Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Two Latin Americas (and two US)

This week started with yet a new display on why Latin America might never be able to get from under its undeveloped status: our love for inane myth. Not that other cultures do not fall under the sway of their own myth which on occasion can spell disaster for them, but it seems that in Latin America we have developed a talent to seek such myths even when they come with a warning label.

On the other hand, we have a US that still does not get it and sometimes seems to be doing all what it cans to perpetuate such myths, making one wonder if the subconscious of the US actually wants us to remain "primitive" (or was that exotic?)

The "Che" 40 year death commemoration

I do not want to talk much about that. Words fail me to explain why a mass murderer can be shown today as a beacon of love and peace. I am not talking about our delirious tropi-banana local Venezuelan potentate, so blinded by "che" cult, that he said a few days ago that any graduating MD that joined private practice was just a mercenary, was not in his eyes an MD (ensuring this way that Venezuela will not be forming good doctors anymore). No, I am talking about the opinions on the Che that many youth expressed when any mic would be placed in front of them. Apparently years of ignoring the reality of the Che in schools have created a generation that believes that the Che was the iconic 13th disciple. Maybe Dr. Mengele supporters might want to review their promotional strategy. They could look in the US where merchandising has yielded handsome dividends by selling tons of memorabilia to people who the Che would have so much loved to destroy.

An Ecuadoran constituent assembly

Although this piece f news is technically a week old I am including it here as it truly belongs to the topic of inane myths ruling our conduct. It is not idle to remember that Correa, Ecuador president for one year now was elected on a second round ballot AFTER having arrived second in a first round, with not even 30% of the popular vote. Yet, for some unexplainable reason he has managed to get high ratings and pulled out an electoral victory one week ago which will give him a solid majority to push any constitution he feels like. The Venezuelan script is so far followed to the letter, even though Correa should have the credentials to be a more democratic leader than our local tropi-potentate. When you see someone like Oppenheimer who has talked to all LatAm presidents describe Correa as one of the most arrogant leaders he ever met, then you might get a clue...

I am not going to worry much about Correa. The only chance he has to make his project to become life president of Ecuador (his protest to the contrary are lame and after tropi-bananator example we all know much better) is to succeed in bringing Ecuador out of the US dollar belt. I doubt that Ecuadorans will vote for a new currency now that they are starting to enjoy the benefits of a solid currency. But one never knows, countries have done the suicide thing. Besides it would not be the first time that Ecuadorans elected a wildly popular leader to toss him out even faster.

No, what is interesting here is that a mass hysteria is leading the country to believe that yet a new constitution will solve the problems of the country. They could have asked Colombians how that did work for them. They could ask Venezuelans how this is working out for them. They could have asked how Bolivians are coping with it. Not to mention other such attempts such as Peru and Brazil who on the long run have not floundered as badly. Apparently the new constitution mantra has become a new myth, the latest offering for messianic leaders to reach power.

And the US, from the height of the longest serving constitution of the continent seems unable (or unwilling?) to even offer constructive advice. Not that it should, but it would be nice to hear a US president say that constitutions are only as good as the people who apply them. Then again, that would question certain US presidents, would it not?

A free trade referendum in Costa Rica

Fortunately to compensate for a bad electoral result in Ecuador and the anti modernity folly of the Che we had a good vote in Costa Rica. No matter whether one agrees with Free Trade Agreements, anyone should at least understand that a small country like Costa Rica can only survive and thrive in an open economy. The garden variety of FTA to apply can be discussed, but they are a must for a country who has only nature and its people skills to sell. Well, for a few weeks we were concerned that Costa Rica would turn its back to any FTA. For the tropi-bananism that would have been a good result since their objective is to create a free trade zone where mediocrity is the commodity and oil the rewards for servility. Colder heads prevailed. Even if the margin is narrow, soon Costa Ricans will start enjoying for example the benefits of modern communication technology at lower prices, and will be able to retain investors and increase their market share in the only market that counts for the Caribbean, for better or worse the US. It is that or exporting migrants to the US: there was no other choice unfortunately. For those who doubt this I would urge them to observe the results of the nationalizations of CANTV and EAS in tropi-bananaland: service is noticeably down and the joints have been taken over barely 6 months ago!

But that Tico success as usual did not come with the help of the US. I am not impressed by the new democratic congress leadership. And I would be a registered Democrat if I lived in the US (if anything because Dem primaries are usually much more interesting). I do understand that they do have a need to deal with Iraq but their anti Bush rhetoric is coloring some aspects that should not be touched, that should be bi-partisan no matter what. The Washington Post editorial today has a very nice summary of that referendum battle in Costa Rica, and inasmuch as the Post is considered a Liberal paper, it clearly and willfully endorsed the Costa Rican result as a victory.

Thus it is with dismay that I read in that editorial:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote Costa Rica's ambassador in Washington to say that Costa Rica would not necessarily lose current U.S. trade benefits under the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which expires in September, if the pact were rejected.

That is wrong on many levels. First, no one asked them to do so (even if trade unions asked them, Costa Rica is too small a country to be a threat). Second, foreign policy is conducted by the executive power. This one requiring a two third approval of treaties in the Senate CANNOT negotiate anything it wants. Foreign policy in the US is usually a bi-partisan affair by necessity, at the very least when a treaty will result form a given initiative. Third, it was a lie as the State Department promptly pointed out. And last but certainly not least, it did go squarely against US interests in the region. Amen of US intervention in a Costa Rican affair by the Democrats in Congress!!!!

I observe with the greatest dismay that the Congressional leadership is slowly but surely, (for personal vendetta?) taking a policy that is detrimental for the US interests in the region and which in the medium term can only profit the anti US agenda in the area. There is something worrisome when Democrats start looking at their navel as it is certainly not the Republicans who will take them out this self gazing.... If in a way that Costa Rica demarche might have been a token thrown to trade unions by Pelosi so she can be freer for bigger things, it is not reassuring that the Colombian FTA approval is all but doomed, which will result in dire consequences for the US, starting with increased drug supplies. What incentives will be left for ANY Colombian government once they are told that the US does not want an FTA with them? In case Pelosi et al. have forgotten, the only incentive that Colombians have to stop growing coca leaves is to grow or manufacture stuff to sell the US. That is it for Congress, or doing an Iraq on Colombia; and we all know how that worked.

-The end-

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