May 6, 2005
RICE'S VISIT TO LATIN AMERICA HIGHLIGHTS CHANGES IN U.S. 'BACKYARD'
** Rice's first task was to soothe governments upset about U.S. "indifference" to the region.
** Brazilian analysts welcome "growing" U.S. interest, urge deepening of bilateral relationship.
** Pro-government Venezuelan dailies scoff at U.S. "ranting and raving."
** Leftist governments, "loss of U.S. influence" changing the dynamic of hemispheric relations.
Region 'fell into oblivion' in Bush I-- Secretary of State Rice's biggest challenge in Latin America, argued Argentina's daily-of-record La Nacion, would be "to reverse the sense of abandonment" among Latin governments over the low priority given the region during President Bush's first term when the focus was on the war against terrorism and Iraq. Canadian and Euro papers agreed that the U.S. exhibited "new highs of indifference" in ignoring its southern neighbors during Bush I. Brazilian papers held that the U.S. "cannot ignore what is going on" in the region, concluding Rice's trip demonstrated "growing American interest" in Latin affairs.
Brazil: 'preferred partner'?-- Rice's stop in Brazil "strengthened a bilateral relationship that was already good," according to center-right O Estado de S. Paulo. It added that Rice not only recognized Brazil's "prominence," but also proposed Washington and Brasilia "unite in a partnership to ensure regional stability." Uruguay's independent El Observador remarked that it "would be useful to have a greater degree of understanding" between the U.S. and Brazil "to foster strong democracies and economic development."
Disagreement over the 'caudillo'-- Analysts asserted Rice hoped to find "allies" to help "contain the anti-Americanism" of Venezuela's President Chávez because "the radicalization of the Bolivarian revolution" has become "a source of concern" to the U.S. Brazil's conservative O Globo opined that increased U.S. pressure on Chávez would pose for Brasilia the "dilemma of choosing between supporting Chávez or maintaining a good relationship with the U.S." A pro-government Venezuelan tabloid crowed that "no one pays attention to the rantings" about Chávez from the U.S., while other Venezuelan dailies emphasized that Latin governments had listened to U.S. complaints "cordially" but remained strongly determined to follow an "independent policy" towards Caracas.
Continent 'distancing itself' from U.S.-- Liberal and conservative dailies alike, citing Latin independence on Chávez and "the U.S.' gradual loss of influence [as] seen in the OAS elections," declared that "times have changed in Latin America" and with them, hemispheric relations. "One after another, Latin American countries are switching to the left," averred Belgium's La Libre Belgique, and opposing policies the U.S. wants. Canada's liberal Le Devoir also saw the rise of "a pragmatic, sometimes populist" Latin left that maneuvers between conservative economics and expanded social concerns. The "growing division" among OAS states, fueled in part by new leftist governments, said Colombia's leading El Pais, demonstrated "an urgent need for change in the U.S. approach to the region."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 32 reports from 13 countries April 24 - May 5, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
CANADA: "Ms. Rice Visits The Latinos"
Editorialist Guy Taillefer wrote in liberal Le Devoir (4/29): "Well, well. The United States this week deigned to have a look at their Latin American backyard.... Just this once won't hurt. What will [Condoleezza Rice] find? A sub-continent distancing itself.... Ms. Rice's visit with key partners--Brazil, Colombia, Chili and El Salvador--is officially meant to renew relations with a region, it is said, President Bush treated with new highs of indifference during his first mandate in the name of the Iraqi question and the 'war on terror.' This indifference, combined with the war in Iraq, has had consequences within national elites as well as public opinion. It is an understatement to say that Mr. Bush's reelection was not welcome. The use of the preventive war doctrine reminded Latin America of the dark century of American unilateralism in the region's internal affairs. American management, here negligent, there interventionist, of crises that happened or are ongoing in Argentina, Bolivia, Haiti and Venezuela also damaged Washington's image. Experts agree to bemoan this situation, deploring that the Americans are no longer actively playing a role in the consolidation of democracy in Latin America. They are not wrong. Democracy does not boil down to elections only. Latin-American countries suffer from corruption and institutional precariousness that the North could help ease. Ms. Rice actually seems well aware of this as she repeated in Brasilia Tuesday that we needed to create in the region 'a climate favorable to strong democracies and not fragile democracies.' Time will tell if this rhetoric is given a budget. But it could also be said that, far from the spotlights of the empire, Latin Americans are spreading their wings. While Mr. Bush was busy elsewhere, a blessing, really, broad sections of Latin American society have begun rebelling, literally, against privatization and free market policies, imposed 15 years ago, that did nothing to solve serious socioeconomic inequalities in the region, where 100 million people still try to make ends meet on less than US$1 a day. At the same time, we have witnessed the rise of a 'left' largely led by civil society. A pragmatic, sometimes populist, left that navigates between enforcing conservative policies on the macroeconomic front--reassuring for Washington--and the promise of social measures the results of which are not yet known.... Three quarters of the 350 million South Americans are now governed by left-leaning presidents. The trend is presently too serious on the social front while the orientation is too moderate on the economic front for the White House and Ms. Rice. Thus, Ms. Rice probably went to make sure that Brazil isn't strengthening ties too much with the Venezuela of Hugo Chávez, the thorn in the side of the United States in the region. Latin America can distance itself but not too much. Or Washington could become interested again."
ARGENTINA: "The U.S. Rejects Brazil's Help In Its Conflict With Chávez"
Eleonora Gosman wrote in leading Clarin (4/28): "Rice said the USG is 'anxious' to help the countries of the region that are facing difficulties with democracy. And only in this framework did she appreciate a partnership with Brazil aimed at helping 'the peoples of the region to enjoy freedom'.... While...the U.S. does not need Brazil's mediation to establish its Latin American policy, the Bush administration considers Brazil a key piece in the FTAA creation.... The final statement signed by Secretary Rice and foreign Minister Celso Amorin did not include any mention of the FTAA or Venezuela. These omissions are a clear sign that disagreement between the two countries persists in this field."
"According To Rice, Brazil Is Consolidating Its 'World Power' Role"
Luis Esnal noted in daily-of-record La Nacion (4/27): "U.S. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice termed Brazil as 'a regional power that is getting stronger as a world power,' in a statement that hinted support for Brazil's claim to obtain a permanent seat at the UNSC.... Rice...confirmed U.S. expectations of having Brazil as a 'coordinator' of South American geopolitics.... However, the disagreement between the U.S. and Brazil regarding Venezuela became apparent during the press conference given by Secretary Rice and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorin."
"Absent With Prior Notification"
Conservative La Prensa editorialized (4/27): "Secretary Rice's visit to Latin America is of course not enough to get to know the region, and the inclusion of Argentina could have been a good sign based on the invitation made to her by Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa in March.... Perhaps, we should wonder why she has not included us, or whether this is a warning message to the Argentine government, which just a few weeks ago received a friendly congratulation phone call from U.S. President Bush.... Probably, Rice did not come to Argentina because it is a country that has a lot to ask for, but since she tackled the Haiti issue in Brazil, she could well have acknowledged in Buenos Aires that the fragile domestic security system of Haiti is sustained through Argentine troops. Condoleezza Rice's political message cannot be decoded for now, but it could well be understood when Bielsa goes to the OAS meeting in Washington in just a few days."
"Rice Comes To The Region But Not To Argentina"
Hugo Alconada Mon held in daily-of-record La Nacion (4/26): "The main topics in U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's agenda during her first tour to Latin America, which will not include Argentina, will be: Ecuador, drug trafficking, Hugo Chávez, Haiti, the OAS' lack of leadership and the overhaul of the UN Security Council.... The four countries that are included in her trip are 'central allies,' as defined by the U.S. State Department when it announced her trip, whether due to their strategic importance in the region, the fight on drug trafficking or their support for the war in Iraq, respectively.... Rice's first challenge will be to reverse the sense of abandonment of certain Latin American governments due to President George W. Bush's priority (given) to the fight on terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, she will also have to face disagreement with other governments, such as those of Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Chile, among others."
BRAZIL: "A Firmer Condoleeza"
Political analyst Tereza Cruvinel wrote in conservative O Globo (4/29): "Yesterday in Colombia, the American Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, was more firm in her attack of Hugo Chávez’s government than while (she was) in Brazil.... In Brazil, although she had discarded any mediation with Chávez, she showed her charm and ability, leaving the Lula government exultant with such attention. She even told Foreign Minister Celso Amorin that she did not want to make Venezuela the main issue of her visit to Brazil. Her tone yesterday, however, reinforced for international observers the feeling that the U.S. is ready to increase pressure on Venezuela. If this happens, the Brazilian government will have the dilemma of choosing between supporting Chávez or maintaining a good relationship with the United States."
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo argued (4/28): "Although focused on its priorities in the Middle East, the Bush administration’s foreign policy cannot ignore what is going on in Latin America--where Brazil, as Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice declared, is seen as a strategic partner. Rice’s visit, which took place following that of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, does not seem to confirm current interpretations that Brazilian diplomacy has adopted a line of separation vis-à-vis the U.S. Despite trade differences, frictions in regards to the FTAA, opposition to the war in Iraq, and anti-American inclinations of some sectors in the foreign ministry, Lula’s Brazil has performed in the region the role that the U.S. expects from it.... In relation to Chávez, Brazil has conveyed Washington’s messages and acted as mediator, thereby trying to prevent serious damages resulting from an interventionist outcome. There are many historical, political, commercial and pragmatic reasons to explain the Lula administration’s good relationship with the U.S., but the GOB’s will to be recognized as regional leader and obtain the U.S. sympathy to its claim for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council has also helped. It does not seem advisable, however, for the GOB to nourish much hope on such support.... The U.S. has signaled that it wants a very restricted reform in the UNSC. A policy aimed at good relations with the U.S. that is not confounded with submission, is the right choice for Brazil, regardless of future and uncertain reforms at the UN.”
"Venezuela: A Real Threat"
Independent Jornal do Brasil observed (4/28): "Condoleezza Rice's meeting with Brazilian authorities reaffirmed the main dissonance between the two countries: Venezuela.... Worries about the steps [Chávez] has taken are justified. Chávez commands the course of one of the world's 10 largest oil reserves. He has money to finance his own projects and is far from being a harmless buffoon.... He is looking for a villain to create a militia and to arm his army. [Chávez's] preferred alliance is not with democracy, but rather with Cuba and Fidel Castro. With such inspiration, he seeks to numb his opposition by restricting the press. Stopping such authoritarian impulses is one of the tasks of Brazilian diplomacy. It's up to [the Brazilian foreign ministry] to take lead on this mission. As a friend of Chávez and president of the most stable of the young Latin American democracies, Lula has sufficient prerogative to make Chávez conform. [Lula] knows that the actions taken by his colleague contribute in no way to the socioeconomic advances that the region needs.... Lula represents a responsible, modern, pro-development left with a contemporary look onto the world. Chávez rejects such a model.... He has become a real threat."
Conservative O Globo editorialized (4/28): "Despite official justifications concerning Brazil’s increasing importance as a regional power, it is obvious that the visit of Condoleezza and Rumsfeld is part of an effort from the American government to include Brazil in a diplomatic triangle that allows Washington to contain the anti-Americanism of Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez. While here, Rumsfeld made no secret about the dissatisfaction of the U.S. with Venezuela buying one hundred AK-47s; and Condoleeza reminded that, in order to have a democracy, not only must a governor be elected by the people, but freedom of the press and room for opposition are also necessary.... Looking beyond the horizon of the Venezuelan-American relationship, one can sense that the situation creates precious opportunities for Brazilian foreign policy--which has very important issues of convergence with the American policy--and should profit by this proximity to try to solve misunderstandings and disagreements, especially in the commercial area. In order to see the unexpected window that in opening, Brasília urgently needs to get rid of old ideological addictions that disrupt the ability to think clearly and inspire juvenile acts of rebellion that are harmful to everyone."
"Error Of Identity"
Míriam Leitão remarked in conservative O Globo (4/28): "Lula and Chávez are different.... Chávez has divided his country in a dramatic and maybe irreversible way.... He uses democratic institutions against democracy.... Brazil’s three-brain diplomacy likes very much to defend the Venezuelan president, arguing that he won the plebiscite organized to remove him from power. It’s true that he won but, again, in the Chávez way: he tried to avoid, as much as possible, a mechanism introduced by himself in the Constitution; when he was forced to do it, he took advantage of a rare good economic moment, distributed money from the state oil company in populist campaigns and thus won the plebiscite.... It is not enough to be elected; it's necessary to be democratic.... [President Lula’s government] wants to be Chávez’s champion, displaying excessive intimacy and alignment with his international positions. The U.S. government makes basic mistakes in dealing with the Venezuelan president.... When Bush’s war cabinet shows hostility towards Chávez...he can pose as a resistance hero and therefore justify all his bizarre attitudes. To spend Condolezza Rice’s trip to Brazil on this type of dispute is a waste of time. The U.S. is our largest individual commercial partner.... It’s to the U.S. that every one wants to export.... But Brazil prefers to act in a childish anti-American way.”
Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo commented (4/28): "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Brazil strengthened a bilateral political relationship that was already good.... There was a positive agenda with great political significance. Rice recognized that ‘Brazil is a regional power that is rapidly marching towards becoming a world power'.... Brazil’s prominence has been not only naturally recognized, but the secretary of State also proposed that the two nations unite in a partnership to ensure regional stability through the strengthening of democracy in the Hemisphere.... The defense of democracy in the Hemisphere interests the U.S. and also the GOB. There cannot be political stability in a region disturbed by constant and serious institutional crises.... If it wants to continue enjoying the prestige that Rice attributed to it, the Lula administration will have to decide sooner or later either if it privileges the relationship with little tribal chiefs [Hugo Chavez] or if it assumes a role compatible with an emerging leadership.”
Independent Jornal do Brasil concluded (4/26): "The trip of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to Latin America has crucial importance to the present and future of Brazilian foreign policy. It reveals, especially, the growing American interests in the area, and in particular, in Brazil--due to the economic, political and military concerns of President’s George W. Bush's government.... Americans know the economic and diplomatic relevance that Brazil has been acquiring in international relations. It doesn’t hurt to mention that the main axis of this relationship finds itself partially paralyzed. A pause mistakenly promoted by the Planalto Palace (the Brazilian White House) itself. Last week, for example, President Lula declared that the FTAA is no longer in our diplomatic plans. His administration would have opted to strengthen Mercosul and the relationship with other Latin American countries. It is a very common mistake in our country to submit Brazilian commercial interests to the political-strategic parameters conceived of by dominant groups at Itamaraty. The U.S. is the main market for Brazilian exports, behind the EU. It is the destiny of at least 20% of our exports. Brazilian products, however, have hardly scratched the North-American market. The volume exported last year corresponds to less than 1.5% of that market. There is, therefore, a lot to conquer there. Brazilians and Americans should, on the contrary, deepen ongoing business and begin a real dialogue in less explored areas, such as public health, education and scientific research, in which the U.S. has great knowledge to transfer. On the other side, Brazil could occupy the post of a preferred partner, both from the political and economic points of view. Lula and Bush have already given successive demonstrations that they understand each other diplomatically. If they deepen the relationship, the effects will be interesting for both sides. With an isolationist policy, however, Brazil will be the only one to lose.”
Former ambassador Rubens Barbosa remarked in center-right O Estado de S. Paulo (4/26): "Condoleezza Rice’s first visit to Latin America occurs at a moment of the lowest priority attributed by the U.S. to the region, a fact that explains at least in part the U.S.’s gradual loss of influence seen in the OAS elections.... However, the bilateral relations between Brazil and the U.S. are excellent.... There are no conflicts or major problems in the political and diplomatic area, and her visit will be symbolic in terms of improving even more the relations between the two nations. Showing Brazil’s importance in the regional context, the main focus of the conversations will be the regional situation and the GOB’s perception of the political, economic and social evolution of Brazil’s neighbors. In Brazil, Condoleezza Rice is expected to announce the U.S. policy for Latin America. Latin America has always been a distant and episodic concern for Rice, and Brasilia’s view of the regional situation may certainly be useful for the White House and the Department of State."
BOLIVIA: "Rice’s Concerns"
La Paz's leading centrist La Razon commented (5/5): "The fact that in some OAS nations, Insulza’s election was taken as a defeat for American diplomacy in this part of the continent, is just bad analysis or a partisan interpretation by those who claim that. On the contrary, we could say that Ms. Rice’s trip to South America was prompted by the need to establish contacts at the highest level with the leadership of the region’s most stable democracies and to counteract the anti-American political machinations of Chávez and Castro. That was the main purpose of Condolezza Rice’s trip, and not the OAS issue nor observing how the Bolivian democracy is doing."
CHILE: "Visit of U.S. Secretary Of State"
Independent, conservative La Tercera commented (Internet version, 4/28): "The arrival...of the U.S. secretary of state in Chile...is a meaningful sign of present relations between the White House and the La Moneda presidential palace.... Keeping these ties active and on a good footing should be the goal of both countries. The presence of the U.S. influences practically all of Chile's international actions, whether it be in the OAS, in organizations such as the UN...in the financial field, or, from a trade viewpoint, in the fact that it is the only South American country with which the superpower has signed a free-trade agreement [FTA]. Washington also has interests to cultivate.... The status of privileged partner in a FTA, for example, turns the relationship with Santiago into a concrete demonstration of political will to make progress on the trade agenda that the current U.S. administration established as an objective of its policy toward the region when it first came to power.... But even more influential is the fact that in the current regional political context, Chile, one way or the other, can constitute a sort of 'moderating factor' vis-à-vis the emergence or consolidation of proposals and leaders embracing discourse that is anti-U.S. and anti-'neoliberal economic model'.... This discourse is used by such groups as one of the main banners of their legitimacy in the fight to gain, or remain in, power. And even though it is not the only case, the Venezuelan regime today is the most explicit example of this problem for the White House. Conditions of Chile's political, economic, and social stability, on the other hand, are the expression of a democratic institutional model that favors normalcy in it relations with the United States."
COLOMBIA: "Well Received"
Influential news magazine Semana had this to say (Internet version, 5/2): "The friendly tone of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Colombia was no surprise. President Uribe is George W. Bush's main ally on the continent and has been loyal and reliable, and the feeling in the White House is that the results of cooperation between the two countries represent a 'history of success.' Rice's trip had regional aims.... She traveled to Latin America on the official pretext of a meeting in Santiago, Chile on democracy. But the message was that she will try to do something about the oblivion into which the region fell during Bush's first four years, when the worldwide crusade against terrorism overshadowed almost all other foreign policy issues. The shift that U.S. diplomacy vis-à-vis the country's neighbors to the south may undergo is not clear. It is a long way from expressing good will...to taking concrete action. Colombia is the only country on the continent towards which the White House has an explicit, distinct policy: political and economic support for President Uribe's policy of democratic security.... Without doubt the radicalization of the Bolivarian revolution and the solidifying of the Chávez-Castro axis is a source of concern to Washington.... Washington is not willing to undertake a costly intervention to topple a legitimate president, given his election and successive victories at the polls. Rather, it will probably adopt a policy of containment, based on acceptance of the fact that 'Chávez will be around for a while,' in order to prevent the Bolivarian regime from radicalizing further and supporting anti-U.S. forces in the region. The issue affects Colombia, because its alliance with the United States makes it, to Venezuelan eyes, the advance guard of Bush's tougher position.... Being caught in the middle of the mounting conflict between the United States and Venezuela gives President Uribe two options: to serve as 'the lady's best pawn', as Chávez put it, or to use his good relations with both sides to prevent a dangerous escalation of the conflict between Washington and Caracas. The final decision will depend on whether he pays more attention to the defense minister's hard line on Chávez than to Foreign Minister Barco's pragmatic position."
"Ms. Rice's Visit"
Cali-based, leading El Pais editorialized (4/27): "The U.S. Secretary of State’s visit to Colombia comes at a moment of particular importance for America.... But this time everything seems to indicate that the conversations will not be dedicated exclusively to drug trafficking. Now, the apparent division among OAS member nations is of concern to the U.S. ... That division may derive from the election in South America of governments considered to be leftist, and that depart from the dictates of multilateral credit institutions and U.S. policies.... (To these concerns can be added) complaints that the Bush administration has shown indifference towards Latin America...and the growing role of the Venezuelan president in the region.... (Condoleezza Rice) will be received by Colombian leaders, deservedly, as the representative of a country that is a firm friend and supporter of our most pressing needs. But we cannot avoid mentioning that there is an urgent need for change in the U.S. approach towards the region, before an unnecessary and counterproductive division is deepened."
"Rice's 18 Hours In Bogota"
Leading national pro-Liberal Party El Tiempo declared (4/27): "The relationship with Venezuela, Plan Patriota, the FTA and the peace process with the paramilitaries are the topics on Rice’s agenda with Uribe.”
EL SALVADOR: "That Little Jewel Called Condoleezza Rice”
Columnist Hilarión Juárez wrote in moderate El Mundo (4/30): "It seems like Insulza and Lula are Rice’s type, since they are men who have charged the motor of their economies and improved the situation of their countries, in addition to allowing...business to make safe investments. She also likes men like Alvaro Uribe and Antonio Saca: right wing, young, popular and possessed of a clear vision of what they want to do. That explains why she met both, promising to the first more funding to fight the narco-guerrillas, and to the second cooperation against gangs and funds to help the economy take advantage of CAFTA."
"Rice In Latin America"
Moderate El Mundo stated (4/30): "Her visit to four Latin American countries, including El Salvador, shows the priorities in the region: to guarantee economic stability in the area by solidifying U.S. relations with two old partners, Brazil and Chile, even though they are governed by socialists like Lula da Silva and Ricardo Lagos. In addition, her goal is to fortify the political process of President Alvaro Uribe, fighting to eradicate the Colombian narco-guerrillas. In El Salvador, her goal was not only to thank [El Salvador] for its troops in Iraq, but also to assist the region by supporting our compatriots in the U.S., fortifying the anti-gang work, and recognizing that CAFTA will become a reality."
Moderate La Prensa Grafica opined (4/27): "The upcoming visit to El Salvador of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice underscores the need to maintain relations with the U.S. at the highest level of cooperation.... Rice's visit to El Salvador is of significant importance because it transmits the message that the country occupies a privileged political position before the U.S. ... The Salvadoran government's decision to support and continue supporting the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq has paid off and the government should capitalize on it.... El Salvador should also continue to seek the best possible conditions for the Salvadoran immigrants living in the United States and should request better trade conditions for Salvadoran products."
Former Ambassador Aldo Diaz Lacayo contended in leftist national El Nuevo Diario (4/24): "The use of force has been reduced to one powerful nation, the U.S., which has turned into a mega empire thanks to its military power which is incomparably greater than all other countries put together. Military unipolarity gives it political unipolarity. A nation turned, in fact, into Universe-State, which disavows the UN and tries to impose on the rest a type of behavior that is contrary to international law, substituting it for arbitrary and discretional norms that answer to its own interests, its own national security. This mega imperialism claims the national security and defense of other nations as its own, especially in our America and with an almost right-to-possession of the Central American and Caribbean countries. The U.S. annuls these Central American countries and turns them into de facto political protectorates, very close to their historical objective: America for the Americans!... Nicaragua is absolutely subjected to the U.S. In these nations in Central America, the military doctrine is reduced to the catching of illegal immigrants, narco-traffickers, arms traffickers or any other type of organized crime, because it threatens the U.S. national security or makes it vulnerable."
PERU: "Condoleezza Rice In Latin America"
Center-left La Republica stated (4/28): "Condoleezza Rice knows how and when to smile for the photos.... But, above all, she knows how to fulfill her tasks and obligations as the Bush administration's Secretary of State.... Rice brings very clear and direct messages for the governments in Brazil, Colombia, Chile and El Salvador. Her presence in Brasilia is a recognition of Brazil's weight in the region, which is being promoted even more by the government of Lula da Silva. If we consider the Brazilian aspirations to occupy a seat on the UN Security Council, the support of the White House would be sufficient to make the international dreams of this South American giant a reality. The U.S. has publicly demonstrated its support for Japan, but in the face of a resounding no from China, the [U.S.] could change its opinion when and if [Brazil] demonstrates a firmer stance before those agents Washington considers 'destabilizing.' The truth is that the White House does not have yet an ally in the region for its media quarrel with Hugo Chávez's regime.... This is exactly one of the objectives of 'Condi' Rice's visit to Latin America."
URUGUAY: "A Difficult But Necessary Axis"
Montevideo's independent editorialized El Observador (Internet version, 4/28): "The South American region needs the United States and Brazil to act in greater harmony and with less arm wrestling over continental hegemony. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Brazil appears to seek this objective. Her tour to some countries in the region also reflects the fortunate return of Latin America to President Bush's agenda.... Washington shows signals of grasping that the long-standing problem of Fidel Castro's Cuba and the new problem of Hugo Chávez's Venezuela, plus the instability that threatens other states, make it advisable to reach some manner of understanding with Brazil given its emergence as a decisive power in the region.... But the focal point of the agenda...was Venezuela within the context of political stability in the region. President Chávez, a friend and avowed admirer of the Cuban dictator, has become the second thorn in the side for the United States, together with the Cuban dictator. Brazil, along with other countries in the region that are ruled by leftist governments, supports Chávez overall. But no one ignores the decidedly authoritarian slant with which the Venezuelan colonel blurs democracy in his country, to which he adds a tendency to interfere in the domestic matters of Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, and other countries in the region. Furthermore, everyone is worrying about other signs of institutional frailty. These include the murky ouster of former President Gutiérrez in Ecuador, the teetering administration of President Mesa in Bolivia, the absurdity of Fujimori's political resurrection in Peru, the powerful drug-trafficking guerrilla groups that control almost one-third of Colombia's territory, and Argentina's uncertain future under a president who has quarreled with the whole world, with and without need. Under these ominous circumstances it would be useful to have a greater degree of understanding between Washington and Brasilia to foster strong democracies and economic development, including in the latter category the apparent rebirth of the forgotten FTAA. The distinct political and economic weight of the United States and Brazil's regional leadership should not be opposite poles of influence, but rather the two ends of a single axis in the interest of stability and development in Latin America. This is not an easy goal, but Rice's trip indicates a possible auspicious initial step."
VENEZUELA: "Rice In Brazil, Colombia And Chile"
Foreign affairs analyst Isaac Bigio commented in pro-government daily tabloid Diario VEA (5/3): “For Chávez, Plan Colombia destabilizes the region, generates displaced people and encourages the operation of paramilitaries in his country. He would opt for a negotiated solution to the conflict. For Rice, Venezuela’s agricultural and press reforms and anti-U.S. foreign policy is an obstacle to Bush’s wish to have the Americas united under a single market and liberal system. The United States wants to isolate Chávez. Santiago and Brasilia urged (the U.S.) to respect Venezuela’s sovereignty. Bogotá does not want to have a head-on confrontation with Caracas in order not to help the guerrillas and become isolated in South America.”
"Secretary Rice’s Trip To Latin America"
Sensationalist daily 2001 editorialized (4/29): “Venezuelan authorities believe that the purpose of Secretary Rice’s tour of Latin America is to forge a sort of coalition to curb on President Chávez’s government. However, the United States has other interests in the region away from the microphone diplomacy officials from both countries are so used to. Washington wants to work out its differences with Mercosur to finally implement the FTAA and the Plan Colombia, which Ms. Rice said in Bogotá is about to end, but that the close ties between both nations will go on.”
"Gringos Get Desperate Trying To Isolate Venezuela"
Pro-government weekly tabloid Temas Venezuela editorialized (4/29 edition): “After Rumsfeld’s unhappy statements in Brasilia, the great lady of American foreign policy also wanted to join to the ranting and raving in Brazil. She thinks that the mission to isolate Venezuela, dictated by her big bosses, is sacred. What can we expect from someone who is desperate? The truth is that no one pays attention to the rantings indicating that we are ‘a danger for the stability and the security of the hemisphere.’ Let’s hope that some day these gringos get to understand that despair does not do any good.”
"On A Tour Of The Backyard"
Foreign affairs expert Adolfo P. Salgueiro commented in leading conservative daily El Universal (4/28): “Some believe that Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Latin America is the beginning of imminent actions aimed at removing Venezuela’s caudillo. President Bush, in his first administration, except for quick visits to Chile, Mexico and Colombia, attached little importance to the relations with his ‘backyard’, which is a characteristic he shares with his predecessors. During the current period, the order of the priorities does not seem to have changed and Rice’s visits have followed the order of importance the U.S. attaches to the different regions of the world. It is obvious that the issue of Venezuela has been addressed in the conversations she has had and will be addressed in the ones to come. It can’t be otherwise because for Americans, Chávez is a pebble in their shoes, the symbol of the rebellion at the OAS and of the hemispheric destabilization, etc. Therefore, it is not illogical that Washington wants to neutralize his influence. The point is that the gringos, in their political shortsightedness-- wrongly--believe that with some official’s tour, they are going to succeed in preventing the hemisphere’s from leaning towards the left and in making it follow their rhythm without first meeting the demands of the nations that, understandably, harbor more and more grudges against the U.S. Rice already confirmed it in her stop in Brasilia where her suggestions and complaints were met with the most diplomatic cordiality but with the strongest decision to keep an independent policy. Lula shares the idea that Chávez has to be kept under control.... In Colombia, there were naturally more shared opinions because the close relation between Colombia and the U.S. is evident. In Chile, we suppose that Lagos, after a recent visit to Caracas, will not want to start another round of controversy with Chávez. In El Salvador, we can suppose that there will also be some common grounds.... Be it as it may, what is evident is that the empire’s Secretary of State’s visit to the neighborhood causes a stir. So, it would not be realistic to ignore that in this backyard Washington still has a lot of influencing to do.”
"Times Are Changing"
Liberal afternoon daily tabloid Tal Cual (4/28) editorialized: “Condoleezza Rice visited Brasilia yesterday and like Donald Rumsfeld some days ago, met a Brazil that not only keeps its differences over the U.S. concept of FTAA but that also expresses it unwillingness to support Washington’s policy towards Chávez’s government. In Chile, Rice will surely hear the same statement Chilean foreign affairs minister made to the State Department: ‘We should not regard Venezuela in black and white.’ Definitely, times have changed in Latin America and the Caribbean and the old obedience that turned the OAS into an extension of the State Department is almost history. It is evident that the North-South relations in the hemisphere have changed. However, Chávez is not the paradigm of the South. His stridence does not go along with the hemisphere’s progressive governments’ understanding that there are important and inevitable discrepancies with the powerful neighbor, but they should be processed based on realistic criteria: it is impossible not to coexist with such a superpower, with which we share the same hemisphere.”
Leopoldo Tablante wrote in leading liberal El Nacional (4/27): “Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Latin America formalizes the end of a centennial relation that, turned into a confrontation, calls for a person-to-person persuasive action to convince South American presidents that Chávez is a bad guy. Ms. Rice’s work continues with a tradition including Theodore Roosevelt’s big stick policy, McCarthy’s with hunt, Nixon’s American intervention in Vietnam, Reagan’s ‘contras’ and the current war on international terror in times of al-Qaida. Chávez, instead, replaces the American consent for the European one, while pinning his hopes on a steady economic alliance with the Chinese economy, the largest in the Far East and with a view to becoming the world’s largest."
BELGIUM: "In The Eyes Of Washington, Latin America Still Exists"
Olivier Mouton contended in independent La Libre Belgique (4/29): “Yes, Latin America still exists! That is the message that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would like to convey during an almost one-week visit to the region. Considerably ignored by President George W. Bush during a first mandate that was focusing on the Middle East and the war on terror, the other America has become a powder keg for the United States. One after the other, Latin American countries are switching to the left, opposing free trade policies that Washington supports.... But if there is one black sheep at which the United States points the finger with insistence, that is the ‘Bolivarian’ Venezuela of Hugo Chávez. With his proletarian revolution, the latter is getting closer to Cuba every day.... Needless to say that the U.S. secretary of state will not visit that country. On the contrary, yesterday she left Colombia assuring President Uribe of her continued support, before traveling to Chile, where the economic forecast is optimistic and stability remarkable.”
HUNGARY: "Open Letter To U.S. Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice"
Istvan Lovas asserted in far-right weekly Demokrata (4/28): "According to your country’s latest doctrine, you are promoting the spreading of democracy all over the world, and doing everything you can to prevent the triumph of anti-democratic forces--not to mention 'pre-emptive occupation,' that is, when you overrun authoritarian regimes with military force. I, naturally, do not believe a word of what you say, since your actions speak louder than all your words. As they do this time. I cannot believe that what had recently happened in your 'backyard' of Ecuador skipped your attention. There, an absolutely democratically elected president, Lucio Chávez was ousted--in an absolutely undemocratic way.... The question is why you spinelessly keep silent about this coup. Perhaps because not even the concessions Gutiérrez made to you satisfy you? Which reminds me--when are you going to overthrow the Saudi dictatorship or the rule of the Chinese communists?”
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