Friday, November 08, 2019

Generalizing About Latin American Politics

Francisco Toro and James Bosworth have a piece in The Washington Post about how we have to avoid the temptation to generalize too much about Latin American politics, especially in this era of crisis. They note the different demands we see across the region, the stability here with instability there, right, left, and center all mixed up, etc.

For decades, Latin Americanists have been ritually repeating that each country
in the region is different, that each has its own history, social dynamics, political
traditions and cultural idiosyncrasies. For just as long, the rest of Washingtonʼs foreign policy establishment has been ignoring our warnings.
I agree, though comparativists would always leave room open for generalization. The problem is that U.S. policymakers tend to come up with their own that are wrong. All we're hearing now is socialism, socialism, socialism, which is useless when it comes to Chile and any number of other cases. For years we had "pink tide" even while the term had nothing to do with, for example, Colombia and Mexico.

You know what this is? It's really a call for Latin America policy that is more like Barack Obama's. There were certainly problems there--immigration and Honduras come to mind in particular--but I still agree with something I wrote back in 2014:
I like the general thrust of President Obama's policy toward Latin America. More specifically, I like the lack of a one-size-fits-all grand strategy, a focus on positive day-to-day relations on the ground, and hesitance to act too quickly. This does not mean I have agreed with everything the administration has done and I've written about that too.
For Obama, that was part of his general "don't do stupid shit" advice. We don't need a huge Alliance for Progress 2.0. We need careful, reality-based policy.


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