2019-10-18 04:13 KST  
Global Voices Online - The world is talking. Are you listening?
Bush Visit Exposes Waning U.S. Influence
[Opinion] Public relations trip to Latin America may instead highlight deepening rift
Njei Moses Timah (njemotim)     Print Article 
Published 2007-03-12 06:22 (KST)   
Three days before U.S. President George W. Bush's scheduled arrival in Colombia on Sunday, protesting university students were already engaged in running battles with the police. On his arrival in Sao Paulo, Brazil, over 10,000 people turned out to shout angrily "Bush go home." In Guatemala, the Associated Press reported that Mayan priests were planning to purify a sacred archaeological site to rid it of "bad spirits" after Bush visited it. The Voice of America conducted a random interview on the streets of Montevideo, Uruguay. Of more than a dozen people interviewed, only one said she was pleased to have Bush in her country.

Bush is visiting the United States' backyard at a time when anti-Americanism is in vogue globally. Hostility to the Bush administration by many citizens of Latin America was already a foregone conclusion. Politically, more and more people in the region are turning left, some say due to the influence of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his brand of "21st century Socialism." Like elsewhere in the world, many people of this region resent the Bush administration's unilateral posture and the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Some are suspicious of American economic intentions in the region and many accuse the Bush administration of neglecting them.

OMNI's New Approach to Citizen Journalism
[Opinion] Democracy's Downfall
Technology Can Save Money, Planet
[Opinion] Iran Defends Peaceful 'Right'
Couchsurfing in Gaza
Assassination in Dubai
UN Votes For Goldstone Report, Again
Italians Seek Kyrgyz President's Financial Advisor
The Biggest Billionaires
Israel, Gaza and International Law
Observers generally agree that Bush has embarked on this trip to try to deflect accusations of neglect and to fight the influence of Chavez in the region. "I don't think America gets enough credit for trying to help improve people's lives," Bush said during a joint press conference with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Throughout his trip, the U.S. president made efforts to remind his audience that America is a caring nation: "My trip is to explain as clearly as I can that our nation is generous and compassionate, that when we see poverty, we care, that when we see illiteracy, we want to do something about it."

As Bush was pleading his case for recognition of American goodwill, his archrival in the region, Chavez, shot back while addressing over 30,000 supporters at an "anti-imperialist" rally in Buenos Aires, Argentina, "He thinks he is Columbus, discovering poverty after seven years in power."

No matter how the Bush camp tries to downplay the Chavez factor, it is emerging clearly that one of the reasons for Bush's trip was to counter the charismatic Venezuelan leader's rising influence in the region. The battle for the hearts and minds of Latinos, as Bush is finding out during this his five-nation trip, is difficult and frustrating. As the U.S. president is greeted at each stop with thousands of angry demonstrators chanting "Gringo, go home," some of his aides have started advancing the theory that some of the protesters have been bankrolled by Chavez. I understand their frustration. The popularity of the president is at an all time low at home and anti-American feeling is rising abroad. The Iraq War is taking a toll on Bush and the legacy of his presidency. It is not misleading when Bush says that America cares. It is not also right to think that recipients of America's assistance are ungrateful. The way people are reacting toward America is due to their perception of a country seen through the prism of the actions of the current administration.

One of the principal problems haunting America is the Bush administration's commission of "the worst foreign policy mistake" in U.S, history, as Sen. Harry Reid has put it. This "mistake" -- the invasion of Iraq -- is largely responsible for rallying people around the world to vent anger on an America that is seen as arrogant and insensitive to the feelings of others. As the blood continues to spill in Iraq and the lives of innocent people continue to be torn apart, the sympathy for these victims gradually mounts to the extent that it beclouds all the goodwill that America has earned. It is now obvious that it will require another president other than the present occupant of the White House to start reassembling the broken pieces of America's image together. As Bush gets along and meets face to face with angry demonstrators on the streets of Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico it will become evident to him that America will have to exert a lot of effort to woo her neighbors to the south.

Bush's visit to the region was partly to foster economic and trade ties between the U.S. and his host nations. Other issues like technology and immigration were also on the agenda. Chavez, whose country joined MERCOSUR (Spanish abbreviation for Southern Common Market) in 2006, was visiting Argentina (a MERCOSUR member) and Bolivia (an associate member) precisely for similar reasons. If he had his way, Chavez would like to convert MERCOSUR, which is comprised if Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, into a powerful trade block that will counter what he perceives as American economic and political hegemony in the region. MERCOSUR represents 75 percent of all of South America's economic activity. Its member states have more than $1 trillion in combined GDP and they constitute 65 percent of the continent's population.

President Bush cannot pretend (as he seems to do during his trip) that he does not notice someone like Chavez. It is largely due to Chavez that some of the signs of waning U.S. influence in the region are more visible to the ordinary people of Latin America.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Njei Moses Timah

Add to :  Add to Del.icio.usDel.icio.us |  Add to Digg this Digg  |  Add to reddit reddit |  Add to Y! MyWeb Y! MyWeb

Ronda Hauben
Netizens Question Cause of Cheonan Tragedy
Michael Werbowski
[Opinion] Democracy's Downfall
Michael Solis
Arizona's Immigration Bill and Korea
Yehonathan Tommer
Assassination in Dubai
[ESL/EFL Podcast] Saying No
Seventeenth in a series of English language lessons from Jennifer Lebedev...
  [ESL/EFL] Talking About Change
  [ESL/ EFL Podcast] Personal Finances
  [ESL/EFL] Buying and Selling
How worried are you about the H1N1 influenza virus?
  Very worried
  Somewhat worried
  Not yet
  Not at all
    * Vote to see the result.   
  copyright 1999 - 2019 ohmynews all rights reserved. internews@ohmynews.com Tel:+82-2-733-5505,5595(ext.125) Fax:+82-2-733-5011,5077