What would Romney-Ryan Latin America policy look like?

A Romney administration Latin America policy would most likely return us to the same policies, and to some extent the same cast of characters, which brought about tens of thousands of deaths in Central America during the Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II administrations.

In a previous article, I wrote about information that had surfaced which strongly suggests that millions of dollars of start-up money for Mitt Romney’s company Bain Capital came from Salvadoran oligarchs with ties to death squads. Now, Romney’s candidate for Vice President, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, is being “mentored” by Reagan and George W. Bush administration official Elliot Abrams on foreign policy. That is hair-raising.

Bearing the Orwellian title of “Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs,” Abrams distinguished himself during the Reagan administration by trying to cover up grotesque human rights violations in El Salvador, including one of the most horrific atrocities of that country’s Civil War, the El Mozote massacre.

This massacre was perpetrated by the U.S.-trained and supported Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran Army which, in December of 1981, invaded the small village of El Mozote, tortured and raped men, women, and children and then massacred the entire population of the village and surrounding hamlets, killing more than 700. Abrams and his colleagues in the Reagan administration tried to cover for their right-wing Salvadoran allies by denying the incident had happened and smearing and red-baiting the journalists and activists who brought it to light.

Abrams has been an apologist for the worst genocide of all – the holocaust unleashed against indigenous people in Guatemala during the regime of dictator Efrain Rios Montt in the 1980s, and for other crimes of the most brutal Latin American dictators.

Abrams was also linked to the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the U.S. government secretly and illegally sold arms to the extremist regime in Iran as a means of laundering money to support the Contras, U.S.-supported fighters against the left-wing government of Nicaragua.

The original pretext for selling arms to Iran was to achieve the release of seven U.S. hostages being held by Iranian-allied Hezbollah. But the National Security Council’s Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North devised a means whereby funds gained by this devious arrangement, which used Israel as an intermediary, would be channeled into the hands of the “Contras,” right-wing counter-revolutionaries allied with the U.S.

The Contras utilized terrorist methods, including the murder of health care workers, teachers, union and peasant leaders, and others who were trying to bring social improvements to the people. The late Gary Webb, in his 1998 book The Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion (Seven Stories Press), based on his reporting for the San Jose Mercury News, also accused the CIA of abetting the Contras in drug dealing which eventually contributed to the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities.

For covering up Iran-Contra, Abrams accepted a plea bargain, which would have gotten him a slap-on-the-wrist punishment, but was pardoned, along with most of the Iran-Contra culprits, by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. He returned to the National Security Council as a Special Assistant for Democracy and Human Rights in the George W. Bush administration, just in time for the attempted coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002, in which some suspect he had a hand. He is a very active Senior Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The current administration has not followed the advice of the left-wing Mexican political figure Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to go back to the “good neighbor” policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Rather than accommodate itself to the general leftward movement of the countries of the hemisphere, the State Department under Hillary Clinton has butted heads with those governments.

Disappointments have included the post-facto abetting of the perpetrators of the 2009 coup in Honduras, the signing of the Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia over the strong objections of U.S. and Colombian organized labor, and the continued supplying of military support to the Colombian and Mexican governments, all of which have taken a toll in human lives. There have been some improvements in Cuba policy, mostly relating to opportunities for travel and cultural exchanges, but the blockade of the Cuban economy continues unabated, and the issue of the Cuban 5 seems no nearer to finding a resolution.

However, there are vast differences in scale between what is going on now and what was going on when people like Abrams and North were allowed to run wild.

To permit Romney, Ryan, and the Republican Party to win the November elections by default would greatly worsen the situation, and very likely turn tense relations with progressive Latin American governments and political movements into armed confrontations. A Romney-Ryan administration might well go back to using fascist surrogates or perhaps directly involving U.S. armed personnel to overthrow left-wing governments and return the whole hemisphere to U.S. domination, no matter what the cost in blood.

We cannot let that happen.

Photo: Romney has demonstrated he will be clueless as to how to engage in peaceful relations with Latin American governments. Mary Schwalm/AP


Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Emile Schepers was born in South Africa and has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He has worked as a researcher and activist in urban, working-class communities in Chicago since 1966. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He now writes from Northern Virginia.