Monthly Archives: October 2019

Reflections Week 9: U.S. Foreign Policy in Latin America

Hi all. For this week’s post, I will be discussing and analyzing a video in relation to this week’s material, entitled “Commerce, Coercion, and America’s Empire III”. More particularly, I will be commenting on the remarks it made regarding U.S. Foreign Policy.

To begin, the video states that the United States asserted its dominance and influence in the Latin American region to acquire its wealth and natural resources. This is only partially true. As for every piece of legislation enacted by a global hegemonic power, there are a lot of reasons behind United States involvement in Latin America. Firstly, the United States, after its official founding, ironically enough as that might sound, was trying to establish itself as a global power and as a defender of liberty, equality and human rights. This is embodied by the Monroe Doctrine as well as following policy legislation from the U.S. government. Thus, it was mostly trying to extend its influence and to acquire power and control beyond its own borders. Following this reasoning, this was also part of the reason why the U.S. Government, and most prominently the American Intelligence Community, meddled in the affairs of many Latin American governments and tried to influence their elections. Simply put, the United States government was trying to expand its circle of influence and to partially or completely dictate the global political order, which it has consistently viewed as one where the United States must stand against any kind of regime that goes against its principles and interests. Other reasons for involvement non-exhaustively include pre-emptively or actively trying to minimize possible threats to U.S. national security and economic interests, and protecting or asserting the economic monopolies of U.S. companies in the region (such as the United Fruit Company, for instance).

Nonetheless, we may criticize this policy and the genuineness of its underlying motives. For example, many of the foreign policies implicating the United States in Latin America, although citing human rights, liberty and democracy as a motive, have actively caused the death and imprisonment of civilians, toppled democratically-elected politicians and governments for U.S.-backed authoritarian counterparts, cracked down on the rights and liberties of innocent people, and have caused the region to be wrought by mass poverty, inequality, authoritarian politics, and civil war. This is best exemplified by Operation Condor, as well as the continuing War on Drugs.


Reflections Week 8: The Mexican Revolution

Hello, all. Since there is no online lecture linked to this week’s material and classes, I will be commenting on an interview assigned to us, entitled “The Mexican Revolution”.

To start, I will comment on the claim “Revolution is a claim of ownership on history”. This is an interesting claim, but only partially true. Revolutions usually mean a social, economic or political break from the current course of history, which can be either violent or non-violent. Revolutions and revolutionary factions do not claim to own a certain part of history or try to change it, but rather want to change its current predicted trajectory. However, there have been revolutionary factions and movements which have seeked to re-write history in their image and dismiss the past histories written, such as was the case with the Chinese Cultural Revolution and its continuation to this day, as well as with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which tried to own history to rewrite it as well as change its trajectory.

Further, It is interesting to see how some of these historical dynamics from the Mexican Revolution still persist to this day. In fact, when mentioning Emiliano Zapato and his Zapatista revolutionaries, I was reminded of the trips I made last year to Chiapas, in Southern Mexico. An important chunk of the Chiapaneco territory is still claimed by Zapatista factions, after many violent clashes with the Mexican and state government. Also interesting to note is the fact that many people in the state see the Zapatistas and other Indigenous factions as the legitimate governors of the state, whereas they see the Mexican federal government as an illegitimate aggressor cracking down on their rights and sovereignty. This bears quite a lot of resemblance to the Quebec sovereigntist/independentist movement, which claims that the provincial government is the legitimate sovereign in the province, while the federal government is aggressing Quebecois peoples and ruling over them in an unconstitutional, undemocratic, or even fascist manner. They also claim that since the Quebecois peoples (the French and French Canadians, as well as the American Indian Peoples (Peuples Amérindiens du Québec) settled on Quebec land before the British and English Canadians did, they hold sovereignty over such land. The broader story of both of these sovereigntist revolutionary movements, as well as many other ones, is about local peoples trying to decentralize power and bring it into their hands in order to be able to decide their own history.


Reflections Week 7: Modernization of Modernity

Happy Thanksgiving, all. Since there was no video lecture given by our professor for this week, I will be comenting on a related video, entitled “Modernity and Modernization in Mexico”.

The first thought that caught my eye were the disconcerting similarities between the definition given of modernity and that which is understood of progress. Especially, this is true when talking about technological and social innovation, as well as positive change to one’s society. However, although these definitions are somewhat similar and, one might say, interchangeable, they are not associated with the same era(s). In fact, modernity is often talked about in a philosophical and historical context, when discussing the Western world entering a certain historical era, whereas progress, and progressive politics, have been flowing in and out of political discourse for centuries. Other themes that are included in modernity, such as secularization and emancipation, are still discussed today, also. For instance, France and my home of Quebec have continuously and for decades brought forth legislation aiming for la laïcité de l’État (laicity of the state). La Charte de la laïcité de l’État in France and La Loi 21 only two recent examples of this principle. In the United States, ever since slavery and the emancipation of the slaves, there has been continued dicussion about reparations, and modern forms of slavery, and how to tackle them. Thus, these topics are still touched on in today’s political discourse.

Also, another element of modernity that is left unaccounted for or rather that is stated as true (but which isn’t) is how only a democratic regime and system are compatible with modernity. Nonetheless, although a democratic system is usually preferable for the well-being of a nation, it is wrong to assume that it is the only system that is compatible with modernity. This would only be true if seen through a Western, pro-democratic, liberalist (in the historical sense of the term) lense. There are two main elements of criticism to this notion. Firstly, the West at the time (and still today, to some extent) hardly fit the definition of a democratic regime, as many individuals and groups were (and are) barred from voting, including racial minorities, expats, ex-prisoners, and so forth. Additionally, there are many examples of countries and states which, although not democratic, fit into the definition of a modern state, mostly based on the level of human development and technological inovation. Notably, the People’s Republic of China, Singapore, and many Latin American countries, have historically proved this idea wrong.


Reflections Week 6: Ethnic Ancestry as Biological

Hi all. For this week’s post, I will be reflecting upon this week’s video lecture, entitled “Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics. More precisely, I will be discussing race and its importance in discourse.

Stated in the lecture is that “race is a social construct, rather than a biological fact”. This is not true, as there are notable physical and genetic differences between racial (or rather ethnic ancestry) groups, which are common to people of a common ethnic ancestry group. Skin colour, types of hair and facial characteristics are only parts of it. To deny this would be to deny decades of scientific research that has been documenting this topic thoroughly. Although there is genetic variation between members of the same race, there are still trends and commonalities between such members. Nonetheless, this does not make race more or less important as a political or moral argument, and also does not take away stress from the fact that we should base our discourse and reflections on one’s personality and psychological characteristics, rather than the biology they are assigned or born with. Additionally, this is not to say that these ethnic ancestry differences are to be part of a broader moral argument, such as “Africans are X, and thus are better at Y than Caucasians”, which is highly reprehensible and factually incorrect. To read more about this topic, I highly recommend Vivian Chou’s article posted on Harvard’s SITN website.

Additionally, it is true that these racial differences have been highlighted and even heightened, which has caused historical divisions that have led to many conflicts and brutal wars. The Casta paintings namely commit this fallacy by highlighting racial difference in order to justify different racial treatments and racial superiority. In Latin America, even today, there is still a tremendous divide between peoples of European vs. Indigenous ancestry. In Mexico, notably, there have been studies done about how Mexicans of European, Indigenous or even Latin American ancestry have experienced different social, political and economic treatments. Most individuals in positions of power are still of European or Latin American descent, and only recently was the National Indigenous Congress (similar to the Congressional Black Caucus in the United States) created and had elected political representatives. This is also a problem throughout the rest of the world, including the West, which is not deprived of this. The economic/financial wage gap between ethnic groups is still something that is grappled with in Canada and the United States to this day.