If, as Fox-News tells us, Barack Obama is the most un-American of all 44 Presidents of the U.S.A, the subsequent question must be: who is the most American of all the Presidents – the apple pie standard against which Obama can be measured? An early betting favorite would have to be Theodore Roosevelt. After all, the mountain-lion hunting, horseback riding ‘Teddy Bear’ was the real-life ‘cowboy’ President of George W’s wet dreams. Maybe Obama picked up on this because last week, when it seems U.S influence encouraged its allies to discipline Bolivian President Evo Morales for not following orders, Obama was walking in the footsteps of Roosevelt, who said: “If any South American country misbehaves, it should be spanked”.
In the eyes of the Obama administration, Morales misbehaved by daring to suggest that he might be willing to offer NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum in Bolivia if he was asked. Then last week, after visiting Russia for a meeting about energy, Evo Morales embarked on what he thought would be a routine flight home. However, the flight was anything but as one-by-one, nations in Western Europe refused to comply with the Presidential plane’s airspace requests, forcing the plane to make an unscheduled stop in Vienna before it completely ran out of fuel. The reason for this violation of the Vienna (how ironic) Convention, which established that the flights of the world’s Presidents cannot be obstructed as they have immunity, was that France, Portugal, Spain and Italy had somehow got the idea that Morales had actually snuck Snowden on his own plane in order to sneak him back to Bolivia. They believed that Morales had managed to do this despite the fact that the President’s plane had departed from Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, not Sheremetyevo Airport where Snowden is staying (which is 27 miles (43km) away). For the rest of that night, Morales’ plane was to remain grounded in Vienna where reports suggest the plane may have been searched by Austrian officials. Regardless of whether the search occurred, this humiliating treatment of a democratically-elected foreign head of state has incensed not just Morales and Bolivia but the entire Latin American continent, many of whom describe the event as tantamount to a kidnapping. President Rafael Correa of Ecuador said it best by stating “If this had happened to the President of the United States, it probably would have been grounds for war.”
Morales, as well as most honest observers, are firmly of the belief that the pressure for the European nations to deny the Bolivian Presidential plane access to their airspace came from the U.S.A. The desire of those in Washington to get their hands on Snowden and to bring him back to the U.S.A to answer yet unspecified criminal charges, is an open secret. What we didn’t know was the lengths to which they were willing to go to get him. Ignoring the ongoing debate regarding the morality of Snowden’s actions, for the U.S. government to be willing to disregard international protocol in order to get him leads to serious geopolitical repercussions. Illuminating the hypocrisy of such action, Morales declared “My first thought when I was forced to land was: how can European countries obey the will of the US? I imagined these nations were defenders of democracy.” The Latin American countries have shown admirable unity in response to the plane ‘hijacking’. Presidents from five South American countries — Argentina, Ecuador, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela- along with diplomats from most other Latin American countries held an emergency meeting in Bolivia, after which they jointly condemned the incident and demanded an apology.
Of course there is no hard evidence that the Obama administration was behind the decision of the European countries to deny Morales airspace. Perhaps those countries were independently concerned with Snowden not gaining the asylum he is looking for, although that would seemingly contradict the European anger that followed revelations in the NSA leak of the U.S bugging E.U meetings. However, as thought to be the case with the poster-boy of ‘hactivism’ Julian Assange, currently being sheltered in the London embassy of another uppity South American country- Ecuador, many think that the U.S is trying to get the Europeans to do its dirty work. Furthermore, it appears that the West is still struggling to come to terms with Latin America’s emergence as a political and economic force. It is now confident, united and increasingly defiant of occidental-demands. Still, Secretary of State John Kerry managed to refer to it in April of this year as America’s ‘backyard.’ Seemingly the memo that ‘The Monroe Doctrine’ is no longer applicable hasn’t been received yet.
The Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine were the bedrocks of the expansionism and interventionist politics that have long been the dark, clandestine underbelly of ‘the American Dream.’ From Salvador Allende to the Sandinistas, Latin American leaders have been constantly told by their parent in the North ‘Do it our way or else!’ However, that seems to have worn thin now as a range of left-leaning governments have swept to power in the region, determined to gain autonomy in their own politics and Morales, a former trade unionist from an indigenous community, seems to represent this sea-change more than any other. Oscar Guardiola-Rivera highlighted the key question in the title of his 2011 book ‘What if Latin America Ruled the World?’ . While they may not be ruling the world yet, judging by the reaction to the Morales plane incident, (apparently ‘measures’ will be taken against the countries held responsible) the region seems well on its way to ruling itself. If the Obama administration were behind the European decision to deny Morales airspace, they have now damaged relations with a entire region for no gain whatsoever.
And as every parent knows, spanking your child only works for so long, because one day, your child becomes big enough to spank you back.