March 1, 2010
Latin American countries have made great strides in achieving political stability in recent years. Countries like Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador, to give but a few examples, have solved their differences peacefully, helping each other on the path to economic development.
In 2008, twelve Latin American countries have decided to form a defense alliance, Unasur, dedicated to solving the continent’s conflicts without outside interference. The organisation complements the existing Latin American common market body, Mercosur, aimed at preventing the expansion of the US-inspired pan-American common market project.
Faced with the withdrawal of troops from Irak and Afghanistan in the next few years, as well as with the likelihood of closing its bases in Okinawa, the US is expanding its military footprint in Latin America. The Colombian government has recently accepted to give the US army the use of 7 bases, which regional leaders like Mr. Lula de Silva (Brazil), Mrs.Kirchner (Argentina), Mr. Lugo (Paraguay) or Mr. Chavez (Venezuela) fear are going to be used for spying on their countries and for destabilising them. (source: Le Monde diplomatique)
Americans have left in South America an ugly legacy of coups d’etat (the one in Honduras is but the latest example), political assassinations and blatant disregard for the economic interest of nations. The poverty of most of these countries’ citizens are bringing to power left-of-centre regimes, which the US would like undermined whenever possible. This tendency, however, has less to do with any ideological preference, being more likely justified by the need to create enough “jobs for the boys” facing redundancy in other areas of the world where the US has military bases.
Latin America is important to the European Union. Spain, in particular, has invested heavily in the region and so have other European nations. China is another major player : as of this year, it has replaced the US as Brazil’s main trading partner. Both the EU and China are well-liked as trading partners, because they are far away and use soft power to achieve their political and economic aims.
The US, on the other hand, still seems to prefer putting boots on the ground to achieve its aims in the region. This is indeed a sad development, after the Obama administration has promised a clean break from the Republican-style gunboat diplomacy which makes the US hugely unpopular in Latin America and elsewhere.Florian Pantazi