2006.04.17: April 17, 2006: Headlines: COS - Uzbekistan:: The Daily Press: Uzbekistan RPCV John Smart writes: Is the U.S. 'losing' South America?

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Speaking Out: January 23, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Speaking Out (1 of 5) : Archive of Stories: 2006.04.17: April 17, 2006: Headlines: COS - Uzbekistan:: The Daily Press: Uzbekistan RPCV John Smart writes: Is the U.S. 'losing' South America?

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Uzbekistan RPCV John Smart writes: Is the U.S. 'losing' South America?

Uzbekistan RPCV John Smart writes: Is the U.S. 'losing' South America?

This question presupposes that South America is ours to lose, and, in far too many ways, that's precisely the problem. South America has a burgeoning population with growing economies, and major change is occurring daily. These countries show definite signs of casting off the U.S. yoke that they feel around their necks. But, the people of South America can be and should be our friends. There is still residual good will there. We are all, after all, Americans. If we try to support them instead of to push them around, there is much that we can do to further hemispheric goals, ours as well as theirs.

Uzbekistan RPCV John Smart writes: Is the U.S. 'losing' South America?

Is the U.S. 'losing' South America?

A commentary by John Smart

The Daily Press

Monday, April 17th, 2006 09:37:49 AM

This question presupposes that South America is ours to lose, and, in far too many ways, that's precisely the problem. Since the Monroe Doctrine was declared in 1823 warning European powers to stay out of the Western Hemisphere, followed by Theodore Roosevelt's "Monroe Doctrine Correlary," which insisted that it was OK for the United States to interfere in the Americas all it wished "in our national interest," our attitude toward our southern neighbors has often been patronizing and bossy.

A retired economics professor in Argentina told me that he and his fellow South Americans felt as if they were being treated like "naughty children" who must frequently have their hands slapped by the U.S. government.

The latest insult was a proposal from the U.S.-dominated World Bank outlining how they would assist Argentina with its financial problems, provided they obey the Bank's orders, essentially to acceed to President Bush's demands for a hemispheric free trade pact which is perceived by them as being designed primarily to assist U.S. business interests.

But President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela came to the Argentines' rescue with some of his country's sizeable oil profits, and helped them cover their debt. They feel much more comfortable being in debt to a fellow South American nation.

President Bush was roundly booed on his trip to Argentina for the Summit of the Americas last November, with noisy demonstrators shouting "Bush Go Home" when he tried to promote his trade ideas. He made the mistake of saying that he represented "the American people," meaning the people of the United States, as though all of the others in attendance were not also "American people.

He then made a comment to Brazilian President Lula da Silva that he had no idea that Brazil was so big! This ignorance does not sit well with Latin Americans, who view it as condescending.

Lino Gutierrez, the U.S. ambassador to Argentina, told a Wisconsin Rural Leadership group visiting the embassy in Buenos Aires in late March that much of the anti-American opinion was instigated by President Hugo Chavez, and it is certainly true that the Venezuelan leader is no fan of the Bush administration. But then, he is convinced that Washington had a hand in the attempt to overthrow his government in a 2002 coup in order to take control of the oil fields.

The coup failed miserably, lasting less than two days, but the U.S. administration was much too quick to recognize the short-lived replacement regime. Chavez was later overwhelmingly re-elected by the Venezuelan people in another free election observed by the Carter Center.

Of course, it really rankles official Washington that Chavez's best friend and mentor is none other than their arch-bugaboo, Fidel Castro.

Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and several other South American nations have formed their own free-trade pact called MercoSur, which seeks to circumvent the Bush plan and allow these nations a level of freedom and cooperation within their own continental family.

Bolivia just chose Evo Morales as their new president, the first Native American ever to lead a nation in this hemisphere, and he too is a socialist who celebrated his own election by visiting Castro in Havana.

Chile recently elected the first woman chief executive of any American nation who didn't succeed a deceased husband in the job (as was the case with Isabel Peron and Violetta Chamorro). Dr. Michelle Bachelet is a pediatrician, a single mother, an atheist and a Socialist! She is also the former minister of defense, hardly a typical job for a woman in a male-dominated society. A high school student told me that many men in Chile were upset because "they are not enough comfortable with being men," as this young man surely was, which bodes well for the future.

The upcoming election in Peru appears to be headed in the same, socialist, left of center, anti-U.S. direction, with frontrunner Ollanta Humala voicing his support of Chavez, the de facto leader of the movement.

South America has a burgeoning population with growing economies, and major change is occurring daily. These countries show definite signs of casting off the U.S. yoke that they feel around their necks. But, the people of South America can be and should be our friends. There is still residual good will there. We are all, after all, Americans. If we try to support them instead of to push them around, there is much that we can do to further hemispheric goals, ours as well as theirs.

John Smart, of Park Falls, recently returned from a visit to Chile and Argentina with the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program. He is also a member of the Governor's Commission on the United Nations and a former Peace Corps volunteer in Uzbekistan 1995-1998.





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Story Source: The Daily Press

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