Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I See Poor People

Not really.
President Bush, laying the groundwork for an eight-day trip to Latin America that's likely to deepen the struggle for influence with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, acknowledged Monday that millions of Latin Americans remain in poverty despite U.S.-backed economic policies and free-trade agreements.

Sprinkling his speech with Spanish words and phrases, Bush announced a series of relatively modest efforts to help the region's poor, including a plan to send in U.S. military medical teams.

"The fact is that tens of millions of our brothers and sisters to the south have seen little improvement in their daily lives, and this has led some to question the value of democracy," he told members of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "The working poor of Latin America need change, and the United States of America is committed to that change."
Note the common move to equate economic liberalization with democracy. Latin American poor are not anti-democracy. They may be dismayed by a long history of lip-service to "democracy" (see: Colombia). But the reality is basically empirical (and obviously moral): economic liberalization has destroyed countless lives in Latin America, has further propped up elites, and has exacerbated poverty. They've lost faith in in the economic program because they don't see much good coming from it in their lives. That is going to be the test. If Bush truly believes that it's a loss of belief in democracy, the US is headed further down the road to increasingly disastrous Latin America policy. The dislike of US policy is based in the fact that the US has longed push its own economic and political agendas on Latin America and this has tended to cause war, increased poverty, and the entrenchment of ruling elites. It's a basic empirical matter, but Bush can't see past his ideology.


SC@MD said...

Why blame liberalisation? L offers both opportunities and threats. Are the people (and governments) there equipped and willing to exploit the former without getting bogged down by the latter? I haven't seen too many in Latin America willing to do so consistently.

helmut said...

Blame liberalization because it hasn't yielded much in the way of a promised better life. Sure, liberalization offers opportunities and threats. But most Latin American poor (who account for most people) haven't seen much in the way of opportunities.

The subtle conflation of liberalization and democracy conceals the fact that most poor are not anti-democratic but, rather, demanding further democratization that extends into economic life. They have long experience with effects of liberalization that seem to belie basic notions of democracy.

Anonymous said...

Helmut, I must agree.

They do need more democracy! Latin American elites are the same poison there as our own elites are here. Hoodlums trying to fix the game (irrespective of party affiliation).

I say more democracy all around and call for an end to the seniority rules in the congress as anti-democratic in the extreme as they permit the fostering of entrenched positions backed by corporate or union dollars.