Monday, March 30, 2015

Preparing the OAS Panama summit, at Raul's good will

Now, before anyone says anything I am a great fan of Andres Oppenheimer from the Miami Herald whose columns and books on Latin America are a must read. But his latest OpEd piece has a je ne sais quoi off.

At first glance his argument is impeccable; Obama should use the next variety of meetings in the Americas to start a rapprochement with some of the countries in difficulty, mainly ailing Brazil (the biggie is OAS in Panama April 10) . Certainly since September 11 the US has been distracted from Latin America and others have step in to pick up the slack, namely China buying and pushing up the commodities market.

However if it takes two to tango, it also takes at least 2 NOT to tango. This blog has noted that the Afghanistan war and the much more questionable one in Iraq have been a huge distraction on what should have been the US real interests, namely South America its nearest neighbor. Certainly this helped a lot the chavista regime to take hold. But it was also good news for other assorted lefts that could count on US silence no matter what they did to reach office.

Yet the distancing of the US was also met by a deliberate distancing from the South. After all, someone like Lina Ron in Venezuela may not have risen to fame, and to perpetrate the damage she did, had she not been burning an US flag in front of the US Caracas embassy within hours of September 11.  She was extreme but she was not alone in smiling at a US disaster. One could have certainly expected most of "the West" to participate in the anti Taliban operation, but that did not stop countries from other continents of Asia and Africa to send in some support. South of the Rio Grande I think only Salvador expressed support of any type. I understand that Afghanistan was more of NATO problem than an OAS problem but that Cardoso or Fox were not more participative is kind of a mystery. If I am wrong in my recollections, please, do correct me.

The fact of the matter is that the US did try to have some links. For example George Bush braved the continent to have diner at a Montevideo steak house while in Buenos Aires Chavez paid for an anti US meeting. But in the end people like Lula were delighted at the opportunity offered by US pusillanimity to flex Brazilian imperialism through proxies like UNASUR, Chavez and others.

Poor Obama did not have much of chance. He tried to ingratiate himself at first, even receiving an idiotic book from Chavez at the Trinidad summit. In the Honduras fiasco he tried to see things Latin America way. To which result? Now, in his lameduckness I suppose that Obama is recentering the US interests where they truly belong, or at least where the US can hope for some significant influence or even alliances.  In 2015 what matters to the US are its partners Europe/Japan/Aussieland/likewise; middle East; and Central America and the Caribbean, the source of great immigration problems. Even Israel seems on its way to be demoted from numero 1. In South America the lone interest seems to be Colombia and I even start doubting it now that Santos seems to bent on sabotaging Uribe's successes while ignoring Venezuela narco state.

Obama's administration has the right perspective, at least it seems to be from this blogger point of view. In 6 years South America has been unable to make any significant rapprochement with the US (outside of the Pacific Alliance, still to prove itself, and a market thing rather than espousing US "ideology"). Not only that but Obama has found no support against the insults from Chavez, no understanding on how Venezuela having become a drug highway is damaging to US interests, no reprobation from the Venezuela financial corruption spilling over. Enough is enough and Obama has simply demanded that South America do its share, to straighten up their act.  Meanwhile some political capital is spent, wisely or not, on Cuba and the Caribbean basin. The rest may go to hell. After all the rich in South America keep buying at a steady pace Real Estate in the US, so where is the problem?

That is why when I read Oppenheimer question: Has the United States given up on South America? I can only but smile. I think that it is too easy to put all the blame on the US. Indeed the guilt of the failed relationship is to be shared in equal parts (I think less on the US actually).  And when I read "It’s a new regional scene. Obama should keep this in mind, and try to reset ties with South America — especially with financially ailing Brazil — at the summit." it sounds to me that the US should be the forgiving one, or that rather Oppenheimer in spite of, or because of, all his years in the US feels like the jilted party.

No matter what Caracas would like us to believe, the US is not anymore the imperial power it used to be. There is only so much resources available and it is fair for the US to start dealing only with amenable interested parties. If South America wants a better relationship with the US it is up to them, not to Obama or his successors. And it is not by promoting UNASUR, electing Almagro at the OAS or refusing to put pressure on Maduro that South America is acting like the responsible partner that the US need in this multipolar world.

In short, I have the feeling that Panama will be only another bust in the collection of failed OAS meeting. Unless of course Raul Castro decides it to be otherwise.  If he reins in Venezuela, if he convinces Maduro to go somewhere else during the summit, the cameras will be fixed on Barack/Raul hug. If Raul is pissed at his shadow he can wreck the whole summit by letting loose idiot Maduro. After all that would be quite a triumph for Raul, to spit on the OAS when this one is starting to allow the Cuban tyranny to go back in the concert of democracies.

It is quite amazing to see how a whole continent is hostage to the most archaic regime left in the world after North Korea. Though I suppose circumspect Canadians probably think that their own huge country could qualify as a separate continent and they will pretend to be in Panama on holiday.


  1. Milonga4:34 AM

    "It is quite amazing to see how a whole continent is hostage to the most archaic regime left in the world after North Korea". Well that about sums it all up. It´s really amazing and if somebody manages to aswer the question as to why is that, then we will gradually begin a necessary eyeopener. Most of LA citizens wear those blinders used by horses. Actually, they`re not horses but dumb asses

    1. Anonymous6:41 AM

      Why insult horses and dumb asses in LA? The problem is in Venezuela.

  2. Charly1:59 PM

    Also disappointed about Hoppenheimer, he points the finger in the wrong direction. However, love your concluding sentence, for Canadians Cuba and Punta Cana are synonym to cheap mojito and nooky. There also used to be this Margarita place but it was so long ago only the elders remember. As for Montevideo (or Santiago), this is where Antarctic penguins live, isn't it?.

  3. What makes anyone think that the USA truly wants Venezuela's defunct gov't out of office. If Chavez/Maduro had any competence they could have used the poor ignorant to get there dictatorship and used oil wealth to develop other industry and wealth and influence all of Latin America into really hating the USA and could have been a true power house. As it sits the most influential country in S America in the last 15 years has been defunct, took the biggest oil deposits and made them defunct. Reality is the USA could have a much worse enemy. Now as far as USA politics go in influencing S America they are in no hurry as tough when Venezuela bought many anti USA gov'ts into power whose leaders are on the take and will do anything Maduro asks. If the USA waits to make its move it will likely cost them little as appose to trying to buy countries' alliances now.

    1. Actually, a leftist government could not with much success use the oil wealth to develop industry. The problem is that real wealth and success is developed from the bottom up. Basically, some small percentage of the population must have the ambition and ability to start businesses. If the situation in a country is conducive to the success of such businesses - such as sufficient educated populace, the availability of capital, the availability of a work force, the reasonable protection of police and the courts and etc., the country will develop. But leftist governments tend to want to direct the resources of the country themselves. This creates inefficiency and corruption. Leftist governments want to take from the rich to give to the poor. And typically, they need to keep their boot on the neck of some of the most accomplished in their country to stay in power. If a country has great wealth like Saudi Arabia, they tend to provide a huge percent of all the needs of the populace. Which changes the populace such that they believe that they deserve this treatment and causes them to not want to work. This same dynamic is in play in Venezuela to a lesser extent. The welfare state that is created changes those it touches into unproductive citizens that from that point forward are a drag on the economy and the state but are a dedicated vote for those who will give them more welfare.

    2. @ Joe, I do not disagree with you but understand my point. My point is that the Chavez/Maduro gov't (as you call leftiest) is a weak enemy and leader for the region or for the anti USA camp. My point is that had they been a competent leadership who hated the USA with the oil windfall and the massive poor population throughout S America they could have been a hell of an enemy for the USA to have. My point is the USA may be happy to have them leading the anti USA for the time being. Part of what I am assuming is that the USA may not want S America to develop into a power house that could rival them. The right gov't in Venezuela over the last 15 years could have carried S America into a rival continent, instead Venezuela has set S America back a decade.

  4. Anonymous5:49 PM

    It will be interesting to see just how much the Chinese really put into Venezuela now that oil is much more abundant and reasonably priced, especially since their tanks are getting full. First it was $20 billion, then $10 billion. Somehow I doubt it will really even be $5. They will try to pay the bonds, simply because they don't know what else to do.

    There is a lot of American talent either soon to be laid off or already unemployed that will be finding new positions in countries like China. I would guess that would mean a large increase in the mineral and energy recovery efforts and efficiency in that commodity hungry economy. Oil in their own yard is worth a lot more to them than oil an ocean away. And aside from drugs, that is all Venezuela has to offer.

  5. Anonymous8:37 PM

    Since countries don't actually die, Venezuela is in a coma. It remains to be seen how long it will remain in a vegetative state and what miracle drugs can bring Venezuela back to realize its potential. Right now the boligarchs that control Venezuela just feast on the body because it is easier to rape a comatose body than one that can fight back. Cowards and corrupt criminals all.

    1. Maybe not so much a coma. I think it's more like an out-of-control trolley accelerating downhill, and the passengers are too afraid to jump off. Logically, jumping off sooner rather than later makes perfect sense because it's going to be more dangerous the longer they wait. It's a kind of paralysis that we all suffer from called "procrastination" and "denial" that resembles paralysis more than a coma.

  6. Anonymous11:24 PM

    How about Venezuela helping Iran enrich Uranium?

  7. The main issue here is that the American voters really don't care about South America (or Canada). People here have no clue if there's a difference between Venezuelans and Uruguayans: same thing. Heck, to us here, Mexicans=Argentinians=Colombians=Brazilians..

    To the Government, when it considers Economic interests, only Brazil matters. And they know Brazil is a mess, Arroz con Mango.. ni chicha ni limonaa..

    Little Corruptzuela doesn't matter much at all anymore for the Fracking USA, with all the cheap oil available everywhere now.

    Just click on Google news or any major news outlet in the USA: Little Vzla is just a little, laughable mess to them, thus to Obama and other politicians. Panama doesn't mean much more than another little diplomatic nuisance trip, where they can't drink the tap water.

  8. Anonymous4:14 PM

    Very true. Chavez was an annoying bee at the picnic and the American public barely knew who he was. Almost none of the general public know who Madurro is. That makes him the fly that isn't even worth swatting.


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