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Pres. Obama: “America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens.”

December 11, 2009

 “America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens.” — President Barack Obama, December 10, 2009

I set out to listen to the president’s speech today after only catching bits of it here at work. And to read the text, too, after all, as the Rude Pundit said, this is Obama talking to History. The occasion requires careful attention.

Clearly, Americans listen to Obama differently than the rest of the world listens. But for the people of Latin America, this claim of his is a stomach punch. The window of hope and goodwill and support Barack Obama inspired among progressive Latin American leaders and even among the peoples of Latin America during his campaign just slammed shut.

(I have to wonder, considering that Latinos are the fastest growing demographic in the United States, what Obama is thinking just at the political level. Forget all that talk about listening and partnership. What about all these new young Latino voters?)

The United States has waged war against democracy in Latin America by other means relentlessly from the 1954 overthrow in Guatemala to the latest crime against the Honduran people — a president’s kidnapping fueled at our base, the coupster’s mouthpiece a Clinton veteran, Negroponte advising both the coup and the Secretary of State. Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Venezuela, Honduras, Chile, and Haiti — yes, I know that’s a different region but we are connected with our brothers and sisters in Haiti by the motive, means and opportunity of the aggressors.

Our “closest friend” in Latin America is Uribe’s murderous regime in Colombia — one that kills civilians with impunity and dresses the bodies in FARC uniforms to cover their murders, that builds crematoria in the jungle to dispose of the evidence, that at last count has killed over 150 school teachers just this year and that leads the world in the murder of union organizers.

I am stunned that an American president could make such a claim even as Mel Zelaya is being denied safe passage out of Honduras. And in particular, I am stunned that this president could make such a claim given his experience in “third world” nations and what I hope is his knowledge of the long history of the United States aiding and abetting dictators and turning a blind eye to the slaughter of people demanding democracy, from East Timor to Tegucigalpa.

And while Barack Obama is certainly not responsible for the war on Latin American democracy that the United States has waged for decades, I hold him responsible for giving a truthful accounting of that history and I hold him accountable for what is today happening under his governance.

Elizabeth Ferrari

San Francisco

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