The Latin American blogosphere held its breath when Bolivian president Evo Morales's airplane was forced to land in Vienna in July. As European authorities searched for former US National Security Agency contract worker Edward Snowden on board, Twitter accounts of South American presidents exploded with resentment. The continent denounced the United States for extending its hemispheric supremacy to Europe, sputtered words like "colonialism" and "imperialism," and claimed that the incident violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner called the incident "not only humiliating to a sister nation, but also for the whole South American continent."
Fury continues with reports that the NSA allegedly hacked web accounts of Brazil's state-owned oil company - described as "industrial espionage" by President Dilma Rousseff - and monitored internet and phone communications of Rousseff and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto while he was a candidate. Rousseff postponed a state visit to Washington, pending investigation, and with President Barack Obama waiting in the wings of the UN General Assembly for his turn at the podium, she tore into the United States for its "breach of international law."
This may be a turning point in US relations with its southern neighbors. While anti-American sentiment on the street, a result of a long history of domination, is real, the bedrock reality is that the US and Latin America are joined at the hip, economically and demographically. Trade, investment and immigration data reveal growing relations and interdependence.
Rousseff's suspending her trip to Washington is only the latest episode in a long history of turbulent relations with external powers. Simón Bolivar, the Liberator of the South, first proposed combatting European colonialism in South America in 1826. During the Cold War, the US policy of containment led to military interventions in Central America and the Caribbean, and supported right-wing dictatorships in the Southern Cone. According to Amnesty International, hundreds of thousands were tortured, exiled or "disappeared" by US-backed military juntas in Chile, Argentina and Guatemala.
The US fear of communism spreading in the region was controlled through the Organization of American States. After the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, the Multidimensional Secretariat was established at the OAS to deal with transnational threats such as terrorism and organized crime. Hundreds of thousands more have lost their lives in Colombia, Mexico and Honduras with the rise of organized crime in the region.
Until his death in March 2013, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela spearheaded a group of eight nations under the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas, ALBA, in an anti-imperialist movement that carries the banner of 21st century socialism. ALBA, led by Cuba and Venezuela against the Free Trade Area of the Americas headed by the United States, was born to counteract US dominion in the region.
Soon after the NSA revelations began, leftwing governments in South America - Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela - made international headlines by offering asylum to Snowden. The whistleblower's plight is similar to that of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 2012. On July 20, less than a month after the beginning of the Snowden affair, Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro took the opportunity to end conversations that had begun in June with US Secretary of State John Kerry, stating, "My policy is zero tolerance to gringo aggression against Venezuela." Talks to replace a US ambassador in Caracas were abandoned yet again.