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Clinton/Gore: Down and Out in Latin America

"Immediate Release" November 3, 2000

Clinton/Gore: Down and Out in Latin America

Today's Baltimore Sun's Editorial Page Features COHA Op-Ed that Finds Clinton/Gore Weak on Latin America

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), which previously dismissed Governor Bush as "not having a single serious thought on Latin America," characterizes Vice President Gore as someone who "must look elsewhere than Latin America" to prove his foreign policy skills.

In a featured op-ed in today's Baltimore Sun, COHA researchers Meghan Finn and Carlee Klingeman accuse the vice president of being part of a team that "obsessively touts free trade and drugs as if these important initiatives exhaust the list of pressing hemispheric concerns which range from too little social justice and too much courtroom venality, to corrupt legislatures and bureaucracies."

The two researchers of the almost thirty-year old non-partisan Washington-based team that monitors U.S.-Latin American relations, found the current unrest in such countries as Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay and Nicaragua has been facilitated by Clinton/Gore's "weak regional diplomatic team" and that "U.S. initiatives are filled with inconsistencies-no hypocrisies!-which ignore or downgrade human rights violations. . . ."

The COHA researchers cite as evidence of the above claim that a semi-dictatorship like Peru consistently has been nominated as one of Latin America's thriving democracies by this administration, while it blasts "less-favored countries whose sins may be of a lesser order. For instance, Guatemala and Colombia's record for corruption, violence and societal alienation is far greater than Havana's, but this is hardly reflected in U.S. policy."

The COHA op-ed notes "the recent resignation of Argentina's vice president to protest his government's failure to crack down on corruption. "It views with alarm that "Corruption is further corroding deeply troubled Argentina."

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has been described on the U.S. Senate floor as "one of our nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy-makers." November 1, 2000

Clinton/Gore: Down and Out in Latin America By Julie Dasenbrock and Meghan Finn

To prove his skill at foreign policy, Al Gore must look elsewhere than Latin America. To begin, the administration's vaunted democratization project there has all but collapsed and despite its brimming optimism, the region appears more stressed today than when the Clinton/Gore administration first took office.

The White House obsessively touts free trade and drugs as if these important initiatives exhaust the list of pressing hemispheric concerns which range from too little social justice and too much courtroom venality, to corrupt legislatures and bureaucracies. These issues are currently drowning in inattention. Other maladies likely to plague the hemisphere include Bolivia and Paraguay experiencing more popular uprisings, as well as repercussions from the recent resignation of Argentina's vice president to protest his government's failure to crack down on corruption, which is further corroding that deeply troubled society.

Latin America's current unrest is generating high-risk politics and economics, abetted by Clinton/Gore's weak regional diplomatic team. Furthermore, U.S. initiatives are filled with inconsistencies-no, hypocrisies!-which ignore or downgrade human rights violations, like Peru's, while blasting less-favored countries whose sins may be of a lesser order. For instance, Guatemala and Colombia's record for corruption, violence and societal alienation is far greater than Havana's, but this is hardly reflected in U.S. policy.

Antiquated Cold War zealotry, now redirected at drugs and free trade, weakens the region's ability to produce authentic democracies and leaders committed to defending bona fide national interests. As the latter conform their agendas to Washington's, even at the cost of ill-serving their own people, Clinton/Gore single-mindedly overly promotes a private sector-friendly thrust throughout the Americas, leading to an unprecedented concentration of wealth. It also has not gone unnoticed that the influx of $1.3 billion of U.S. assistance (mainly military) to Colombia occurs even though its notorious armed forces and right wing "death squads" have been responsible for scores of massacres and human rights violations. Embarrassingly, President Clinton had to waive existing U.S. human rights sanctions so the weapons could be sent. The U.S. action is particularly risky because the burgeoning crisis there now spills over into neighboring Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador.

Among the region's most poisoned institutions is the Argentine judiciary, as exampled by the outlandish six-year prosecutorial-judicial hounding of the Buenos Aires Yoga School, an entirely estimable educational and cultural institution. This witch-hunt has further besmirched that country's already tarnished reputation and outraged the U.S. Congress, if less so the White House, because of its anti-Semitic aspects. Washington's regional policy flaws are perhaps best exemplified by its actions concerning Peru's appalling strongman, Alberto Fujimori. While the U.S. had no difficulty excoriating ex-President Milosevic for attempting to steal Yugoslavia's ballot, its exemplary behavior there was caricatured in Peru for the entire Fujimori presidency, even after he blatantly hijacked last May's election, when the White House protested for a day and then succumbed. If a nationally televised video hadn't revealed his equally culpable alter ego, Vladimiro Montesinos, bribing a legislator to switch over to his ruling party, Fujimori would still be serving out his illegally obtained term. This is because his success in suppressing leftist guerrillas and slashing cocaine exports was reason enough for the U.S. to overlook his brutal methods, such as countenancing torture and murder.

Clinton/Gore's equally solicitous treatment of Montesinos is another side of its egregious double standards and its capacity for selective indignation. Rather than insisting that the infamous misanthrope be held accountable for his crimes, the White House ill-served justice in its ultimately unsuccessful campaign to arrange a Panamanian exile for him, which ignored the pleas of Peruvian patriots that he stand trial. This lamentable behavior was in keeping with the administration's earlier backing of the amnesty granted to Argentine and Chilean "dirty war" torturers.

As the Western Hemisphere's dominant power, the U.S. belongs at the forefront in insisting that human rights not be violated with impunity. Instead, when efforts to bring General Pinochet to justice were initiated, it was a Spanish judge and not Washington, who took the lead in establishing new legal principles that allowed the despised Chilean dictator to be indicted, as well as the equally reprehensible Argentine armed forces to be similarly charged. Meanwhile, Washington talks of little else than trade and "the new economy." Lamentably, when it comes to advocating an enlightened Latin America based on its grim realities, not gossamer rhetoric, Clinton/Gore has walked too narrow a plank.

Carlee Klingeman and Meghan Finn are research associates with the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Washington, D.C.

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