Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Differing Views From Inside US Gov On Latin American Policy

Plan Colombia and Beyond has an interesting item on what U.S. foreign policymakers at different agencies are saying:

What’s going on here?

In just over 24 hours last week, we heard four Bush administration officials offer wildly divergent opinions about Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales and so-called “radical populism” in Latin America:

Read the rest here

so we have, Rummy:

“We’ve seen some populist leadership appealing to masses of people in those countries. And elections like Evo Morales in Bolivia take place that clearly are worrisome. I mean, we’ve got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money. He’s a person who was elected legally – just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally – and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others.”

then we have:
– Southern Command Commander Gen. Bantz Craddock, February 2, 2006

“The situation now [regarding Bolivia] is deeds not words. Let's take a chill pill.”
“The fact of the matter is that we're finding it harder and harder to send our officers to Venezuela but we do want to keep that relationship going.”
“We've had populism for years. I don't know if it is more radical.”

And then Bush, of course congratulating Evo.

What to make about this?

Bolivia, first of all, is way down the list of priorities of US policymakers. The only time Bolivia was a strong issue was with cocaine trafficking in the 80's and 90's. A joke among Bolivians was that they wished Sendero Luminoso had picked Bolivia instead of Peru, so they would get American aid.
Historically, Bolivia has been somewhat insulated from Washington. It had a revolutionary government at the peak of the Cold War, in contrast to Guatemala, which arguably was less radical, Washington actually send a lot of aid. Other Bolivian governments have done things like nationalize American oil companies holdings, without getting much of a reaction from Washington. When the MNRI/MIR government came to power, it was also seen as radical, but Washington decided to engage it fully and maintain good relations, partially because it was relieved the narco-government preceding it had fallen.