Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Opinion Briefing: Latin America’s Leftists

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on January 21, 2010

by Steve Crabtree and Jesus Rios, for Gallup, January 21, 2010.

Issue at Hand: Strengthening U.S. alliances with Latin American countries in light of the region’s increasingly leftist politics.

As in other regions around the world, the United States currently has strained relations with several of Latin America’s leaders and an image problem among many of its populations. The perceived failure in the 1990s of “Washington Consensus” prescriptions for market-driven reforms set the stage for a leftward shift in the region. The flag-bearer for this trend has been Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, who over the past few years has fed Latin Americans a steady diet of anti-U.S. rhetoric, regularly calling for resistance against the U.S. “empire.”

Obama’s Stance: Barack Obama‘s general approach to Latin America seems to be one of cautious engagement. During last year’s presidential campaign, Obama criticized the Bush administration’s “negligent” policy toward Latin America, saying it is one reason “demagogues” like Chavez have been successful in the region. Obama has indicated he is willing to open a dialogue with such U.S. adversaries as Chavez and Cuba’s President Raul Castro — but he has also opposed the proposed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, citing ongoing violence against Colombian labor leaders.

Latin Americans’ Perspective: First, it’s important to distinguish between Chavez’s polemics and the general leftist sentiment that holds sway in most Latin American countries. Any U.S. policy toward Latin America needs to recognize that “socialism” is not a dirty word in the region — though Chavez’s conception of it is controversial…(continue reading)

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