Targeting the ‘triangle of terror’ might strike a chord with right wing Floridians. But when it comes to advancing the cause of national security or of human decency, its benefits will be nil.
Bolton’s speech was an obvious political stunt aimed at mobilizing diaspora voters from the three targeted countries (Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba), as Prof. Bacevich says. It was also representative of an administration Latin America policy that has been defined almost completely by denouncing other countries in our hemisphere and threatening their governments with punitive measures. Administration officials are enamored of making combative speeches that recount other governments’ wrongdoing to show how much they hate “appeasement,” and they are quick to use the problems in these countries as talking points while having no real interest in remedying them. If anything, the administration is likely to make conditions for the people in these countries worse. Bacevich writes:
The United States has never cared a fig about whether Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans enjoyed the rule of law, liberty, and basic human decency. The history of US relations with those nations has alternated between naked exploitation and complete disregard. Second, whatever form any coming US sanctions may actually take, you can count on one thing: It won’t be Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan elites who suffer. It will be ordinary people.
Causing more needless suffering to show how “tough” the administration is on these governments would be consistent with the collective punishment foreign policy that we have seen on display in Palestine, Iran, and Yemen. Treating these three weak, poor states as if they posed a significant threat to the U.S. or the wider region does nothing to alleviate the woes of the people living under these governments, and it just gives them fodder for their propaganda.
Perhaps the only really newsworthy thing to come out of the event was Bolton’s enthusiastic endorsement of the Brazilian presidential election winner, Jair Bolsonaro, as a “like-minded” leader. Since Bolsonaro is an illiberal admirer of dictatorship, the endorsement is disturbing but not the least bit surprising. Together with the knock-off “axis of evil” designation, Bolton’s embrace of Bolsonaro suggests the start of a return to the bad old days of the Cold War in which the U.S. backed abusive dictatorships in the name of anticommunism. Relations with our neighbors in Latin America have been worsening for years, and they seem likely to deteriorate further.