Nuestra casa es nuestra casa (Our house is our house)
[caption id="attachment_1348" align="aligncenter" width="460"] Hopefully Mr Obama will manage to read his copy a little more swiftly! © www.guardian.co.uk[/caption]
I?ve been thinking about a few matters recently, which I?ve mentally filed under the euphemistic title of, ?vested external interests in Latin America.? Now, it may be that I?m highly suggestible, but my Marxist hackles were definitely raised when I read about a US legal battle to determine whether gold coins recovered from a sunken ship by a US-based exploration team should be handed over to Spain. There?s no doubt that the debate on the discovery location and which ship they came from is an interesting one. However, the irony that the coins were originally mined and minted in Peru (under the Spanish Conquest) seems to have gone almost unnoticed. Given the historical circumstances of the extraction of Peruvian gold, one might have thought that in the 21st Century, a stronger case would have been made for the coins to return to Peru as part of its cultural heritage. One might even venture to suggest that perhaps there is enough Peruvian gold in the museums and churches of Spain?
I say that I might be suggestible, as I saw this shortly after I?d finally got round (15 years after my first visit to Ecuador) to ploughing through Open Veins of Latin America. Eduardo Galeano?s renowned polemic on the systematic plundering and destruction of Latin America?s resources, and indeed people, is not very easy reading: at least it certainly doesn?t make one feel proud to be British. It?s even more uncomfortable if you happen to be from Spain or the US, and have a conscience regarding your ancestors? actions.
Except that, particularly in the case of the US, it?s not just those who came before us who should be held accountable. Without delving into Galeano?s stinging indictments of US trading impropriety / manipulation / bullying in the region (I?m no economist), the events in question happen well within living memory. It certainly seems safe to say that negative repercussions of US fiscal policy and enterprise continue to be felt in Latin America, if they aren?t still being generated (and that?s up for debate).
One other area where US intervention and its repercussions are very much in evidence is in the long-running ?War On Drugs.? (I?m not sure why so many US leaders seem to feel the need to be constantly at war with something or someone). The political background of the WOD is pretty well known, as is the fallout from it. Crop eradication and its effects have been analysed by people far more qualified than I. I think there?s little doubt however, that the war?s not working from the point of view of cutting supply to the US, and that it makes harsh lives ever harsher on the ground in Latin America.
Which is why it was refreshing to read about the Organisation of America States report, commissioned by President Obama, which aims to put an end to, or at least reduce, the tragic human cost of the WOD in Latin America. The report highlights a number of alternative strategies to the punitive, prohibition approach, exploring community, legislative and health-focused avenues instead. Importantly, these steps towards changing times are being driven by Latin American leaders, for example the open letterof the Global Commission on Drugs Policy, whose signatories include former presidents of Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Chile. It is to be hoped that this signals a general tendency towards stronger leadership within Latin America, and a move away from other countries imposing their will and policies in the region, as that?s been going on long enough.
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