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Waning U.S. Influence in Latin America

Posted December. 06, 2007 08:32,   


U.S. influence in Central and South America is decreasing rapidly. While the U.S. has been mired in the war on terrorism after 9/11 attack, Asian countries, not to mention China and Russia, have been proactively forging better relationships with Latin American states.

Others point to the negative impact of US-led neo-liberalism in the 1990s with free trade and open door policies as its platform on the Latin American economy, which led to the loss of U.S. clout over its traditional ‘backyard.’ Adding up to this is the recent rise of leftist governments in the region with their anti-American leaning.

The December 10 issue of the U.S. weekly Time observes that the Monroe Doctrine that has enabled the U.S. to have hegemony over Latin America for more than two centuries is about to make its exit from history.

A smaller U.S. presence in Latin America-

The U.S. is still the number one trade partner with most Latin American states. Yet things have been changing since China, Russia and Iran have established diplomatic relations with many Latin American states and opened up markets there. Over the last few weeks, even North Korea has initiated diplomatic relations with Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

China is one case that requires special attention. In November 2004, Chinese President Hu Jintao made a visit to Latin America, where he pledged a total of 100 billion dollars in investment over the following decade. Although the planned investment has yet to be materialized, China’s apparent hunger for raw material in the region, namely Chile’s copper, Brazil’s iron ore and Argentina’s beans, are beyond imagination.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the region three times last year and concluded mutual agreements in 10 areas. Russia sold three billion dollars worth of weapons to Venezuela last year. Experts comment on this trend, “Under the Monroe Doctrine in the 20th Century, U.S. influence in the region was so substantial that it used to send U.S. forces to prop up its authoritarian allies in the region. This has become a thing of the past.”

Louder Voices from Latin America-

Latin American states have increasingly been sounding off with independent voices too. Popularist regimes with pragmatic policies have appeared in the region, where U.S. neoliberalism dealt heavy blows to regional economies. As a result, the U.S. export market in the region is shrinking.

The anti-American stances of the leaders of the leftist governments in the region have become increasingly systematized. In Santiago, Chile, on November 10, the leftist leaders of the region, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales, held the “People’s Summit of the Americas” to discuss regional cooperation and ways to cement their anti-American alliance. During the summit, the leaders also discussed the issue of setting up an organization to replace the Organization of American States (OAS).

Energy powers in the region, such as Brazil, Venezuela, and Ecuador are seeking independence from international financial institutions, namely the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The leaders of the seven states in the region are expected to officially launch the South American Bank on December 9.

U.S. Efforts to Recoup Influence-

The U.S. is trying very hard to make up for ‘lost time’ after the war on terrorism started. This, however, will not be easy.

In a press conference on December 4, U.S. President George W. Bush commented on the failure of Venezuelan President Chavez’s attempt at a constitutional amendment to make him president for life, saying, “The U.S. believes that changes in Latin America are possible given the recent event in Venezuela.” This remark has been interpreted that he intends to restore U.S. influence in the region.

However, many think that it is beyond his capacity to ameliorate anti-American sentiment in the region. Time lamented, “President Monroe would turn in his grave if he saw Latin American states going in the opposite direction from the Bush administration’s policy to spread democracy.”