100 Groups Call on the Next Administration to Adopt ‘Good Neighbor’ Policy Toward Latin America

Interview with Medea Benjamin, co-founder Code Pink Women For Peace, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

More than 100 national and local groups have sent identical letters to President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden, calling on whoever wins the U.S. presidential election to engage in a New Good Neighbor policy toward Latin America. It takes its name from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s foreign policy toward the region, even though his administration fell short of following the principles laid out. Those principles included non-intervention, non-interference, mutual respect, acceptance of differences, and working together for the common good. The letters were initiated by the peace group Code Pink, which believes that these principles could form the foundation of a policy that would allow the U.S. to restore peace and make a positive contribution to the well-being of people throughout the western hemisphere.

The letter details outcomes the groups would like to see in six areas: militarization and trade policy, as well as ending broad economic sanctions; halting political interference; supporting the human rights of all peoples and normalizing immigration.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, who contrasts the practices of both Republicans and Democrats with the goals identified in the letters, and explains how adopting these principles could benefit all nations in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: We were looking at all of the terrible things the U.S. is doing in Latin America these days. And there was somewhat of a reprieve under Obama, not because they wanted to really give self-determination to Latin America, but because the U.S. was so bogged own in the Middle East that it couldn’t put that much energy, and in the meantime there were some very thriving, progressive governments that were not only getting into power in Latin America but creating alliances, like the ALBA Alliance that was using Venezuelan oil to support some of the less developed countries and to support social development projects, both inside Venezuela and around the continent.

Then, under the Trump administration, they hired some horrible characters to go back to this aggressive policy. In fact, they openly talked about the Monroe Doctrine, which is the sordid history of the U.S. in saying that Latin America is its backyard and it gets to determine who has influence there. So we’ve seen the consequences of that in terms of U.S. policy trying to institute regime change in Venezuela. Ramping up sanctions against Nicaragua and Cuba. Supporting the government that came out of the coup in Honduras. Supporting a coup in Bolivia, and then cozying up to rightwing governments like Bolsonaro in Brazil and ignoring the horrible murders of activists in Brazil, in Colombia, in Central America.

And so we thought it’s time to come together and call for a radical new revisioning of U.S. policy toward Latin America. We are coming together as groups that care, in this case, about Latin America, instead of being divided that this group’s working on Brazil, this group is working on El Salvador, blah, blah, blah, you know, that there has to be a unified vision of how we should be interacting with our neighbors to the South.

MELINDA TUHUS: I’ve been following the immigration issue closely, and how things have deteriorated under Trump, but we also need to recognize that Obama was known as Deporter in Chief for deporting two million people, more than any other president over his two terms. Please outline some of the things you’d like to see in that arena.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Yes, well, we talk about putting an immediate stop to the deportations. We talk about an absolute end of the family separation program; about not only giving citizenship to the Dreamers but a whole overhaul of immigration policy; respecting the right to asylum that, according to the U.N., all people have when they’re fleeing from violence and trying to get to a place of safety. And we also say we’ve got to look at things like the war on drugs that have led to such violence and forced people to flee; the economic conditions of neo-liberalism and the privatization of so many key aspects of people’s lives that have also led to econnomic deprivation that have caused people to flee. So we combined the immediate things that have to be done around immigration to the larger issues of helping people to be able to stay in the countries where they live.

MELINDA TUHUS: Do you know if Biden has committed to any of these things? I know he supports the Dreamers.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: He says he supports the Dreamers and a fair immigration policy. A lot of it sounds like platitudes, given that he was part of the Obama administration that was so bad when it came to deportations. But he is certainly more sympathetic to the immigrant community. He says he wouldn’t continue the ban on immigrants coming from certain countries and he certainly doesn’t have the same kind of vile anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been so devastating under this administration and has led to so much of the anti-immigrant sentiment. So, I think things would be better under Biden and the important thing to recognize is that the immigrant rights community would have more of a chance of pushing him just like the environmentalists have been successful in pushing him.

MELINDA TUHUS: Medea Benjamin, There are six main points in this letter. If you had to pick Code Pink’s highest priority, what would it be?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: We would prioritize the sanctions issue because we really think that the sanctions that are being imposed on Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, are just another form of warfare and they are killing a lot of people. An estimate by a U.N. rapporteur said that over 100,000 people in Venezuela had died as a result of these sanctions.

For more information on Code Pink Women For Peace, visit CodePink.org.

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