Rex Tillerson’s Historic Latin America Trip

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Latin American tour may be without precedent in US diplomatic history, but it is perfectly compatible with Washington’s worldwide strategy.

Never before has a top official in the US government travelled throughout Latin America in such a well-publicised trip to gain support for measures against a nation in the region. Tillerson’s Latin American tour may be well received by reactionary and conservative heads of state (Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Brazil) but it is particularly objectionable for Latin Americans for various reasons:

First, because it follows on the heels of an obviously rigged presidential election in Honduras. The Trump government refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the electoral process in Venezuela at the same time that it validates the elections in Honduras. Tillerson said in Colombia that there is no comparison between the elections in Honduras and the to-be-held ones in Venezuela, without explaining why. Making no attempt to explain why the elections in Honduras were legitimate, in spite of the fact that even the Organisation of American States (OAS) does not recognise the results, demonstrates a glaring aspect of the Trump administration: its complete contempt for the truth.

Second, Latinos fully agree that Trump’s blatantly racist remarks about Mexicans are not just insulting to the people of that nationality, but to all Latin Americans.

Third, because Latin Americans particularly object to members of the US capitalist class telling them what to do. When Nelson Rockefeller undertook his 20-nation ‘Presidential Mission’ in 1969 organised by the government of Richard Nixon, the trip turned into what a speech writer at the time called the ‘Rocky Horror Road Show’. Anti-US protests, including violent confrontations with security forces, followed Rockefeller throughout the continent. In Argentina, 14 Rockefeller-owned supermarkets were bombed and in Venezuela, President Rafael Caldera told Rockefeller to cancel his stay in that nation. Tillerson is also a member of the capitalist class, not just a representative of it. For over three decades Tillerson worked for Exxon, which was formerly the Rockefeller-owned Standard Oil of New Jersey. For ten years of those three decades, he was Exxon’s CEO.

Fourth, neither Tillerson nor Trump has made any effort to prove that the 2018 Venezuelan presidential elections are illegitimate. Washington’s position (as well as that of the conservative governments of Spain and Great Britain) undermines the efforts at negotiations between the Maduro government and the opposition. Many believe that an agreement between the opposition and the government is Venezuela’s best hope, as both sides lack the popular support necessary to ensure stability. Trump’s position also pressures the parties of the opposition to pull out of the presidential race, even though many, if not most, of the opposition parties are intent on participating in them.

Critics can point to aspects of the Venezuelan elections that do not accord to the spirit of democracy, such as the decision to hold them anticipatively. But there is a fundamental difference between objectionable electoral practices and rigged elections, such as those held in Honduras and the 2000 US presidential elections (with regard to the decisive state of Florida). One can point to objectionable practices in many other nations as well, beginning with the US. In the US, over six million felons (that is, ex-prisoners who have served their prison time) are denied the right to vote; ‘voter suppression’ affecting minority groups has been well documented: widespread gerrymandering is a well known fact; and two of the three presidents in the 21st century have been elected while receiving less votes than their rival for the office.

Washington’s position on Venezuela is comparable to the Trump administrations rejection of negotiations between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban in spite of the fact that the protracted civil war in that nation is at a deadlock with no end in sight. Both sides lack popular support and so it’s hard to imagine a best-case scenario of peace and stability. It would seem that Washington is not interested in peaceful resolutions of conflict anywhere in the world. Could it be that the arms industry which is a large part of the bedrock of the US’ unhealthy economy has something to do with Washington’s tendency to block peaceful agreements throughout the world? In short, Venezuela is just one example of Washington’s efforts to foment discord and confrontation including armed confrontations. Just look at Syria, Afghanistan and Korea.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Latin American tour may be without precedent in US diplomatic history, but it is perfectly compatible with Washington’s worldwide strategy.

Never before has a top official in the US government travelled throughout Latin America in such a well-publicised trip to gain support for measures against a nation in the region. Tillerson’s Latin American tour may be well received by reactionary and conservative heads of state (Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Brazil) but it is particularly objectionable for Latin Americans for various reasons:

First, because it follows on the heels of an obviously rigged presidential election in Honduras. The Trump government refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the electoral process in Venezuela at the same time that it validates the elections in Honduras. Tillerson said in Colombia that there is no comparison between the elections in Honduras and the to-be-held ones in Venezuela, without explaining why. Making no attempt to explain why the elections in Honduras were legitimate, in spite of the fact that even the Organisation of American States (OAS) does not recognise the results, demonstrates a glaring aspect of the Trump administration: its complete contempt for the truth.

Second, Latinos fully agree that Trump’s blatantly racist remarks about Mexicans are not just insulting to the people of that nationality, but to all Latin Americans.

Third, because Latin Americans particularly object to members of the US capitalist class telling them what to do. When Nelson Rockefeller undertook his 20-nation ‘Presidential Mission’ in 1969 organised by the government of Richard Nixon, the trip turned into what a speech writer at the time called the ‘Rocky Horror Road Show’. Anti-US protests, including violent confrontations with security forces, followed Rockefeller throughout the continent. In Argentina, 14 Rockefeller-owned supermarkets were bombed and in Venezuela, President Rafael Caldera told Rockefeller to cancel his stay in that nation. Tillerson is also a member of the capitalist class, not just a representative of it. For over three decades Tillerson worked for Exxon, which was formerly the Rockefeller-owned Standard Oil of New Jersey. For ten years of those three decades, he was Exxon’s CEO.

Fourth, neither Tillerson nor Trump has made any effort to prove that the 2018 Venezuelan presidential elections are illegitimate. Washington’s position (as well as that of the conservative governments of Spain and Great Britain) undermines the efforts at negotiations between the Maduro government and the opposition. Many believe that an agreement between the opposition and the government is Venezuela’s best hope, as both sides lack the popular support necessary to ensure stability. Trump’s position also pressures the parties of the opposition to pull out of the presidential race, even though many, if not most, of the opposition parties are intent on participating in them.

Critics can point to aspects of the Venezuelan elections that do not accord to the spirit of democracy, such as the decision to hold them anticipatively. But there is a fundamental difference between objectionable electoral practices and rigged elections, such as those held in Honduras and the 2000 US presidential elections (with regard to the decisive state of Florida). One can point to objectionable practices in many other nations as well, beginning with the US. In the US, over six million felons (that is, ex-prisoners who have served their prison time) are denied the right to vote; ‘voter suppression’ affecting minority groups has been well documented: widespread gerrymandering is a well known fact; and two of the three presidents in the 21st century have been elected while receiving less votes than their rival for the office.

Washington’s position on Venezuela is comparable to the Trump administrations rejection of negotiations between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban in spite of the fact that the protracted civil war in that nation is at a deadlock with no end in sight. Both sides lack popular support and so it’s hard to imagine a best-case scenario of peace and stability. It would seem that Washington is not interested in peaceful resolutions of conflict anywhere in the world. Could it be that the arms industry which is a large part of the bedrock of the US’ unhealthy economy has something to do with Washington’s tendency to block peaceful agreements throughout the world? In short, Venezuela is just one example of Washington’s efforts to foment discord and confrontation including armed confrontations. Just look at Syria, Afghanistan and Korea.

2018-02-08T14:29:49+00:00 5/February/2018|Categories: Articles|Tags: , , , , , , |
Steve Ellner has taught economic history and political science at the Universidad de Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela since 1977. He is the author of numerous books and journal articles on Venezuelan history and politics, specifically in the area of political parties and organised labour. Twitter: @sellner74

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