Saturday, May 19, 2018

Latin American Agency

Agency is an issue I've come back to regularly over the years, and which I preach in my U.S.-Latin American Relations course. Given the power and influence of the United States, combined with a history of intervention, it becomes tempting to view Latin American politics as always reacting and responding to the United States.

We need to resist that temptation.

For example, in this news article by Alfredo Corchado, several analysts argue that Donald Trump is a driving force of support for AMLO in the Mexican election. Patrick Iber is one person who pushes back on that:

Patrick Iber, assistant professor of Latin American history at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said Lopez Obrador is "drawing on a strong tradition in Mexican foreign policy of respect for the sovereignty of the internal affairs of other nations.... If AMLO is elected, some will say he, like Trump, fits in to the global rise of 'populism.' Others will say he was elected as a reaction against Trump's rhetoric of wall-building and Mexican criminality. But neither will be all that accurate: AMLO is not new to the Mexican scene, nor is he all that much more popular than he was twelve years ago. Support for him has much more to do with the problems of previous Mexican administrations than it does with anything happening in the United States."

Exactly. Mexicans are responding to the problematic and corrupt history of the PRI and the failure of the PAN to generate support. AMLO would likely be doing well even if Barack Obama were still president.

The question of agency always hangs over Venezuela, where apologists deny a lot of Venezuelan agency. Instead, Venezuelan polarization is framed by U.S. policy. I totally agree that Trump's policies are not productive, but the Venezuelan government is responsible for what's going on. Venezuelan misery predated Donald Trump and would still be there no matter who was president in the U.S.


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