12 March 2007

George and Hugo, sitting on a tree... NOT!

Picture by Beatrice Murch
Everybody surely knows now that George "Lame Duck" Bush was touring South America and that Hugo "Red Danger" Chávez scheduled a tour for himself just to bother the intrepid Leader of the Free World (did you realize already how pathetically obsolete that sounds?). Chávez gathered a picturesque following here in Argentina: a couple of folk singers, the former human rights fighter Hebe de Bonafini, thousands of lumpen after the banners of some radical leftist groups, and possibly a few hundreds of genuinely interested, truly anti-American folks. The Kirchner administration, which is friendly to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, distanced itself as much as possible from this crude display. Everybody likes a little chanting against imperialism or a little American flag burning, but this was a bit ridiculous.

Bush, in the meantime, was being received in Uruguay, across the Río de la Plata, with angry demonstrations. Same as in Brazil and in Colombia. Uruguay is courting disaster, I think, by welcoming G. W. Bush to discuss a free trade agreement. The U.S. is clearly trying to use Uruguay as a wedge to break the Mercosur; the (by now only nominally) leftist presidential administration of Tabaré Vázquez, opposed by part of its own party and its own constituency, must be trying to use the U.S. to ring some alarm bells in Brazil and Argentina.

Uruguay is understandably enraged by the Argentine government's lack of action regarding the outrageous blockade of the international passes over the Uruguay River due to the conflict of the cellulose plants. Signing a FTA with the U.S., however, would violate the Mercosur's statutes, and send Uruguay into the voracious maw of the world's largest economy, with little hope of surviving (as an independent country, that is, as opposed to a cheap-labour agricultural colony).

Brazil's Lula can be all cozy with Bush because Brazil is a huge country with many resources, including a lot of land where sugarcane and corn can be grown, later to be transformed into ethanol for fuel-hungry U.S. motorists, if only the U.S. would lower its import tariffs and drop internal agricultural subsidies. That won't happen — a Democrat-controlled U.S. Congress won't stop subsidizing the American corn farmers.

Uruguay, on the other hand, doesn't have anything the U.S. cannot get elsewhere, which is why most analysts say that Bush's visit was either useless or a provocation. Going to Colombia was simply a political gesture of support to his puppet Álvaro Uribe (when George says that the U.S. send a lot of aid to Latin America, remember most of it comes in the form of weapons for anti-drug squads in Colombia).

Both Hugo and George are gone now. George didn't even say "Argentina" during his tour, and of course didn't set foot here. In the supposedly friendlier countries he visited, he had to send a small army before him, and his presence caused massive disruption. He hadn't come so close to Argentina since the disastrous Mar del Plata Summit of the Americas, in November 2005, and it's quite likely that he won't waste any more of his time this side of the Equator until he finishes his term (unless he visits Australia, maybe, to check whether water flushed in a toilet rotates the other way — though he doesn't seem to have such scientific need for empirical tests of anything).


  1. Anonymous18:37

    People do business (one way or another) in order to survive. In the process, some succeed and become billionaires and some just don't make it. Why would anyone think countries should be run any other way? Argentina, under president Kichner, is isolating itself from the world and from the world’s business. The only one, apparently showing up in the scene is Chavez on his red shirt using us as he pleases.
    Have we as a nation lost our pride?
    You can spend hours writing about Bush and how bad the “yanquis” have been to the region, but the bottom line is: Is Argentina better off with Chavez? Is Lula so wrong? If so, somebody ought to tell him so before he comes to Camp Davis in a few weeks!
    Ah, I almost forgot the 20 billions that the Chinese are investing in Argentina! May be we are not that isolated after all. Aren’t we?

  2. I don't know exactly what your background is, so I'll explain a bit. The United States has used and abused Latin America since its very inception. Having a guy like Chávez come and tell us that we should all be united against the (obvious) imperial ambitions of G. W. Bush because otherwise the U.S. will eat us alive one by one is not only superficially pleasant, but it also makes a lot of sense. When a hyperpower like the U.S. signs a FTA with an insignificant developing country like Argentina, the result is always bad for the most of the smaller country. When two countries strike deals like the ones between Argentina and Venezuela, the result depends on how good each one is at business and negotiation.

    I don't see Argentina being isolated from the world. Argentina is exporting and importing more than anytime in its history. Argentine bonds are circulating in international markets (and they're backed up by actual money now, for a change). People in power say a lot of stupid things; in the end, business goes wherever it pleases, regardless of words or ideology.

    I do happen to think that countries should be run as something other than businesses. It's arguable whether Latin America deserves another opportunity after blowing it so many times. Maybe not having a neighbour up north that incites coups d'état and protects murderous dictatorships will help us.

    Lula is not wrong (and I didn't say that), he's being pragmatic. Tabaré Vázquez is wrong; he's got a lot to lose.

  3. I would step outside of the whether it makes "business" sense for Latin America to be chummy with the U.S. but would like to second Pablo's sentiment that countries should NOT be run solely as businesses.

    Haven't the world's population witnessed enough of the U.S. unipolar, egocentric behaviour on the world's stage - corrupt corporations which take advantage of less powerful less wealthy nations, and of their own citizens in the name of profit; frump-up excuses for naked ambition and invasion to secure oil in the Middle East; CIA murder plots and funding to meddle in another country's politics because they happen not to be of the same ideology as the U.S. of A and of course, the bottom line is that it will hurt business, that is U.S. business and no one else matter because caring for others is bad business.

    Need I remind you that U.S. and Australia are the worst polluters in the world and also the only two nations of signifcant size to have rejected the Kyoto Convention - in the name of good business.

    Do we all want to become sucessful billionaire nations with a corrupt and selfish soul. We are human beings and we should be better than that. Australia under the Howard government has been very chummy with the U.S. but after a not so brief spell of blindness induced by a sense of "good business" most have woken up to think more deeply than just having more money in their pocket.

    No one is perfect but we don't have to collective stoop to where Bush has led his nation.

  4. Anonymous10:33

    OK... let me rephrase myself... per your answer to my post... WHAT'S WRONG WITH BEING PRAGMATIC?

    My background is irrelevant for the matter... this is what I think... if government should not only do business (which is not what I think by the way) what is Kichner doing to improve education, health, security increase investment, improve infrastructure, etc??? Oh sorry he is too busy redistributing your income...

    We can blame "our neighbor up North" all we want for our failures, but that's not taking us anywhere...that's a fact... we need to accept responsibility for our future and demand more from our governments once and for all! There is nothing wrong with that right?

    Anyway, I like sarcasm, it's a way to take serious things with an underlining humor. I hope you didn't mind :)

    Take care,


  5. Anonymous13:09

    Good for context:


    By the way, I agree with Uruguay's press clipping in that page

  6. In the US, Bush’s visit to South America has garnered very little interest in the media – principally I think because it seemed to have no real purpose. Mainly just a “feel good” and photo op excursion. Although I can’t for the life of me figure out why he even contemplated such a visit. Perhaps he thought the reception would be better than that he’s current getting on his home turf.

    No only is he a “lame duck” president, the White House is under constant criticism it seems from high-ranking members of the Republican Party. That, along with the majority Democrats, is weakening his presidency.

    In some ways I think the US’s foreign policy is just a modern day version of the actions exhibited by the world’s former colonial powers - exploitation of the less powerful for the benefit of the home country. That too will pass (and not soon enough), but the next looming superpower gives one pause.

    China’s rapid emergence and size make the consequences of its foreign policy (especially on the fiscal front) unavoidable. China has recently announced that it will start diversifying its monetary reserves and begin investing aggressively world wide in strategic energy and raw materials.
    There will be no shortage of people willing to sell their country’s assets for the sake of a buck (or yuan).



  7. Anonymous14:54


    Aunque se que no es del agrado de Pablo (por lo menos asi me lo imagino despues de sus respuestas) si lees espaniol te recomiendo leer este articulo de ayer de Nacion.


  8. I'm giving the short URL for the above, just in case: http://www.lanacion.com.ar/89042.

    I don't intend to do line-by-line criticism of newspaper articles. I don't like the ideology of La Nación, but I read it because it's not a bad paper. Morales Solá, on the other hand, consistently misrepresents and exaggerates the subjects he denounces. His editorials have in common the fact that you have to agree with him beforehand if you want to appreciate them. That's not good journalism IMHO.

    I'd rather deal with this in another post, when appropriate.

  9. Anonymous18:47

    Pablo, lamento que tomes tan personalmente los comentarios que no estan de acuerdo con tu ideologia... lei tu blog porque me gusto tu respuesta acerca de porque escribis en ingles ya que soy de Rosario, es donde actualemnte todavia vive toda mi familia y creo que un blog en ingles es una buena oportunidad para que mi ciudad y su gente se conozcan en el resto del mundo... es una lastima que reacciones tan apasionadamente cuando de lo que se trata es de intercambiar ideas y dialogar.
    Una pena...
    Suerte con tu blog!

  10. Hey there, I saw that you are using a photo I took at the Hugo Chavez rally in Buenos Aires. I'm glad you like it enough to use it. I have licensed the photo under a CC license which enables any one to use it as long as they credit me. Please do so. Thank you. Beatrice Murch.

  11. Sorry, Beatrice. The picture was linked to your Flickr account but your name wasn't showing because the code was incorrectly setting font size to 0. My fault, anyway, because I didn't check after I posted it. It seems to work OK now.


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