George Bush’s five-nation tour of Latin America has been a sobering expose of the degree to which US prestige and influence on the world stage has deteriorated since George Bush took office.
Whereas in the US always carried a big carrot in the form of capital, large volumes of capital in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Russia, have meant that the World Bank and ailing IMF are no longer the obvious go to men for investment. The rapid decline of this dependency has made the US bargaining position look anaemic.
Latin America has withstood 2 decades of neoliberal policies and they’ve had enough. The continents are drifting further and further apart and it’ll take more than Bush’s bland assurances to bring them back together.
Everywhere Bush turned, he was greeted with mass protests, including Colombia, still regarded as one of the last of the remaining pro American countries in the region. Fuelled by the rejection US foreign policies and the Iraq invasion, Latin America is experiencing a mood shift away from the US that cannot be ignored:
Bush now faces stiff headwinds wherever he goes. He is the most unpopular president in modern times and no one is hoodwinked by his silly promises to help the poor and needy. It’s just a shabby excuse to mollify the public.
In Brazil, Bush was forced to remind the public how generous the Us has been to them.
I don’t think America gets enough credit for trying to help improve people’s lives. And so my trip is to explain, as clearly as I can, that our nation is generous and compassionate; that when we see poverty, we care; that when we see illiteracy, we want to do something about it; that when we find there to be a deficiency in health care, we’ll help to the extent we can.
The irony here is all to clear. While giving lip service to the desire to reducing poverty, illiteracy and health care, Bush’s nemesis, Hugo Chavez is way in front, having made impressive inroads into all these areas, all but eliminating illiteracy in Venezuela as well as significantly reducing poverty and proving universal health care to all.
As Greg Grandin, Professor of Latin American history at NYU and author points out:
The US has a long history of turning to Latin America to regroup after crises limit its power to project its influence beyond its borders. In this sense, a better metaphor for Latin America, rather than the US’s backyard, would be kind of United States’s strategic reserve, the place where the United States turns to to regather its power, its energy, before turning back towards the world.
Where as past presidents have been able to exploit Latin America whenever they have run out of steam, it appears that this president at least, are no longer welcome, much less tolerated.