Understanding US Imperialism in Latin America in the name of Human Rights

On Operation Condor, Venezuela, and Latin America as a whole

The age of Colonialism has ended, but the concept of imperialism remains alive today. Due to massive violations of human rights, dignity, freedoms and security during World War II, as noted by massive civilian death tolls and acts of genocide such as the Holocaust, countries around the world gathered at the UN Assembly. The countries agreed upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a comprehensive statement of inalienable human rights. As of January 1, 2019, 114 UN Member States serve the Human Rights Council. Though the expression of the fundamental values contains no legal binding, it has given rise to the formation of legally binding agreements and international laws such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).  (Australian Human Rights Commission) While these international treaties help promote and protect the marginalized against abuse and oppression, political analysts cautioned that the idea of policing Human Rights created a new form of political power, allowing sanctions and military aggression to intervene with international sovereignty. As European empires gradually gave up their occupied colonies in the 20th century, powerful empires including the US use human rights as an excuse to assert aggression. To justify Western Imperialism, the foreign policy of the United States reflects the country’s identity as a self-professed supporter of human rights through massive interventionism, particularly concerning Latin America. Although acting as vanguard states promoting the values and merits of democracy, the leaders of the western world cynically manipulate the notion of human rights as a justification for Western imperialism in Latin America during the Cold War, and even to this day. 

Imperialism refers economic competition between powerful nation-states for the purpose of dominating their rivals. Three primary forms of imperialism include economic imperialism, political imperialism, and military imperialism. Economic imperialism is present within a global capitalist economy, because political entities compete economically for profit, natural resources, and markets in order to maintain prosperity. Economic imperialism refers to foreign ownership of productive resources, and usurious debtor/creditor relations. Forms of economic imperialism include the use of unequal and imbalanced trade agreements, sanctions, blockades, and tools of economic warfare. Regardless of the methods, the primary motive is subjugation by one nation of another. 

Political imperialism is the next level of economic imperialism, referring to direct colonial rule over subordinated groups, or indirect rule through client regimes. A form of political imperialism is the use of undemocratic international institutions to coerce weaker states into performing the will of more powerful ones for the purpose of outmaneuvering rivals. Since the Reagan administration, the foreign policy of the United States has been dictated by military idealists. Although Former President Reagan spoke in favor of spreading American values to Latin America, he was responsible for allowing Elliot Abrams and other militarists to dictate interventionist foreign policy. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright pushed for bombing campaigns in Serbia against President Slobodan Milošević’s genocide against Muslim populations in Kosovo. Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz pushed for humanitarian intervention in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein and install a democratic government. Former UN representative Samantha Power pushed for humanitarian intervention in Syria after hearing allegations of President Bashar al-Assad’s usage of chemical weapons. These idealists utilized the theory of Just War to wage humanitarian interventions. However, this idealism does not undercut the fact that the use of human rights to justify military intervention is inherently political imperialism. 

Military competition is a natural result of economic and political competition. Militaristic imperialism refers to military occupation, blockade, the use of proxy war, and use of violence to force compliance. Under the guise of human rights and opposing the spread of Communism, the US utilized imperialistic tactics during the Cold War as a means of maintaining neoliberal ideological unity within the Western hemisphere. Within Latin America, the US has committed countless actions of military, political, and economic imperialism, since the issue of the Monroe Doctrine. 

From 1968 to 1989, the CIA launched Operation Condor, a campaign of state terror and intelligence sharing between the governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The operation’s purpose was to coordinate strikes against left-leaning political figures or activists. Under the threat of the expanding influence of the Soviet Union, the US felt it necessary to preserve its continental hegemony. Within Latin America, during the 1950s through the 1970s, a new school of thought within Catholicism called Liberation Theology was taking root. This theology was influenced by class struggle and national liberation movements, with emphasis on direct participatory democracy and faith. As widely perceived by the Western public, leftist ideology would result in oppression, and the US had a moral responsibility to contain its spread throughout the Third World. Several US businesses such as the United Fruit Company and Phelps Dodge Corporation depended on cheap Latin American natural resources for cost-effective production. They feared Latin American nationalization. Nationalization would result in higher production costs, due to non-negotiable price controls. (Olea, 2006). 

Through Operation Condor, the CIA provided military intelligence and training, financial assistance, advanced computers, sophisticated tracking technology, and access to the continental telecommunications system housed in the Panama Canal Zone. Mass repression and terrorism were utilized by American-backed paramilitary organizations or authoritarian leaders. Victims primarily comprised of leftists, union leaders, priests and nuns, intellectuals and suspected guerillas. The CIA claimed the purpose of Operation Condor was to remove anti-government rebels in the name of national security, which was found to be incorrect, because the guerrillas that were fought were small forces and were unable to legitimately threaten US national security. (McSherry, 2002). The Archives of Terror— a collection of documents describing illegal secret police procedures during the reign of Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay— list 50,000 killed, 30,000 disappeared and 400,000 imprisoned throughout Operation Condor. (Rohter, 2014).

The Archives revealed that Paraguay was one of the leading participants in Condor, confirming widespread human rights abuses within Latin America. (Consequences of the Discovery of the Archives of Terror). Within Paraguay, Alfredo Stroessner was a military officer as a part of the Colorado Party, who overthrew Federico Chavez through a US-backed coup in Paraguay in 1954, and won the following election, in which he was the only candidate. Stroessner’s regime resulted in approximately four to five thousand civilian murders, and hundreds of thousands of Paraguayans exiled. At least eighteen thousand people were victims of physical, sexual and psychological torture during the regime. Overthrown in a military coup in 1989, Stroessner was exiled in Brazil.

Brazil was another participant in Condor. In 1964, General Castelo Branco led a coup that sparked twenty years of brutal military dictatorship in Brazil. US military attaché Vernon Walters, later Deputy CIA Director and UN Ambassador, knew Castelo Branco well from World War II in Italy. As a clandestine CIA officer, Walters’ records from Brazil have never been declassified. By funding opposition labor and street protests, the CIA’s support was needed to ensure the coup’s success. The elected President Joao Goulart was a wealthy capitalist landowner, who sought neutrality in the Cold War, which was unacceptable, leading to his coup. Additionally in Brazil, reports of mass kidnappings of Uruguayans was commonplace, under the pretense of removing political dissidents. The amnesty law provided that nobody involved with the twenty-one-year-long was convicted for human rights violations. (A Brief Look at Operation Condor).

In Argentina, the Dirty War between the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance and Peronist Left organizations was fought as part of Operation Condor. US documents declassified in 2003 detail conversations between US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Argentinian Foreign Minister Admiral Guzzetti in October 1976, soon after the military junta seized power in Argentina. The military junta was led by Jorge Rafael Videla, who launched a coup d’etat to depose Isabel Peron, and ruled for five years until 1981. Henry Kissinger explicitly approved the junta’s “dirty war,” in which up to thirty thousand people were killed and four hundred children were kidnapped from the families of their murdered parents. Kissinger told Guzzetti, “Look, our basic attitude is that we would like you to succeed, the quicker you succeed the better.” In a declassified 1978 memo from the State Department, it is asserted that “if there has been a net reduction in reports of torture, this is not because torture has been forsworn but ‘derives from fewer operations’ because the number of terrorists and subversives has diminished.” The report described that disappearances included not only insurgents and political dissidents, but additionally innocents including labor leaders, workers, clergymen, human rights advocates, scientists, doctors, and political dissidents. The report illustrates torture processes used, and encouragement of mass rape as a tool of violence. In Your Money Or Your Life, historian and political scientist Éric Toussaint described how the loans granted to the Argentine dictatorship primarily came from US banks. US authorities authorized Argentine public companies to take loans from foreign banks, infringing on Argentine national sovereignty by using foreign influence to dictate the economy. (Toussaint, 2006)

Chile became the most economically prosperous state as a result of Condor, but economic prosperity does not correlate to reduction of economic disparity. In 1970, Salvador Allende, a democratic socialist promising to nationalize copper mining and banking, won the presidential election. President Nixon in turn promised to “make the economy scream.” As Chile’s largest trading partner, the US cut off trade to cause shortages and economic chaos. Previously, the US had conducted large-scale propaganda operations in Chile. For years, conservative politicians, parties, unions, student groups and all forms of media were supported by the US. The US expanded ties with the military to support a coup to depose Allende. Once General Pinochet took control, the CIA continued to fund Chilean politicians and worked closely with the DINA intelligence agency, while the junta killed, jailed and tortured thousands of people. Hundreds of Chilean students were sent by a State Department program to study under Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago. The “Chicago Boys” launched a radical program of privatization, deregulation and neoliberal policies in Chile, keeping the economy prosperous, yet created massive economic inequality for most Chileans throughout Pinochet’s sixteen-year military dictatorship. It is unclear if the economic prosperity is the result of mass privatization or the result of open trade barriers with the US that led to the “Miracle of Chile.” (Background on Chile). As of 2019, massive protests have erupted throughout Chile, over a subway fare raise. The protests represent a general cultural disapproval and resistance to free-market neoliberal policies that have contributed to extreme economic inequality and immensely difficult costs of living. So far nineteen people have been killed by the police. While President Pinera has promised reforms, the Chilean people will not rest until his resignation (CNN, Oct 27, 2019).

Bolivia was another country affected by Condor, in which Hugo Banzer, a military officer, overthrew Juan Jose Torres, the democratically elected leader. During the Banzer administration, the economy became privatized, emphasizing increased production of petroleum and tin. However, Colonel Andres Selich ordered massive crackdowns and abolished labor unions. The Bolivarian Peso was devalued, causing workers to strike and brutal suppressions. In 1975, the Catholic Church denounced an army massacre of striking tin workers, to which Banzer used CIA information to target and locate priests and nuns, known as the Banzer Plan. He has been accused of being responsible for 400 deaths during his tenure. Countless groups supporting Banzer became divided, resulting in his ousting by Juan Pereda. This coup led to the most unstable period in Bolivian history in which nine presidents served in four years. (Exposing the Legacy of Operation Condor, Rohter, 2014).

Before World War II, Uruguay made the majority of its profits through exporting agricultural goods, establishing a strong social democracy. After World War II, food prices decreased in Europe and Asia due to the Marshall Plan and increased trade, and as a result, exports from Uruguay decreased. With less agricultural exportation, wages decreased, fewer social services, and national tension and resentment increased. During this time, Raul Sendic, José Mujica, and various students and professionals formed the Tupamaros, a left wing political movement. After the re-establishment of the Presidency, with the help of the US, the new President Óscar Gestido banned the Socialist Party of Uruguay. In 1968, President Jorge Pacheco suppressed labor unrest by imprisoning political dissidents and using torture. The Tupamaros responded by organizing political kidnappings and assassinations. One of these kidnappings and subsequent assassinations included Dan Mitrione, an American CIA advisor. They kidnapped Mitrione to demand the release of a hundred and fifty political prisoners. Uruguayan police officials and CIA officials alleged that Mitrione trained Uruguayan police to use electric shock torture on homeless people. (Uruguay: A Country Study, Hudson & Meditz, 1990)

Political violence led to the Uruguayan civic-military dictatorship to crackdown on dissenters. President Bordaberry concentrated on fighting the Tupamaros, and effectively destroyed the organization. Union leaders and political opponents were arrested, killed or exiled. Mass disappearances and torture became commonplace. Eventually, the military staged a coup and formed a national security advisor council, who used Bordaberry as a puppet. During the civic-military dictatorship, ten percent of Uruguayans emigrated from the country. At minimum 5000 people were arrested within Uruguay for political reasons. Hundreds of people fled to Argentina and other various countries, where they were kidnapped or arrested. Democracy was finally restored in the 1984 Uruguayan general election, marking the end of the junta’s control. Bordaberry was placed under arrest in 2006, due to his connection with the assassinations of Senator Zelmar Michelini and House leader Héctor Gutiérrez in Buenos Aires. The prosecution argued that it was associated with Operation Condor— a coordinated action from both military regimes of Uruguay and Argentina against opponents. Bordaberry was sentenced to thirty years in prison, and died in 2011. (Uruguay: A Country Study, Hudson & Meditz, 1990).

The Iran-Contra Scandal involved both Honduras and Nicaragua. The Iran-Contra affair described the arm sale to Hezbollah, the Iranian-supported militant organization fighting in Lebanon. This was illegal, because Iran was under an arms embargo. Handwritten notes by Former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger on December 7, 1985, indicate Reagan’s awareness to hostage transfers with Iran, as well as the sale of Hawk and TOW missiles to Hezbollah. This sale funded the Contra insurgency based in Nicaragua and Honduras. Within Honduras, the Contra paramilitary organization was trained to overthrow the socialist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. 

Nicaragua was ruled by Anastasio Somoza for forty-three years with unconditional US support, as his National Guard committed countless crimes against humanity ranging from massacres and torture to extortion and rape. There was no form of punitive justice, until he was finally overthrown by the Sandinista Revolution in 1979. About 25,000 Nicaraguans were killed in an armed struggle between the Sandinista government and Contra rebels who were formed from the remnants of Somoza’s national government. (Blum, 2003). The U.S. supported the victorious government regime by providing covert military aid to the anti-communist guerrilla Contras starting in November, 1981. When Congress discovered that the CIA had supervised acts of sabotage in Nicaragua without notifying Congress, it passed the Boland Amendment in 1983, which prohibited the CIA, the Defense Department and any other government agency from providing any further covert military assistance. However, the National Security Council, which was not explicitly covered by the amendment, raised private and foreign funds for the Contras, and arms were sold to Iran. Elliot Abrams was the assistant secretary of state for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs under the Reagan administration. Abrams was in charge of providing aid and military equipment through humanitarian aid supplies. Weapons were concealed among the goods. (Brogan, 1989). 

In 1986, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found the United States guilty of aggression against Nicaragua for deploying the Contras and installing land mines in Nicaraguan ports. The ICJ ordered the US to cease its aggression and pay war reparations to Nicaragua. The US government has never been paid. To avoid facing the consequences, In 1986, US ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick stated that the United States would no longer recognize the binding jurisdiction of the ICJ. Her declaration essentially set the US beyond the rule of international law. (Nicaragua v United States of America, 1986).

On June 16th, 1992, Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of Defense, was indicted on two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. Robert C. McFarlane, National Security Adviser, was convicted of withholding evidence. Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State, was convicted of withholding evidence. Alan D. Fiers, Chief of the CIA’s Central American Task Force, was convicted of withholding evidence and sentenced to one year probation. Oliver North, member of the National Security Council was indicted for accepting an illegal gratuity, obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and destruction of documents, but the ruling was overturned since he had been granted immunity. (McDonald, 1992). Eventually all of those indicted were pardoned by President George HW Bush. (Walsh, 1997).

The civil war that swept El Salvador in the 1980s was a popular uprising against a government that ruled with complete brutality. At least 70,000 people were killed and thousands more were disappeared. The UN Truth Commission set up after the war found that 95% of the dead were killed by government forces and death squads, and only 5% by FLMN guerrillas. The government forces responsible for this one-sided slaughter were almost entirely established, trained, armed and supervised by the CIA, U.S. special forces and the U.S. School of the Americas. The UN Truth Commission found that the paramilitary units guilty of the worst atrocities, including the Atlacatl Battalion which conducted the El Mozote massacre, was closely supervised by American advisers. The American role in this campaign of state terrorism is now hailed by senior U.S. military officers as a model for “counter-insurgency” in Colombia. (Hayner, Priscilla B, 2011). With help from the Reagan administration, President Jose Duarte was elected. Parties on the left did not participate in the electoral process, due to the opposition party being led by Roberto d’Aubuisson, a death squad leader who ordered the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who spoke out against poverty, social injustice, and political corruption. When news of El Mozote reached the United States, Abrams testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee doubting the legitimacy of the claims. By using the description of human rights as a cover, Abrams justified his record in El Salvador at a Congressional testimony. “From the day that President Duarte was elected in a free election to this day, El Salvador has been a democracy. That’s a fabulous achievement.” he proudly said.

In Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman describe the media coverage of the assassination of Oscar Romero as biased, due to lack of coverage, as compared to the murder of Jerzy Popiełuszko in Communist Poland, which got extensive coverage. As argued by Herman, Popiełuszko became a martyr against Communism because he was killed by an enemy state. His death was worth coverage to sway the public’s perception, compared to Romero’s, because Romero was an “enemy” and “undesirable” victim. (Chomsky & Herman, 1998). The biased media coverage demonstrated US influence in the allegedly free press.

The CIA launched an elaborate operation to remove the elected liberal government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954. A small army of mercenaries under Guatemalan exile Castillo Armas were trained and recruited by the CIA to invade Guatemala. Thirty unmarked U.S. planes provided air support. US Ambassador Peurifoy prepared a list of Guatemalans to be executed. Armas was installed as president. The reign of terror that followed led to forty years of civil war, in which at least 200,000 were killed, most of them indigenous people. The campaign of genocide in Ixil was the worst crime committed by President Rios Montt. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2013, until Guatemala’s Supreme Court rescued him on a technicality. Declassified CIA documents revealed the Reagan administration’s awareness of the genocidal nature of Guatemalan military operations. Abrams approved military aid in 1981, including military vehicles, spare parts for helicopters and military advisers. The CIA documents detail the massacre and destruction of entire villages, and conclude, “The well documented belief by the army that the entire Ixil Indian population is pro-EGP (Guerrilla Army of the Poor) has created a situation in which the army can be expected to give no quarter to combatants and non-combatants alike.” (NYTimes, 1981).

In 2009, the coup in Honduras has led to severe repression and death squad murders of political opponents, union organizers and journalists. At the time of the coup, U.S. officials denied any role in the coup and avoided cutting off U.S. military aid as required under U.S. law. Two Wikileaks cables revealed the U.S. Embassy as the main power broker in managing the aftermath of the coup and forming a government, which is currently murdering its people. As of 2014, the civilian casualty rate in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador is higher than the Iraq War in 2007. (United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, 2013).

Aside from Operation Condor, other acts of US imperialism include policy towards Cuba and Haiti. The United States supported the Batista dictatorship as it created the repressive conditions that led to the Cuban Revolution, killing up to 20,000 of its own people. Former U.S. Ambassador Earl Smith testified to Congress that, “the U.S. was so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that the American Ambassador was the second most important man, sometimes even more important than the Cuban president.” After the revolution, the CIA launched a long campaign of terrorism against Cuba, training Cuban exiles in Florida, Central America and the Dominican Republic to commit assassinations and sabotage in Cuba. CIA-backed operations against Cuba included the attempted invasion at the Bay of Pigs, in which 100 Cuban exiles and four Americans were killed; 638 attempted assassinations of Fidel Castro and successful assassinations of other officials. Several bombing raids in 1960 occurred, with three Americans killed and two captured, as acts of terrorism against Cuban hotels and nightspots perpetrated by Luis Posada, a biological swine flu attack that killed half a million pigs. The bombing of a Cuban airliner (78 killed) was planned by Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch. Bosch was granted a presidential pardon by President George HW Bush. 

The US has been utilizing crippling sanctions on Cuba for the purpose of triggering regime change in the region, as stated by the CIA’s memo of April 6, 1960. The memo, which came from Secretary Mallory to the Assistant Secretary of State Rubottom, (Mallory, U.S. Department of State, 1960), outlined the line of actions, including the use of denying and blockading money and supplies to Cuba, in the name of decreasing monetary and real wages to bring about hunger, desperation and induce regime change. Perhaps that has driven the Castro regime to tighten its authoritarian rule, in fear of regime change and US military intervention. 

The long-suffering people of Haiti finally elected a truly democratic government led by Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991. After eight months in office, President Aristide was overthrown in a U.S.-backed military coup. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) recruited a paramilitary force called Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haïti (FRAPH) to destroy Aristide’s Lavalas movement in Haiti. FRAPH’s leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant was put on the CIA’s payroll and received weaponry. When President Clinton sent a U.S. occupation force to restore Aristide to office in 1994, FRAPH members detained by U.S. forces were freed on orders from Washington, and the CIA maintained FRAPH to undermine Aristide and Lavalas. After Aristide was elected president a second time in 2000, a force of 200 U.S. special forces trained 600 former FRAPH members and others in the Dominican Republic to prepare for a second coup. In 2004, they launched a campaign of violence to destabilize Haiti, which provided the pretext for U.S. forces to land in Haiti and remove Aristide from office. (O’Grady, Mary Anastasia, 28 July 2008). Haiti, as of October 2019, is undergoing massive protests against their corrupt neoliberal government, in which live ammunition is used, along with tear gas and violent repression.  

As a result of Operation Condor, thousands of people from Latin America flee their countries attempting to seek asylum in the US, as a result of the systematic assault on Latin America from the US government through political and economic imperialism. Under the Clinton Administration, NAFTA—the North American Free Trade Agreement—was passed. This was designed for the purpose of offshoring labor costs to increase profits, as well as secure alliances with Canada and Mexico. NAFTA was designed to help agribusinesses produce profits by allowing the Mexican grain market to be flooded with subsidized U.S. grain. As a result, Mexican family farmers could not compete, and their way of life was wiped out, leading them to move north for job opportunities. This is one of the primary causes of the immigration and asylum crisis in the US. (Losing Control, Sassen, 1996). As a result, the US has increasingly restrictive border control, rising xenophobia against migrants from Latin America. Within detention centers, human rights abuses occur regularly, including instances of slavery and seperation of children from their parents. Mantras such as “Build the Wall” and other xenophobic rhetoric have been employed by party leaders and media figures to fearmonger. Unfortunately, US imperialism in Latin America has not ended.

Even today, the US is engaging in imperialistic actions regarding Venezuela. The US’s special envoy to Venezuela is Elliot Abrams, who is once again dictating US foreign policy concerning Latin America. As the US Representative for Venezuela, Abrams intends to utilize similar tactics used in his past experience in Guatemala and El Salvador, to induce regime change. As described by economist Michael Hudson, Venezuela as an oil monoculture and petrostate. Its export revenue is spent on importing food and other necessities that it could have produced at home. These purchases come primarily from the United States. As a result of austerity measures placed on IMF loans, developing agriculture or heavy industry is forbidden according to the World Bank. Despite its oil wealth, Venezuela ran up foreign debt in the 1980s, and US-funded oil companies ensured that oil refineries were not built in Venezuela, but rather in Trinidad or southern U.S. Gulf Coast states. As crude oil is a useless product on its own, Venezuela can only trade with nations with oil refineries. (Hudson, 2019). Additionally, Venezuela’s central bankers were persuaded to pledge oil reserves and assets from Citgo as debt collateral. (Krauss, 2019). If Venezuela defaulted on loans, bondholders and U.S. oil majors could legally seize oil assets. As a result, an American-funded oligarchy dominated in Venezuelan politics, and its development was led primarily by debt and predatory loans by the World Bank and IMF. By running a populist anti-corruption and anti-poverty campaign, and criticizing the two major political parties, Hugo Chavez was able to win the election. Chavez was a liberation theologian and a socialist, who nationalized the oil reserves. With the extra profits, Chavez established a universal education, single-payer healthcare system, and expanded access to food and housing through Bolivarian missions. Oil prices went up as a result of his price controls, leading Chavez to be briefly ousted from power in a US-backed coup d’etat. Previously to the coup, the US National Endowment for Democracy increased assistance to Venezuela, and granted the CTV union assistance. Eventually Chavez was restored back to power, with greater popularity.

The US has had an extremely hostile attitude concerning Venezuela, utilizing sanctions and economic warfare in response to repression of protests in 2014 and 2017. With its survival depending on oil prices, the sanctions prevent Venezuela from importing oil production equipment, such as drill bits, and oil production has slowed. While diversifying the economy would help, austerity measures attached to IMF loans prevented Venezuela from diversifying its economy by developing agriculture, as the loans were used for importing food. Venezuela’s economic collapse since June of 2010 stemmed from the massive decline in oil production. The fall in oil production began when oil prices plummeted in early 2016, and intensified when the industry lost access to credit markets in 2017. The seizure of food supplies and cash sources as recent as August of 2019, has caused catastrophic effects. (Hudson, 2019) Now the US is working to limit oil sales to cause economic collapse and instill a revolt, as stated by Former National Security Advisor John Bolton. 

Citibank blocked the payment for 300,000 doses of insulin. EuroClear retained 1.65 billion and $1.2 billion in gold was denied to current President Maduro by the Bank of England, which is necessary for the purchase of food and medicine. Citgo, the Venezuela State oil company has not been able to transfer its profits of nine to ten billion dollars outside the United States, which is needed for the purchase of food and medicine, according to a New York Times article. Wells Fargo Bank withheld and cancelled payment of 75 million for the payment of electricity. A transaction amounting to $7 million for the purchase of dialysis supplies had been blocked. (Rodríguez, 2018). 

Meanwhile, economic warfare against Venezuela has contributed to the deaths of more than forty thousand people, through reduction of caloric intake, increased disease and mortality, and displacement of millions of Venezuelans. This is one of the worst modern crimes against humanity. According to a study by Jeffrey Sachs, such draconian sanctions would be illegal under international law, as they violate the clause for collective punishment, described in the Geneva and Hague conventions, to whom the US is a signatory. (Sachs, Sanctions as Collective Punishment). The US has been promoting information about human rights abuses committed by Maduro, describing him as a torturer and publishing information from the National Assembly opposition party. “The Maduro regime has decided to shut down the assembly by persecuting and imprisoning congressmen who oppose them,” says Juan Andrés Mejía, deputy in Venezuela’s National Assembly. Alleged human rights abuses have been published frequently from media outlets, describing conditions in Venezuela without giving an overview or explanation of the economic warfare currently waged upon Maduro. As of August, 2019, 25 thousand tons of soy have been seized by the US in the Panama Canal. Additional humanitarian aid supplies have also been loaded with nails and wire, according to Jorge Arreaza, the Venezuelan foreign minister, leading to destruction of the trucks. Although the credibility of the minister is dubious, this has historically been Abrams’ method of inducing regime change, as how he armed the Contras in the past. As a result of former US humanitarian aid to other Latin American nations containing weaponry, Venezuela’s government has been overly skeptical of all aid, even turning away legitimate humanitarian aid from the Red Cross and Red Crescent. 

The US government does not recognize President Maduro’s authority, despite his victory over Juan Guaido in a democratic election. The US described the election as rigged and manufactured, despite the Carter Center declaring it one of the most fair and democratic elections in history. The US supports Guaido because Guaido has promised to open oil negotiations with the US for the purpose of restructuring debt. In return, Guaido has promised to eliminate the healthcare and the guaranteed housing program, which is why the US is supporting his attempted coup. Former National Security Advisor John Bolton admitted the US is primarily looking at oil assets in Venezuela as the income stream to attain power. 

During the Cold War, the US utilized human rights as a means of exerting influence over the entirety of Latin America. The above events represent only a fraction of the total list of imperialistic crimes against Latin America. Since the Roosevelt Corollary, the US has unceasingly used the idea of containment and hemispheric dominance to exert political and economic influence in the region. By preserving neoliberal hegemony, the US protected open markets and preserved international business interests, while undermining the economic sovereignty and political power of those nations. These Latin American countries did not welcome US political interference because they sought to preserve their own socioeconomic and political sovereignty, which resulted in the actions of Operation Condor. As of 2019, the US has committed fifty-six interventions in Latin America. These interventions illustrate the hypocrisy of US foreign policy, by using human rights as a backdrop to commit imperialistic crimes. 


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