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Monday, January 23, 2006

U.S. and Latin America Move Further Apart

Yesterday Evo Morales was inaugurated as the new President of Bolivia. A coca farmer, who is the first indigenous president in Bolivia's history, plans to nationalize the natural gas industry, increase coca farming, and transform the economy using a socialist model. He is an open admirer of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.

As the Bush administration has been single-mindedly focused on the "war on terror", they've twiddled their thumbs as Latin America elects leader after leader who plans on taking their country leftward -- Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, and now Bolivia. And there are more elections to come with more leftist candidates expected to win. By 2008, when Bush leaves office, Bush's eight years will have marked pretty much the entire South American content's move from mostly center-right governments to leftist or center-left governments.

In many cases these changes of governments also come with changes in relations. There is outright hostility to the United States in many countries. Perhaps some of this is due to simple neglect. The U.S. hasn't done anything to enhance its relations with the South because its been too busy with a one-issue foreign policy.

If one were just looking at the numbers, the U.S. should be on much better terms with Latin America. Hispanics make up more than one in eight U.S. residents and are the fastest growing population segment. Most countries in South and Central America have their largest (and most financially successful) diaspora in the United States. In fact, there are about 18 million first generation immigrations who were born in Central or South America who are now living in the U.S. That's about half the population of Argentina and twice the population of Bolivia. The U.S. is the fifth largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, after Mexico, Colombia, Spain, and Argentina.

Instead of moving closer together, though, the U.S. and Latin America are moving further apart, and that's a shame. The U.S. is moving dangerously to the right and Latin America is most certainly moving too far to the left. I do hope that the next decade will see everybody moving back toward the center.



Blogger johnny said...


I agree with your assessment and concerns. I do believe however, that much of the center left rhetoric, and some of the further left rhetoric, is for public consumption. Chavez may be a different story, but even in his case the US would be better served by a bit more accomodation. Nothing is gained by these infantile duelings in the press. It takes two to tango. Statesmenship works, even (in most cases) when one is dealing with an "unstatesemanlike" adversary. The Bush administration seems bent on creating adversaries where they don't exist, and worsening the relationship with those that do. All in all, as regards south america, much better to have some center left governments who maintain fairly decent control, rather than the horrendous mess in Colombia. In my humble opinion.

1/23/2006 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger maskow said...

There's no money in the center.

The game today is: identify 51% that have the most probability of voting for you then systematically radicalize them as much as you can using every means you can until there is virtually no possibility of them voting for anyone else. Lather, rinse, repeat until you have 52% and so on.

It's cheaper and a better investment of your campaign contributions. It makes for closer elections and don't forget that close elections are much easier to steal.

What we know now, however, is this method can result in the laying down of some pretty scorched earth for the other 49%. This is the winning strategy in North America and is being utilized in Europe and South America more every day.

We are polarized as rarely ever before. It kills the center and the possibility of compromise. One is forced to choose. Patriotism suddenly becomes available two very different flavors.

When one side chooses this method they not only withdraw from truly national discourse...they force the other side to adopt the method or die.

There's still a lot of center remaining in Argentina but I wonder for how long. I've become appalled at my favorite paper's, La Nacion, recent opposition to Kirchner by means of editorializing ever increasing numbers of hard news stories. Fox News it ain't. However, I smell something cooking that reminds me uncomfortably of the progression we witnessed in the US.

But it's very efficient! Efficiency! Efficiency in all things!

Forgive me but that, very much like your previous homage to the Free Trade mantra, leaves me nostalgic for the days when simple solutions for complicated problems we not so readily embraced by those rewarded so highly by our societies.

1/24/2006 12:01:00 PM  

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