Here we go again. As it happens, I hold no brief for the CIA. As far as I'm concerned, it's a dysfunctional agency that has been wrong about most of the important threats of our lifetimes. In 1981, noting the careerism, caution, and lack of elan he saw, Robert Gates said the CIA had "a case of advanced bureaucratic arteriosclerosis CIA is slowly turning into the Department of Agriculture." But the idea -- and it is a hoary one -- that the CIA is in the business of creating evil, right-wing dictatorships in Latin America is just laughable. Besides, the CIA in the film is clearly meant to stand for the U.S.
Yes, the U.S. had a role in propping up dictators in the 1950s and 60s. And yes, it would have been ideal if those countries had moderate democrats we could support. But they usually didn't. It was often a choice between a Soviet-backed thug like Fidel Castro or a right-wing regime.
But in the 1980s and since, the United States did everything possible to find the moderate forces in places like El Salvador and Nicaragua. We enjoyed great success in spreading democracy and free markets in Latin America. Don't look to Hollywood for instruction, but today that progress is profoundly threatened -- not by right-wing nut jobs as the movies would have it -- but by genuine left-wing dictators and would-be dictators. Do the names Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and Daniel Ortega not ring a bell? Last week, Castro acolyte Chavez threatened to send tanks into states that refused to vote for his slate of candidates in local elections. Morales, the left-wing leader of Bolivia, had stopped cooperating with U.S. anti-drug efforts in his country and has arrested domestic opponents. Ortega, returned to power in Nicaragua by a 38 percent plurality vote, is repeating the tactics that made him so unpopular in the 1980s -- stifling dissent, fixing elections, and employing street thugs to intimidate the opposition.
Hollywood types were delighted with the election of Barack Obama, some hoping that the choice would improve America's image abroad. It's a little ironic, because Hollywood's portrayal of the U.S., in a thousand films like this one, goes a long way toward creating that anti-American sentiment in the first place.