Archive for the ‘Chile’ Category
America’s ‘backyard’ has never been so united and independent of U.S. influence.
Steve Ellner, In These Times, April 14, 2011
In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama pressed for quick passage of a free trade agreement with Colombia, and since then has followed up on the proposal. In doing so he has delighted Republicans who had been accusing him of failing to prioritize the issue. In his January speech, Obama made no reference to his unequivocal concern over human rights violations which he had raised in his third presidential debate with McCain.
Since 2008, little has improved to justify Obama’s reversal. Human Rights Watch has reported a 41 percent increase in the number of victims in 2010 over the previous year, including the murder of 44 trade unionists. In the first six weeks of 2011, death squads assassinated three more labor activists.
In an attempt to assure members of U.S. Congress that progress is being made, on April 7 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Obama announced from the White House the approval of an “Action Plan,” whereby the Colombian government pledged to take stringent measures to curb abuses. Many Colombian trade union leaders, however, refused to buy into the arrangement and expressed skepticism about their government’s resolve. Tarsicio Mora, president of the Unitary Workers Confederation (CUT), objected by saying, “It just can’t be that respect for a basic right established in the constitution, such as the right to life, has to be required by a commercial transaction.”
Obama’s new stand has also failed to win over U.S. trade unionists. In January, Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen argued against the agreement by pointing out that 15 million Colombians representing 82 percent of the working population are not recognized as workers and thus under the law “have no rights.”
Obama’s change–from opposition to the free trade agreement with Colombia, to lukewarm endorsement of it, to vigorous support–is just one example of his turnabout on Latin American policy. His modified stand distances Washington from an important bloc of Latin American governments and contributes to the decline of the U.S. leadership position in the hemisphere.
Jonathan Glennie, The Nation, April 6, 2011
The idea that a successful model for development in one country could sensibly become a blueprint for another is now unfashionable – but important lessons can still be learned by examining other nations’ development paths.
One region is routinely overlooked in international development discussions that tend to contrast Asian success with African stagnation: Latin America.
Life expectancy has risen from 56 in 1960 to 73 today, and primary school completion rates are hovering at near 100%.
But the past decade has been the most dramatic for Latin America as the New Left governments – such as those led by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Cristina and Néstor Kirchner of Argentina, Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay and, of course, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela – have swept to power.
After the years of austerity in the 1980s and 1990s, during which income poverty levels increased or stagnated, sustained growth in the past decade accompanied significant poverty reduction. Some 13% of Latin Americans lived in absolute poverty in 1980, and that figure was still 11% in 2002. But just three years later that figure had dropped to 8%, according to the World Bank.
Latin American countries are emerging from the global financial meltdown in good shape, in part because of their apparent familiarity with the rules of counter-cyclical spending, which depends on storing up money in the good times, and in part because their financial sector was less liberalised than in the west.
Greg Grandin, The Nation, March 21, 2011
Obama isn’t the first US president to seek a solution to domestic crisis by pushing for open markets, but his administration might be the first to so candidly admit that is what it is doing.
According to Michael Froman, Obama’s national security adviser for international economic affairs, “This trip fundamentally is about the US recovery, US exports and the critical relationship that Latin America plays in our economic future and jobs here in the United States.” It’s a startlingly honest admission that, unable to overcome domestic obstacles (that is, the cult of austerity that enthralls Republicans and Democrats alike) to investment and stimulus, the United States is looking abroad for relief. Obama is making the case that more globalized trade—including the pending Colombian Free Trade Agreement—will pull the United States out of its slump.
In the past, trade with Latin America did inordinately benefit the United States in all sorts of ways, underwriting its cold war Keynesian and post–cold war neoliberal economies. Today, though, things are different and it’s unlikely that more “free trade” with Latin America would heal what ails the United States.