Saturday, January 28, 2006

What about Latin America?

Undoubtedly the Palestinian Elections are of paramount importance to the United States and Europe, but what of the United States’ relationship with Mexico, Central, and South America? The United States has been losing the ideological and economic war in that part of its sphere of influence even before Fidel Castro came to power. Yet there is hope for reconciliation and good relations. There are two major factors that will come into play. First Fidel and his acolytes are actually weak and fearful, despite the Cindy Shehans of the world. Second immigration, legal and illegal, will tilt American public opinion in favor of a gentler view of the Southern Hemisphere.

I say Fidel and his acolytes are fearful, let me present a recent example of this. Recently the US Consulate has be electronically passing world news along to the Cuban people in the form of an electronic ticker-tape. Castro is incensed of course because even though there is undoubtedly some element of propaganda, it is a news outlet he cannot control. In response he is building some kind of shield to prevent its viewing by the Cuban people. Why would he do this if his is a free and open society?

The Southern Hemisphere is a large and diverse place, but many if not most, Americans think of it as monolithic. Nothing could be further from the truth. The cultural and ethnic makeup of each nation is very different as are the agricultural and mineral resources each possesses. The United States has always been Eurocentric which explains the attention paid there and to the Middle East. The Arabian and European history is so intertwined it’s amazing that we are at war there. The simple explanation is Islam v. Christianity, but that doesn’t work anymore. The truth is exploitation of resources without a thought to the people who are ruled by tyrants.

At the moment the United States is about to slip into the same situation south of its borders. The historical relationship of the US to its southern neighbors is that of exploitation and dominance. This does not mean it has been all bad; rather the assumptions are mostly wrong when it comes to even thinking about Mexico and Latin America let alone interacting with its population. The United States assumes that because it is richer, not larger mind you, and stronger that these nations should naturally bend to our will. That this is a mistaken view must seem obvious; it is not I can assure you. The education system in the United States is so poorly constructed that I doubt if one in ten can name all the nations let alone their location on the continent.

This condition will change over the next 50 years. During that time the United States will become more sympathetic to this region simply because many more of our citizens will be second generation immigrants from there. They will become politicians with influence, judges, business people etc. The true union of these two regions northern and southern hemispheres based on trust and respect, will form a block that will be a force to be reckoned with. We must start now if its energy is to be harnessed for good.

A productive dialogue, even with Castro, Chavez, Evo, and company, must be started. By productive I mean the United States should be slow to react to the stupid things said by these “leaders” and a sympathetic vision of how to meet the general population’s expectations and wants should be put forward. An application of the protestant work ethic would be most helpful. The US should delay gratification of its desire for strong influence by laying a solid foundation for the future. This can be done by ignoring, to a certain extent, the demagogue’s that seize power from time to time and prod them along a path that benefits their people and ours.

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