domingo, 3 de abril de 2016

Morgenfeld: "Obama's LatAm trip seeks to prop up conservative current" (Xinhua)

Interview: Obama's LatAm trip seeks to prop up conservative current
Xinhua, April 3, 2016

U.S. President Barack Obama's trip to Cuba and Argentina aims to reassert Washington's waning influence in Latin America and shore up the region's conservative camps, a prominent Argentine academic and author said Saturday.
Obama's visit, the first by a sitting U.S. president to Cuba in nearly 90 years and to Argentina in 20 years, has to do with "the geostrategic goals" of the United States, said Leandro Morgenfeld, professor of history at the University of Buenos Aires, and author of the book "Dangerous Liaisons, Argentina and the United States."
"The White House is betting on repositioning itself in the region, after a decade of relatively relaxed hegemony," Morgenfeld told Xinhua on Saturday.
"It's trying to weaken the Boliviarian countries and the independent initiatives driven by the Brazil-Argentina axis," said Morgenfeld.
The Bolivarian countries comprise Venezuela and its regional allies Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, and smaller Central American and Caribbean states.
"It's betting on a realignment of the continent, and intends to undermine initiatives of political cooperation and coordination, such as Unasur and CELAC by repositioning the Organization of American States (OAS)," said Morgenfeld.
As mechanisms of regional integration and support, both Unasur (the Union of South American Nations) and CELAC (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) help to counteract Washington's traditional dominance over the region, which has for years exerted through the hemispheric OAS, he said.
In the past 15 years or so, as left-wing political parties came to govern in Latin America, Washington's self-serving foreign policy came under increasing scrutiny, which Obama hopes to reverse, said the author.
"All the countries in the region criticized the aggressive U.S. policies against Cuba at the latest OAS summit, so Obama sought detente with Havana to silence critics decrying U.S. imperialism," said Morgenfeld.
"In the case of his visit to Argentina," the author said, "Obama came to show his support for President Mauricio Macri," a conservative who late last year defeated the candidate of the ruling left-leaning party, bringing the right wing to power for the first time in 12 years.
Macri's victory gave impetus to a conservative recovery in Latin America, which could be a blow to Hugo Chavez's successors in Venezuela's legislative elections, a push to depose the government of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and a setback to Evo Morales in his effort to get re-elected in Bolivia, said Morgenfeld.
"So far, the right wing has only succeeded in regaining one government -- Argentina," said Morgenfeld, "but Obama is looking to promote Macri as a leader who can tilt the region's political scoreboard by attacking Washington's enemies."
Obama's regional ambitions may benefit from at least two unforeseen circumstances: a global financial crisis, which caused the price of raw materials to plummet, and faltering economies of Latin America; and the death of former Venezuelan President Chavez.
Latin Americans, however, have a role to play in how their region's political landscape takes shape over the coming years, said the author.
The outcome "will depend on the reaction of civic organizations, and whether they resist a return to the neoliberal policies that devastated the continent in recent decades."
China, Latin America's second-biggest trade partner, may also have a role to play, he said.
"China is a key trade partner for most of the countries (in the region), and a significant investor and lender, challenging the position of the United States over the past century," he said.
As the United States continues "to resist the creation of a multilateral world, Latin America should promote groups such as BRICS -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which can curb Washington's dominance," he said.

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