Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Colombia, War, Foreign Policy.
Tags: roger hollander, Latin America, human rights, Colombia, plan colombia, foreign policy, uribe, hillary clinton, us bases, correa, military bases, benjamin dangl, latin america politics
On the shores of the Magdalena River, in a lush green valley dotted with cattle ranches and farms, sits the Palanquero military base, an outpost equipped with Colombia’s longest runway, housing for 2,000 troops, a theater, a supermarket, and a casino.
Palanquero is at the heart of a ten-year, renewable military agreement signed between the United States and Colombia on October 30, 2009, which gives Washington access to seven military bases in the country. Though officials from the U.S. and Colombian governments contend the agreement is aimed at fighting narcotraffickers and guerrillas within Colombian borders, a U.S. Air Force document states the deal offers a “unique opportunity” for “conducting full spectrum operations” in the region against various threats, including “anti-U.S. governments.”
The Pentagon sought access to the bases in Colombia after Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa canceled the lease for the U.S. military base in Manta, Ecuador. The U.S. capability in Colombia will now be greater than at Manta, which worries human rights advocates in Colombia and left-leaning governments throughout the region.
“The main purpose of expanding these bases is to take strategic control of Latin America,” opposition senator Jorge Enrique Robledo of the Polo Democrático Alternativo told me over the phone from Bogotá.
Every president in South America outside of Colombia is against the bases agreement, with Hugo Chávez of neighboring Venezuela being the most critical. Chávez said that by signing the deal the United States was blowing “winds of war” over the region, and that the bases were “a threat against us.”
“Colombia decided to hand over its sovereignty to the United States,” said Chávez in a televised meeting with government ministers. “Colombia today is no longer a sovereign country. . . . It is a kind of colony.” The Venezuelan president responded by deploying troops to the border in what has become an increasingly tense battle of words and flexing of military muscle.
Correa in neighboring Ecuador said the new bases agreement “constitutes a grave danger for peace in Latin America.”
Colombian President Alvaró Uribe dismissed critics and said the increased U.S. collaboration was necessary to curtail violence in the country. Uribe told The Washington Post, “We are not talking about a political game; we are talking about a threat that has spilled blood in Colombian society.”
But plans for the expansion of the bases show that the intent is to prepare for war and intimidate the region, likely spilling more blood in the process.
The Palanquero base, the largest of the seven in the agreement, will be expanding with $46 million in U.S. taxpayers’ money. Palanquero is already big enough to house 100 planes, and its 10,000-foot runway allows three planes to take off at once. It can accommodate enormous C-17 planes, which can carry large numbers of troops for distances that span the hemisphere without needing to refuel.
The intent of the base, according to U.S. Air Force documents, “is to leverage existing infrastructure to the maximum extent possible, improve the U.S. ability to respond rapidly to crisis, and assure regional access and presence at minimum cost. . . . Palanquero will provide joint use capability to the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marines, and U.S. Interagency aircraft and personnel.”
The United States and Colombia may also see the bases as a way to cultivate ties with other militaries.
“The bases will be used to strengthen the military training of soldiers from other countries,” says John Lindsay-Poland, the co-director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean Program. “There is already third-country training in Colombia, and what the Colombia government says now is that this agreement will strengthen that.”
“This deal is a threat to the new governments that have emerged,” says Enrique Daza, the director of the Hemispheric Social Alliance, currently based in Bogotá. These new governments are “demanding sovereignty, autonomy, and independence in the region, and this bases agreement collides directly” with that, he says.
The Obama Administration, with the new agreement, is further collaborating with the Colombian military in spite of that institution’s grave human rights abuses in recent years.
In a July 2009 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senators Patrick Leahy and Christopher Dodd wrote: “What are the implications of further deepening our relationship with the Colombian military at a time of growing revelations about the widespread falsos positivos (“false positives”) scandal, in which the Colombian military recruited many hundreds (some estimates are as high as 1,600) of boys and young men for jobs in the countryside that did not exist and then summarily executed them to earn bonuses and vacation days?”
The military base agreement needs to be understood in the context of two other U.S. initiatives in Colombia.
First, Plan Colombia, which began under President Clinton, committed billions of dollars ostensibly to fight the war on drugs but also to fighting the guerrillas, intensifying the country’s already brutal conflict in rural areas. This has led to increasing displacement of people from areas that are strategically important for mining multinationals.
Second, the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement, which was signed in 2006, could pry open the country to more U.S. corporate exploitation. But it has been met with opposition in the United States, delaying its ratification. Daza says the signing of the bases deal is part of “a military strategy that complements the push for the free trade agreement.” The trade accord will serve “transnational corporate investments,” and these investments, he says, “are sustained by a military relationship.”
Opposition to the military bases agreement is vocal in Colombia. In a column written in July 2009, Senator Robledo denounced it, saying, “There is no law that allows bases of this type in Colombia.” One struggle, Robledo said, is on the legal and political front. The other is among social movements in Colombia and beyond. “It is important to organize a type of democratic citizens’ movement, a national campaign against these foreign bases, as well as a continental social alliance that promotes the denunciation of this agreement,” he says.
Daza is working with Mingas, a cross-border solidarity organization consisting of activists in Colombia, Canada, and the United States. Mingas wrote a letter to Obama, condemning the President’s decision to go forward with the deal on the bases. “At the Summit of the Americas in April 2009 you promised to foster a ‘new sense of partnership’ between the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere,” the letter states. “But your Administration has yet to address the grave concerns expressed by national leaders throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean regarding the U.S.-Colombia military base agreement.”
By signing this bases agreement, and by equivocating over the coup in Honduras, Obama has sent ominous signals to Latin America.
“Obama has not renounced the policies of Bush,” Robledo says. “Speaking in economic and military terms, on the fundamental issues, the similarities between Bush and Obama are bigger than the differences. Obama has not produced a change.”
© 2010 The Progressive
Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Foreign Policy, Latin America.
Tags: Colombia, colombia abuses, Colombia atrocities, colombia human rights, colombia military, colombian army, foreign policy, human rights, Latin America, latin america poitics, military bases, moira birss, obama administration, plan colombia, roger hollander, U.S. imperialism, u.s. military bases, uribe
(Roger’s note: more of Obama’s “Plus ca change … you can believe in.”)
by Moira Birss
In a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O’Grady laments an apparent shift left in the Obama administration’s Latin America policy. Clearly, O’Grady hasn’t been keeping up to date with current events. If she had been, she would have heard about negotiations underway between the U.S. and Colombia to establish at least seven U.S. military bases in Colombia. Last I heard, folks on the left tend to oppose increased militarization; it’s tough to see seven new military bases as a move to the left.
Why is the Obama administration pushing for these bases, despite having previously criticized Colombia’s human rights record?
The Administration’s goals for the military facilities are “filling the gaps left by the eventual cutting of [military] aid in Plan Colombia,” according to sources in Washington and Bogotá. The proposed bases, replacements for the soon-to-closed U.S. base in Manta, Ecuador, would serve to expand the U.S. military’s counter-narcotic operations in the region, deepen involvement in Colombia’s counterinsurgency war, and combat “other international crimes,” according to Colombia’s Foreign Minister.
Despite these hints at the intention of the bases, many serious questions remain. In fact, even the Colombian Congress has yet to receive detailed information from the Uribe administration, despite repeated official requests. Nonetheless, on Tuesday Uribe began a South America tour to convince his regional counterparts of the plan, despite not having briefed his own Congress.
Such secrecy is worrisome. Fellowship of Reconciliation’s John Lindsay Poland, who has spent years studying U.S. military bases around the world, writes, “the locations of the bases under negotiation raise further questions. None of them are on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, where aircraft from the Manta base patrolled for drug traffic – supposedly with great success, reflecting how traffic has increased in the Pacific. Three of the bases are clustered near each other on the Caribbean coast, not far from existing U.S. military sites in Aruba and Curacao – and closer to Venezuela than to the Pacific Ocean. Why are U.S. negotiators apparently forgoing Pacific sites, if counternarcotics is still part of the U.S. military mission? What missions ‘beyond Colombia’s borders’ are U.S. planners contemplating?”
Even if we had answers to these questions, however, there exist plenty more reasons to be wary of the bases.
In cooperating with the Colombian army, the U.S. would be demonstrating support for an institution with an atrocious human rights record. More than 1,000 civilians have been murdered by the Colombian army in recent years, in a criminal attempt to portray them as guerrillas in order to raise the number of guerrillas killed in combat. Proposing these seven bases unmasks Obama’s previous statements calling for the improvement of Colombian’s human rights record as merely lip service.
Colombian forces aren’t the only ones to worry about: U.S. military forces will be not be bound by Colombian law and will potentially get away with all kinds crimes. US negotiators have made it known that “even if they won’t interfere in the exercise of command by Colombian officers on the bases, they will ensure the autonomy of U.S. military forces when operations go beyond Colombia’s borders.” And there is precedent that validates these concerns. In 2007 two U.S. soldiers carrying out a Plan Colombia mission in the small town of Melgar raped a 12-year-old girl, and have yet to be punished. When confronted by the girl’s mother, the soldiers were quoted as saying, “Yeah, we raped her, so what? We are in Colombia, the law doesn’t affect us.” An all too accurate depiction of the US military’s mentality in Colombia.
These bases would lack oversight in the financial arena as well. While Plan Colombia funding has been open for Congressional debate, funding for US military activities has not. Congress would therefore exercise little to no control over the funding – and therefore the actions – of the bases in Colombia.
The many unanswered questions and ominous possibilities that come with seven new US bases have raised alarms among Colombia’s neighbors, fueling serious regional tensions. Venezuela has frozen diplomatic relations, and Ecuador has threatened “increased military tensions” over their concerns about the increased U.S. presence in the region. Brazil’s President Lula said last week he was “not happy” at even one base being handed over for U.S. operations.
Many Colombians are opposed as well, backed up by the fact that such an agreement would bypass Article 173 of the Colombian Constitution, which prohibits the presence of foreign troops except in transit, and then only after legislative approval. Multiple protests have been held in downtown Bogota, and a national day of action is being planned for August 7 – the national holiday celebrating the Colombian armed forces – as opposition to these military bases grows.
The bases agreement has not yet been signed; there is still time to convince Colombian and U.S. leaders to scrap the idea. The Fellowship of Reconciliation has compiled a bilingual (English and Spanish) resource page for those opposing the bases: www.forcolombia.org/bases, and asks that you call the White House Comment Line (202-456-1111) today to say NO to military bases in Colombia.
Moira Birss is current serving in Colombia as a Human Rights Accompanier with the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Moira has also worked on researching community-based models of alternative economies, advocating for affordable housing, and promoting environmental protection.
Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Venezuela.
Tags: bolivarian revolution, correa, democracy, foreign policy, hillary clinton, Hugo Chavez, jose insulza, julie buxton, Latin America, Latin American politics, morales, oas, Obama, ortega, pluralism, roger hollander, state department, term limits, uribe, Venezuela, venezuela democracy, venezuela election, venezuela government
The referendum victory of Venezuela’s president is founded on an extension of the understanding of democracy that has both national roots and regional parallels, says Julia Buxton.
The Venezuelan electorate is bent on using democratic mechanisms to fuel the demagogic ambitions of its populist president, Hugo Chávez. The voters have backed him and his party in thirteen of the fourteen elections and referendums held in the country since Chávez was inaugurated in February 1999. Now, on 15 February 2009, a majority of them went so far as to grant him his wish of being president for life: for in the referendum on that day 56% voted to lift term-limits on elected officials, thereby eroding a noble Latin American tradition of safeguarding democracy by limiting incumbency.
The distant hope
So argue Hugo Chávez’s opponents at home and overseas – particularly in Washington, were the anti-Chávez lobby is striving to maintain the disproportionate influence it had under George W Bush into the Barack Obama administration. After the 15 February referendum, media and academic commentators have painted a frighteningly dystopian vision of Venezuela’s political future. It all amounts to significant pressure on the new Democratic administration to follow the Bush policy of isolating and destabilising Chávez.
There had been high hopes in Washington that the opposition would build on its defeat of Chávez in the referendum in December 2007 on lifting term-limits held, as well as on gains made in the November 2008 regional elections (including the capture of the municipal capital, Caracas). A further defeat for Chávez would have chastened the president’s grand ambition to build “21st-century socialism” in Venezuela. Along with the declining price of oil, the mainstay of the Venezuelan economy, and domestic turbulence preoccupying Russia and Iran – Venezuela’s partners in building a multi-polar world order – a second referendum defeat would have made Chávez a weakened proposition.
So why did the electorate ruin this scenario by turning out in significant numbers (the turnout was 66%) to approve this major change? The government’s opponents and critics point to the usual problems: the administration’s abuse of public spending, violation of election laws, intimidation of the opposition, manipulation of voters, even anti-semitism. A Spanish deputy from the European parliament – in Venezuela as an international election observer – was moved to violate all norms of election observation by condemning dictatorship in Venezuela as soon as he landed in the country.
The terms of victory
The reality is more complex, democratic – and worrying for Chávez’s opponents. The decision by Venezuelan voters to lift term-limits is of regional as well as domestic significance. It merits cool-headed scrutiny by the new United States state-department team ahead of the expected meeting between Chávez and Obama at the fifth Summit of the Americas on 17-19 April 2009 in Trinidad.
The “yes” vote won – fairly and freely according to international observers – for three reasons, which have nothing to do with intimidation or fraud. First, Chávez learnt from past defeat. Instead of the unwieldy sixty-nine proposals that bewildered voters in December 2007, there was just one question in the new proposal: should five articles in the 1999 constitution be amended in order to lift the two-term limit on officials serving in elected office?
Chávez, a formidable campaigner, expended significant energy mobilising his supporters and explaining why lifting term-limits – and opening up the prospect of his re-election in 2012 – was in the interest of the Venezuelan people. Unlike December 2007, he did not take success for granted. And in contrast to the messy infighting over candidacies in the ruling PSUV ahead of the November 2008 regional elections, the Chavistas unified around a single proposition and a single figure: Hugo Chávez.
Second, the Chavistas’ success also reflected the ongoing weakness and disarray of the opposition, dashing critics’ hopes of presenting Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with a viable alternative to Chávez. In theory, Chávez could now outlast Obama. There was no opposition campaign to speak of other than disruptive protests by belligerent students, feted and funded as democratic freedom-fighters by America’s libertarian right. Key opposition leaders were outfoxed by the extension of the term-limit issue to all elected officials (not just the presidency); and they relied on the old (and repeatedly unsuccessful) formula of branding Chávez a demagogue in recycling their ever-negative campaign message.
The context of change
The third and and even more important issue underlying the referendum result relates to how Venezuelans understand and interpret democracy, and the type of democracy that they want to see in their country. A majority of voters did not support lifting term-limits because they were misled or manipulated by Chávez or because they have an authoritarian political streak. Rather, as the much respected regional Latinobarometro survey has shown on an annual basis, Venezuelan public opinion is one of the most democratic in the region and strongly opposed to autocracy. Venezuelans consistently express a high level of support for their political model, and confidence in the democratic system is constantly above the regional average. While critics may see Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution as an authoritarian project, majority opinion in Venezuela judges it democratic.
In this broader context, the fundamentals of democracy are not altered by the lifting of term-limits. If anything, they may be enhanced. Whether or not Chávez intends to be president for life, he still has to face the electorate in 2012 if he wants to remain in power; and even then there is no guarantee that he will win a third term and retain the presidency. To do so, he needs to respond to popular concerns relating to crime, insecurity, corruption and inflation – or he runs the risk of defeat.
Moreover, the Venezuelan constitution provides for mid-term “recall referendums” on elected officials, thereby maintaining checks and balances on government at national, regional and municipal level. Term-limits have traditionally been deeply destabilising in Venezuelan politics, producing factional power struggles and lame-duck presidents. This can now be avoided, while allowing the electorate to stick with their preferred candidate – a democratic innovation. True, incumbency brings undoubted benefits; but they are delivered only if voters are contented with the performance of ruling officials and the opposition fails to present a viable alternative.
In the liberal-democratic model, term-limits are viewed as essential for the checking and balancing of executive power. But this emphasis on procedural mechanics and ideal-types does not match popular understanding or expectations of democracy at the grassroots of Venezuelan society. Most Venezuelan voters are clearly of the view that term-limits are not the only, or necessarily an invaluable, mechanism for restraining power. A host of other parliamentary systems have survived without limiting prospects for re-election. Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary-general of the Organisation of American States, is among those who has highlighted the democratising potentialities of lifting term-limits.
Venezuela has taken the regional lead in implementing projects of major social transformation that challenge the power and vested interests of minority elites. Hugo Chávez argued that the opportunity to run for a third term was essential for the consolidation of his Bolivarian revolution. His lead is now likely to be followed by Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua. Each of these heads of state are considering lifting term-limits on the basis that this will allow for continuity and the institutionalisation of change. In a region traditionally characterised by instability and fragile institutions, this may prove to be a good thing.
The clear message to the United States state department is that South American societies want to mould their own unique political systems and break with a rigid and limited liberal-democratic model that minimises popular input. Variation and innovation in this context amount to pluralism not authoritarianism.
Julia Buxton is senior research fellow in the department of peace studies, Bradford University. Her work includes The Failure of Political Reform in Venezuela (Ashgate, 2001)
Posted by rogerhollander in George W. Bush, Latin America.
Tags: ahmadinejad, Brazil, caribbean, china, Colombia, correa, Cuba, DEA, Ecuador, Evo Morales, foreign policy, Free Trade, George Bush, hu jintao, Hugo Chavez, Iran, joshua goodman, Latin America, Lula, monroe doctrine, oas, Obama, Peru, peter romero, raul castro, russia, summit, uribe, Venezuela
December 17, 2008
By Joshua Goodman
Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) — Latin American and Caribbean leaders gathering in Brazil tomorrow will mark a historic occasion: a region-wide summit that excludes the United States.
Almost two centuries after President James Monroe declared Latin America a U.S. sphere of influence, the region is breaking away. From socialist-leaning Venezuela to market-friendly Brazil, governments are expanding military, economic and diplomatic ties with potential U.S. adversaries such as China, Russia and Iran.
“Monroe certainly would be rolling over in his grave,” says Julia Sweig, director of the Latin America program at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington and author of the 2006 book “Friendly Fire: Losing Friends and Making Enemies in the Anti-American Century.”
The U.S., she says, “is no longer the exclusive go-to power in the region, especially in South America, where U.S. economic ties are much less important.”
Since November, Russian warships have engaged in joint naval exercises with Venezuela, the first in the Caribbean since the Cold War; Chinese President Hu Jintao signed a free-trade agreement with Peru; and Brazil invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a state visit.
“While the U.S. remains aloof from a region it no longer sees as relevant to its strategic interests, other countries are making unprecedented, serious moves to fill the void,” says Luiz Felipe Lampreia, Brazil’s foreign minister from 1995 until 2001. “Countries in the region are more aware than ever that they live in a globalized, post-American world.”
A Castro Triumph
The two-day gathering, called by Brazil at a beach resort in Bahia state, is also a diplomatic triumph for Cuban President Raul Castro, making his first trip abroad since taking over from his brother Fidel two years ago. The communist island was suspended from the hemisphere-wide Organization of American States in 1962 over its ties with the former Soviet Union.
“A lot of this is designed to stick it in the eye of the U.S.,” says Peter Romero, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere from 1999 to 2001. “But underlying the bluster, there’s a genuine effort to exploit the gap left by a distant and distracted U.S.”
The effort is most evident in the bloc of countries allied with the anti-American president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.
Bolivian President Evo Morales last month expelled the Drug Enforcement Administration, alleging that DEA agents were conspiring to overthrow him; U.S. President George W. Bush dismissed the charges as absurd and suspended trade privileges for the Andean nation.
In Ecuador, meanwhile, President Rafael Correa has refused to renew the lease on the U.S.’s only military outpost in South America, a critical platform for the U.S. war on drugs.
For Brazil, tomorrow’s summit caps a decade-long diplomatic drive to use its growing economic and political stability to play a bigger role in the world.
While little concrete action is expected from the first-ever Latin American and Caribbean Summit on Integration and Development, the fact that the U.S. wasn’t invited has symbolic importance, says Lampreia.
The summit reinforces such regional initiatives as the Union of South American Nations, which was formed in May by 12 countries to mediate conflicts such as political violence in Bolivia, bypassing the U.S.-dominated OAS.
Thomas Shannon, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America, says the nature of American influence is only changing, not declining, as the region matures.
No Invitation Sought
The U.S. “didn’t ask to be invited” to the summit, he says, although it had discussed with Brazil and Mexico ways the meeting’s agenda could be used during the U.S.-backed Summit of the Americas, in April in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We don’t subscribe to the hydraulic theory of diplomacy that when one country is up, the other is down — that if China and Russia are in the area our influence has somehow waned,” Shannon said in a telephone interview.
The fact that “there’s no warfare, weapons proliferation, suicide bombers or jihadists” in Latin America may make its issues “less urgent,” though no less important, Shannon said. The U.S. remains the region’s dominant investor and trading partner: Foreign aid to Colombia to fight drug traffickers and Marxist rebels totals $700 million a year, and remittances from Latin Americans living in the U.S. totaled $66.5 billion last year.
The Monroe Doctrine, which dates back to 1823, declared Latin America off-limits to European powers. Whether welcomed by the region or not, it has been invoked whenever real or imagined security threats to U.S. interests arise, says Gaddis Smith, a retired Yale University historian of American foreign policy.
“Its essence is unilateralism; no Latin American country had any say in it,” says Smith, whose more than a dozen books on American foreign policy include “The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine.”
The real battle is for a larger share of the region’s abundant resources and expanding economies, and China has led the way.
Two-way trade with the region shot up 12-fold since 1995 to $110 billion last year, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. China’s share of the region’s imports also jumped, to 24 percent from 9.8 percent in 1990, while the U.S. share shrunk to 34 percent from 43 percent. Two years after reaching a bilateral free-trade agreement, China’s demand for copper made it Chile’s biggest export market in 2007, replacing the U.S.
Since making his first of three trips to Latin America in 2004, China’s President Hu Jintao has spent more time in the region than Bush — 22 days to 20 for the U.S. president. In October, as the global credit crunch dried up lending in the region, China joined the Inter-American Development Bank with a $350 million loan to finance small businesses. This month it pledged $10 billion in loans to state-controlled Petroleo Brasileiro SA so Brazil can develop the Western Hemisphere’s largest oil discovery since 1976.
“The Chinese play up the development side of diplomacy so much better than the Americans,” says William Ratliff, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution who has a Ph.D. in Chinese and Latin American history. “Deals come with none or very few strings attached.”
Even Colombia, which is spending $115,000 a month lobbying the U.S. Congress to approve a stalled free-trade pact, signed an investment treaty last month with China. During this year’s U.S. campaign, President-elect Barack Obama said he opposed the accord over concerns that Colombia isn’t doing enough to stamp out violence against labor organizers.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe today canceled his plans for the summit to monitor rescue efforts involving 200,000 people affected by flooding over the weekend.
Changing relationships are also evident in arms deals. Chavez turned to Russia for at least $4.4 billion in weapons after the U.S. blocked sales of aircraft parts. Brazil, the region’s largest economy, is also shopping around: Defense Minister Nelson Jobimsaid in Washington this month that his government will only buy weapons from countries that agree to transfer technology for local production.
Plans to purchase 36 new fighter jets, in which Boeing’s F- 18 is competing for a contract against Stockholm-based Saab AB and France’s Dassault Systemes SA, “can only be justified politically if they contribute to national development,” Jobim said.
Brazil may sign a deal with France for four nuclear submarines intended to help secure its oil basins in the Atlantic when French President Nicolas Sarkozy visits Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva this month.
Reactivating a Fleet
The U.S. plan to reassert its naval presence by reactivating the Fourth Fleet after 58 years to patrol the Caribbean has triggered negative reactions ranging from Chavez’s threat to sink the convoys to the more-diplomatic Lula’s demand for explanations from the Bush administration.
Latin American leaders are looking to Obama to restore relations after the Bush presidency’s initial pledges of greater engagement gave way to a focus on the 9/11 terror attacks and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the honeymoon with Obama may be short-lived, says Michael Shifter, vice president of the Inter- American Dialogue in Washington. He says that the issues that have dominated Latin American relations — including Cuba, immigration and U.S. trade barriers on agricultural products — may remain in dispute.
“Latin America wants the U.S. to be engaged, but in very different terms that it has in the past,” says Shifter. “In any case, they’re not waiting around for the U.S. to change its mindset.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Joshua Goodman in Rio de Janeiro firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated: December 15, 2008 10:40 EST