Photo from La Jornada with caption:
Yesterday Marine Commander James Terry Conway visited with soldiers wounded in combat with Colombian guerrillas at the naval hospital in Bogota.
* * *
Did you know there’s a good David Brooks? You must have known there’s a bad one – the one who’s paid buckets of money to unzip his mouth and unload not very unconventional wisdom for the likes of the New York Times, NPR and whatever that PBS news show is called nowadays. The good David Brooks is a real reporter, for La Jornada, and here he reports on last week’s presentations to the State Department’s Council of the Americas, by President Bush and his so-called team. Late into his second term, Bush has no better grasp of reality than he did at the beginning. Time to get back to the bunker.
Thanks to reader John B. for sending this piece in for translation.
David Brooks, Correspondent – La Jornada
- Reforms in Cuba discounted and warnings issued against Venezuela’s dangerous relationships.
- “We’ve witnessed a social revolution in our hemisphere.” – Condoleezza Rice
WASHINGTON, May 7: Approaching its last months in power, the government of George W. Bush is promoting its last two initiatives in Latin America – the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia and the Mérida Initiative. It argues that the influence of the United States in the region is being tested in its relations with Colombia, discounts the changes in Cuba, warns against Venezuela’s dangerous relationships in the region and reiterates its commitment to “social justice.”
In a speech about the policies of his government toward Latin America given today at the annual forum of the Council of the Americas, at the U.S. State Department, President George W. Bush began by saying that yesterday he’d videoconferenced from the White House with three “dissident leaders” in Havana, who he described as “courageous,” and “an inspiration to me.” In respect to the measures recently adopted by the Cuban government, he said that he did not see “any change whatsoever” in them, and that they were “empty gestures at reform,” since Cuba continues to be governed “by the same group that has oppressed the Cuban people for almost half a century.”
He insisted that when human rights are respected, starting with the liberation of political prisoners, freedom of expression and the holding of free elections, then one can speak of real change, and he stated that U.S. policy toward the island “should not change until the Cuban people are free.”
Addressing the Mérida Initiative, he said that he had “observed with admiration how President Calderón has had a firm hand in assuring that his society remains free” of drug traffickers, and urged Congress to approve funds for the initiative.
On the subject of “social justice,” Bush asserted that this implies access to healthcare, education, a fight against corruption and promotion of a free market. Elaborating on some of the conditions imposed for social assistance to these countries, he said that “it’s not much to ask that a goverment accept a market economy,” in return for U.S. assistance.
He culminated with an impassioned defense of the free trade agreement with Colombia; it was, he said, as much a matter of economic priorities as of national security. Bush said that if the House leadership continues to block approval of the initiative, “the accord will be dead.” Here he repeated that its approval is an “urgent priority for national security,” considering that Colombia is a great ally of the United States, and he praised the courage of its president, Álvaro Uribe.
He indicated that despite having made great strides in the reduction of violence, Colombia continued to face “intense pressure” in the area. “It faces a continual assault from the terrorist group known as the FARC, from a hostile and anti-U.S. neighbor like Venezuela, where a regime has forged an alliance with Cuba and has collaborated with the guerrilla terrorists, while giving sanctuary to FARC units.”
Many of the participants – representatives of U.S. businesses, bankers, analysts, consultants and diplomats with interests in Latin AMerica – have criticized this government for its lack of attention to the region, given its “distractions” in other parts of the world, and particularly the failure to realize the highest goal of the so-called “Washington consensus,” in order to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), but the President, along with his secretaries and diplomats insisted in an often surprising tone on this government’s “achievements” in the region.
In her presentation later on in the forum, the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, in evaluating the region during the Bush administration, proclaimed, “I would say that we’ve been witness to nothing less than a social revolution in the majority of our hemisphere in recent years, and that its cause has been democracy.” She added that one could summarize this process of change as “a time of inclusion, a time when people can sit at home and participate in the destiny of their countries.” She said that “this revolution has re-aligned Latin American politics. New leaders have come from the left as well as the right, responsible and democratic leaders…that work pragmatically to widen opportunities, reduce poverty and promote security.”
She assured that this process of democratization “is not a shift to the left, it’s not a populist rejection of the market and trade, but in fact the creation of a new hemispheric consensus…which says that democracy is essential for social, political and economic development for the people of Latin America.”
Obviously, she mentioned, there had been “some exceptions” to all this, and reiterated the position on Cuba expressed by her boss.
Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, insisted that this government has maintained a “free trade agenda,” and that despite not achieving the FTAA, it had negotiated 10 separate free trade agreements with a line of countries along the Pacific coast. He said that the agreement with Colombia is key for the presence of the United States in Latin America and the success of the South American country. He underlined that a successful Colombia “will change the face of the region” and that it will be “an anchor for democracy, integration and stability.”
In other remarks, he said that the approval of the Mérida Initiative is urgent, since “the tremendous changes achieved by Mexico are threatening organized crime.”
Shannon praised the relationship with Brazil and welcomed the election in Paraguay, whose result he considered an “important step” that deserved the “solidarity” of countries in the region and the United States. In regard to Bolivia, he said that Washington favored the country’s “territorial integrity” and that its crisis is an “internal affair.”
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, praised Latin America’s economic expansion over the past decade, a result of integration in the global economy, but warned that concern remained about the sustainability of the advances. He pointed out that the recent surge has been too dependent on soaring prices for raw materials, including oil, while the manufacturing sector has shrunk. At the same time, he indicated that the economic growth of the past decade has had a limited impact on the reduction of inequalities and poverty in the region, which has nourished “social tensions,” and he expressed his concern for the increase in food prices within this context.
Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.