Thursday, May 05, 2005

Left Smiling in Latin America

Tom Englehardt of has a phenomenal essay on American imperial decline in our own backyard. Historically, Latin America has been our stomping ground ever since The Monroe Doctrine, but those days of compliant regimes quashing internal disorder maybe over -- and that's a good thing. Here's how Mr. Tom describes the shift toward a social democratic socio-political order:
Unlike in areas bordering Russia and in the Middle East, the United States has put no money into a "Latin Spring," and yet it's happened anyway. We may, in fact, already be at the very start of something like a Latin Summer. Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico -- the largest countries in the region -- are all now democracies; and all but Mexico are led by socialists or independent-minded leaders. This trend hasn't been restricted to the more economically powerful countries in the region either. It has taken hold from Uruguay to Ecuador. Next year, if the leftist mayor of Mexico City, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is elected president, Mexico will put a stunning cap on the process. Two-thirds of Latin America is now considered left-leaning.
The Organization of American States (OAS) has for the first time disobeyed Washington, electing "a Chilean socialist, Interior Minister Jose Miguel be its secretary general." (Excuse me while I grin toothfully.) Also of note, Englehardt quotes UPI's Pentagon correspondent, Pamela Hess, on the declining symbiosis in Latin American-U.S. military relations:
[E]xcept for Colombia and Argentina, all the major countries of South America are on the ASPA black list: Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay and Brazil. Prior to the passage of the ASPA (American Service Members Protection Act), the major South American players had nearly 700 officers in training in U.S. military schools under the International Military Education and Training program. That number is essentially down to zero, say U.S. Southern Command sources. ‘We have lost access to a whole generation of military officers,' a Southern Command source told UPI.

"‘Extra-hemispheric actors are filling the void left by restricted U.S. military engagement with partner nations. We now risk losing contact and interoperatibility with a generation of military classmates in many nations of the region, including several leading countries,' [Southern Command chief Gen. Bantz Craddock told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March.]. The void left by the United States after ASPA is increasingly being filled by China, Craddock warned." (my italics)
Considering the bruts and thugs that have come out of Fort Benning's School of the Americas, this split seems in the best interest of ordinary Latin Americans. Yet, I can't help but thinking China training the next generation of Latin America's military is any better -- for Latin Americans or us.

For those who applaud and root for democracy, recent events --whether in the Middle East, the former Soviet satellites, or in Latin America -- have been fortuitous. While the Bush Administration has used its military and its rhetoric to advocate democratization throughout Eurasia, let's see if it can allow Latin America to pursue its left democratic course without intervention. The indicator of whether or not the U.S. can keep its mitts off of Latin America will be the course of events in Venezuela -- Chavez's recent military buildup, his banishment of the U.S. military from Venezuelan soil and his threat to cut off oil to U.S. if it continues to insert itself into Venezuela internal politics.

If past American foreign policy is any Delphic Oracle, I can't see the U.S. allowing such insubordination in its backyard. That said, without the political support of countries surrounding Chavez and with much of its resources being ripped up in Iraq, the U.S. could become the father to a very unruly Venezuelan son.