the end result is that people in the U.S. don’t hear much, or anything, about Latin America even though it is so much closer and so much more relevant to our food supplies, labor market, tourist destinations, raw materials, and imported and exported goods than Afghanistan or Iraq.

Americans continue to think that one of the major reasons for the current ongoing Middle East wars is that most of the oil consumed in the U.S. comes from the Persian Gulf.  In fact, more imported oil comes from Latin America.  The Middle East only accounts for 12.9% of the oil used in the U.S.    This confused idea is a legacy of news reporting from the OPEC days in the 1970s.   Since this misconception serves the war mongers well, it is not necessary for the state-serving media to refute it.  They will exploit it and use it to fuel the fire for the latest iteration of Middle East warfare that the crony profiteers are trying to foist on us.  Accommodating war preachers and social engineers add a little more spice to the mix in case anyone doubts the logic of U.S. “dependence” on Persian Gulf oil.

Logic, if nothing else, should cause residents of the U.S. to suspect that imported oil could be cheaper due to lower transportation cost and therefore more commonly imported when it comes from Latin America instead of the Middle East.

What we do hear about Latin America is groomed and tailored to be sufficiently gruesome so as to continue to lend general moral support for the drug war.   There is no need for daily bombardment with Latin news to support special interests in the U.S.  So, that only leaves the news interests of everyday people.  But, who cares about them?  They are not an organized lobbying block with interests in military contracts.

On those rare occasions when you do hear news from south of the border on U.S. media, it is likely to bemoan the woes of small poorly funded states and extol the virtues of large scale collectivization or to present tear jerker content (like news about trapped miners); since that kind of news doesn’t jeopardize any policy issues.

So here are several random things pertaining to Latin America to give you a taste of what the U.S. media doesn’t care to cover:

There is an ongoing controversy in Panama over whether a U.S. company can continue to breed GMO Salmon in that country that have been spliced with eel genes as the company AquaBounty Technologies awaits approval to sell this first ever GMO meat in the U.S.  Repeated violations by the U.S. company in Panama have been a source of foreign news that has garnered little attention in the U.S.

The revolutionaries in the hills of Cuba are no longer leftists.

An orangutan was awarded the human right of freedom in a habeas corpus proceeding in an Argentine court.

Do you want your city to be featured as a space on the “Monopoly Here and Now” edition? Well, you had better hurry up and vote because Lima, Peru is currently occupying the number one spot for the most popular fan-voted location to be added as a space.

A very vocal protest in Bolivia, caused the Simpsons to be returned to Bolivian TV after previous removal.

President Evo Morales plans to build a nuclear plant to power the city of La Paz, Bolivia after uranium was found in that country.

In the latest round of the decades long fight by Bolivia to obtain access to the sea via Chile, Bolivian President Morales slammed the Chilean Bachilet regime as fake socialists. The socialist versus socialist battle of words resulted in the Chilean Socialist Party President saying of Morales, “His problem is that he has to build up enemies like the neighborhood bully, because the day that he doesn’t have enemies he loses his role … so he plays the victim.”

64 percent of Brazilians voted “No” in a referendum on whether to ban the sale of guns and ammunition to civilians.

Although Americans are continually told that guns are illegal in Mexico, the Mexican constitution provides the right to own guns and permits can be obtained for up to ten firearms.

A case in which the FBI pressured a company representative to wear a wire and required him to generate a conversation about consulting fees with a petroleum consulting firm in Colombia is nearing trial in U.S. court.  The person paying the consulting fees – which were lost to scammers – is accused of bribery in U.S. court.  The consulting fees were paid to get assistance in navigating the bureaucracy to gain approvals for a petroleum contract with Chinese-Indian firm Masarovar.  The defendant, a non-Spanish speaker, was targeted by the FBI after he lost his money in the consulting scam.

Vice President Amado Boudou has been charged with bribery in Argentina.

Price controls in Venezuela have resulted in massive shortages of basic medications causing customers to cruise the cities on “pharmacy tours” trying to find the non-existent items.

Colombia began price controls last week for coronary stints and other medical devices.  The stated reason for the action was to reduce prices and make medical devices more affordable.

The national electoral council of Ecuador rejected for the fourth time a move by the opposition party to force a national referendum to allow a term limit to be put in place on the socialist president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa to prevent his indefinite re-election.

The mayor of Caracas has been arrested by the government of Nicolas Maduro on charges that he was plotting a coup with the U.S. to overthrow the president of Venezuela.

This is just a taste.  Latin America consists of many great places with a variety of climates and cultures well beyond what most will ever know.  The political class represents a funny sideshow that the people do their best to mock and avoid.

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