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Apr 24th
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Your take on U.S. Latin America Policy in Obama's first year PDF Print E-mail
The military coup in Honduras, the continued training of soldiers at the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) and the ongoing militarization of Latin America leads many to question where the change is that Barack Obama had promised. Commentaries by Presente readers offer views on the subject.

"I am profoundly disappointed with the looming failure of the Obama administration.  It portends the failure of this nation. As a progressive I was expected to vote for Obama but I could not.

On seeing his performance at AIPAC after his primary win and with the influx of DLC operatives into his campaign it was clear that Obama represented "chump change" not authentic change.

His failure to change America's dastardly Imperialist foreign policy or to make any changes in the corporate manipulation of our society is becoming clearer to more people but what do we do?

Those who propose sane, healthy alternatives to warmongering and consumerism, tilt their lances at a gross behemoth "the corporation" again and again with little result.  To live, too fight in hope, only to die in desperation may be our fate but to stand on our feet must, I believe, give example to those who exist on their knees.

The imperative, it seems to me, must be to find a way to bring our message to all the American people and that means breaking through the corporate media's strangle hold on what people are allowed to see and hear."

Mike Barr

"Mr. President:

We understand the pressures around you.

You are at the leadership of a polity of corporatism.

The Supreme Court has just given power to the corporations to select the best candidates that money can buy for their selfish interests.

The majority of the legislative branch will not oppose the will of insurance companies and financial institutions.

The executive branch has given full power to the military/industrial complex.

Our deceitful role in the overthrow of the legitimate president of Honduras is clear to the whole world.

 Haitian refugees are currently forbidden to enter the United States even in the midst of one of the globes’ major disasters.

Our endless wars are destroying the youth of our country and killing millions of innocent people in the Middle East. Our drones indiscriminately kill “suspected enemies” and create international outrage serving to recruit a growing opposition.

Your position on health care is completely out of sync with the people of the United States.
Edward Kennedy’s life dedicated to the fact that health care is a right has been betrayed.

By opposing the destructive elements of corporatism you and your party can be redeemed.

May we please see the CHANGE which you promised?"

Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., Office of the Americas, Los Angeles, California

"Latin America activists knew what we wanted when we voted for Obama - we wanted a change from Bush's militaristic, exploitative policies.  We have not gotten change; instead Obama is using many of our same Latin American diplomats and generals to maintain the same self-defeating programs.  In Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Haiti, we continue to undermine democracy.  The big opportunity for change came after the Honduras coup - but Obama blew it.  And he has not carried through on his promise to close Guantanamo, so our scandalous use of Cuban soil continues to rankle and to give us a bad reputation world-wide on human rights.
Yes, we affirm his appointment of Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic Supreme Court judge;  we approve his refusal so far to hand Colombia over to a Free Trade Agreement.  But now we are faced with his allowing the pact for seven new U. S. military bases in Colombia.  This invasion of Colombian sovereignty will surely heighten South American suspicions of our intentions for that continent.  Furthermore, the negociations did not include Congress, as they are required by law.  This move wipes out all the work that peace groups have made to lessen our military involvement in Colombia.  That it was done during the presidency of a man whom the world had hoped would lead us towards peace is a cruel paradox.  Now we must either find a way to force Obama to be the president he promised to be, or begin again to search for a leader who is neither a militarist nor an imperialist."
Anne Barstow, Colombia Accompaniment Program, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

"President Obama rode to office partly on the strength of his promise to end the war in Iraq. Americans were sick of the cost and bloodshed of the invasion and the lies that accompanied it. Many were fed up with the power of oil and defense companies, and private security firms to drive US foreign policy. They dreamed of diverting millions from the permanent war coffers to a moribund school system, job creation and low-income housing.

At nearly $700 billion, Obama’s defense budget this crisis year outstrips the last Bush administration budget. In Latin America this combination of pork-barrel measures and a military-led approach to diplomacy has disspelled much of the good will with which the region received the new President.

Sadly, the State Department has reignited conflict throughout the hemisphere. It maneuvered to maintain a coup in Honduras and institutionalize it through illegitimate elections, leading to unrest and scores of on-going assassinations of grassroots leaders. It announced it would occupy seven military bases in Colombia with military planes to achieve “continental reach”, open a new base of operations in Guatemala and plans for several in Panama. Our calling card in the hemisphere continues to be war—war on drugs, war on terrorism, war on domestic insurgency—as the lion’s share of foreign aid to crisis-stricken countries goes to security and intelligence under failed models like Plans Colombia and Mexico. We cannot give up on the possibilities of reforms, but the signs are bleak."

Laura Carlsen

"We must stop looking up. By stepping into the Oval Office, Barack Obama  - son of a single mother, former community organizer, friend of poor people – became the man who presides over the greatest concentration of unjust power in the history of the world. A trillion dollar military budget. A machine of corporatism that is literally tearing the world apart. A country that emits the greatest amount of pollution on earth. A country that imprisons more of its people than any other place on earth. The greatest purveyor of violence, Dr. King said, is my own country, and Barack Obama stands as the figure of that purveyor of violence simply by being elected president. There is no such thing as a nonviolent president of the United States.
So we must continue to remember that all power and movements for justice begin on the ground, in the grass, among the people. This is democracy, and the garden from which change grows. Legislation and politicians are always at the tail end, never pioneers. The work to shut down the SOA is the work to shut down all injustice, racism and militarism. Of course, the federal government must play a role in this, but it’s role will be one of acquiescence, a recognition that the wrench really has been placed in the machine, and that people are indeed people: glorious, dignified, empowered people.
President Obama is better for our movement than John McCain or Sarah Palin. But we must never lose sight that all politicians are servants of the people. And our people are saying: Enough! One day we will be heard completely. Nothing unjust stands forever."
David Cook, Chattanooga, Tennessee

"As if the expanding war in the Middle East and unmitigated support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine was not enough  - President Obama has decided to make Latin America a military priority once again.
President Obama stated “We [the US] do not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation" this as the US looks to expand into 7 Colombian military bases, and augment the number of US personnel in Latin America.

Thus far the Obama administration has basically continued the same foreign policy as the hated Bush regime. In Colombia he is perceived as the symbol of white power in a black face.

Obama claims the US is involved in the “good fight” in a regional war in Afghanistan, and that the US military looks to help the Latin American people. The people of the Middle East and Latin America continue to think differently as they suffer the insecurity of poverty and violence brought on by increased militarism, and failed neoliberal economic policies still pushed by the Obama administration.

As one Colombian woman commented “Obama is like all politicians they promise you everything when asking for your vote, but once elected everything stays the same."

Eloy Garcia, Christian Peacemaker Team Colombia, 2002-SOA 86

"Americans and people of the world were delighted to hear Presidential candidate Barrack Obama repeat the very common Latino expression: Si, se puede--Yes, we can.

Obama has not delivered.

In November of 2000, the actor, Martin Sheen, at that time playing the TV role of Chief Executive of the United States (West Wing), stood on the SOA Watch stage at the main gate of Ft Benning pointing  to La Escuela de Americas. Sheen announced: "as President of the United States, I declare the School of the Americas closed."

Martin Sheen thrilled cheering thousands with his fantasy.

Yet, Barrack Obama is not a person just playing the role of President. Barrack Obama is the president. Obama is the Chief Executive Officer of the United States of America. Obama can issue an Executive Order to investigate SOA/WHINSEC and close it for present and past crimes.

Obama has the power to do what Martin Sheen could not do and what Sheen knew George Bush would not do.

Obama is center stage. Will he simply be an actor? Or will he redeem himself by having the courage and conscience to do the right thing?

Let's put pressure on Obama and his executive staff to close SOA/WHINSEC."

Jack Gilroy, 2000-SOA 26

"In the year 1935, a man by the name of Smedley Darlington Butler authored a short treatise (you can read it in one sitting) whose entire thesis was its title: WAR IS A RACKET. For those not familiar with the man's name, he remains to this very day the single most highly decorated officer in the history of the US Marine Corps...but far more significantly, he was a soldier with a conscience...yes, Virginia, the military-industrial complex even existed back then---it just wasn't so blatantly obvious back then  and most Americans were groveling their way through a totally miserable Depression like the one we are now enduring. SOA Watch has, I feel, come to recognize that all of the numerous wars that America has gotten itself into throughout the last century and into this, have been for PROFIT...not for any recognizable ethical or moral "cause", fancied or real. The carnage in Iraq as well as the current quagmire in Afghanistan, proven graveyard of empires, has all been for PROFIT...the profit of those who never do the fighting and never see nor smell the devastation they are criminally responsible for. SOA/WINSEC is just a very small, dirty and ugly part of an immensely large, dirty and ugly picture and they still archaically enough seek refuge behind the pretext of "saving the world from communism"...a communism that supposedly died with the Fall of the Wall. Unfortunately, the current Obama regime has done NOTHING to change the status-quo of American Wall Street instigated wars-for-fun-and-profit that have gotten to be as much a part of the American scene and psych as skateboard parks. Until we take the profit out of war there will always be gangs of mercenaries like SOA/WINSEC operating under "color of law" (a federal felony) and one or another "cause" or  "pretext" and I do not see the current narcissistic White House star boarder and warmonger's puppet doing a trace of anything to end this eternal-war-for-eternal-"peace" American mindset."

Bob Hauser

"If the past year has taught us anything, it is not to mistake good intentions for policy.  I danced in the streets when Obama was elected, only to conclude now that it is business as usual in Washington.  Despite promises, Guantanamo is still open and no one was held accountable for CIA torture.  The response to the coup in Honduras was tepid, at best, including a reluctance to even call it a coup.  The SOA still exists and is still funded and it is harder than ever to get representatives to sign on to voting for closure, in the face of any clear directive from the commander in chief.  Afghanistan rages on and is escalating; Settlements continue in the West Bank; Columbian funding is still in place. In short, nothing has changed.  Worse, our own position as activists has been undermined by the feeling that things are better than they were, it’s not Bush/Cheney, leading to a malaise in many movements and a reluctance to protest government policies – he’s far from perfect but he is our guy and, by protesting, we’re fuelling the right wing lunatics.  A lot of the energy has gone out of the peace movement and yet we are no nearer to peace."

Deirdre MacDermott, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"My thoughts on Obama are the same as my thoughts on Bush or any other president or politicians, They are all seeking to increase their control of the campasinos of the world. For instance I am currently working to produce alcohol to supply Nicaragua with all its energy needs via the use of mountains of waisted Coffee and rice husks. The Sandanista Gov complains about the lack of food in this country due to the use of food to produce alcohol while at the same time the same gov. has worked with hugh U.S. corp. to produce large quanties of alcohol from needed food and would likly assure the failure of my efforts to produce it from non food items.
The only way world conditions will ever improve will be through ending dependency on changes brought about through politicians. It is almost impossible for Americans to try to bring changes any other way due to being propigandized for a lifetime via lthe Gov. propaganda machine, the Dept. of Ed. for which I worked for 14 years."
El Nica (the Nicaraguan)  Paul Patnode

"The poet Rainer Marie once said: "Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are lonely waiting to see us act just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps, everything that frightens us is, in its deepest sense, something that feels helpless and needs our love."

In lieu of this quote and in light of a purely obstructionist stance by Republicans toward Obama's domestic initiatives, I would have to say that President Obama's first year could have been better had he been seen as fighting for more than "the best we could hope for."

Men and women have a vision only when they have a dream that drives them on like Gandhi, or Dorothy Day, or Susan B. Anthony, or Rosa Parks, or Martin Luther King. Our president needs to revitalize his revolutionary genes and redirect the compass to his heart; for until he takes on the largely non-rational myths that the banking system and Wall Street have utilized to encapsulate our intellects, there is little chance that we will restore the ruined houses of main street and our healthcare system. "

Dan Vrooman, Sonoma, California



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If Obama isn't re-elected
written by Simon Tarses, June 27, 2012
...things related to the SOA will only get worse, not better. You can bet your bottom dollar that under Mitt Rommney, he would keep it open, just as much as you claim that Obama has kept it deliberately open to spite those in the peace movement.

It seems to me that people thought that Obama was going to accomplish EVERYTHING in four years. Well, he can only accomplish realistic things in four years, much like God not answering all prayers. I ask the people involved with SOA Watch what exactly did you think he was going to be realistically able to accomplish, and also, what other leader would have been electable enough to do what you want with more pressing matters at hand?
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Featured Article
Download the Spring 2016 issue of Presente

The Spring issue contains mobilizing information for the SOA Watch Border Convergence, which is taking place from October 7-10, 2016 at the US/Mexico border in Nogales, and also focuses on recent developments in Latin America and within the SOA Watch movement.

Click here to download a PDF version of the Spring 2016 issue.

As this issue of Presente went to print, our hearts were heavy. The assassination of our dear friend and comrade Berta Cáceres, and the increased repression against social movement groups, have left us shocked and saddened. SOA Watch Latin America liaison Brigitte Gynther traveled to Honduras the morning after she learned about the assassination and has been coordinating SOA Watch’s response together with our partner groups on the ground. If you do not already receive Urgent Action emails from us, please click here to sign up now.

The recent decision by the U.S. judge in North Carolina to extradite one of the perpetrators of the 1989 massacre at the University of San Salvador gives us hope that justice will prevail in the end. It will take all of us to create change! Please join us as we mobilize to the U.S./Mexico border from October 7-10, 2016!

Other articles in this issue cover a protest by SOA Watch in Chile against US bases in Latin America, the FBI surveillance of SOA Watch, updates from Colombia and Mexico, news about the first Border Patrol agent to receive training at WHINSEC, background information about Direct Action, the Youth Encuentro in Guatemala, and more.

Download this issue of Presente here.

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We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise...

-Archbishop Oscar Romero


Book Tip

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer's book cover



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