Thursday, February 12, 2015

Latin American Outrage at the United States

One thing I've periodically mulled over, especially in the wake of Cuba policy liberalization, is Latin American "outrage." The latest example is this piece on the outrage in Latin America about U.S. sanctions against a group of Venezuelans.

This argument is common and tends to follow pretty standard logic. Representatives from ALBA and/or UNASUR will make statements about some issue related to the U.S. and sometimes draw up some type of document. This will gain currency particularly among left-leaning analysts. Sometimes it will be reported by mainstream media and sometimes ignored.

But then what?

As I see it, there are two contradictory results. First, you read many arguments about how isolated the United States is, how little influence it has, and how Latin America stands strong against it. The evidence is often based on public statements. (I've rebutted that before).

Second, you will see Latin American government work quietly but persistently to improve relations with the United States. Indeed, the historic change with Cuba came precisely as lots of people were making that isolation argument. Meanwhile, people keep claiming Brazil was annoyed at the U.S. even while Rousseff was gearing to make efforts to reach out.

The logical conclusion is that there is sometimes a significant difference between public statements and private actions. This isn't remarkable or new for governments. Over the years, as Back Channel to Cuba mentions more than once, Fidel Castro told U.S. officials many times that he understood how U.S. presidents would need to appease domestic constituencies with certain rhetoric, but he wouldn't take it personally so negotiations could continue.

What's more notable is how analysts and pundits don't see (or perhaps don't want to see) the disjuncture and continue to make arguments based on political rhetoric instead of what governments actually do.

There are real differences between Latin American countries and the United States. For example, Rafael Correa harbors Julian Assange and has been vocal about the Chevron controversy. But he also promotes trade with the U.S., keeps the country dollarized, and invites U.S. tourists. We seem to see too few analyses that show U.S.-Latin American relations go beyond what people say, and that differences aren't always as extreme as they appear.


Anonymous,  12:46 PM  

Plenty of the points you make seem valid, but to descend to a euphemism about how the sanctions are against a mere "group of Venezuelans" does not engender trust in your analysis. Sanctions against state officials have much deeper implications than the mere penalties against the specific group against which they are directed, for such officials do --for better or worse-- serve as political representatives of the nation.

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