Saturday, April 04, 2015

Positive U.S.-Latin American Relations

Thanks to Mike Allison for pointing out this Brookings report by Richard Feinberg, Emily Miller, and Harold Trinkunas. It makes a similar case to one I've made numerous times, which is that U.S.-Latin American relations are much better than popularly portrayed.

They take an historical look, which is useful to see evolution, such as in decreased military expenditures. My one quibble is that in my opinion they underestimate how much has been achieved in Latin American in spite of U.S. policy. In that sense we need to be careful about using "Obama administration" and "Bush administration" instead of "United States." Many gains in reducing inequality, for example, occurred in the face of open hostility from the Bush administration, whose Latin America advisors were Cold War ideologues. Yet the authors consider inequality reduction as achieving U.S. interests. That makes sense in its own way--too many Bush advisors tended to advocate the opposite of what would achieve U.S. interested.

The broader point is that if you scrape away the simplistic views and the rhetoric, but most importantly set Venezuela aside as an anomaly in just about every way, then things look good. Perhaps even better than ever, even historically speaking. Don't get me wrong--there is plenty I disagree with, and the drug war is one disaster the authors also note. The U.S. government shoots itself in the foot (almost literally) and contributes to human rights abuses in ways that I find deeply frustrating, but baby steps are still steps.


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