Here's an interesting take on America's relationship with South America.
Venezuelan President Hugo
Chávez threatens President Bush and insults Condoleezza Rice and nobody
in Washington pays any attention. Chávez meets with his ''brother,''
Evo Morales, or with his spiritual father, Fidel Castro, to plan the
conquest of the planet or the galaxy beginning with Latin America (if
they have enough Leninist fervor that day), and The New York Times
publishes a four-line item on Page 48, next to a story about a guy who
swears that he was kidnapped by Martians who forced him to drink
whiskey all weekend long.
The truth is that nobody pays attention to Chávez. Why? The answer
came from political scientist George Friedman in a recent column:
because Chávez, Castro and Morales -- despite the folksy, verbal
pyrotechnics they like to flash -- are irrelevant.
True, Chávez sells 16 percent of the crude oil imported by the
United States, but -- his bark notwithstanding -- he has no better
customers for his merchandise than the Americans. In turn, the United
States sees an oil-producing country with which it can do business,
regardless of the hostility and the verbal abuse emanating from the man
who rules and manages it.
After all, what the United States wants from Venezuela is not the courtesy of its politicians but the fuel it can buy there.
Friedman goes beyond Venezuela in his cold analysis of the relations
between the U.S. and South America, however. Seen from Washington's
perspective, the whole region is irrelevant, he writes, except for the
immigration problem, which is a matter that affects principally its
links with Mexico.
Objectively speaking, all Washington sees south of the Rio Grande is
a bunch of backward countries that sell raw materials or farm products
but have an ever-decreasing share of international trade and are
practically nonexistent in the scientific, academic, military and
financial fields. They -- we -- count for little in the big questions being debated worldwide.
Brazil may be an exception -- it appears to be pulling itself out of its history of poverty and backwardness. But with few exceptions, the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America just can't seem (as the writer concludes) to stop leaping into the abyss.
For centuries the fortunes of Latin America and Spain ran in parallel. Both were poor, corrupt, and always lagging behind their northern neighbors. But in the 70s with the death of Ferdinand Franco, Spain shook off its lethargy and began to reform itself. The result has been over two decades of spectacular growth that have seen Spain catch up to France and Germany in employment, income, and investment.