Further to my post from the other day, it seems that I’m not the only one who’s picked up on the not-so-subtle racism of the European countries who denied Evo’s plane the right to pass through their airspace. Venezuelan TV journalist Miguel Angel Pérez Pirela has also noticed it. Here are his thoughts on the matter:
Colonialism has long arms. It has been able to perpetuate itself for centuries.
I have to believe that 200 years ago, the Europeans did not accept the colossal defeats which the Haitians handed to the French, or the Bolivians and Venezuelans to the Spanish.
No doubt about it, gringo pressure played a fundamental role in the humiliation which they tried to foist on Evo Morales. But the Europeans would never have thought of this, had it not been about the first indigenous president from our continent.
That Evo Morales governs Bolivia is a slap in the face to the “good morale” of the north.
So we find ourselves confronted with an act of unprecedented racism. Racism which also contravenes international laws which those same Europeans use as an excuse to bomb villages.
Placing a South American president in danger of death in such a grotesque and shameless fashion evokes for us the massacres, violations and humiliations of every kind that European colonialism has subjected us to in our Latin America.
So, what should we do?
Right now, recognize the importance of the processes of our Latin American union and don’t forget that the only possibility we blacks, Indians, mulattos and whites of the southern world have for not returning to colonial times is to unite in the face of the Europeans who “think well” and act badly.
The UNASUR emergency meeting served to make Europe understand that if its integration via the European Union is economic, ours is ethical and political. Without any desire to be chauvinistic, but to affirm, without any room for doubt, that now, in South America, whoever messes with one of us, messes with us all.
If Evo Morales is the pebble in the shoe of European colonialism, then let us go on throwing stones at the “illuminated” and hypocritical windows of the north. As Mario Benedetti said: The South also exists. So let them pick up their broken glass panes.
It’s a funny thing, is it not? Nicolás Maduro was in Russia at the same time as Evo, and at the same conference of gas-exporting countries. He has made clear his intention to shelter Edward Snowden if the latter should happen to request asylum in Venezuela (and he has). If anyone’s plane should have been stopped with demands for a search, it would have been Maduro’s. Yet four European countries denied Evo the right to pass overhead, and one — Austria — forced him to land, at the behest of the US ambassador to that country.
Since I keep hearing that Evo’s life was in danger, I gather that a shoot-down threat was uttered at some point, forcing a landing that would otherwise not have taken place. There was no search of the plane; that would have required a judge’s permission, and since the US is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, it had no right even to request the landing of Evo’s plane! So this incident is a pretty flagrant violation of international law, and Evo has that much on his side should he decide to sue. (I hope he does.)
So why, then, this brazen international crime? Why Evo and not Maduro?
It’s as obvious as the color of their respective skins. Maduro is white; Evo, brown. Maduro is of Spanish-Jewish extraction; Evo, Aymara. The one has roots in Europe; the other, the Bolivian Altiplano. This incident is, as Pérez Pirela makes clear, profoundly racist. Just as is the ongoing punishment, 200 years later, of Haiti’s successful slave revolts.
Of course, nowadays, no one in Europe or the US has the temerity to suggest that these little countries of Latin America and the Caribbean be re-enslaved outright, or their indigenous populations massacred without pity. That would never go over with any of their respective populaces, who have fought hard to expunge the stain of racism from their own hands. So now, it has to be done in an “enlightened” manner, with “aid to developing countries” that magically blossoms into unsustainable debts to the IMF and the World Bank, or a permanent foreign military presence that does nothing to make peace in that “ungovernable” land (which has been deliberately rendered so through coups against elected, popular leaders), never mind keep it. Or, if that avenue has been rejected (as is the case in Venezuela, and even more emphatically so in Bolivia), the knives come out in other, sneakier, quasi-legalistic ways. Like forcing a diplomatic incident over “confirmed information” that is nothing of the sort, say. Something shocking, distressing, humiliating — a direct affront to no less than the president of the land. Something that says, implicitly: You might be a popular, elected leader among your own people, but to us, you’re just a shitty Injun. And we will bat your plane around between our paws like a catnip mouse toy.
That such an incident — a diplomatic reiteration of the Shock Doctrine — will have unpleasant, unexpected repercussions for the “enlightened” racists who perpetrated it, may have been unthinkable to the perpetrators just a decade ago, but it’s inevitable now. Because now, the countries of South America are pulling together, as a political bloc. An injustice to one president is, as we have seen from the indignant responses of Rafael Correa, Cristina Fernández and others, an affront to them all. And the backlash, when it comes, will be dramatic. The US is about to find out, in the hardest possible way, that the region is out of its control, and that any efforts to reassert control will meet with more pushback than they can handle. Because when a region has 500 years of colonialist indignity behind it, the force of all that pent-up rage is greater than any neocolonialist could ever imagine.