Chapter Fifty-two

The Caribbean

The major, and several minor, lands of the Caribbean Sea Basin
were invaded and occupied, now and then, by the USA,
employing "gunboat diplomacy" and the Marine Corps.
Additionally, U.S. diplomats and home governments intimidated
and bullied these lands whenever aroused to do so. American
business, too, came to own or manage the most profitable resources
of the region.

Assuming the mirror image most complimentary,
Americans liked to believe that they were a friendly giant,
but Caribbeans, who were not adverse to
cutting up one another with machetes periodically,
unanimously denied this conceit. Yet, when squabbling,
they were prone to call for American support
for their faction, and pleased,
for a while, when they got it.

In the embarrassing hindsight of history,
it is difficult to imagine how letting Spain go her way
in the management of her unruly colonies
would have been an inferior solution
to substituting the American way
(or, for that matter, France with regard to Haiti much earlier).
One refers here to Cuba, the Dominican Republic,
and Puerto Rico.
Probably as many immigrants from these islands
would have come to reside in the U.S. anyhow,
and they would have come with fewer ties to their homelands,
and European powers,
an advantage for prompter assimilation.

The other countries might, too, have been let alone.
The enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine would have
held off European intruders, who were not yet accustomed
to losing their money peaceably to Third World countries,
and liked to take direct action. All around the
Caribbean, the same problems prevailed,
except where European powers were directly in charge:
the Danes in the Virgin Islands
(which the U.S. bought up in 1917, the inhabitants standing by).
British colonies - mainly British Honduras,
the Bahamas, Bermuda, St Kitts and Nevis,
Barbados, Grenada and Jamaica -
caused the USA little trouble until they were freed
(or won their independence) in the
dissolution of the Empire after WWII.
Again, immigration to the U.S. was heavy,
but due to arrive in any event;
Anglophone West Indians, better educated than
Southern black Americans, typically
won better places for themselves.

Already free of European rule were a few other lands,
Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador,
Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti and Venezuela -
Panama was an integral part of greater Columbia,
and Mexico might as well be added.
For all of these countries came under American
domination at one time or another. Even Mexico
came under attack, when the usual combustibles of
business, philanthropy, and border scrapes
precipitated marines upon the coastal city of Vera Cruz
in 1914, and troops into Sonora, across the
Upper Rio Grande, 1916-17.

General John "Blackjack" Pershing led the drive,
a pathetic rehearsal for the slaughter of the Western Front
soon to come. A doctrine called "hot pursuit" was put forward
to justify deep penetration of friendly foreign country.
In fact, before World War I,
the field of "international law" was rapidly developing,
with, for instance, useful mediation by T. Roosevelt
in a European powers confrontation at Algeciras,
Morocco, and to end the Russian-Japanese War of
1905 that had promoted Japanese arms Far East.
At the Hague in 1899 and 1907,
a number of powers had signed agreements to
set up courts to apply international law by
arbitration and judicial panels to disputes among nations.

Truly Venezuela was sovereign, but American agricultural,
mineral, and petroleum interests moved in early, so that,
in 1895 President Cleveland rattled his saber
at England when it suddenly became avid for some land on the
Guyana border where gold lay.

Columbia found out independence meant knuckling under
a determined perceived need by the USA
for an Isthmus Canal across its Panamanian provinces.

When Columbia dragged its feet in letting America have
its deal to dig a canal across the neck of Panama,
following a buy-out of French interests which yellow fever
had driven off the job, President Theodore Roosevelt
suborned and suckled a revolution that freed Panama
to give over to the U.S. a Canal Zone practically forever.
To the money, supplies, and graft that went to Panama,
was added, but only in 1921, a U.S.-Columbian Treaty,
payment for the deal, and a cash-linked apology.

The great American invasion of the Caribbean came
with the Spanish-American War of 1898.
Like Mexico a half-century earlier, Spain was forced into war.
It was trying, no more terribly than the average imperial regime,
probably less, to subdue rebellions in Cuba
and elsewhere, notably in the Philippine Islands across the world.

A succession of incidents and idealistic gushes,
true, mistaken, and faked, whooped up a
declaration of war against Spain. The corrupt
American newspaper publishers Pulitzer and Hearst
enlarged great fortunes by pushing the nation
into war and covering war bloodily and garishly.

A battleship, the "Maine," was blown up by parties unknown
or by accident at Havana, and exultant yells
pierced the blue: "Remember the Maine!"

American expeditions enthusiastically descended upon
Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, destroying
two wormy Spanish fleets and several garrisons.

Cuban and Philippine rebels, long in the field,
effectively assisted the Americans, but found themselves
at odds with them as soon as the fighting ended.
Puerto Rico, where no fighting occurred,
was seized and kept by the U.S.A. as spoils of war.
A governorship, filled by the U.S. President,
ruled the island until 1947.
But in 1917 Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens.
They elected a non-voting delegate to Congress,
but might not vote for the President. They were
exempted from federal taxes.

In 1952, a Puerto Rican constituent assembly
drafted an ordinary Constitution that was approved
by the voters and ratified by Congress.
The country was declared a Commonwealth.
Since this status, while it kept the annual
per capita income below that of any U.S. state,
did bring benefits such that the people voted by
a narrow margin in 1993 to stay that way,
rather than become the 51st State or independent.
Half of Puerto Rico's four millions lived by
then on the mainland, as voting citizens.

The United States, whose companies had long owned Cuban
plantations, thought better of annexing the country but occupied it
for several years, then revisited, courtesy of the Marines,
in 1906-09, 1912, 1917, and 1922.
It maintained, until the "Good Neighbor" policy of the
New Deal, a protectorate over Cuba, under a "Platt Amendment"
to the Treaty which gave the U.S. an ample naval base
at Guantanamo Bay. The Bay was held, up to and through the
perilous relations of the two countries,
between the victory of Fidel Castro's rebellious forces
over dictator Fulgencio Battista
and the end of the twentieth century.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, quarrels over debts and
fancied human concerns, for which the U.S. offered no solution
but "democratic elections," precipitated invasions of

 (1912-19, 1924-25),
 (1912-25, 1926-33),
the Dominican republic
 (1916-24, but a formal Protectorate 1905-41),
and Haiti

Washington accepted terms of peace,
with both "good guys" and "bad guys."
In 1994, the Americans found themselves leading
a kind of international expedition with
exclusively American forces to restore
democracy in Haiti.

Generally, by this time, the U.S. had adopted a policy of
using the Central Intelligence Agency as a
fomenter of rebellion and protagonist of American interests,
using indigenous warriors instead of outright American contingents.
The results helped to protract, in the Caribbean,
a negative record going back to the dawn of the Republic.