Friday, May 06, 2005


So... how's that Monroe Doctrine working out?

In the pages of al-Ahram, Immanuel Wallerstein makes a compelling argument that the United States is slowly losing its grip on Central and South America.
In the last five years, on the other hand, many Latin American countries have moved to the left both via the ballot box and via popular demonstrations, but always less than totally left. The list is long: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela. Indeed, the only government in South America which the US government really likes these days is Colombia. Just recently, there was an election of the secretary-general of the Organisation of American States. And for the first time in the history of this organisation, the US candidate did not win. The Mexican government recently tried to eliminate from the next presidential competition the candidate of the left party. And it had to back down under popular pressure from within Mexico. Cuba is no longer isolated in Latin America. None of this is being celebrated in Washington.

Now these are all small cuts. None of these states, even Venezuela, have pushed too far. But Brazil did organise the G-20 revolt in the World Trade Organisation which has brought that organisation to a virtual standstill. And Argentina did defy the world financial community and reduce outstanding debts remarkably. And the Free Trade Association of the Americas (ALCA in Spanish initials) is getting nowhere, although it remains the prime economic objective of the US in Latin America.

Left intellectuals and some left movements are unhappy in each of these countries with all the things the supposedly left governments have not done. But the US is even unhappier with what they have done. The fact is that today the US no longer can be sure that it has control -- economic, political, or diplomatic -- of its backyard, the Americas.
No Cinco de Mayo celebration in the Oval Office, then? Also, what Wallerstein does not mention, but I think was equally important as a show of independence and defiance of U.S. interference in Latin American affairs, was Brazil's decision to reject 40 million dollars for Brazilian AIDS programs because of American conditions that would force Brazil to agree to a declaration condemning prostitution. You can certainly detect the resentment resulting from this kind of meddling in the statement of Pedro Chequer, the director of Brazil's HIV/AIDS program:
"I would like to confirm that Brazil has taken this decision in order to preserve its autonomy on issues related to national policies on HIV/Aids as well as ethical and human rights principles," he told the Guardian.
The importance of the decision is further elaborated in some reactions that are tacked on to the end of the Guardian story. Both quotes are from activist/NGO sources that are surely accustomed to working with and around government decisions like this (though I suppose not quite like this).
"The US is doing the same in other countries - bullying, pushing and forcing - but not every country has the possibility to say no," [said Sonia Correa, an Aids activist in Brazil and co-chair of the International Working Group on Sexuality and Social Policy.]

Adrienne Germain, president of the International Women's Health Coalition, said: "The importance of the Brazilian government decision can not be overstated."
Indeed, Brazil is not only the largest country in South America, and thus should not be ignored, but its decision is important precisely because its not Cuba, this isn't Hugo Chavez publically defying the United States. And so while, as Correa says, not every country is able to "say no" to the United States, there is the possibility, as Wallerstein points out, that Latin America is starting to "say no" in ways that it never would or could have before.

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