Red Sky in Latin America-A Threat or a Necessity?

Article excerpt

THE LEFT-RIGHT PARADIGM

Has Latin America turned red in the past years? The most simplistic answer is "yes" if one looks no further than election results. This answer is, however, misleading since it divides the political spectrum in Latin America into the left and the right, and such a bipolar view of politics is no longer applicable around the world, let alone in Latin America. This view creates ideological simplifications such as "the Cuban Way" versus "the US model," and it squeezes every aspect of society--from historical structures to religion to ethnicity to populism--into one discussion point. What happens on the political scene in Latin America today is only marginally related to the right or the left and can be divided into several general sections.

THE USA FACTOR

Over the last couple of years, free and fair elections have ceased to be shallow promises but are now in fact a popular reality. Democratic elections have slowly become the norm. Most countries (with exceptions) can be considered democratic. The fact that "socialist" parties are coming to power proves that Latin America's conservative political elitism doesn't exist any longer.

Furthermore, presidential posts have become increasingly filled with people who have clear and defined views (mainly negative) towards the United States. The mass aversion to the USA and its foreign policy proves that Latin American elections are conducted without backdoor plotting from their powerful northern neighbor. The United States' ostentatious lack of interest in the current situation in Honduras is even rather surprising given past interventions; perhaps there is truth in US claims against interfering in the politics of sovereign states.

Specifically, mistrust and skepticism towards the United States reached a historical high during the two electoral terms of George W. Bush. Between 2000 and 2004, the popularity of the United States (not just the government, but society as a whole) fell by 20 percent. The USA has thereby become a common enemy that has united the countries of Central and South America, who, instead of fighting among one another, have formed a united front against the unpopular interventions of their wealthy neighbor.

UNWANTED YET NEEDED

A relative calm has spread south of the US border on account of American disinterest. Especially after 11 September 2001, the "Latino" issue has played a secondary (if not tertiary) role in US politics. After almost one hundred years of struggle against illegal immigrants, the US government has tried everything from open borders, forced deportation, seasonal worker programs, immigration quotas, partial amnesty, militant border fortifications, and employer sanctions; they have refused basic public services and even constructed concrete walls. All of this has, however, led to almost nothing. The government's new approach is oriented towards lawmaking in the attempt to define and govern the rights and duties of immigrants (legal and illegal).

Nevertheless, official (probably much underestimated) statistics suggest that Latin American citizens compose at least 15.1 percent of the United States' population. In absolute numbers this means that seven million people (at minimum) exist within the legal labyrinth of immigration regulations, directions, and prohibitions. Meanwhile, the US has not kept its promise to increase quotas for legal immigration and guarantee amnesty for illegal immigrants who have lived in the USA for more than ten years.

Furthermore, the 11 September attacks set back strides which had been made between the United States and Mexico; before the attacks, the two states had been negotiating a "special partnership" treaty, which would guarantee favorable trading conditions, greater free movement of people, and also border cooperation. After the attacks the Bush administration swept the treaty off the table.

AT THE PERIPHERY OF GLOBALIZATION

It is relatively frustrating that while globalization has produced advantages for Asia, Africa, and the Pacific (we need not even mention Europe and North America), 80 percent of the population in Latin America has not enjoyed the same advantages. …