Another diplomatic success!

Discussion in 'Economics' started by oil_trader, May 13, 2005.

  1. I guess our invitation musta blown off the stoop!

    The United States is nursing a bruised ego. After decades of funding malleable regimes, fomenting right-wing coups and building economic hegemony in the Americas, Washington just found itself locked out of its own backyard.

    This week saw leaders of the Latin American and Arab worlds meet in a historic summit in Brazil - and the US was denied even the courtesy of observer status. Washington is outraged, fearing that this was more than just a diplomatic slight: it sees it as the latest gesture of defiance from the two regions that bear the deepest grudge over recent US foreign policy.

    The Summit of South American-Arab Countries, which concluded on Wednesday and was attended by Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, furthered Latin America's drive to strengthen relationships away from the United States. Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva led moves by South American states to cement alliances outside the US, which has traditionally held the South on a short leash economically.

    On the surface, the summit's "Brasilia declaration" was predictable. Arab states ensured there was a condemnation of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories. But Capitol Hill is said to be more concerned about its rumblings of dissent on its doorstep.

    "It is time to change the commercial geography of the world," Lula said at the summit. "If we are alone, then none of us can compete with rich nations."

    Commentators in the US have taken the move very seriously. "This is mind-boggling in its significance," Larry Birns, head of the Council of Hemispheric Affairs, one of Washington's most prominent independent think tanks, told The London Line. "There is a growing tendency in Latin American states to break out of the ghetto of US diplomacy," he said. He compared the attitude of President George W. Bush's administration to its poor cousins in the South to Russian President Vladimir Putin's clamping down on the efforts of many Eastern European states to distance themselves from Moscow. "The symbolic message of the snub couldn't be huger," Birns said.


    That exhortation seems to fall on deaf ears. Washington's grand plans for a Free Trade Area of the Americas have stalled after Latin American leaders objected to proposals restricting access to US markets and continued subsidies for US industry. The rhetoric of the Brazilian summit will do nothing to quell fears that the FTAA is dead in the water.

    Washington's most throbbing Latin American headache takes the form of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Birns believes Chavez, a man who has publicly called President Bush a "dickhead", was "instrumental in orchestrating the summit".

    Venezuela, which controls 40% of the US' oil imports, has moved closer to Cuba, the bête noire of US-Latin American relations, since Chavez was elected president in 1998. He survived a US-backed coup in 2002 and, with the example of his radically socialist "Bolivarian revolution", is giving the rest of the continent a lesson in bucking the north's neo-liberal agenda.

    The snub completes a bad month for the US in Latin America. Both their preferred candidates for the presidency of the Organisation of American States were defeated two weeks ago in a bruising race eventually won by Chilean socialist Jose Miguel Insulza.

    It remains to be seen how far Latin America's bid for greater independence can go. The continent still receives US$1.6 billion financial assistance from the US, and owes vast sums to the IMF and the World Bank. With antagonistic appointments in Washington - such as that of Roger Noriega, a man implicated in the Iran Contra scandal - tensions between Washington and Latin America show no sign of improving in the near future.