When most people discuss the history of conquest in Latin America and the Caribbean, two countries are usually brought up: Spain and the United States.
Spain, which colonized the region from the late 15th Century until the late 19th Century, exterminated advanced Indigenous civilizations and kidnapped millions of Africans for slavery. The United States, which solidified its imperialist domination over the region after defeating Madrid in the Spanish-American War of 1898, continues this practice today under the capitalist-imperialist system.
Both have imposed their reactionary economic models, political ideologies, legal systems, religions, cultures, customs and beliefs on our people.
There is, however, one other First World country that’s almost entirely left out of the conversation around conquest in Latin America and the Caribbean. Though not as powerful as the United States and Spain in terms of imposing its cultures, customs and beliefs, this junior partner of imperialism is just as deadly in terms of its economic and political impact.
We’re talking about Canada, a country that many have falsely dubbed as home of “the nicest group of people on the planet.”
One only has to look at Canada’s recent involvement in Honduras, the poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean, to understand Ottawa’s imperialist nature.
There, Canadian tourism corporations have been setting up shop along its 430-mile-long Caribbean coastline as well as the Islas de la Bahía, located just a few miles away offshore.
Map of Honduras. | Source: Flickr Creative Commons
Although Canadian investors have flocked to the region in pursuit of profits for decades, their presence intensified after 2009. That was the year former President Manuel Zelaya, a progressive social democrat, was removed from office in a U.S.-backed military coup.
During his short-lived administration, Zelaya recognized the Caribbean coastline and the Islas de la Bahía as the ancestral lands of the Garífuna people, the largest Afro-Indigenous ethnic group in Honduras. These were the areas where they relocated after fleeing white slave traders in West Africa and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Zelaya — a close ally of Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales and Daniel Ortega — was strongly supported by the Garífuna and Afro-Honduran community. Shortly after his ousting, however, the incumbent right-wing National Party rolled back that recognition, putting up their lands for sale to wealthy Canadian and U.S. corporations.
Under current President Juan Orlando Hernández’s administration, the Honduran government has implemented the “Model Cities” program, designating vast areas of Caribbean Honduras as “free trade zones.” This means that foreign corporations, especially tourism companies, are “free” from government regulations. Companies there pay little-to-no taxes, don’t have to follow national labor laws, can pay workers as low as they want and don’t have to follow environmental regulations designed to protect the environment.
A large majority of the companies there today, like Carivida, are Canadian.
Garífuna and Afro-Honduran communities that have lived there for centuries have protested the presence of these companies, dubbing cities like Trujillo “Little Canada” because of the large presence of modern-day settlers. Their protests, however, have been met with harsh police repression by the Honduran government, which sides with the settlers in the name of “economic development.”
Garífuna residents in northern Honduras protest land privatization. | Source: OFRANEH
Protesters have been killed, beaten up and silenced for speaking out against racist land grabs. Groups like the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, known as OFRANEH, have been targeted for their revolutionary work against the capitalist-imperialist operation forcing them off of their lands.
Not only have Canadian tourism companies supported the Honduran government’s removal of Garífuna and Afro-Honduran communities from their lands. The Canadian government has also financed roughly $3.7 million to Honduras to “help it address its security challenges.” Most of those funds have gone to the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program, ACCBP, and the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force, SRTF, which criminalize Black protesters.
To top it off, countless white Canadian hipsters adorned with dreadlocks have set-up artisan craft shops along the Caribbean coastline, selling Garífuna and Afro-Honduran clothing and accessories in order to finance their next drug binges.
Given all of these points, it remains clear that both the government and people of Canada are implicit in imperialist endeavors in Latin America and the Caribbean. Canada’s silent role in the genocide of Garífuna and Afro-Honduran people is a testament to this.
Canada — much like the modern United Kingdom and the European Union — is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. While it poses as a “progressive” social democracy, its true imperialist nature is impossible to hide.