While President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and their appointees emphasize a return to diplomacy in foreign relations, so far they show little inclination to be diplomatic toward leftist governments in Latin America. In fact, comments by Clinton and other recent appointees show a continuation of an antiquated analysis and a lack of understanding of recent Latin American social movements and regional integration.
Latin America Breaks Free: Washington No Longer Calls the Shots
Five years ago, when Evo Morales was a rising political star as a congressman and coca farmer, I met him in his office in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He was drinking orange juice and sifting through the morning newspapers when I asked him about a meeting he just had with Brazilian President Lula. "The main issue that we spoke about was how we can construct a political instrument of liberation and unity for Latin America," Morales told me.
Now President Morales is one of many left-leaning South American leaders playing that instrument. This unified bloc is effectively replacing Washington's presence in the region, from military training grounds to diplomatic meetings. In varying degrees, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Venezuela are demonstrating that the days of U.S.-backed coups, gunship diplomacy, and Chicago Boys' neoliberalism may very well be over for South America. The election of Barack Obama also gave hope for a less cowboy approach from Washington.