From the Washington Post:
The enduring success of Latin American politicians of Arab origin By Ishaan Tharoor May 16
Brazil’s new president, Michel Temer, is already a figure of profound controversy. Formerly the country’s vice president, he moved into power after the tumultuous suspension of President Dilma Rousseff was finalized last week in the midst of an ongoing corruption scandal.
Temer has immediately swung the country’s politics to the right, plotting free-market policies and appointing an all-male cabinet in the wake of the departure of Brazil’s first female president. The septuagenarian centrist may not be in power for long, though, given that he is also subject to a pending investigation into the financing of his and Rousseff’s 2014 election campaign. Before he assumed the role of president, Temer was more widely known abroad for his model wife, who is about four decades his junior.
There’s one detail in his biography that, although irrelevant to Brazil’s ongoing political turmoil, links him to a wider Latin American story. Temer, whose Lebanese parents arrived in Brazil in the 1920s, is part of a diverse and far-reaching Arab immigrant diaspora in parts of Central and South America. And he’s hardly the first regional politico of Arab ancestry to head up his nation.
Carlos Menem, the disgraced former president of Argentina, was the son of Syrian nationals. To further his political career, he converted from Islam to Roman Catholicism. The father of Julio César Turbay, president of Colombia from 1978 to 1982, was an enterprising merchant who emigrated from the Lebanese town of Tannourine. Prominent presidents of El Salvador and Honduras claim Palestinian ancestry, while successive presidents in Ecuador in the 1990s had Lebanese heritage.
And Carlos Slim, no mean political operator himself, has ties of marriage and blood to (literal) fascist warlords in Lebanon who committed some of the most notorious massacres of the Lebanese Civil War.
Although many in the United States know of the profusion of Italian, German and Irish immigrants whose descendants now populate the Americas, they are perhaps less aware of other major migrations to the region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition to huge numbers from China and Japan, a significant influx of arrivals to South America came from the area known as the Levant, comprising modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel.
As we all know, we have to allow massive immigration from Latin America since nobody could possibly make a living there. Except … all sorts of people have moved to Latin America and many made a killing. What does this say about the people we are getting from Latin America and what does it say about the people who are dumping their unwanted populations on us?
This was a point that Donald Trump made in the most denounced section of his campaign announcement speech last June:
The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.
Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people.
It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably— probably— from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.
Trump’s argument, which possibly goes back via convoluted routes to future Mexican foreign minister Jorge G. Castaneda’s 1995 Atlantic Monthly article “Ferocious Differences,” appears to have been far too sophisticated for the mainstream media, judging by the obsessive response over the word “rapists” and the total lack of comprehension of the context. I guess Trump needs to dumb it down more so the press can keep up.
By the way, this social history of Arab immigration to Latin America helps explain why right after 9/11 Doug Feith, the #3 man at the Pentagon, proposed bombing South America in order to surprise the terrorists (and, no doubt, everybody else). From Newsweek in 2006:
Days after 9/11, a senior Pentagon official lamented the lack of good targets in Afghanistan and proposed instead U.S. military attacks in South America or Southeast Asia as “a surprise to the terrorists,” according to a footnote in the recent 9/11 Commission Report. The unsigned top-secret memo, which the panel’s report said appears to have been written by Defense Under Secretary Douglas Feith, is one of several Pentagon documents uncovered by the commission which advance unorthodox ideas for the war on terror. The memo suggested “hitting targets outside the Middle East in the initial offensive” or a “non-Al Qaeda target like Iraq,” the panel’s report states. U.S. attacks in Latin America and Southeast Asia were portrayed as a way to catch the terrorists off guard when they were expecting an assault on Afghanistan.
The memo’s content, NEWSWEEK has learned, was in part the product of ideas from a two-man secret Pentagon intelligence unit appointed by Feith after 9/11: veteran defense analyst Michael Maloof and Mideast expert David Wurmser, now a top foreign-policy aide to Dick Cheney. Maloof and Wurmser saw links between international terror groups that the CIA and other intelligence agencies dismissed. They argued that an attack on terrorists in South America—for example, a remote region on the border of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil where intelligence reports said Iranian-backed Hizbullah had a presence—would have ripple effects on other terrorist operations. The proposals were floated to top foreign-policy advisers.