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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Point\Counterpoint

    While many UA students headed to Latin America’s beautiful beaches, President Bush was making a trip of a different kind. On a whirlwind tour through Colombia, Uruguay, Mexico and other countries, Bush sought to mend relations with a region that has come to view the U.S. with suspicion and even disdain. Did he succeed?

    While some talk the talk, Bush walks the walk

    Amidst the ongoing rift between the Latin American community and the United States, President Bush has returned his promise to keep this unique region as a “”fundamental commitment,”” forging newfound cooperation and results in the process.

    Bush’s recent trip to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico witnessed joint efforts between the U.S. and Brazil to promote the elevated use of environmentally sound biofuels, most importantly ethanol, used as an alternative to the ever-questionable rise of gasoline cost.

    The Bush Administration sees the leftist Lula as a counterbalance to Hugo Chávez for anticipated influence amongst other Latin American leaders. The U.S.-Brazil relationship stresses a deterioration of political differences and a willingness to share a common goal of convivial coexistence.

    President Bush landed progress on trade with Uruguay’s president, TabarǸ Vázquez, another leftist leader on the president’s Latin American tour.

    “”Our democracy is aimed at helping people, aimed at elevating the human condition, aimed at expressing the great compassion of the American people,”” Bush said at a joint news conference.

    Bush praised Vázquez’s efforts to improve his country’s economy, which is growing at an estimated rate of 7 percent.

    Across the Rio de la Plata in Argentina, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez (perhaps the biggest thorn in the side of the Bush Administration’s efforts to mend ties with Latin America) proceeded with his own tour with the purpose of smearing President Bush.

    It seems that all the talk about improving the lives of poor and middle-class Venezuelans is really making a difference, while Chávez is off in Argentina with ally Argentine President NǸstor Kirchner eating their dinners off expensive English china and drinking the best Argentine Malbecs.

    While Chávez’s futile attempt to steal Bush’s thunder may have mustered the support of a few loyalists, Hugo Chávez’s idealistic convictions have convinced many to think his deliveries fall short of all the talk he initially promises.

    Some of Chávez’s followers in the Latin American neighborhood are promised cheap Venezuelan oil toward governments in Bolivia, Argentina and Cuba. After all the name-calling of Bush and Cheney, preached by Chávez for their connections with the oil industries, the Venezuelan president is offering “”tax breaks”” to his cronies; a pot calling the kettle black.

    President Bush’s next stop included Colombia, re-confirming support of close friend President Alvaro Uribe and the fight against narcoterrorism. Shortly thereafter, the President and the First Lady flew to Guatemala to meet with President, Ç_scar Berger to discuss immigration.

    “”The United States will enforce our law,”” Bush said during a news conference with President Berger.

    The President’s last leg of the goodwill trip included a meeting with Mexico’s new president, Felipe Calderon. The Mexican president’s criticism of border walls suggests a new, shrewder relationship with the United States.

    As Air Force One left Merida, Mexico, and the trip came to a close, President Bush pledged over $1 billion in support to Latin American governments to work together and overcome differences, while sharing contemporary ideas about the betterment of democratic societies for the future.

    Love him or hate him, it can be said that while many leaders talk the talk, President Bush walks the walk despite all the criticisms associated.

    Conner Lee is a political science sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

    Much ado about nothing

    Facing criticism for largely ignoring the region, President Bush’s rather ineffective diplomatic tour of Latin America last week was taken too late to boost ailing support for the United States. This trip was all public relations and little substance.

    Questions regarding the most vital issues were evaded and only increased anti-American sentiment. On his first stop Bush signed an ethanol development agreement with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

    Although Bush and Lula had a positive outlook on the possibility of economic benefit for Brazil and the U.S., Lula could not resist showing his disappointment with the fact that Bush would not even negotiate the alleviation of the U.S. protectionist trade barriers (a high tariff the U.S. has erected on imports of Brazilian ethanol). Protesters in Brazil carried posters comparing Bush to Hitler and slamming him for the unfair trade policies.

    Here the issue of free trade and fair trade are essentially what has polarized many countries of the region in the first place. There still exists drastic economic disparity in Latin America’s population. The most impoverished people have benefited little from free trade agreements pushed by the U.S. like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

    That point is one that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, whose increasing popularity has worried Washington, reiterated on his counter-tour – an obvious unsaid reason for the Bush tour in the first place.

    Chavez’s “”gringos go home”” slogan rang louder and bolder than Bush’s attempts to engage the Latin American people vis-a-vis pledges in humanitarian and financial aid. While Bush pledged to send a naval medical ship to provide free health services to the region, Chavez gloated about how he has provided double the amount of health aid all along. Bush’s gifts were clearly unimpressive and did not win over the population.

    Evidence of that was made obvious by the massive protests held all over the region during Bush’s tour. Protesters expressed clear outrage not only over unjust trade but the war in Iraq and human rights violations by the U.S. The fact that priests were asked to go purify a sacred site Bush visited sums up how the people of Latin America feel about him.

    In regards to social and immigration policies, Bush left the region without resolving or even answering questions on the toughest and most glaring problems.

    Guatemala’s president, Oscar Berger, expressed disappointment surrounding the mass deportations of Guatemalans found as illegal immigrants in the U.S. Bush avoided that can of worms but attempted to respond to a similar concern surrounding illegal immigration from Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon with the only good idea Bush has ever had, a guest worker plan.

    Although Bush’s sympathy and humane understanding towards illegal immigrants adds validity to his goal of adopting this plan, it’s highly unlikely that it will be done before the end of his presidency. The issue is highly divisive; therefore, he just left Mexico and Guatemala an empty promise in the midst of a useless wall.

    Ultimately this trip was a sad and sorry attempt from this administration to engage Latin America. Spending more than a few hours in each country could have at least made it seem more legitimate. Even where President Bush would like to change the situation, such as illegal immigration, he simply no longer has the political power. Latin America will be just one of the many diplomatic messes the next administration will have to deal with.

    Lila Burgos is an international studies junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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