Work Abroad but earn in USD

Monday, April 25, 2005

Argentina's Attitude Towards America

A reader wrote in today asking about Argentina's view toward America. Of course, I wish I had better news to report, but this blog is all about the truth, so that's what's going to get published here.

Reader's Comment

Can you tell me about how the average Argentino on the street views America? Are the feelings similar to that of Europeans right now? I've been living in Germany the last few years and I've found myself constantly defending the actions of my government. The US is really unpopular here right now.

The Hard Facts

I'm going to approach this question two ways, first by laying out the hard facts about Argentine attitudes towards Americans, as supported by research, and then I'm going to tell a few personal anecdotes about the conversations that I've had. After that, I think you'll get the picture.

In 2002, The Pew Research Center did a study on global attitudes toward America. When asked whether people had a favorable or unfavorable view of the United States, just 34% of Argentines reported a favorable opinion. You can compare that with Germany where 61% have a favorable opinion of the United States.

Argentina has the least favorable opinion of the United States in all of Latin America. The only four countries surveyed that reported lower opinions of the US were Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan, and Egypt. Even the people of Lebanon had a higher opinion of the US than Argentina, and it wasn't so long ago that they were blowing up our embassies.

America vs. Americans in Argentina

In the same survey, those in Canada, Asia, and Western Europe are likly to make a distinction between America vs. Americans. While they disliked America and America's policies abroad, they still had a favorable opinion of Americans. For example, in Lebanon only 35% of people had a favorable view of America, but 47% had a favorable view of Americans.

In Latin America, however, this was not the case at all. According to the study, "nearly every Latin American country assess "Americans" in the same terms or more negatively than they assess "the United States." This is pretty shocking. It means that, as an American, you have a higher probability of being liked on the streets of Beirut than the calles of Buenos Aires.

Some Personal Anecdotes That Support This View

At dinner once I was talking with some Argentines and when the topic turned to land and politics, someone mentioned with a straight face that many people believed that Americans were out to steal Argentina's water supply. I'm not joking. He mentioned how Ted Turner was the country's biggest landholder and that many people believed there was some kind of CIA conspiracy to steal the country's water. I really thought this was a joke, but they were dead serious. Apparently this is a common view held by some people.

In 2003 I was having coffee with one of my employees and we got to talking about September 11. I mentioned something about how the US had wasted a lot of the goodwill we got from the rest of the world after September 11. He told me, "You know, a lot of people here thought you deserved it. People said, look, they're responsible for killing millions of people all over the world and they deserve what they get."

This last Columbus Day, when I mentioned to one of my employees that American Indians often protest, she told me that people protest in Argentina on Columbus Day as well, but in front of the US Embassy. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why people would protest in front of the US Embassy on Columbus day, other than the fact that maybe they're just so used to protesting against the US that they go there by habit when its time to protest something. In fact, she told me that they are protesting the "new colonialism" by the United States during Columbus Day.

America's Role In The Economic Crisis

Perhaps most importantly, many Argentines blame the US for their economic crisis in 2001. They accuse the US Treasury and the IMF of engineering their failure, lending money when they knew it'd be pilfered by corrupt politicians and wasted. They also point out that the US Treasury allowed Argentina to default, but bailed out Brazil, Argentina's northern neighbor, something they view as totally unfair.

The 19th century British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston once said, "Nations have no permanent allies, only permanent interests." Yet according to the Pew study, 75% of Americans believe that the US considers other nations' views "a great deal" when formulating its foreign policy. To be quite frank, what are these people smoking? Contrast that with the belief in Argentina, where just 16% of the population believes that the US considers their interests when it conducts foreign policy. In the case of the bailout of Argentina versus Brazil, we can point to the clear reason that Brazil received a bailout and Argentina did not -- multinational US bank exposure to Brazilian loans.

Just one month after former US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill scoffed at the notion of bailing out Latin America, saying that the money would probably wind up in Swiss banks, America, through the IMF, offers $30 billion to Brazil. US banks had a much larger loan portfolio in Brazil than in Argentina. The Brazil bailout was just another case of the US protecting its own interests, as all nations do. The result of this inconsistent policy, however, is resentment in Argentina, where people feel they've been given a raw deal.

Americans can certainly make the argument that its unfair for us to be blamed for Argentina's woes. After all, a country should take responsibility for its own spending and mismanagement of its economy. Nevertheless, as a people, we should understand that selfish decisions, made in Washington by officials at the IMF and the US Treasury, can impact the lives of millions of people a continent away. When our politicians decide who gets a bailout and who doesn't, they can literally determine whether someone in Latin America will keep their job or be able to afford the basic necessities of life.

That's a lot of power for someone you didn't elect to have over your life. More and more, people around the world feel they should have a vote in US elections because they feel the outcome of those elections can effect them personally in a very big way.

Implications For Expats

Despite all the seemingly negative news I've brought up, I will say that in the time I've spent in Argentina, I've never felt unwelcome or scorned. After reading all that, you might think that I get spit on every time I walk up and down the streets. This is not the case. Just realize that being American makes you a stereotype in Argentina -- the greedy yanqui capitalist who's out to exploit the people, steal the water, and turn Argentina into the next US colony.

Once people get to know you personally, they'll judge you not based on your nationality, but on your individuality. For a lot of us, this'll be the first time we're on the receiving end of a negative stereotype -- which will probably serve to give us a good lesson in humility and a greater understanding of what many others experience in our own country.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said.

I've traveled a fair amount, and am often shocked at the feelings on America and Americans. It often seems like America is universally hated. When I mention this to friends who haven't traveled much outside of the country they don't believe me.

That said (and as you said), I've almost never felt someone didn't like me personally for this reason. I've almost always found that people dissociate the american they are talking to from americans in general.

-Mark Cooper

4/25/2005 01:03:00 AM  
Blogger Turribeach.com.ar said...

I totally agree with Mark here. Although there is a lot of resentment against US nationals (*), we tend to "hate" them generally rather than personally. I think the only person individually hated would be Mr Bush*t. Also I would suggest that if you are interested in digging that anti-US resentment you will need to look further in the history books. In the Argentinean case US helped the UK in the Malvinas war (1982). An as far as South America goes, everybody knows that the military dictators that were around in the 60s and 70s and ruined each country, were helped and even hand picked by the US intelligence in most cases. Much like the same happened with Bin Laden and Afghanistan if you read your news other than in the CNN ["just another case of the US protecting its own interests, as all nations do..."]. Certainly that could be the case, but you do it in such way that you always put your interests on top of the other nations many cases using ilegal measures such dictators, invading a country or simply bombing them...

(*) I refuse to call you an American since America is first a continent and then it could be used as a country nick name. Therefore when I listen someone says "American", I say I am American too, since I was worn in South America, a part the American Continent. Anyone who whishes to refute this should read the Set theory, in particular they should at the Subsets definition. Basic geography will also work. This is just another way the US people show that they are the only one leaving in the American continent or worst, in the world. No other citizen of any other country call themselves as the continent name and mean just their country...

5/02/2005 08:23:00 PM  
Blogger elizabeth said...

While i understand the use of statistic in predicting trends, I think they can be very misleading when used to qualify human relations. I have lived here as US american for several years and without exception people have been warm, kind and welcoming. While it is true Argentines are critical of our policy as it relates to the world, so does most of the rest of the world. I find that most argentines do not blame us for the economical mess they are in(unlike K) but do see our culpability regarding the never-ending military juntas in SA in the 60's, 70's and in the case of Argentina the 80's too. I think our envolvement is well documented. YOu may want to correct your dinner companion's misperception that Ted Turner is the largest land owner. He owns two large estancias in the south but pales in comparsion to the Quilmes family and the premier oil family who I cant recall his their name.

5/03/2005 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger apartmentsba.com said...

I am American and live here permanently. I do business here as well. Argentina may resent America but I've never felt resentment at all. Quite the contrary. Often times, throughout various sectors of the business community, people and businesses will tell me that "they prefer doing business with me over a local company because they can trust me as an American" and they can't trust their local Portenos. This is the honest truth.

I encounter this almost every week. Not only from banks or bigger institutions but by individual property owners as well. I have an ad in the Buenos Aires Herald every single day since I moved here. I proudly post in the advertisement, 100% American owned and operated. I used that slogan to attract tourists and foreigners but I was surprised to find that I get more local business from it because of that slogan. Interesting huh?

No matter what the Portenos may think about America, they don't have any resentment with Americans and they certainly don't hold it against Americans doing business here. From my experiences so far, they seem to trust American owned businesses more than Argentine corporations and individuals.

Interesting huh?

5/15/2005 02:50:00 AM  
Blogger Alcoolio said...

Hi, thanks for a very nice blog, with interesting contents and also very well written!

However, I felt I had to comment on your observations regarding the argentinians views on americans, and specifically the disussion on the fresh water supply issue (whether foreign interests are moving to lay their hands on water reserves - something being discussed globally, as well as in Argentina as you noticed).

I think it is a bit ignorant to laugh at this as being a bizarre conspiracy theory. It is a very well known although admittedly controversial issue. Greenpeace co-founder Rex Wyler said recently in a news article (Clarín 28/08-2004) that war over water reserves is likely not far off in the future, and compared it to USA's war over oil in Iraq.

Why you hear people in Argentina talking about this issue is probably because a local "Michael Moore", Mausi Martínez (woman) recently did a documentary on this issue, a film called "Sed, invasión gota a gota" that has been positively reviewed by both Clarin and La Nacion newspapers.

See:
http://buscador.lanacion.com.ar/Nota.asp?nota_id=732261&high=Acu%EDfero%20Guaran%ED
http://www.clarin.com/diario/2005/08/23/espectaculos/c-00403.htm

Many other interesting articles have been written on this issue, mainly focusing on large and in some peoples opinion systematic land aquisitions by foreigners in the otherwise quite uninteresting "Acuífero Guaraní" - one of the worlds largest fresh water reserves - located in the northern provinces. Critics say it's all a matter of paranoic patriotism (sound like argentineans have something in common with another country in the northern hemisphere here...).

Anyway, I'm not saying this theory is correct, only that is worth reflecting on seriously. Maybe your reluctance in hearing about this is based on your american background. I have a feeling that many in the US are unwilling to believe anything negative that is said about their government. Here in Sweden where I live, people have since the period after 9-11 been constantly reconsidering the view on US as a reliable democracy in terms of political seriousness and international cooperation and comittment. And it's not only about Iraq and the nonexisting weapons of mass destruction... One of our highest military generals in Sweden recently stated that he knew for sure that the photos of alledged serbian weapon movements prior to the nato bombings over Serbia in 2000 (?), displayed by Madeleine Albright in the UN, were fake. He was there on the ground when the photos were supposedly taken, and there were no such transports.

So if the US secretary of state can show fake photoshoped images in front of the whole UN, I would not take for granted that the US "would never do that" when it comes to getting their hands on the water reserves around the world....

With best regards,

/Alcoolio

8/28/2005 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger Alcoolio said...

Hi, thanks for a very nice blog, with interesting contents and also very well written!

However, I felt I had to comment on your observations regarding the argentinians views on americans, and specifically the disussion on the fresh water supply issue (whether foreign interests are moving to lay their hands on water reserves - something being discussed globally, as well as in Argentina as you noticed).

I think it is a bit ignorant to laugh at this as being a bizarre conspiracy theory. It is a very well known although admittedly controversial issue. Greenpeace co-founder Rex Wyler said recently in a news article (Clarín 28/08-2004) that war over water reserves is likely not far off in the future, and compared it to USA's war over oil in Iraq.

Why you hear people in Argentina talking about this issue is probably because a local "Michael Moore", Mausi Martínez (woman) recently did a documentary on this issue, a film called "Sed, invasión gota a gota" that has been positively reviewed by both Clarin and La Nacion newspapers.

See:
http://buscador.lanacion.com.ar/Nota.asp?nota_id=732261&high=Acu%EDfero%20Guaran%ED
http://www.clarin.com/diario/2005/08/23/espectaculos/c-00403.htm

Many other interesting articles have been written on this issue, mainly focusing on large and in some peoples opinion systematic land aquisitions by foreigners in the otherwise quite uninteresting "Acuífero Guaraní" - one of the worlds largest fresh water reserves - located in the northern provinces. Critics say it's all a matter of paranoic patriotism (sound like argentineans have something in common with another country in the northern hemisphere here...).

Anyway, I'm not saying this theory is correct, only that is worth reflecting on seriously. Maybe your reluctance in hearing about this is based on your american background. I have a feeling that many in the US are unwilling to believe anything negative that is said about their government. Here in Sweden where I live, people have since the period after 9-11 been constantly reconsidering the view on US as a reliable democracy in terms of political seriousness and international cooperation and comittment. And it's not only about Iraq and the nonexisting weapons of mass destruction... One of our highest military generals in Sweden recently stated that he knew for sure that the photos of alledged serbian weapon movements prior to the nato bombings over Serbia in 2000 (?), displayed by Madeleine Albright in the UN, were fake. He was there on the ground when the photos were supposedly taken, and there were no such transports.

So if the US secretary of state can show fake photoshoped images in front of the whole UN, I would not take for granted that the US "would never do that" when it comes to getting their hands on the water reserves around the world....

With best regards,

/Alcoolio

8/28/2005 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger tiempodefotos said...

It is truth that the opinion of the average argetine citizen is negative towards USA, basically because of its foreing policy, but it is also truth that here the people can difference between the US gob. and the Us citizens, i agree with the reasons you mentioned in your post , but i will add a new one, and it s probably the most important, the decisive but not very publicized intervention of the US gob. and its military in the conflict of 1982, im talking about the colonial adventure that the former empire and the new Empire, took against Argentina . The US not only politically supported the uk but also military with satellital
decisive information, air to air missiles, ships, and other advanced equipment,and we also remember how our chilean friends did their part, obviously to mention the decisive intervention of the US in this conflict is not convenient for the US nor for the british, and to mention that Argentina has been reclaiming peacefully in the UN , and the Uk decided not to respond to the invitation to dialogue of the UN decolonization committe, is not convenient either, and some ppl dont want to metion or dont know, the support that the US and some other western "free" countrys (uk, france)gave to the dictatoroships in south america, with torture training, political support and weapons, fmi loans, etc.,to figth against communism, sometimes it is fuuny to me to listen some US citizens that wonder"¿why the ppl dont like the US?", i hope you dare to publish this post.
goodwill for all!!

6/02/2006 06:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our largest water reserve in Argentina (also in Paraguay, and Brazil) is the Guarani aquifer.

I work at an Argentine university.

2 years ago, a loosely defined private organization, asked us, as university, to watch his presentation about some “ecological” projects on the area of the aquifer, and to participate on it.

The presentation was visually astounding, but it never explained what interest the organization had on it, before some vague “ecological” mentions.

As soon as a woman asked if the project had some way related to the Guarani aquifer, the presentations gave no answer, took all his things, and retired.

9/22/2010 03:28:00 PM  

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