Losing Latin America

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(HOST) Commentator Bill Seamans sees more challenges for the current administration in the year ahead.

(SEAMANS) 2005 has been a very tough year for President Bush and his administration – and 2006 looks like it might not be much better.

There is the Iraq insurgency causing more American casualties with a solution not yet apparent. There is the growing global competition for oil and natural gas, calls for Bush’s impeach-
ment for bypassing judicial and congressional oversight, a
critical election coming up in November amid charges that
the Bush regime has been weakened by secrecy, corruption, cronyism, incompetence and the lack of credibility and account-

While those are just some of the major problems on the table at the White House – knocking on Bush’s back door is yet another developing dilemma demanding attention.

An article in the latest issue of the prestigious Foreign Affairs journal asks: “Is Washington Losing Latin America?” The author
is Peter Hakim, who is the President of the Inter-American Dia-
logue which is regarded as the premier center for the analysis of Western Hemisphere affairs. He asserts that after 9/11 Washing-
ton effectively lost interest in Latin America with the result that relations with our strategic southern neighbors are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

We ask why has this happened? Hakim argues that “U.S.-Latin American relations have seriously deteriorated as the result of failures of Washington’s leadership, the United States’ uncompro-
mising stand on many critical issues, and the unwillingness of the administrations of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to stand up to powerful domestic constituencies.” Translated that means the Hispanic vote here at home.

Of particular significance is the view that just when President
Bush needs a global array of allies for his proclaimed war
against terrorism, the United States and its international
agenda are discredited in Latin America.

It’s said that because the region’s deep economic inequities and social tensions have been neglected there is a growing political momentum to the left led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his close ties to Fidel Castro. Hakim says that Chavez wants to create a “wide anti-U.S. coalition to replace Washington’s agenda for the hemisphere with his own – one that rejects representative democracy and market economics.”

Another perspective sees our oil and natural gas supplies from Venezuela as less secure than ever. Now if that isn’t enough, China’s growing economic and military relations in Latin America add even more tension to the region that President Bush once declared would be a priority for U.S. foreign policy – but he has since let Latin America slip off the table.

This is Bill Seamans.

Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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