Biden in Latin America

US Vice President Joe Biden made a three-day trip to Latin America, starting at Viña del Mar, Chile on 27 March at the “Progressive Governance Summit,” which the news media billed as a gathering of the world’s “Center-Left” leaders.

Some “progressive” (i.e. Socialist, i.e.Marxist Lite) leaders at the summit included UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

The summit was organized by Policy Network, an international think tank created ten years ago by former President Bill Clinton. PN has hosted previous “progressive” meetings in Washington, DC, Berlin, Stockholm, London, Budapest and Johannesburg.

But the presidents of Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela apparently were not invited.

VP Biden’s long weekend south of the border ended on 29 March in Costa Rica where he assured Central America’s leaders that the Obama administration really, truly does care about the region.

Did anyone notice Biden’s three-day official trip to Chile and Costa Rica?

The Gringo VP’s trip was covered by some Anglo dead tree news media, but it certainly doesn’t appear to have been a top editorial priority.

Google’s top news stories page at 9 p.m. on 28 March didn’t include any mention of Biden’s trip to the region. We googled “Biden” at the same time and generated only 76 original separate news articles which, replicated by other media, totaled 574 news stories in all.

Of course, the paucity of Anglo news coverage of Biden’s trip could have several explanations:

*The US dead tree news media has been collapsing very quickly over the past 6-12 months. so perhaps there’s no budget for coverage of vice presidential trips to Latin America.

*Biden’s official trip wasn’t more than a public relations effort to persuade Latin America’s leaders that President Obama does consider the region a top priority. But Obama hasn’t named his Latin America team yet.

*There were numerous and more important breaking news stories worldwide the weekend of 27-29 March, including the 2 April G-20 meeting in UK (which we predict will be a failure), North Korea’s plan to launch a new intercontinental-missile in a few days, the flooding in Fargo, terrorist bomb attacks in Pakistan, etc.

*Dead tree news media editors who determine news assignments don’t think Latin America is an important region worth covering.

So, what did VP Biden do during his trip?

“These meetings are an important first step toward a new day in relations and building partnerships with and among the countries and people of the Hemisphere,” says an op-ed with Biden’s byline, which was distributed in English and Spanish to 11 newspapers in the region on 26 March. “The President and I understand that only by working together can our countries overcome the challenges we face.”

Biden also said in the op-ed that the purpose of his trip was “…to consult with Latin American leaders … about the Summit and the challenges faced by the people of the Americas.”

Of course, Biden didn’t author the op-ed. It likely was written by one of the administration’s professional speechwriters or public affairs officials after consulting with “regional experts” at State, the NSC, etc.

A “new day” based on what? Has the Obama administration changed the Latin America policy of his Republican and Democratic predecessors?

Thomas Shannon, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said during a recent speech at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue that the Obama administration is crafting a new approach to Latin America of renewed interest and cooperation, where keeping at bay the worst of the economic crisis is a priority.

“This means, from our point of view, working with multilateral development banks to ensure that the most vulnerable countries in the region, especially the Central American and the Caribbean countries, have access to the credits and grants and institutional lending that they are going to need to mount their own stimulus packages and to protect their public sector budgets,” said Shannon.

Did Shannon imply the Obama administration is going to offer bailouts to the smallest Central American and Caribbean states?

It sounds like more of the same: Bail out the Central American and Caribbean states to stave off more social/political instability in these countries, and keep security problems along the US border with Mexico from worsening. (Give them more money and maybe fewer wetbacks will come into the US illegally via Mexico; yeah, right.)

Caracas Gringo sees very few new faces at the top of the Obama administration, many recycled faces at lower levels, and core message which is essentially unchanged from the Bush or Clinton administrations.

Meanwhile, remarks by President Obama, VP Biden in Chile/Costa Rica, and other senior US officials since the new administration was inaugurated less than two months ago confirm:

*Obama will attend the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago on 16-18 April to listen to what the region’s leaders have to say about improving US-Latin America relations. He’ll get an earful, especially if President Hugo “Dirtmouth” Chavez shows up. President Obama likely also will blame Bush (but not Clinton) for the fact that US-Latin America relations are at their lowest level since the end of the Cold War. “Listening mode” is a good way to deflect attention from the lack of new US proposals.

*No new trade agreements are planned for now with Latin American nations, and the fate of the US-Colombia FTA remains in doubt because the Democrats who control Congress would rather dismantle NAFTA than approve new trade deals with other countries in the region.

*The US embargo on Cuba will continue.

*The drug wars are a “shared problem” of the US and Latin America’s governments.

The “progressive” (i.e. socialist) Latin American leaders at the Chilean summit can be forgiven for not paying much heed to Biden’s assurances. After all, the region has been hearing the same diplomatic claptrap from successive US administrations since 1990.

But more importantly, most (all?) of the region’s leftist leaders think they have promising new opportunities to establish investment, trade and strategic alliances with other emerging powers like China or regions like the Middle East, for example.

If the US continues to lag further behind in Latin America, it’s the fault of the gringos for ignoring the region for the past 20 years.

So what did the world’s “progressive” leaders blab about in Chile?

*They tried to devise a consensus on how to deal with the 2 April G-20 meeting in London. The only Latin American members of the G-20 are Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

*They assured each other that “progressives” have the solutions for the world’s problems which conservatives, neoliberals, Washington, etc do not have. But no details were given.

British PM Brown took the lead in urging his fellow “progressives” to unite for radical global change.

“We cannot solve the problem of global financial instability without there being a global solution,” he said. “We must reshape the world, (and) make global action work… It is absolutely clear that the global institutions that we built in the 1940s are quite incapable of dealing with the problems that we have now.”

However, within hours of PM Brown’s remarks in Chile, Germany’s Spiegel International obtained a secret document confirming that on 2 April Brown plans to propose a coordinated worldwide fiscal stimulus bill totaling about $4 trillion.

Spiegel also senior German government officials as saying the Merkel government will not support expanded bailouts. (Good for her.)

Separately, Chilean President Bachelet (who mortifies even Chilean socialists) called for the creation of “…a popular, not populist ideology.” Huh?

About Caracas Gringo

Representing less than 0.00000000001515152% of the world population as of 31 December 2011.
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