Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hillary and Latin America

Three years ago I wrote an article arguing that the political changes sweeping across Latin America were epoch-making and probably irreversible, and that they would fundamentally alter the relationship between the region and the United States. Some of the most important economic causes of the region’s shift to the left – including the unprecedented long-term growth failure since 1980 – were unrecognized then and remain mostly unacknowledged to this day.

At the time, Washington’s stated strategy was to isolate Venezuela from its neighbors. This was before the election of additional left governments in Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Paraguay, and El Salvador. I argued that this strategy was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what was happening in the region, and that it would only succeed in isolating the United States from its southern neighbors.

All this has come to pass, but more interestingly, for the first time we have an acknowledgement of this failure from the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. At a press conference last Friday, she said in response to a question about Venezuela:

“[W]hen we look around the world, actually, we see a number of countries and leaders — Chavez is one of them but not the only one — who, over the last eight years, has become more and more negative and oppositional to the United States. . . the prior administration tried to isolate them, tried to support opposition to them, tried to . . . turn them into international pariahs. It didn’t work.”

This is a remarkable confession, and didn’t get a fraction of the attention it deserved. Clinton did not name the countries, but in Latin America, Bolivia would have to be included as a country where Washington has incurred resentment by supporting opposition movements against President Evo Morales. And of course there is the 47-year failure of the embargo against Cuba:

“We’re facing an almost united front against the United States regarding Cuba. Every country, even those with whom we are closest, is just saying you’ve got to change.”

She didn’t mention that they are also saying that Washington must change its policy toward Venezuela. President Lula da Silva of Brazil, who has consistently defended President Chavez of Venezuela, has told President Obama as much and reportedly counseled him at the Summit of the Americas not to listen to his advisers – most of whom have appeared to seek continued hostility toward Venezuela and possibly Bolivia.

It is remarkable that pressure for a reality-based view of the world has had to come from the South, and says a lot about the state of civil society in the United States. How is it that nobody from our leading foreign policy institutions could have figured this out years ago? On Cuba, there has been dissent — partly because there are powerful business interests that want access to the island, and partly because 47 years of failure is a long time even for slow learners. But on Venezuela, the primary focus of U.S. foreign policy in the hemisphere for the past seven years, there has been an overwhelming consensus of fantasy and hype. Hugo Chavez is the only democratically elected leader in the world, facing a media that is still overwhelmingly controlled by his political opposition, to be successfully maligned as a “dictator.” And a threat to the United States – what exactly has he done to the United States, anyway, other than provide a $100 million annual subsidy to poor people here for heating oil?

The sad reality is that while the United States has at least some civil society organizations that can present an independent view to the public on domestic issues, on foreign policy issues we are much more like Russia. The vast majority of expert opinion on foreign policy that is allowed access to major media in the United States consists of government officials, former government officials, or people who or are otherwise influenced by the government. This is one reason why it was so easy to invade Iraq, and so difficult to get out of there or out of Afghanistan – in spite of the American public’s long-standing lack of enthusiasm for sending combat troops overseas.

Hillary Clinton also took note that Russia, Iran, and China are gaining economic and political influence in Latin America, and recognized that we are operating in “a multi-polar world.” This is also obvious – China has recently invested billions in Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba, and Ecuador, and agreed to a 10 billion dollar currency swap arrangement with Argentina. This week China also passed up the U.S. as the number one recipient of Brazilian exports. But Clinton’s recognition of a “multi-polar world” is unusual and probably unprecedented for a U.S. Secretary of State.

The signals from Washington remain mixed: the State Department last week took another gratuitous swipe at Venezuela, listing the country as a “terrorist safe haven,” among other unsubstantiated allegations. (A few days later, Venezuela deported five Colombian guerillas to their home country). Obama’s top economic adviser Larry Summers recently made a point of saying that Argentina would not qualify for the IMF’s Flexible Credit Line, from which Mexico had just received a $47 billion commitment. Washington is the IMF’s principal overseer; Mexico and Brazil also each have access to a $30 billion currency swap arrangement with the Fed. These are large commitments, and a reminder that Washington is still using its clout in a time of crisis to play political favorites, rather than contributing to regional balance of payments support.

But Clinton’s unprecedented reality-based remarks are an indication that she and President Obama may have taken home some important lessons from their conversations with other presidents at the Summit of the Americas on April 22. Such new thinking would be long overdue.

MARK WEISBROT is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

More articles by:

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
Ramzy Baroud
That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah
Zhivko Illeieff
Addiction and Microtargeting: How “Social” Networks Expose us to Manipulation
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What is Truth?
Michael Doliner
Were the Constitution and the Bill of Rights a Mistake?
Victor Grossman
Cassandra Calls
Ralph E. Shaffer
Could Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Hearing Ended Differently?
Vanessa Cid
Our Everyday Family Separations
Walaa Al Ghussein
The Risks of Being a Journalist in Gaza
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal and Treachery—The Extremism of Moderates
James Munson
Identity Politics and the Ruling Class
P. Sainath
The Floods of Kerala: the Bank That Went Under…Almost
Ariel Dorfman
How We Roasted Donald Duck, Disney’s Agent of Imperialism
Joe Emersberger
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s Assault on Human Rights and Judicial Independence
Ed Meek
White Victimhood: Brett Kavanaugh and the New GOP Brand
Andrew McLean, MD
A Call for “Open Space”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail