March 15, 2007
RE: Bush’s Latin America Trip: Understanding
the Protests and Criticisms
"In every nation, neglected Latin Americans voiced their disapproval of the visiting
"Be it neglect, indifference, or an inability to either focus on critical issues or appoint
seasoned professionals rather than shrill ideologues to head the
State Departments Latin America bureau..."
Please don't use that paternalistic cliché about Latin Americans feeling "neglected" by the US. The US does not neglect us. Its voracious corporations are always on the move, seeking resources, markets, and cheap labor. Its State Department is always planning ways to bring what it calls the "power elite" into its orbit, when it is not plotting regime change (last tried in 2002) or how to crank up the blockade or assorted sanctions. Its Pentagon is busy selling arms, imposing military bases, and training future torturers. Very few Latin Americans think back with nostalgia to the Washington Consensus and ALCA, or to the days of military dictatorships allied with the ever-attentive Good Neighbor.
It is not some "Latin America bureau" at State, lacking seasoned professionals, that defines US policy for what it still considers a backyard somehow subject to a unilaterally-declared Monroe Doctrine of 1823. It is big business, transnational capital, and expanisonist interests that call the shots.
Latin America does not want to be rescued or patted on the back by, or win some condescending attention from, the US. We want to get out from under its violent, larcenous, Big Brotherly thumb. Latin America is busy making a new future for itself free of US imperialist control, not begging for attention.
The article on President Bush's trip to Latin America was quite good, even to the extent of bringing on some laughs in the second paragraph. It accurately conveyed regional sentiment in most respects.
However, a couple of points are worth making. The first, President Chavez began his trip in February. As we all know, the region is a priority to him and he visits frequently. Also, I would agree with those news sources reflecting the regional opinion that
Bush's visit was in response to that of President Chavez (and his focus
on the region), not the other way around. In fact, one cannot help but wonder if Bush would have paid a visit at all if Chavez did not exist.
Director, Information Services Latin America
March 16. 2007
Dear Mr. Birns,
While otherwise commending you fro at least trying to present a more balanced picture of US-Latin American relations, I must react negatively to two particular statements.
1) “bitter fruits of the massive neglect of Latin America…”
It is odd that precisely when the US foreign policy “neglects” Latin America the latter begins to rise up. We prefer Bush’s neglect to Clinton’s loving attention which resulted in, amongst other things, the collapse of many economies including Argentina’s. Poor
Iraq who must bear the brunt of US fury and attention but, believe me, Latin America is better off with this type of neglect.
NOTE: On top of the substantive issue, your statement is condescending in the highest degree: the US is nobody’s nanny nor jailer!
2) “If Venezuela gives up its arms race..”
Excuse me, say that again? Starting with Clinton, the US has beefed up a murderous regime in Colombia to the tune of several billion dollars, then Bush attempted to overthrow a democratically elected Chavez and nearly destroyed the country’s oil industry and armed forced…So Venezuela is supposed to lie prone and give up defending itself? Which country escalates aggression FIRST, Mr Birns? It ain’t the poor one, I guarantee.
Your mission and vision may be commendable, Mr. Birns, but I notice that your staff sorely lacks a weightier Latin presence. No sweat. Your information is discounted in an inverse proportion…at least by those who have a bit more background and sensitivity than your own staff.