The U.S. & Latin America After 9-11 and Iraq

By Coletta Youngers

From Chile to Cuba to Mexico, Latin American countries united behind Washington in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The Organization of American States (OAS) issued a declaration stating, "Individually and collectively, we will deny terrorist groups the capacity to operate in this Hemisphere. This American family stands united." Yet despite this overwhelming show of solidarity, the Bush administration has largely turned its back on its Latin American allies. Most disturbingly, it is unilaterally waging war against its own Latin American "axis of evil"--the Colombian "narcoterrorists," Cuba's Fidel Castro, and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez--with little if no effort to take into account the concerns of Latin American leaders, reach regional accords, or engage the OAS.

Yet another country was added to the "axis of evil," according to conservative Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL), with the election of Luiz Inacio ("Lula") da Silva in Brazil. Upon taking office, Lula pledged to eradicate hunger in the region's largest country, a far greater threat to most Latin Americans than international terrorism, prompting Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to proclaim an "axis of good."

U.S. policymakers have long considered the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay a hotbed of Arab radicalism, concerns fueled by bombings carried out by Hizbollah in Argentina in 1992 and 1994. The 2001 State Department report on terrorism still refers to the region as a "hub for Hizbollah and HAMAS activities, particularly for logistical and financial purposes," concerns echoed again in the 2002 report. Arab populations in Latin America are now under close scrutiny by U.S. intelligence officials, raising serious civil rights concerns. However, alleged terrorist activity in this area of the world pales in comparison to other U.S. global priorities. In short, Latin America is near the bottom of the U.S. anti-terrorist agenda.

The one exception is Colombia. Home to three groups on the U.S. State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations and the third-largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the world, Colombia remains the centerpiece of U.S. counter-terrorist efforts in the hemisphere. In the post-September 11 worldview of most Washington policymakers, the distinction between terrorists and drug traffickers operating in Colombia and other places has been obliterated. "Terrorism and drugs go together like rats and the bubonic plague," proclaims U.S. Attorney General

John Ashcroft. "They thrive in the same conditions, support each other and feed off of each other." The United States has consequently collapsed its anti-drug and counter-terrorism efforts into a single offensive.

(Coletta Youngers is a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America ( and a member of the Foreign Policy in Focus Advisory Committee. This policy report is a revised version of an essay that appears in the Foreign Policy in Focus book
Power Trip: U.S. Unilateralism and Global Strategy After September 11 edited by John Feffer and published by Seven Stories Press.)

This article is from
The Progressive Response, June 13, 2003, Vol. 7, No. 18, Editor: John Gershman.  The Progressive Response is produced weekly by the Interhemispheric Resource Center ( as part of its Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) project. FPIF, a "Think Tank Without Walls," is an international network of analysts and activists dedicated to "making the U.S. a more responsible global leader and partner by advancing citizen movements and agendas." FPIF is joint project of the Interhemispheric Resource Center and the Institute for Policy Studies. The FPIF website is at 

Did you know?  ...that Yachaspa is Quechua for "sabiendo" or "knowing"...

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