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Humor In The Headlines Over China In Latin America

Above photo: Presidents Xiomara Castro (L) & Xi Jinping (R), Beijing, China, June 12, 2023. Twitter/ @HelmutKramer.

“As China arrives with a splash in Honduras, the US wrings its hands”

Washington Post, October 2, 2023

In a break from its hysterical coverage of the existential threat posed by Donald Trump, the Washington Post – house organ of the Democratic National Committee – cautions us of the other menace, China. “When the leader of this impoverished Central American country visited Beijing in June,” we are warned, “China laid out the warmest of welcomes.”

Apparently in a grave threat to US national security, the president of Honduras attended a state banquet and actually ate Chinese food. What next for the country the Post affectionately describes as “long among the most docile of US regional partners”?

Honduras changes its China policy

In a classic example of do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do diplomacy, the US was miffed when Honduras recognized the People’s Republic of China as the sole representative of China in March. Curiously, the US implemented its one-China policy 44 years ago.

Today, a mere baker’s dozen of the world’s countries still recognize Taiwan as sovereign. Among them, Guatemala will switch Chinas if president-elect Bernardo Arévalo is allowed to assume office in January. Another holdout, Haiti, literally does not have an elected government of its own but may soon be receiving a US-sponsored occupying army.

China has emerged as South America’s leading and the wider Latin American region’s second largest trading partner, with over twenty states joining Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. This provides a substitute to monopolar dependence on commerce with Uncle Sam. Russia, too, has been pushing under the greenback curtain. The BRICS+ alliance with China and Russia also includes Brazil and Argentina among others.

“US aid and investments throughout the region are historically seen as slow in coming,” the Post explains as the cause for the trade and diplomatic shifts seen in the region and reflected in Honduras.

The Post hastens to add with a straight face that US investments come with “significant stipulations on human rights and democracy.” Supporting this ridiculous claim, the Post notes: “Honduras, long known for violence and corruption, has been subject to particular US scrutiny.”

The Post, it should be noted, proudly runs the tagline “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” So they should know what form the “particular” US scrutiny took.

Tellingly omitted from the Post’s story is mention of the 2009 US-backed coup that deposed the democratically elected president of Honduras, Manual Zelaya. In her memoires, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took credit for preventing Zelaya’s return to his elected post. That was in the original hardcover version of the vanity book. The subsequent paperback expunged the boast.

Xiomara Castro, who first rose to prominence after the coup that overthrew her husband Manual Zelaya, became the first female president of Honduras in January 2022.

Her predecessor, Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH), was immediately extradited to the US for drug trafficking proving beyond doubt that hers was a victory over a nacro-dictatorship. JOH was the last of a line of corrupt golpistas (coup mongers) that the US had propped up for the last dozen years. So much for the Post’s vaunting of US support for human rights and democracy.

And then, almost as an afterthought, the Post acknowledges that indeed US aid and investments have other strings attached to them; namely, “a preference for the private sector and nongovernmental organizations.”  Concluding: “In contrast, China’s offers of trade and investment, with few strings attached, have increasingly outweighed traditional ties or ideology in the region.”

Peru – Chinese on the 20-yard line in our homeland

There’s cause for concern down in Peru too. Pedro Castillo, the elected president from a leftwing party, was imprisoned last December in a parliamentary coup backed by the military and the US. The de facto government imposed a state of emergency when demonstrations were mounted. Castillo was seen by the poor and indigenous as one of their own in a society with deep fissures of class and race

Disproportionate use of force against the protests, including firing live ammunition, has resulted in some 80 people killed. The US immediately voiced support for the coup regime and later deployed troops to Peru to bolster the unpopular government. (In neighboring Ecuador, the US recently struck a deal to send troops there in support of another faltering rightwing regime.) Peru’s economy is in recession and local communities are resisting major foreign mining projects.

So what’s the problem? According to an article in the Financial Times, based on the word of an “anonymous” US official and bolstered by the testimony of a nameless “source” close to the Peruvian government, there is a weighty peril. But it is not any of the above.

Apparently the Peruvian government is “not sufficiently focused” on the threats to their country posed by Chinese investment in infrastructure.

A possible reason for the insufficient focus by Peru’s president is she is being charged with committing crimes of genocide, aggravated homicide, and abuse of authority by Peru’s attorney general’s office.

Had she been paying attention, she would have noted that in April the Italian energy firm Enel announced it would sell its Peruvian electricity business to a Chinese company. Previously, another Chinese firm invested in the Lima’s electricity supply and some hydroelectric dams.

The danger doesn’t stop there. Cosco, a Chinese state-owned company, has a 60% stake in proposed deepwater port in Peru with construction slated for late next year. As the Financial Times warns, while the port is designed for cargo ships, it is “large enough to be used by Beijing’s navy to resupply warships.”

If a few hundred more deals like this were transacted and subsequently somehow weaponized, the Chinese could remotely in the distant future be on their way to create the equivalent of what BCC calls the complete arc of US military bases that presently surround China.

With such infrastructure projects and their 5G mobile networks, according to the head of the US Southern Command, the Chinese are already “on the 20-yard line to our homeland.”

What’s next for America’s backyard – upgraded to “front yard” by Mr. Biden – in this the 200th year of the Monroe Doctrine? China may soon export fortune cookies with subversive messages or, more threatening yet, launch another weather balloon over the Pacific. It is reassuring that the US seventh fleet, including its “ghost” drone warships, still patrols the coast of China with its message of peace.

Roger D. Harris is with the human rights organization Task Force on the Americas, founded in 1985.

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