Root Causes

by David Brooks, published on Resumen English, April 19, 2021

Ever since the issue of migration flows at the U.S.-Mexico border intensified, the Biden administration has made addressing the “root causes” of migration from Central America and Mexico at the centerpiece of its response.  Biden, his vice president, Kamala Harris, and America’s foreign policymakers have held talks, made trips and commented on initiatives to address those “root causes” in Mexico and Central America. Harris even recently announced her intention to travel to Mexico and Guatemala.

But perhaps they should save themselves all that traveling and stay home in Washington to first address one of the main “root causes” of the phenomenon that is manifesting itself at the border: U.S. economic and so-called “security” policies throughout the region over the past several decades.

The caravan of migrants blocked a key road after being halted by police in Guatemala at the weekend

Before traveling and offering money to who knows who in those countries to keep the migrants and refugees at home, perhaps they are the ones who should stay at home and convene a large cast of historians, journalists, analysts, former officials, clergy, human rights advocates and more.  They can perhaps tell them, if they do not remember, of the long and violent history of the U.S. over more than a century in that region.

They might recall what their country’s then most decorated soldier, General Smedley Butler, summing up his career, said in the 1930s:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers.  In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.  I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914.  I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in.  I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street…”

And from then until now, they could go through the list of interventions, military support for dictatorships, death squads, training and financing of torturers, where forces openly or clandestinely supported by Washington, first with the justification of the Monroe Doctrine, then, with the Cold War, against “communism” and more recently against allies of progressive Latin American governments that dared not to obey the wishes and prescriptions for “democracy” and “freedom,” murdered tens of thousands in those countries.  Or how the Obama State Department, led by Hillary Clinton, supported the coup d’état in Honduras in 2009 (several of the coup leaders were graduates of what used to be called the School of the Americas, where the United States trains Latin American military), which is where the current government comes from.

They could review the effects of the neoliberal policies of the so-called “Washington Consensus,” including the free trade agreements still in force with Mexico and Central American countries, the empirical result of which is that the biggest and most successful exports of this region — measured only by international income — are its human beings and illicit drugs.

They could also evaluate why Washington, almost without exception, has supported repression against any movement, political front, politicians, leaders and more, who sought to change the conditions of injustice, violence and corruption in their countries.

Washington cannot be held exclusively responsible for what the political and economic leaders of all these countries have implemented in their countries, but if there is truly an interest in locating and addressing the “root causes” of the migration problem, Washington should not only look at its counterparts in Mexico and Central America, but also take a good look at itself.

*Featured Image:  Members of the migrant caravan at the border wall in Tijuana on Sunday.Credit…Meghan Dhaliwal for The New York Times


Source: La Jornada, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English

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