World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Powell’s Latin America Legacy assessed

Powell’s Latin America Legacy assessed in forthcoming issue of the Foreign Service Journal "A Blemished Latin American Record"

by Larry Birns

In the February issue of the Foreign Service Journal, two researchers at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) noted that the replacement of Secretary of State Colin Powell by Condoleezza Rice would provide an appropriate opportunity to assess his legacy regarding Latin America after four years in office. Underlining such an appraisal was the inescapable truism that Powell "never articulated a vision for the region." Rather, his policy was marked by an "apathy, revealing major flaws in the areas of staffing, an indifference toward democratic institutions and tolerance for intervention in the internal affairs of regional nations."

Powell brought with him a huge reputation but also a stunning lack of comprehension of Latin American economic and political realities. To the contrary, COHA director Larry Birns maintains that Powell allowed a small group of hard-right "ideologues like Otto Reich, Roger Noriega and his assistant Dan Fisk," along with the Department’s arch-rightwing zealot, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, "to define regional ties, primarily through an anti-Havana prism.” Reich was later named the White House's Special Envoy to the Western Hemisphere after it was determined that he could not win Senate confirmation to be assistant secretary for Inter-American affairs. He took advantage of the vacuum that existed in the White House and State Department as well as Powell's lack of a “feel” for the Latin American portfolio, to promote a hyper-narrow, if perfunctory, focus on trade and terrorism but his main stance was a notoriously obsessive hatred of his former motherland, Castro’s Cuba. Such a stand “guaranteed a record at least as mediocre as it had been under all of his Republican and Democratic predecessors.” The two COHA authors maintain that “during Powell’s watch, U.S. regional policy has been marked by even more acts of arrogance, squandered opportunity and unbridled unilateralism – typified by the heavy-handed interventions in the electoral processes in Nicaragua, Bolivia, El Salvador and Venezuela.”

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State simply stood by as his Inter-American Bureau, first under Reich and then under Noriega’s command, blundered into interfering in democratic elections across the hemisphere and condoned or even facilitated coups against the left-of-center governments headed by Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela in April 2002 and Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti in February 2004. The toppling of Aristide, which led to heightened political instability, rampant human rights abuses and a deepening economic crisis in the Western Hemisphere's poorest and most fragile polity, will ultimately stand as one of the most damaging blemishes on Powell's now tarnished regional reputation. It was in fact the State Department's calculated refusal to authorize the dispatching of an emergency U.S.-led police force to protect the Aristide government in its final days that guaranteed the demise of Haiti’s democratically-elected government, and its replacement with the Washington-imposed and appallingly inept Latortue interim government, including its outrageously injudicious Justice Minister, Bernard Gousse, for which it never has had a public word of criticism.

According to Birns and Leight, "Though a dramatically new direction is needed to restore Washington's tarnished reputation in Latin America, any prospect for constructive engagement now appears distant." They go on to predict that during Bush's second term, "a regional policy even more disjointed and colored by ideological priorities" is likely to be seen, along with "four more years of gun-slinging, bluff rhetoric and the imposed 'diplomacy' it has experienced at the hand of the […] hard-liners under Powell."

Looking back over the last four years, observers of U.S. policy toward Latin America during this era will inevitably have to conclude that not only did Powell fail to provide a rational direction and a moderate guiding hand for U.S. regional policy, it is far from clear that he ever intended to do so. Instead, he “allowed a small clique of political appointees,” who he always defended with inflated ceremonial language, to formulate an ill-considered series of policies that have driven the United States’ standing in the region to a new and historic low. Evidence for this can be seen in the failure of Powell’s “Latin America policy team which lacked the “basic sophistication to effectively grapple with one of the most significant regional developments in decades: the rise of an informal coalition of left-of-center democracies increasingly skeptical of Washington’s neoliberal diktats.” The author of the forthcoming Foreign Service Journal article (February 2005 issue) is COHA Director Larry Birns.

January 27, 2005

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being “one of the nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers.”

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>

ALSO:

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>

ALSO:

Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news