We Americans of the United States variety condescendingly refer to the Western Hemisphere as our backyard. (I assume Americans of the Canadian variety refer to us as their basement, footrest, or carpet? I am afraid to ask.) A visionary senior naval officer for whom I once worked called the Western Hemisphere, "Our shared home." I find that comforting in a hot chocolate, warm blanket, Dr. Phil sort of way.
Regardless of whether you see the hemisphere as our backyard, front yard, or as our shared house, Latin America is moving out on us, and Canada, even under our friend PM Harper, might not be far behind. That is a disaster. It is one we can lay almost entirely at the feet of the insufferable, arrogant, naive, dictatorial, and foreign policy inept Obama administration, the most disastrous administration since that of the insufferable, arrogant, naive, dictatorial, and foreign policy inept Woodrow Wilson.
Why is this important? Why should this matter to Americans, in general, and to voters, in particular? We hear a lot about China and the importance of China to our economy. China is important but most Americans do not know that over 43% of all U.S. exports go to the Western Hemisphere. Leaving aside Canada, in 2010, US exports to Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) came to $301.8 billion, 22% of US global exports, second only to what we sent Europe (24%), and over three times the value of our exports to China. US exports to the region have grown at an annual average rate of 7.2% since 2005 --every 1% growth in LAC’s GDP means an extra $5.04 billion worth of US exports per year. Exports to LAC generate nearly two million US jobs. Nearly all the region is growing rapidly, some countries have growth rates that come close to China's. Brazil has doubled its per capita GDP over the last eleven years, and overtaken the UK to become the world's sixth largest economy. Canada and Mexico are our largest export markets. Chile, one of my favorite countries in the world, is now a first world economy; it could give us lessons on how to foster private enterprise, and on running a social security system that provides better services than ours, is not going broke (quite the contrary), and allows participants an extraordinary degree of control over their funds. Let us, in addition, not forget that three of our top five foreign oil suppliers reside in this hemisphere. If we can undo the anti-growth and anti-development policies in Obama's United States, the center for world oil production will come back to the Western Hemisphere, in particular to Canada and the United States. I don't know about you, but I would rather buy oil in Alberta and North Dakota, than in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria; I would rather see jobs and wealth going to Canada and the USA, than to hostile regimes in the Middle East -- but we have Obama, so all bets are off on a return to sanity.
We face a serious challenge to key economic, political, and security interests from the so-called “Bolivarian Movement” and its “twenty-first century socialism.” This petrodollar fueled “movement,” headed by Venezuela’s ailing thug Chavez, promotes anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and authoritarianism; assists narco-terrorists in Colombia; pals around with Iran and Syria; and gives drug traffickers access to Venezuelan airspace. Chavez, an admirer of Fidel Castro, advocates Marxistoid economic “justice” and nationalism, and rejection of the United States. Chavez has bought advanced weapons from Russia and Iran, and has tight economic, military, and intelligence relations with Iran, Russia, Syria, and Cuba, as well as assorted extra-regional terrorists. His governing philosophy and style mixes Castroism, old-time populist demagoguery, and street violence. He has nationalized key economic sectors, and used class warfare rhetoric to justify his actions. He has created an anti-US grouping, “Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America” (ALBA), and encouraged others to tag along, undermining democratic institutions, destroying free markets, and trying to sabotage our interests.
The “Bolivarian Movement” began with the assumption by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela’s presidency in 1998, and his replacing of the 1961 constitution with one proclaiming the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Working with Castro, Chavez launched in 2004, what became ALBA as the counter to the Bush Administration’s vision of a Free Trade Area of the Americas. ALBA, consisting of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela, is held together by Chavez’s lavish promises to provide grants, low-cost loans, and cheap or free oil. Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to Cuba, and uses the petrodollars it earns in the world market to spread an anti-US message in the region, at the OAS, and at the UN. The leaders of several ALBA countries have emulated Chavez, e.g., rewriting constitutions, clamping down on political and economic freedoms, and working against the United States. The most prominent examples of this imitation are Bolivia (President Evo Morales), Ecuador (President Rafael Correa), Nicaragua (President Daniel Ortega), and Honduras under the later deposed, June 2009, Manuel Zelaya. Chavez has encouraged Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, among others, to adopt positions highly critical of the United States, and made others leery of too open a relationship with us. Colombia, for example, has found itself the odd man out, uncertain of how energetically to pursue closer relations with the United States--especially once the Obama administration stalled for three years in having the free trade agreement ratified, a stall that cost thousands of US jobs. In Central America and the Caribbean, traditional US allies such as Honduras, Guatemala, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Costa Rica have begun to feel the Bolivarian pressure.
The Obama administration's response to the threat? Apology. Appeasement. Accommodation. He named the hapless leftist academic Arturo Valenzuela as his Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. He showed no interest in the single most important country, Canada, and spent most of his tenure traveling solo to conferences around the US and in Latin America promoting himself. He had zero managerial skills, and no concept of US core interests. He constantly downplayed the threat from Castro and Chavez, openly "welcomed" efforts by LAC to develop institutions which excluded us, and was unable to stand up to his friend the anti-American OAS SecGen Jose Insulza. He woefully mishandled the crisis in Honduras, and turned what could have been a victory for the US and a major defeat for Chavez into the opposite. He was so inept, that even inept Secretary of State Hilary Clinton could not abide him. His tenure was inglorious and damaging--an epitaph for the Obama administration as a whole. He has been replaced by a life-long Democratic State Department career civil servant bureaucratic non-entity with no authority to halt the policy drift.
Update: Thanks to PubSecrets (see comments) I was reminded of "Fast and Furious." That horrendous operation, which killed hundreds of Mexicans in an effort to undermine the second amendment, is the only well-coordinated and executed Obama policy toward Latin America.
We are on the verge of being hustled out of the Americas by a gang of thugs and crooks.
Another Update: Please see the excellent article on the Summit of the Americas in The Blaze by an old friend and former colleague, and a conservative, to boot.