By Rebecca Theodore
If argument persists that a state cannot be fully understood if it is isolated from its historical development, then the transition from democracy to authoritarianism for Latin American countries implies that there must be a constant rewriting of the social contract based on new social and economic relations that are continually emerging in Latin America. Paradoxically, the return of democracy from authoritarianism not only demonstrates that ‘a government is legitimate if and only if no better feasible policy exists’ but also exhibits the fact that it is possible for democracies to be authoritarian as well.
Opponents have argued that Latin American state formation is more closely aligned with European state patterns due to colonial influences from the fifteenth century and it is to Western Europe that one needs to turn in order to uncover the roots of the embryonic parallel. However, it must be remembered that the US has also been deeply ingrained in Latin American affairs since 1823, when President James Monroe created the Monroe Doctrine to keep European powers out of the New World. In light of this, America’s reputation as the great superpower of the Andes and the savior of protectionism and liberalism is now viewed in Latin America as a policy of imperialism and a sign of utter weakness.
While China’s ideological connection of communism and socialism weakens US power in Latin America, it is evident that the European trade bloc is now Latin America’s primary trade partner. Latin American trade group Mercosur is the only multinational continent in the world to be united by a common linguistic background, a common culture, and a common religion factor making South America’s path to assimilation a lot smoother into the congregation of the European States of Europe. The legal structure of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) not only unites South America’s two major trade blocs -- Mercosur and the Andean Community -- but has now launched a South American Defense Council, unlike a NATO alliance to mediate regional conflicts and defense from foreign intervention and excludes the US from military planning in the region.
Moreover, Latin America is far more important to Europe as an industrial base than as a simple trade partner. The giant storehouse of timber, natural gas, crude oil, minerals, precious metals, and iron in the region from the Rio Grande to Terra del Fuego are resources that Europe needs in its ascension to world supremacy. The completion of the largest steel-producing complex in Brazil by ThyssenKrupp means steel products will be actively churned out to be sold to Germany and South American countries, with Venezuela as the principal buyer. This also means that the US-backed Área de Libre Comercio de las Américas (FTAA) is dead. Estados de América Latina ha creado su propio barrio, y los Estados Unidos de América no es parte de ella. (Latin American states have created their own neighborhood and the US is not a part of it.)
It is clear that anti-Americanism is now the common premise across every political party in Latin and South America. While Evo Morales is rapidly following Chavez’s lead by nationalizing Bolivia’s oil and gas in a move that reverberates that of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe’s land for grab deals, the newly elected president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff is just a hand-chosen puppet of wildly popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s policies. With huge oil reserves recently discovered off Brazil’s coast, and with a rare earth debate gaining momentum between China and Germany that excludes American interest, Rousseff inherits an economy that is among the world's hottest emerging markets and this means that it will need more than a party shift in the US House of Representatives to advance bilateral relationship.
Hugo Chávez on the other hand has, without doubt, polarized Venezuela’s society and intellectual debate by undermining civil liberties, threatening the continuity of democratic governance, hence his accompaniment of a repulsive episode of an ALBA alliance that provided Honduran president Manuel Zelaya and Ecuadoran Rafael Correa with a foretaste of how to rewrite the constitution and establish authoritarian rule in Honduras, leaving a Honduran legislature buried in turmoil and controversy over US intelligence officials bribing Ecuadoran police, and recruiting informants among them. Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, and Chile are all offering radical transformation and presenting different alternatives to deal with the consequences of economic reforms.
Now that the US has lost Latin America to Europe and China as primary trade partners also means that the Republicans’ tsunami win in the House of Representatives will prove that Barack Obama is not suffering the blunders of a political double standard on the economy as has been so widely anticipated. As Republicans embrace their ambitious legislative agenda they will in time notice that the U.S. economy is starving to death and reducing the deficit or the current unemployment rate of 9.6% and fighting the Great Recession is no magic but a sign of the times.
Trade with Latin America, coupled with other economic factors, has already started reading the eulogy of the US dollar, thereby exposing the grave danger of the economic reverberations that are just now beginning to shake the nucleus of the world’s financial systems. Regardless of what anyone says, this is not an Obama problem, it is a global problem -- “blame it on the economy stupid”. The only self-sustaining economic bloc is the establishment of an EU-style government and for this reason EU status must be fortified in the UN because Latin and South American states, Caribbean states and even Africa have no option other than complete reliance on the economic ties of a German-led EU, or cling to the apron strings of a Russo-China alliance in their quest for economic reforms.
Whether it means that economic reformers in the US need to employ authoritarian tactics to defend democratic processes or risk total failure or that democratic governments in Latin America are not authoritarian enough to defend positive economic reforms; it is clear that the new trend in Latin America is… Buenos dias Europe, Adios America, pero quando o povo esta morrendo de fome, a democracia e’ so uma palavra.” Good morning Europe, Goodbye America, because when the people are starving democracy is just a word.
November 15, 2010