Latin America – a crisis in the making Part II

With reference to my previous post “Latin America – a crisis in the making”, I submit the following recent article from The Economist, an article which reflects both my previous comments and which highlights and underscores my criticsm of US Foreign Policy in this region.

Trouble in the “backyard”
Apr 28th 2005 SÃO PAULO From The Economist print edition

Just stop calling it that
Rice and Lula: wary allies

AFTER four years in which South Americans complained of neglect by the United States, George Bush is paying attention. He sent his defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to the region in March. Condoleezza Rice, the new secretary of state, set off on a four-nation tour this week. Mr Bush himself is expected in Argentina and Brazil in November. Why the sudden interest? Because things are going badly.

The United States’ long-standing project for the region, free trade among the hemisphere’s 34 democracies, is stuck. Mr Bush’s newer idea of spreading democracy everywhere could suffer reversals in South America. Last week Ecuador’s Congress ousted its pro-American president. Democracy in Bolivia and Peru is fragile.

As America’s influence in South America has waned, China’s has waxed. The noisiest problem for Mr Bush is Venezuela, led by an implacably anti-American populist, Hugo Chávez. He is thought to be fomenting unrest in other Andean countries, and this week scrapped a longstanding military co-operation accord between Venezuela and the United States. The Bush administration has so far failed to persuade fellow members of the Organisation of American States to back its candidate to be the group’s secretary-general.

Michael Shifter, an analyst with Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank in Washington, DC, says that the United States needs to abandon its traditional attitude that Latin America is merely its “backyard”. Ms Rice, who has recently carried emollient messages to several continents, seems to understand this. Her tour takes in two reliable allies, Colombia and El Salvador. But much of the business that matters is with pricklier countries. She was to attend a pro-democracy jamboree in Chile. She started her tour in Brazil, the region’s main power, which the United States hopes will be a bulwark against instability.

Brazil is wary of pan-American free trade, bitter about American farm subsidies and suspicious of American military aid to Colombia. It is too big and ambitious in its own right to accept American leadership. For their part, the Americans deem Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a tad too friendly to Mr Chávez.

In Brasília, however, Ms Rice played down differences. A joint statement spoke the local language of “liberty, democracy and social justice”, though the secretary mentioned drugs, terrorism and trade in a later speech. The statement called on Ecuador to respect “democratic order”, though neither country may do much to ensure this. Brazil leads the United Nations’ peacekeepers in Haiti and probably restrains Mr Chávez. If other Andean governments fall into anti-American hands, its moderating influence will be sorely needed.

The best hope for stability in South America is to make it richer. The United States alone cannot make that happen, but could do more to help.


1 reply »

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