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September 21, 2001


://"> Writing in advance of President Bush's September 20 speech before Congress, commentators in Latin America assessed the domesti


Writing in advance of President Bush's September 20 speech before Congress, commentators in Latin America assessed the domestic, regional and global repercussions of last week's horror and braced for the word from Washington.  Opinion was all over the waterfront with regard to a much anticipated U.S. military response, but a majority viewed the situation as a "global emergency" that would require international "unity" to build an "anti-terrorist coalition."  Relieved that the U.S. had not rushed to "vengeance," many affirmed solidarity with, in the words of a Dominican writer, "the nation that sheltered the citizens of so many nations."  In some corners--notably in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Panama--writers emphasized the "shared responsibility" now required.  Some press in countries with their own history of terrorism--notably Colombia, Peru and Ecuador--were hopeful that the tragedy would now raise the "world's consciousness" to eradicate terrorism, but did not let the U.S. entirely off the hook for its contribution to the "scourge."  Others, including a Bolivian writer, chastised their local "anti-imperialists" who believed that "the U.S. is the origin of all evils." Coming to grips with the realization that the world had indeed changed, a number fretted that U.S. interests in Latin America--from migration policy with Mexico to free trade--were no longer priorities.  Salient Themes follow:

Firmly In The U.S. Camp:  With the exception of some cynics mostly confined to the left-leaning press, a groundwell of support for aligning with the U.S. emerged among outlets in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Paraguay.  Positive response was apparent but more mixed in Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.  Some made the case for backing the U.S. by appealing to the public's pragmatic desire to protect the national interest.  Others voiced solidarity with American ideals and the preservation of freedom.  In Argentina, where public opinion was strongly opposed to a military commitment, leading and influential dailies tried to convince readers that remaining either neutral or passive would be folly, warning this was not the time for "soft options."  Invoking WWII parallels, Buenos Aires' daily-of-record La Nacion observed that "Bush was not Chamberlain," making the point that "this time the twilight war will be short."

The Lukewarm Camp And The Cop-Outs:  Doubt and skepticim festered among the Brazilian, Mexican and Ecuadorean press, where bitterness toward the U.S. remained a strong undercurrent and most papers warned against giving the U.S. "unconditional" or "carte blanche" support.  Some suggested, as did Mexico's independent Reforma, that in its efforts to "punish a terrible crime," the U.S. might "commit a worse crime...killing thousands of defenseless civilians."  While "non-intervention" was the mantra in Mexico's nationalist press, a few warned that non-action would make their country both a "coward and accomplice."  Others regarded the effort to combat terrorism on a global scale as futile.  "Even if the U.S. insists on reprisals, argued Reforma, "nobody would be safe from terrorism."  In Brazil both independent Jornal da Tarde and Jornal do Brasil held that the war against terrorism would be "impossible" to win. 

U.S. Resentment Still Alive:  Cuban media relished the opportunity to recycle its anti-imperialist rhetoric, now directed at the "Emperor Bush."  A commentator insinuated in Juventud Rebelde that the "empire" did not care about the "pain of the victims" nor the elimination of terrorism, but rather was motivated by its lust to keep the world "under the control of one power."  But strong anti-U.S. vitriol was not confined merely to Havana.  Cynical Mexican observers, seeing the U.S. on a path of "aggression," suggested that the U.S. and its supporters did not care about the planet's future "were they to fulfill their threats."  Reaction in Ecuador was polarized.   Many agreed that the attack on the U.S. was an attack on freedom, while some suggested that the "society of opulence" which, as leading, centrist El Comercio put it, "does not commiserate with the poverty surrounding it," was now paying the piper.


EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 143 editorials from 17 countries, September 18-20.

Countries are as follows: Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.


EDITOR: Irene Marr


Extensive editorial excerpts are available upon request. 

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