17 Mar 2010
Hilary Clinton recently went on a tour of Latin America in an attempt to repair Washington's relations with the region, especially after the events in Honduras, reports The Real News Network (TRNN). Many Latin American presidents still refuse to recognize the new president of Honduras, as the election that brought him into power was the result of an illegal coup.
In contrast, Clinton says that the situation in Honduras was well managed and non-violent.
Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research who also has a regular column in The Guardian newspaper says Clinton's statements ignore a lot of violence against activists in Honduras, including the recent killing of a trade union leader.
According to Weisbrot, the brutal clamp down on Honduras' opposition in the aftermath of the illegal military coup, as well the coup itself is a sore point between Washington and many Latin American countries. Everybody in the region saw the coup as a threat to democracy, except the US, which has normalized relations with the new Honduran government and resumed the provision of aid.
Human rights violations in Honduras remains a huge concern for other countries in the hemisphere. Clinton states that there is no violence. But people are still getting killed and throughout the electoral campaign there were massive human rights violations, which even Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International complained about.
Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela -- most of South America has still not recognized the new government in Honduras.
At some point they will, argues Weisbrot, but they would want something in return. For example, that ousted president Manuel Zelaya can safely return to his own country. Both the Brazilians and Venezuelans have called for this.
There is little that Latin American countries can do about America's support for the new government in Honduras, but there are important institutional changes taking place that have the effect of limiting America's influence over the region as a whole.
For example, The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), is an international cooperation organization based on the idea of social, political, and economic integration between the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. It excludes America and Canada, but includes Cuba.
One of Clinton's aims on this trip was to try to get Brazil on board for sanctions against Iran.
Weisbrot reports that Clinton's lobbying on the Iran issue was a complete failure. Brazil's foreign minister actually responded by saying, "We don't bow down to anyone."
Washington's response to all this is to hope for more right wing governments to come into power in Latin America, as was recently the case in Chile. It is hoping that upcoming elections in Brazil will yield similar results.
Weisbrot contends that Washington does not seem to understand that changes, which are taking place in Latin America, are big "structural changes" to deal with, for example, the appalling economic performance of the last 30 years as a result of IMF and World Bank led policy prescriptions.
Weisbrot believes that the structural changes taking place in the region will be hard to reverse. He contends that it is symbolic, too, that the right wing government of Mexico played a leading role in creating ALBA, which demonstrates that in certain areas, there is significant Latin American unity.
Editor's Note: You may also be interested in watching Al Jazeera's coverage of Clinton's trip, which asked the question, "Has Obama failed Latin America and can Hillary Clinton convince the region that the US is committed to an equal partnership?" For parts one and two of this Riz Khan feature, please click here and here.