Friday, July 12, 2013

Snowden and U.S.-Latin American Relations

A New York Times article has the rundown about the message the U.S. is sending about Edward Snowden to Latin America. Put simply, "if you take him, relations will sour for a long time."

Two things came to mind. First, I think Bill Richardson is wrong about U.S. influence. Interestingly, his quote about how the U.S. is losing influence was placed right after the authors noted how a phone call from Joe Biden brought a positive response from Rafael Correa, who now seems to be out of the Snowden circus. Correa, like other presidents, does not like to feel bullied, but U.S. influence is very strong. Remember, though, that influence is not synonymous with always getting what you want. Just because Latin American government push back does not mean influence is waning. It just means things are normal.

Second, the article makes a really good point about U.S. hypocrisy on extradition. The U.S. routinely rejects extradition demands, claiming the individual will not receive a fair trial. Criminals like Luis Posada Corriles, or even ex-presidents like Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (and many others before him) sit around in the U.S. even though their home government demand their return. How is Edward Snowden's situation different from theirs? It isn't.

On this latter point, in fact, two of the countries offering asylum--Bolivia and Venezuela--happen to want those two people. Start with annoyance at hypocrisy, then add the plane incident and a bit of domestic political boost (though in my opinion this should not be overestimated), and what you come up with is not a loss of influence. Rather, you get a calculated risk with full knowledge of potential consequences. I doubt any of the three presidents really want Snowden there, and they definitely do not think they are somehow getting away with something because of a weak hegemon.


Justin Delacour 3:40 PM  

I think the bigger question we ought to be asking is how it's in the American state's interests to keep Snowden in the news by continuing to play hardball with him. It's only the United States that suffers international embarrassment when it keeps Snowden and his revelations in the news. Stephen Walt had a very good point about this here:

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