There’s a terrific little site called Watching America that offers translations of foreign press articles about the US. Many of the articles come from influential papers that have no English edition. Since we’ve been writing about Bolivia I thought I’d share a couple of snippets from the Bolivian Press, and one from the Colombian Press.

The cartoon is not Bolivian, but I liked it.

While we’ve been writing about Bolivia’s new president, they’ve been writing about our old one. From Bol Press (via Watching America):

President Bush, made a bit desperate by the current situation in Iraq, is speaking of settling for “nothing less than a complete victory.” Several times I have written that President Bush’s reactions matched those of a “banana republic,” as though the United States were being dominated and bullied by foreign powers. -snip-

So it seems an appropriate moment to question, “victory against whom?” According to what we read, this is a “victory” against Iraqi insurgents, a hodgepodge of rebels resisting the foreign occupation of their land, coupled with al-Qaeda, a terrorist group fighting a holy war that would have no reason to exist had Bush not invaded Iraq in the first place.

Ultimately, behind all the fighting words, the truth is simple: this is the wounded superpower’s response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Whether or not the image of the twin towers in flames was the beginning of World War III still remains to be seen. Clearly, Americans are becoming increasingly critical of the motives behind the Iraq War and want more and more to bring the troops home.  Bush, on the other hand, who did everything possible to avoid going to the Vietnam War himself, wants to continue sending young Americans to fight a war with no end in sight.

Newspapers on December 4 reported that Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University political scientist and recent addition as special advisor to the National Security Council, suggested to Bush that Americans would be more willing to support the war in Iraq if they ultimately believe it will be successful.  Following Feaver’s rationale, Bush immediately began speaking of “victory” despite the fact that the very same day, twenty more American soldiers died at the hands of insurgents and Iraqi terrorists.

It is no wonder that just a few days before, in her criticism of Vice President Dick Cheney, who considers himself to be “the voice behind the throne,” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd cunningly titled her article in reference to the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The Autumn of the Patriarchy.  Or, as I would say, “banana country.”

And a quote from another Bol Press story:

“Only fools speak of establishing permanent relations, without the use of force, between the pure American race, such as exists in the United States, and the half-breed Hispano-Indian race, such as is found in Mexico and Central America.”

William Walker, “Autobiography,” 1855, Quoted in “Guide to the Third World,” Editorial Bodoni, Mexico, 1979. Pg. 315

In particular, Carlos Montenegro, in his book “Foreign Investment in Latin America,” lays bare the brutality with which the U.S. annexed half of Mexico and divided Colombia to create the Republic of Panama, the landing of the Marines in Central America, the overwhelming force with which the CIA toppled Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, or the slaughters perpetrated by the United Fruit Co. in the “banana republics” which were disobedient to the North American colossus.

The above is not merely history. It is also going on today. Not so many years have passed since the bombardment of Panama, the invasions of Granada or the Dominican Republic, the imposition of inhuman dictatorships in the region, or the genocides in Iraq or Afghanistan, not to mention the unnecessary atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. prisons in Baghdad or Guantánamo, or the actual CIA torture centers in Eastern Europe.

Venezuela, on the other hand, is one more of the balkanized provinces of the Great Fatherland. It suffered all the consequences of that disintegration, from the suction of the oil companies and “mono-production,” recorded by Sergio Almaraz in his “Petroleum in Bolivia.” Near the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Venezuela suffered bombardment of its ports by English, German and Italian ships because it didn’t pay its foreign debt.

All attempts by the semi-colonies to stop such humiliation have been reviled by the metropolitans [supporters if the colonial powers] and their internal agents. Perón [Argentina] was branded a fascist, Villaroel [Bolivia] a Nazi, and the NRM as Communist, as was the government of General Alfredo Ovando y Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz [Bolivia] for nationalizing their petroleum industry.

No matter what defects one may wish to find in the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez is one of the leaders of national liberation in Latin America, above all for seeking to bring together the state enterprises of South America and Central America. This is intolerable to the European and North American transnational producers of “black gold.”

In day-to-day politics, the national visions of Venezuela and Bolivia do not always coincide, and even less if they are seen to be governed by the heirs to the politics of [Bolivian President] Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada.

[Editor’s Note: He is credited for “shock therapy” (with Jeffrey Sachs) – the extreme measures taken by Bolivia in 1985 to cut down on rampant hyperinflation caused by excessive government spending.]

Of course it pleased us that Chávez supported the maritime interests of Bolivia, and we didn’t share his support of José Miguel Insulza for the post of Secretary General of the OAS. We would have preferred that he continue to buy Bolivian soybeans and not those from the United States. We could wish for him to break up the energy cartel that seeks to extract Bolivian natural gas.

Nevertheless, one of the political essentials for Chávez is that he must look for ways to stop the attempts by the CIA to overthrow or assassinate him, and another is to use subtle means by which to distinguish his regime from the real “imperialists” – like those presided over by Bush, Cheney, or by Tony Blair.


The Guardian’s cartoon

From Colombia’s El Tiempo:

Given the current political situation in Washington, it is evident that George W. Bush lacks the political capital to move forward on the two most pressing issues in Latin America: agricultural subsidies and immigration. His impotence in resolving the above issues, however, does not mean he lacks the ability to change the region’s negative perception of his administration.

President Bush can ingratiate himself with his southern neighbors by eliminating the contradictions of a policy that humiliates Latin Americans, collides with U.S. interests in the region and is completely unnecessary.

Three years ago, the Bush Administration suspended economic aid to countries that refused to sign the Bilateral Immunity Agreement, which grants United States soldiers immunity from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Antigua, Barbados, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela have signed and ratified the Rome Statue of the ICC, but have refused to sign the Bilateral Agreement.

First, the Agreement is an affront to their national sovereignty. Moreover, the Agreement is unnecessary given that the articles of the ICC explicitly establish that citizens from countries with effective judicial systems remain exempt from the ICC’s reach. Furthermore, the American petition [Bilateral Immunity Agreement] is redundant.  There are other mechanisms in place to protect their [American] troops: the Status of Forces Agreement establishes the immunity of American soldiers before any foreign court for acts committed in the execution of their duties abroad.

The most difficult aspect of this entanglement to understand is that the petition has created an enormous paradox. For a long time, the U.S. has financed military, anti-drug training in Latin American countries. At the same time, U.S. civilian organizations have used public funds for judicial anti-corruption training and AIDS education. Both civilian and military assistance have been suspended to countries that have not signed the Bilateral Agreement. Ecuador, a country where the U.S. has the largest military bases in South America, has lost $15 million in the last two years and could lose $7 million more. Peru has lost $4 million in programs to fight the drug trade.

That this is happening at exactly the same time that the financing of Plan Colombia is up for renewal is truly unbelievable. The Plan’s success has dispersed FARC’s guerrillas toward Colombia’s borders, causing the inevitable outpouring of violence into neighboring countries. That the United States is cutting economic aid to Peru at a time when drug trafficking is remerging in the country is incredible.

What is regrettable is that it would be simple for President Bush to rectify this foolish policy, which damages American interests abroad and humiliates Latin Americans. By putting forth the idea that the Bilateral Agreement is detrimental to America’s national interests, the President could abandon the requirement that obligates its neighbors to sign the Agreement. It shouldn’t be the case that the ideological fervor of a few causes the United States to continue losing allies in Latin America.

That this is happening at exactly the same time that the financing of Plan Colombia is up for renewal is truly unbelievable. The Plan’s success has dispersed FARC’s guerrillas toward Colombia’s borders, causing the inevitable outpouring of violence into neighboring countries. That the United States is cutting economic aid to Peru at a time when drug trafficking is remerging in the country is incredible.

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