Letter to the Biden and Trump campaigns calling for a real Good Neighbor policy for Latin America and the Caribbean

This letter signed by 100 organizations urges the presidential candidates to end the Monroe Doctrine and establish a foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere based on the principles of non-intervention and non-interference, mutual respect, acceptance of our differences, and working together for the common good. This could form the foundation of a New Good Neighbor policy that would allow the U.S. to restore peace and make a positive contribution to the well-being of people throughout the region.

The copy below is addressed to both candidates, but each will get their own separate letter.

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Dear Vice President Biden (and President Trump), 

As organizations that care about United States policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean, we write to urge you to adopt a broad set of reforms to reframe relations with our neighbors to the south. 

Shortly after meeting with President Raúl Castro of Cuba in April of 2015, President Obama stated that “the days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past.” Two years prior to that, his Secretary of State, John Kerry, had earned praise throughout the region after announcing that the “era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” To many, it appeared that the U.S. government was reviving the “Good Neighbor” regional policy of respect for Latin American and Caribbean self-determination and human rights that had been announced under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and then quickly abandoned during the Cold War. 

The Monroe Doctrine - asserting U.S. geopolitical control over the region - served as a pretext for over 100 years of military invasions, support for military dictatorships, the financing of security forces involved in mass human rights violations, economic blackmail, and support for coups against democratically elected governments, among other horrors that have caused many Latin Americans and Caribbeans to flee north in search of safety and opportunity. 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt distanced himself from this doctrine, outlining a new vision for relations in the hemisphere. His “Good Neighbor” policy temporarily ended the gunboat diplomacy that characterized U.S. foreign policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although the policy had its flaws, such as FDR's support for the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua, his administration’s failures were often the result of not following the Good Neighbor principle of non-interference. 

In January 2021, the President of the United States will face a hemisphere that will not only still be reeling from the coronavirus but will also likely be experiencing a deep economic recession. The best way for the United States to help is not by seeking to impose its will, but rather by engaging with the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean as equal partners. 

We hope that your administration will adopt a New Good Neighbor Policy and commit to the following:

The embargo against Cuba has been a 60-year disaster that has caused countless deaths, cost the Cuban economy billions of dollars, shut U.S. businesses out of an important market, and contributed to deep antipathy towards the US throughout the region and much of the world. More recent sanctions regimes against Venezuela and Nicaragua are also causing widespread human suffering. Furthermore, U.S. sanctions violate the Charter of the Organization of American States, the United Nations Charter, and international human rights law. They target the civilian population and therefore would violate both the Hague and Geneva Conventions -- to which the US is a signatory -- if they were committed during a war. We call on you to end unilateral U.S. sanctions imposed through past presidential orders and to work with Congress to repeal the Helms-Burton Act, which imposes unilateral economic sanctions against Cuba. The United States should resolve its policy differences through diplomacy, multilateralism and engagement. 

Though the Cold War ended decades ago, the U.S. continues to provide and export hundreds of millions of dollars of police and military equipment and training to Latin American and Caribbean countries each year. In many cases, such as Honduras and Colombia, U.S. funding and training have supported troops involved in corruption and egregious human rights abuses, including numerous extrajudicial killings and attacks targeting local activists and journalists. Much of this aid and weapons exports, which have accompanied the increased militarization of law enforcement, are transferred in the name of the decades-long war on drugs, which the vast majority of the U.S. public has long believed to be a failure. Rather than abating drug trafficking and violence, this approach incentivizes drug trafficking and fuels a vicious cycle of violence. Often US-backed forces are themselves involved in drug trafficking and defend the interests of big landowners and corporations, while violently repressing land rights activists. There is no justification for U.S. security programs in the region. No national security threat exists and a “war on drugs” is a counterproductive way to deal with a US public health issue that is best addressed through decriminalization and equitable legal regulation. It is time to scale down US “security assistance” and arms sales and remove US military and law enforcement personnel from the region.

The US government has a long, troubling history of interfering in the internal politics of countries of the region. It has frequently carried out military invasions to impose or remove political leaders and it has supported rightwing military coups that have invariably resulted in violent repression. In the name of “democracy promotion,” the US government has trained and funded political groups that it favors while supporting public relations campaigns to try to marginalize the political forces that it opposes. Time and time again, the US has sought to shape the outcome of elections to favor its perceived interests. Here at home, we rightly condemn any sort of foreign interference in our own country’s domestic politics and elections, so how can we continue to engage in gross interference in the politics of our neighbors? It is time for the US to respect the political sovereignty of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Any major political crises that emerge in the region should be dealt with through multilateral engagements, not unilateral actions.

The US has an important role to play in advocating for human rights across the hemisphere, a role that can only be strengthened by ensuring that the US government does not violate human rights in its own territory, on its borders or overseas. Special attention should be paid at home and abroad to the rights of historically excluded communities, including indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, LGBTQ+ individuals, women, and migrants and refugees. The United States should speak out when human rights defenders, including environmental and land rights activists and labor organizers, are in danger—a situation all too frequent in Latin America and the Caribbean today. For the US to credibly speak about rights, it should sign and ratify international treaties including, but not limited to, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as other covenants relating to racial discrimination, women, children, persons with disabilities, migrants, and torture. Furthermore, the US should work towards depoliticizing and strengthening existing multilateral institutions that defend human rights, and the US must ensure that it does not instrumentalize rights for political gain – too often, human rights violations in the US or in allied countries are ignored, while violations in countries considered adversaries are magnified.

The next administration must undo the brutal harms of the Trump administration and must understand how past U.S. economic, security and environmental policies have fueled mass migration. It must also reject the status quo of the Obama administration, which deported more people than any administration ever before and built the infrastructure for the Trump administration to carry out violent anti-immigrant policies. These include an increase in border militarization, growth in the privatized immigration detention system, an increase in DHS information-sharing programs like Secure Communities, more ICE partnerships with local police, and an increase in ICE raids, among others. The next administration must hear the demands for immigrant justice, and implement the following measures: enact a day-one moratorium on all deportations; end mass prosecutions of individuals who cross the border; re-establish asylum procedures at the border; provide an immediate path to citizenship for the Dreamers and for Temporary Protected Status holders; terminate the Muslim Ban; rescind funding for the border wall; rescind the myriad abusive Trump administration’s regulatory changes that have denied basic rights to immigrants; rescind the “zero-tolerance” (family separation) policy and other policies that prioritize migration-related prosecutions; reallocate resources away from immigration enforcement agencies and towards community-based alternatives to detention programs; and end private immigration detention.

The US government has engaged in a variety of economic interventions in the region in order to promote a neoliberal economic agenda that benefits transnational capital and local elites while generating greater inequality, environmental destruction and living conditions for ordinary citizens. The US intervenes in domestic economic policymaking in countries in large part through its enormous influence within multilateral financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Inter-American Bank. In order to obtain credit lines from these organizations, governments typically have to agree to austerity measures and other policies that lead to the downsizing of welfare states and a weakening of workers’ bargaining power. In addition, the trade agreements that Washington promotes in the region have invariably led to the deregulation of financial markets and the strengthening of foreign investor protections, which prioritize the “rights” of corporations over peoples’ rights. As such, the US should end the undue power given to corporate interests to exploit other countries economically through investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions found in trade and investment agreements, which allow corporations to sue countries in supranational tribunal over public interest and environmental regulations that affect their expected profits. To help the region develop, the US needs to allow countries to choose their own paths, instead of supporting external institutions that claim to support development while actually serving the interests of corporations and global finance. Further, it must be ensured that US foreign assistance supports public health and education services by channeling funding primarily to NGOs that take on these services in coordination with local and state entities and priorities, as well as in consultation with local and affected communities.

*****

The principles of non-intervention and non-interference, mutual respect, acceptance of our differences, and working together for the common good could form the foundation of a New Good Neighbor policy that would allow the U.S. to restore peace and make a positive contribution to the well-being of people throughout the hemisphere.

Sincerely,

  1. ActionAid USA
  2. African Services Committee
  3. Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice
  4. Albany Cuba Solidarity
  5. Alianza Americas
  6. Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect (ACERE)
  7. Alliance for Global Justice
  8. Altruvistas
  9. Amazon Watch
  10. American Friends Service Committee
  11. Americas Program
  12. Arts & Cultural Bridge Foundation
  13. Bolivarian Circle Alberto Lovera New York
  14. Building Relations with Cuban Labor
  15. Casa Baltimore Limay
  16. Center for Common Ground
  17. Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law
  18. Center for International Policy
  19. Central American Resource Center - DC
  20. Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
  21. CODEPINK
  22. Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)
  23. Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS)
  24. Community EsTr(El/La)
  25. Corvallis (OR) Latin America Solidarity Committee
  26. Council on Hemispheric Affairs
  27. Ecumenical Peace Institute/Clergy and Laity Concerned (CALC)
  28. Embassy Protection Collective
  29. Florida Alliance for Peace and Justice
  30. Friends Committee on National Legislation
  31. Friends of Latin America
  32. Garifuna Community Services INC
  33. Global Exchange
  34. Global Health Partners
  35. Grassroots Global Justice
  36. Hands Off Venezuela
  37. Honduras Solidarity Network
  38. Hunts Point Community Partnership
  39. IFCO/Pastors for Peace
  40. Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy, New Internationalism, and Drug Policy Programs
  41. Institute for Women in Migration (IMUMI)
  42. International Committee for Peace, Justice, and Dignity
  43. Jewish Voice for Peace Portland
  44. July 26th Coalition of Boston
  45. Just Foreign Policy
  46. Labor Community Alliance of South Florida
  47. Latin America Task Force of Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice
  48. Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
  49. Latino Commission on AIDS
  50. LELO/A Legacy of Equality, Leadership and Organizing
  51. LIFT-NY
  52. MADRE
  53. Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
  54. Massachusetts Peace Action
  55. National Lawyers Guild International Committee
  56. National Network on Cuba
  57. Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
  58. New Sanctuary Coalition
  59. Nicaragua Center for Community Action
  60. Nicaraguan Cultural Alliance
  61. Nonviolence International
  62. North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA)
  63. Oregon PeaceWorks
  64. Our Developing World
  65. Oxfam America
  66. Peace Action
  67. PeaceHost.net
  68. People Demanding Action
  69. PopularResistance.org
  70. Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC)
  71. Progressive Democrats of America
  72. ProximityCuba
  73. RootsAction.org
  74. Sanctuary DMV
  75. Seattle Cuba Friendship Committee
  76. SHARE Foundation
  77. Sister Parish, Inc.
  78. Sisters of Mercy of the Americas - Justice Team
  79. Solidarity Committee On The Americas (SCOTA)
  80. South Texas Human Rights Center
  81. Task Force on the Americas
  82. The Cross Border Network
  83. The Feminist Foreign Policy Project
  84. The Friendship Association
  85. U.S. Labor Against the War
  86. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
  87. United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
  88. United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1445
  89. United for Peace and Justice
  90. US Network for Democracy in Brazil
  91. US Peace Council
  92. US Women and Cuba Collaboration
  93. US-El Salvador Sister Cities
  94. USF Immigration & Deportation Defense Clinic
  95. Veterans For Peace, #136
  96. Whatcom Peace & Justice Center
  97. Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective
  98. Women Against Military Madness
  99. Women's International League for Peace and Freedom US
  100. World Beyond War

 

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