Tuesday, July 10, 2007

President Bush and Latin America

President Bush hosted a big reception, inviting “150 Latin American community groups and 70 U.S.-based organizations.” Following the same line he used when he visited Latin America, he made a point of saying that the U.S. did a lot of positive things in the region but did not get credit:

''It's important for us -- for me to explain to our fellow citizens some of the work we're doing in the neighborhood,'' the president told his audience.

It’s fine for the president to emphasize various aid programs, and at least show that he is willing to spend some of his time focusing on Latin America. If the U.S. government is doing positive things, then by all means highlight them. Those aid programs, however, are not a substitute for a coherent policy that takes Latin American views into account.

See, for example, the editorial by Dan Burton (yes, of Helms-Burton fame) in the Washington Times, which mentions the reception, but makes only one conclusion: the way to engage Latin America and to foster “social justice” is through free trade. I just don’t think the U.S. can gain any credibility until it backs off the free trade cure-all mantra, acknowledges that many people suffer severely as a result, and agrees that any economic policy must take that into consideration. Trade and investment between the U.S. and Latin America can be mutually beneficial, but a simplistic free trade message is not leadership.


Boli-Nica 4:24 PM  

Seemed more like a big pr thing for Bush/US Gov

And truth be told, the US gov has spent billions in non-military aid in the area. Just off the top of my head, I can think about USAID funds for strenthening Nicaragua's public health system through training and infraestructure, and in Bolivia funding training in budgeting and administration for leaders of small municipalities and community leaders. At any time in many countries there have been, and continue to be programs such as these two.
Many times they are kept low key "in country" for different reasons, or are hidden behind contractors, NGO's and multilateral agencies.
Not quite as "sexy" as having Chavez deliver a speech for each boondogle in the boonies he spends a few shekels on.

What do you mean by a "coherent policy"? Doubling or tripling the aid to Latin America?
Which Latin Americans "views should be "taken into account" in designing said policies? Social sectors? the trade elite? 30 yr old college sophomores? bureaucrats? the landed gentry? peasants? Carlos Fuentes? my feisty Nicaraguan grandmother?

Greg Weeks 9:33 AM  

By “coherent” I mean a policy that lays out specific goals along with strategies that can realistically work to achieve them.

By “views” I mean at the very least looking more closely at things like voting patterns to understand more fully what’s going on in the region.

As my post (hopefully) pointed out, I don’t dispute that there are positive programs like those you mention, and all the better to point them out (as long as we don’t whine too much about getting credit). But that is not where the vast majority of the attention and money of the administration are aimed.

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