Sunday, July 23, 2006
Mercosur 2006 & More Irony in the Age of Bush
Is Anyone Watching Mercosur 2006?
With G8 exploding in Bush's face and Isreal invading Lebanon, it's not surprising that you may have missed it.
According to the Merco Press:
The MERCOSUR, Mercado Común del Sur, (Common Market of the South) is an ambitious economic integration project which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Other Southamerican countries are in different stages of association with Mercosur, among which Chile and Bolivia, and others are considering the formal request to beguin the association process: Colombia, Perú and Venezuela.
Mercosur's main objective is to increase the efficiency and competitiveness of the four economies by opening markets and accelerating economic development, making better use of available resources, conservation of the environment, improvement of communications, coordination of macroeconomic polices and the complementation of the different industries.
Some South Americans see Mercosur as giving the capability to combine resources to balance the activities of other global economic powers, perhaps especially the United States and the European Union. The organization could also potentially pre-empt the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), however, over half of the current Mercosur member countries rejected the FTAA proposal at the IV Cumbre de las Américas (IV Summit of the Americas) in Argentina in 2005.
This the FTAA represents an attempt (begun under the Clinton Administration) to put the United States at the table with Mercosur countries, presumably to color the agenda into a tone more resonant with U.S. objectives.
It appears that, now, with the incorporation of Venezuela and Bolivia into the Mercosur as associate members, chances of FTAA approval are signficantly diminished.
The Mercosur countries are gatekeepers to significant economic power in this hemisphere: There are more than 220 million people in this region and the combined Gross Domestic Product of the member nations is more than one trillion dollars a year.
Last winter, during the Fourth Summit of the Americas, The Bush Administration proposal for what was known as the Washington Consensus, which embodies the free-trade message, was soundly defeated. Hugo Chávez was particularly scathing in his condemnations and threatening to steal the show, has been resisting.
"We have not yet attained a common language," Argentina's deputy foreign minister, Jorge Taiana, said at the time. "Different countries have different experiences, and therefore different visions of things."
According to Web Site "Global Exchange", the meeting was a tough time for Bush. It is clear after Mercosur, that the tough times are getting tougher. Here is what Global Exchange reported in November, 2005:
Polls show Mr. Bush to be the most unpopular American president ever among Latin Americans, and thousands of demonstrators, led by the soccer idol Diego Maradona, are flocking to the Argentine beach resort of Mar del Plata to protest his presence at a summit meeting of Western Hemisphere leaders. The greeting from his fellow heads of state, who have been complaining of his administration's neglect of and indifference to the region for five years, does not promise to be especially warm, either.
The theme of what is formally known as the Fourth Summit of the Americas is "Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance." But the feeling among many Latin Americans is that the United States is coming with little to offer other than the usual nostrums about free trade, open markets, privatization and fiscal austerity, the same recipe that has vastly increased social inequality throughout Latin America during the past decade.
THE REHABILITATION OF FIDEL.
As recently as the end of the Clinton Administration, the leaders of Latin America were solidly obligated to technocrats running the World Bank and IMF initiatives in South America. The United States was clearly a player in writing and delivering the agenda of trade meetings of Latin American Counties. Fidel Castro (at U.S. insistence) was systematically excluded from most of the business of Latin America whenever the United States was involved.
At the at a conference of Ibero-American heads of state in Spain in October, 2005, Mr. Bush's counterparts made clear they were declaring independence of the domination of U.S. economic and political management:
...In unusually blunt language, their final communiqué sharply criticized Washington's position both on Cuba, which was not invited to the summit meeting, and on terrorism.
Rather than just condemn the American economic embargo of Cuba, the statement referred to a "blockade," the term that Fidel Castro favors because it implies a violation of international law. The declaration also called on the United States to extradite a Cuban exile wanted in Venezuela and Cuba for blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976, saying that every nation must have a "commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations."
("Global Exchange", ibid.)
What a difference five years makes (since the end of the Clinton Administration).
Not only is Mr. Castro invited to the Mercosur 2006 meeting in Argentina, but he is treated as a "Special Guest", a "dignitary" being squired around by the president of Venezuela. In contrast to the rock-throwing demonstrators who greeted George Bush last November, Fidel is being met by cheering throngs of well-wishers and admirers.
The photos of Castro and Chavez paying homage to Che Guevara at his birth home in Argentina made me smile as broadly as, I am sure, brought heartburn to the Battistanistas and neoconservatives of the Bush White House.
Hugo Chavez...Ooooh the Irony....
Irony, the special spice of this weblog, abounds in this tale of Mercosur 2006 and the leftward tilt of a confident South American region.
In one sense, perhaps the Bush Administration policies of laissez-faire capitalism that has resulted in high energy pricing, tax breaks abroad, and multi-national corporation with no loyalty to their home nation has contributed as much as anyone to the emergent spirit. When Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela in 1999, his oil was selling for $10 a barrel; today it is selling for $70 a barrel. Argentina, as recently as 2002 facing fiscal collapse, will be oil independent and a net exporter this year, strengthening its economy.
There is irony in Dick Cheney trotting around the country calling Chavez a "thug" and a "dictator"--considering the thuggery of the Cheney Wing of the White House and the dictatorial shifting of executive powers Cheney & Company have engineered. The Irony is sweetened by two facts: (1) Chevez was elected democratically--and overwhelmingly--by "The People", for whom the Bush Administration has little regard in most cases ("Democracy" being a code word amongst Bushniks for Corporatism); (2) Chavez has approval ratings in the 80 percentile range--approximately 50 higher than Bush and 60 higher than Cheney.
There is irony in Cheney and the Bushniks and their proxies in congress talking darkly about "corruption" by the small elite of Chevezistas and the need for regime change in Venezuela. The Bush Republicans control everything in the U.S. from the Whitehouse to the outhouse and the rot of corruption is everywhere. But the sweetest pange of irony comes from the fact that Chevez has used Venezuela's new wealth to create a larger middle class and alleviate poverty in his country. His goal is to eradicate poverty, create 100% literacy and provide universal health care in his country by 2010.
What comparable goal can the Bush Administration hold up that has a reasonable chance of being accomplished?
All the Bush-Cheney Administration seeks to accomplish is tax relief, reduction in regulation, and redistribution of national wealth into the pockets of millionaires. And this administration will go to war and foment fear to accomplish these goals.
Is anyone paying attention to Mercosur 2006? It is a glimpse into the future for anyone with eyes to see...