Monday, October 04, 2004

Neglecting Latin America

The Miami Herald sponsored its Americas Conference last week, and there are several articles on the event that are worth checking out.

Included on its website are excerpts from speeches by Madaleine Albright (who plays up Clinton's policies on Latin America) and Roger Noriega (who defends the Administration's policies); the ever astute former Salvadoran President Paco Flores is mentioned in one article as saying that "democracy is at risk" (no thanks to you, bubba); and former US envoy to El Salvador Pete Romero is cited in another article as saying that Latin America is disillusioned with free trade:

Free trade was oversold to Latin Americans as the solution to poverty, unemployment and inequality, said Romero, chief executive of consultancy Experior Advisory.

They think "we have lost touch with the issues that are the most urgent for Latin America," he said. "That is the reason why the century of the Americas that was promised by [President] Bush . . . has fallen off the map."
Marta Lagos, the head of the polling firm LatinobarĂ³metro, has much to say as well about the decline of Latin opinion of the U.S. in the Bush years:

Two conflicting arguments are part of the common knowledge about the image of the United States in Latin America. Latin America is signaled as being the U.S.A.'s "back yard" and also as the "best friend"....

The impact of 9/11 and the Iraq War is striking. In Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina and Nicaragua, the U.S.A. loses more than 20 percentage points in positive opinion. While in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile and Venezuela, it loses between 10 and 20 percentage points. Only in Salvador, Colombia and Panama does it increase between 2 and 7 percentage points. In Ecuador and Peru, it remains the same. Even in Central America it drops from 82 percent in 2000 to 78 percent in 2004. The net result is devastating for the image of the U.S.A. in Latin America. It has lost face in all but five countries since 9/11.

Our numbers continue to give evidence of a back yard much more than a best friend.

Should Christopher Marquis really need to write a whole column wondering why in the first presidential debate -- held in that most Latin American of cities, Miami -- our Southern neighbors merited not even a blip in the discussion of foreign policy?

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