Tuesday, January 13, 2009

U.S. policy toward Latin America in 2008

The State Department released a list of everything the United States did in Latin America in 2008, as a way of emphasizing the "common values" and "shared interests." It also makes a point about how many times President Bush went to the region (13 during his term) and the dollar amount of assistance in 2008 ($1.9 billion).

There are certainly a number of positive programs, but the persistent question remains: why is the administration so incredibly unpopular? It might be tempting to blame the media, or Hugo Chávez, or other message carriers (maybe even professors and bloggers!). As I've noted before, President Bush very clearly believes that the main problem is that the U.S. is not "getting the word out" and therefore does not receive sufficient credit.

The answer, though, centers on the fact that the United States doesn't listen enough to Latin America. Many of the presidential elections of the past 8-10 years should be telling us something, but we don't hear it. I recommend a really solid article in World Politics Review by Colombian journalist Anastasia Moloney, entitled "The Challenge of South America's Populist Left." It is a good overview of the political dynamics of South America. With regard to U.S.-Latin American relations, the very last paragraph drives home the point:

Despite its excesses and shortcomings, the populist left has offered many previously excluded citizens in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador a greater stake in their country's future. It is this defining social experience that perhaps gives the movement whatever coherence it has. In order for America to regain its standing in South America, not only among the continent's leaders but also among its inhabitants, it would do well to place the aspirations that drive that experience at the heart of its regional policy.

4 comments:

Justin Delacour 1:47 PM  

In order for America to regain its standing in South America, not only among the continent's leaders but also among its inhabitants, it would do well to place the aspirations that drive that experience at the heart of its regional policy.

But it's completely naive to think that's even possible. A cursory glance at history would indicate that such a drastic policy shift on the part of the United States is not possible because the interests of American elites do not coincide with the "aspirations" of Latin America's excluded.

Gabriel,  2:51 PM  

Why do you think that the US is particularly unpopular? The numbers don't support that.

In the latest Latinobarometro the US 'approval rating' was 58% in the region, the same as China and practicaly the same as the EU (59%), Japan (60%), and Spain (62%). Compare that with approval of Cuba at only 43%.

Bush is about as popular as Chavez and more so than Ortega in Latin America.

There are soe countries, like Argentina where anti-US sentiments are strong. But the US remains quite popular in may other nations in the region.l

Greg Weeks 3:46 PM  

I didn't make that argument--the "United States" as an abstraction is very often viewed favorably. I wrote "why is the administration so incredibly unpopular?"

sharon 5:44 AM  

thanks for the information....

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Sharon
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