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Disappointed with Obama Brazil Joins LatAm in a Club the US Can’t Manipulate

Lula arrives in Mexico for Cancun summitLatin America took another historic step forward this week with the creation of a new regional organization of 32 Latin American and Caribbean countries. The United States and Canada were excluded.

The increasing independence of Latin America has been one of the most important geopolitical changes over the last decade, affecting not only the region but the rest of the world as well. For example, Brazil has publicly supported Iran’s right to enrich uranium and opposed further sanctions against the country.

Latin America, once under the control of the United States, is increasingly emerging as a power bloc with its own interests and agenda.

The Obama Administration’s continuation of former President Bush’s policies in the region undoubtedly helped spur the creation of this new organization, provisionally named the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

Most importantly, the Obama team’s ambivalence toward the military coup that overthrew the democratic government of President Mel Zelaya in Honduras last summer provoked deep resentment and distrust throughout the region.

Although the Obama administration was officially against the coup, numerous actions from day one – including the first White House statement that failed to condemn the coup when it happened – made it clear in the diplomatic world that its real position was something different.

The last straw came in November 2009 when the Obama administration brokered a deal for the return of Zelaya, and then joined the dictatorship in reneging on it. Washington then stood against the vast majority of the region in supporting the November elections for a new president under the dictatorship, which had systematically repressed the basic rights and civil liberties necessary to an electoral campaign.

Arturo Valenzuela, the US State Department’s top official for Latin America, said that the new organization “should not be an effort that would replace the OAS.”

The differences underlying the need for a new organization were clear in the statements and declarations that took place in the Unity Summit, held in Cancun February 22 -23. The summit issued a strong statement backing Argentina in its dispute with the UK over the Malvinas (as they are called in Argentina) or Falklands Islands.

The dispute, which dates back to the 19th century and led to a war in 1982, has become more prominent lately as the UK has unilaterally decided to explore for oil offshore the islands. President Lula of Brazil called for the United Nations to take a more active role in resolving the dispute.  And the Summit condemned the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

These and other measures would be difficult or impossible to pass in the OAS. Furthermore, the OAS has long been manipulated by the United States, as from 2000-2004 when it was used to help build support for the coup that overthrew Haiti’s elected president. And most recently, the U.S. and Canada blocked the OAS from taking stronger measures against the Honduran dictatorship last year.

Meanwhile, in Washington foreign policy circles, it is getting increasingly more difficult to maintain the worn-out fiction that the United States’ differences with the region are a legacy of  President Bush’s “lack of involvement,” or to blame a few leftist trouble-makers like Bolivia,  Nicaragua, and of course the dreaded Venezuela. 

It seems to have gone unnoticed that Brazil has taken the same positions as Venezuela and Bolivia on Iran and other foreign policy issues, and has strongly supported Chávez.  Perhaps the leadership of Mexico – a right-wing government that was one of the Bush Administration’s few allies in the region – in establishing this new organization will stimulate some re-thinking.

There are structural reasons for this process of increasing independence to continue, even if – and this is not on the horizon – a new government in Washington were to someday move away from its Cold War redux approach to the region.

The United States has become increasingly less important as a trading partner for the region, especially since the recent recession as our trade deficit has shrunk. The region also increasingly has other sources of investment capital. The collapse of the IMF’s creditors’ cartel in the region has also eliminated the most important avenue of Washington’s influence.

The new organization is sorely needed. The Honduran coup was a threat to democracy in the entire region, as it encouraged other right-wing militaries and their allies to think that they might drag Latin America back to the days when the local elite, with Washington’s help, could overturn the will of the electorate.

An organization without the U.S. and Canada will be more capable of defending democracy, as well as economic and social progress in the region when it is under attack. It will also have a positive influence in helping to create a more multi-polar world internationally.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy – www.justforeignpolicy.org.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research is an independent, nonpartisan think tank that was established to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people’s lives – http://www.cepr.net

Published  originally in the Guardian – www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/feb/25/latin-america-independence


  • Show Comments (8)

  • dusty

    I guess this means we can stop sending aid to Latin America? About time everyone became self sufficient. I take it this group will be taking over the US’s role of drug interdiction in Columbia too right? This is like Christmas in July people!

    Seriously, you hate the US because past foreign policy seems a bit too aggressive for your liking? I cannot wait till Brazil grows up to be a super power, so you can take care of all the small and large firestorms that take place on a daily basis. I’d also like you to assume the role of contributing 80% of the general UN budget, funding the IMF and World Bank. Plus you will need a military with the around the world reach for disaster relief and any potential war. How about we sell you ours, we’ll make you a deal!

    When Brazil and the other BRIC nations step up and assume the roles of the world’s dominating powers, i will dance a gig. The US will be able to slash it’s military spending, foreign aid expenditures, hell we might even get to enjoy a budget surplus!

    I have to hand to the LatAm club, thank you soooooooo much for leaving us out. We’re more than ready to go back to being the former isolationists we were before Germany & Japan got all imperialistic.

    😀 😀 😀 😀

  • dnb

    Written by Newsroom
    Monday, 01 March 2010 18:43
    This week, one more chapter of the Summit of South American-Arab Countries (Aspa) should take place, in Brasília, where the second meeting of ministers in the social areas of both regions is taking place. The objective is to discuss joint activities


    Now when U.N isolates some if not all the Middle East as hot beds for terrorism. What position does that put BRAZIL in? 😮 Brazil will get “screwed” while menstruating.

    And has anyone forgotten the influence of CHINA and what they will and will NOT tolerate idealogically? Zero tolerance for religious motivated radicalism.Especially that which affects their investments AROUND THE WORLD.

    It’s all connected people.:o
    The U.S being the IMF and World Banks biggest financial supporter.
    China practically OWNING the U.S and intolerant to radicalism of any sort within its borders.
    Terrorism and money. It’s all connected. And Brazil puts on a front like its acting of it’s own initiative…:D:D
    Since when do “overseers” out do the “masters”?

  • dnb

    [quote]The Banana Republics form a union. BFD! Do any of you fawning eexpats actually think the world will notice? Or, that Lula and his gang of mildly retarded Latinos will actually accomplish anything? They’re going to fly to conferences in private jets, make statements, have photos taken, sign agreements, and do zero. [/quote]

    Thanks for explaining the “plantation effect” so eloquently. There are a lot of clueless people out there.

    South America can only “posture” to fool the common people. Common meaning anyone that believes this BS.

    Wake Up Call.!!! The U.S and Great Britain will lead the world championing the agenda of the New World Order.
    People are blind. 🙁
    The Catholic Church runs South America. And it supports the United Nations and it’s agenda FULLY.
    It’s all connected folks . Stop being bamboozled by this rhetoric.
    Most of you HAVE been in Brazil too long. You don’t have a CLUE.:o:sad:

  • Luigi Vercotti

    What Total BS
    The Banana Republics form a union. BFD! Do any of you fawning eexpats actually think the world will notice? Or, that Lula and his gang of mildly retarded Latinos will actually accomplish anything? They’re going to fly to conferences in private jets, make statements, have photos taken, sign agreements, and do zero.

    CHRIS JONES: “The actions of the US leadership beginning with Bush…..” How old are you, 12? I think there were presidents prior to Bush. If you’ve been here for 20 years you should have mentioned Reagan as a madman. Dude, stay in Brazil, please. We don’t need fags like you in the US.

    Keep telling yourself you’re in a better place, and try to believe it. You’re not.

  • Lloyd Cata

    What More Can I Add…
    [b]Capnamerca – I see a lot of ambiguity in the attitude towards the U.S. here, but for whatever reasons the Latin American States want to distance themselves from Washington, I say go for it.[/b]

    [b]Nichoals (usa_male) – Let Latin America also decide for themself.[/b]

    [b]Chris Jones – Lula, this man has taken an honourable stand against the present US regime and their elite backers.
    I praise Lula’s decision and am with hopes that he continues in the vein of action.[/b]

    …only that I am proud that more and more of my fellow Americans are waking up to the truth.

  • Chris Jones

    Lula and national conscience.
    Lula, this man has taken an honourable stand against the present US regime and their elite backers.
    Granted, each and every nation has their fair share of problems, not a one is perfect. Brazil included.
    However, representative democracy has been the ICON of this nations focus since the days of the Military regimes demise.
    The actions of the US leadership begining with Bush and with his twin in action Obama have proven to be a blight upon the very base of the states, the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
    The invasion of Iraq under the guise of WMD’s( a blatant lie as proven) has killed over one million Iraqis, the majority civilians. Torture, contrary to the Geneva convention, has been legalized by the adminsistration. The so called leaders have introduced first strikes, basically a method of invasion resulting in war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Samolia, and Pakistan. Inprisonment of suspects are incarcerated without trial nor evidence indefinetly.
    The Federal Reserve is not indeed Federal, it is a private institution, yet they have introduced bailouts in trillions and declared that the money, the taxpayers blood and sweat is not to be accounted for. Recently Mr. Obama has declared that American citizens can be assassinated if th deciding powers find it actionable.. This goes far beyond whatever the nation of America stood for.
    The voice of the people has been ignored, the news media controlls and stands by the regimes rhetoric. The citizenry are in fear for their freedoms and ultimate suvival if this abomination continues.
    I praise Lula’s decision and am with hopes that he continues in the vein of action.
    I am a American, one who beleives firmly in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Democracy and national conscience are the keystone to greatness,may they prevail.
    I have lived in Brazil for over 20 yeas, and yes there are issues that need to be addressed, but in general Brazil is not genociding, torturing, invading other nations, nor attempting domination over other nations of lesser means.

  • Nichoals usa_male

    What ron paul says, let’s change our foreign policy for or own best. Let Latin America also decide for themself.

  • Capnamerca

    Actually . . .
    I see a lot of ambiguity in the attitude towards the U.S. here, but for whatever reasons the Latin American States want to distance themselves from Washington, I say go for it.

    These countries have enough inherent political and economic problems without letting the U.S. compound things for them.

    At the same time, I believe the U.S. has enough domestic problems of their own, and needs to concentrate more on fixing those things, than to meddle in Latin American affairs. As far as all of the trade agreements go, I truly believe the U.S. would be better off getting out of all the trade organizations.

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