How Latin America Turned to the Left ; Uruguay Swears in Its First Left-Wing President Today, Joined by the New Wave of Leaders in the Region - and Fidel Castro. the Event Symbolises Waning US Influence, Says Rupert Cornwell
Cornwell, Rupert, The Independent (London, England)
At presidential inaugurations, as at weddings, the guest list says everything. In Montevideo today, Tabare Vazquez will be sworn in as the first left-wing president in the 170-year history of Uruguay. That is noteworthy enough, but even more remarkable are the foreign dignitaries in attendance.
Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva, the centre-left President of Brazil will be there. So will Hugo Chavez, the fiery demagogue who leads Venezuela, and Argentina's Nestor Kirchner. Adding the revolutionary topping will be none other than Fidel Castro. No gathering could better symbolise the slow drift of Latin America out of the US orbit.
Until 31 October, Uruguay could be counted upon as one of Washington's staunchest friends in the hemisphere. But then Mr Vazquez, an oncologist and former mayor of Montevideo, broke the traditional two-party mold of Uruguayan politics by leading the Frente Amplio (Broad Front) leftist coalition to an overwhelming election victory.
Today Washington's unqualified, 100 per cent loyal allies to the south of its border with Mexico are no more than one or two - El Salvador and Honduras certainly, but who else? Even Chile defied the superpower by refusing to support the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a slight not yet entirely forgotten in Washington.
Instead, a de facto centre-left bloc is emerging across the continent. Its members vary greatly from Chile, the economic poster- boy, to Washington's bugbear Venezuela. One thing, however, they have in common. They may not be necessarily opposed to the US on every issue, but they are no longer beholden to it.
Their drift away is testament to an historic failure of American foreign policy. In recent years the US approach to Latin America has been hopelessly distorted by its fixation with one modest-sized island 90 miles south of the Florida Keys. In economic and military terms Cuba is of little significance, but its symbolic importance has been vastly magnified by the attentions lavished upon it by Washington.
Isolation has been the watchword - first of President Castro, and now of another regional "bad boy" in the person of Mr Chavez. But the strategy has backfired utterly. American bullying has given the Cuban leader a nationalist support he might never have had otherwise, consolidating his position as the longest-serving government leader on the planet.
The US has bullied Mr Chavez too, clumsily backing a failed coup against him in 2002, and subsequently criticising him at every turn. Today, boosted by his state's surging oil wealth, Mr …
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Publication information: Article title: How Latin America Turned to the Left ; Uruguay Swears in Its First Left-Wing President Today, Joined by the New Wave of Leaders in the Region - and Fidel Castro. the Event Symbolises Waning US Influence, Says Rupert Cornwell. Contributors: Cornwell, Rupert - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: March 1, 2005. Page number: 28,29. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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