At its more thoughtful moments, Justin Webb’s take on anti-Americanism represents an effective testament to the made-in-U.S. arrogance that characterizes the kind of “Americanism” that so many have rightfully come to detest (Anti-Americanism in Venezuela, April 20, 2007). Webb suggests that anti-Americanism masks the result of local failure, but failure by whom? Surely the people, living on between 2 and 5 dollars a day do not have much weight to throw, save their bodies against the security forces after some form of social protest occurs. In addition, policies directed by U.S. and other multinational firms have made it all but impossible for many of these impoverished nations to do well by their citizens. The tiny nation of Ecuador is a case in point. Here the local government must dedicate 50% of its national budget to paying its debt to U.S. and other foreign creditors. These financial institutions loaned Ecuador billions of dollars to hire American firms to build its infrastructure and finance its imports, knowing full well that Quito would later be unable to repay its debt and face default. In the recent past Ecuador was forced to open up its precious Amazon rainforest to foreign oil giants so that Quito could service its foreign debt. Perhaps anti-Americanism is not an excuse as much as a reaction to debilitating neoliberal politics that have removed decision making from its hands and allowed poverty to be perpetuated.
Surely Webb is pandering when he suggests that Latin Americans “benefit” from their positions as chambermaids and fruit pickers in the U.S.? Or does he really mean to say that they should be grateful enough to have found positions that keep them slaving as the nation’s working impoverished, to be locked forevermore below the poverty line with very little opportunity for upward mobility?
If Webb wants to understand anti-Americanism, let him begin to familiarize himself with the workings of American overseas-oriented corporations such as Chiquita, Enron, United Fruit and a hundred others which have rendered free trade into a dirty phrase and better draw out an explanation as to why many Latin Americans feel the way they do.