Posted by: Diana Ferraro | December 17, 2013

Is the FTAA coming back?

The Washington Post

The Washington Post

This is a question with an open answer.

We recommend the excellent article:

US considering deal to expand trade in Americas by Andrés Oppenheimer;

published in The Miami Herald

and we remind the multiple articles published in The Continental Blog and elsewhere, now collected in two ebooks: La América Grande. Notas para una política continentalista., in Spanish, and The Americas Dream. Essays on Continentalism., in English, both available at Amazon.com.

The poor performance of a country like Argentina, which was nonetheless the FTAA leader in Latin America during the 90’s under the Menem-Cavallo administration,  and the amazing slowdown of the United States post-Bush should tell something about the road less taken.

Failures speak volumes. On one side, the horrendous regime led by both Kirchner was in fact the one which organized in 2005, with Hugo Chávez starring the demonstration, the bashing on George W.Bush and the FTAA. On the other side, the Obama administration took its time to realize that the road to prosperity for the United States starts in the Americas and its huge market which is still dormant under tons of political, racial, and cultural prejudices.

Better late than never, the Obama administration seems to have ended its sleep, with John Kerry awakening to a project that has been unfairly abandoned and which could well be the next great big thing for the United States. Not to say for many countries in Latin America, among them that other sleeping beauty, Argentina, which has bitten the usual poisoned apple against the United States to never awake. After a decade, its effects are still lasting, but not for long. The huge and now undeniable failure of both Kirchner represent the best defense of the road not taken and a hope that the next local leader will open his eyes on the pending opportunity.

If the United States takes again the lead of the FTAA, it will find the local supporters and followers. It will also have the chance to become the best asset for the local  opposition candidate who dares to compete and prevail over others leading this project on behalf of Latin America. 

May 2014 be a great year for the Americas!

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | November 26, 2010

The Americas at the Global Crossroad

When George W. Bush, long before 9/11, in February 2001 and on the eve of a visit to Mexico, promised to build “a century of the Americas” he was well aware that American future couldn’t be separated from its neighbors.

 By then, his pledge was to keep the United States engaged in the world but to work closely with its neighbors “to build a western hemisphere of freedom and prosperity, a hemisphere bound together by shared ideas and free trade from the Arctic to the Andes to Cape Horn”. He remarked at that time, in the historic address to employees of the State Department: “Our future cannot be separated from the future of our neighbors in Canada and Latin America.”  Colin Powell, by then the Secretary of State, started to work in improving relations with Latin American countries, previously dismissed by the Clinton administration. That is to say: there is a clear Republican pattern which acknowledges the need of Continental policies, as well as a Democrat pattern which tends to lean more on Europe and global trade rather than reinforcing an hemispheric partnership. 

Parties and leaders from different ideologies in Latin America also differ about this issue and seem to be a better match to one party or the other, which explains the current state of affairs in many countries in Latin America. Some of them express a great disdain for any partnership with the United States, when not hatred, and more rarely a support to Bush and the Republican party former policies. President Obama’s administration is seen as not quite interested in any close partnership with Latin America, in spite of the compassionate racial speech, and many local Latin American leaders see this lack of interest with pleasure because they are naturally anti-American. 

It’s hard to remember how all the Continental project started, with the first proposal of President George H. Bush for a Free Trade Area in the Americas, and how all this was suddenly forgotten after 9/11 events which, even under George W. Bush’s leadership, forced the United States to address very different and more urgent missions than to unify the Americas.

The current global financial crisis, with the United States’ power at stake and the underlying probable dollar devaluation as well as the decision to go sooner than later for a global currency renew the question about what the United States will finally propose to the Americas and how many Latin American leaders will be ready to join any plan of union. 

The Americas will still remain in limbo for a while. The recent victory of the Republican Party in the November elections gives hopes that this issue may be addressed again by the new emerging Republican leaders and corresponded with their natural partners, those Latin American leaders in tune with free trade, democracy and freedom, reinforced and assured by a common Continental law. 

In spite of the fact that the project has been dismissed for a decade, a new chapter may begin for the Americas, once the US global monetary position in the world is clarified and the need to enlarge productive markets takes the lead.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | October 31, 2010

Brazil: New President Elected

As predicted by polls, Dilma Rousseff won today Brazil’s presidential election over  Jose Serra with 56% of the votes. The new President will take office January 1st 2011. Since she is committed to follow current President Lula Da Silva’ s policies, there will be  no substantial changes in foreign affairs. An exclusive South American continentalism and good but not intimate relations with the United States are to be expected.

There is still to be seen how will Dilma process the complicated and continentally inconvenient relationship Lula has developed with Iran. The last word upon this issue has not yet been said and South America as a whole remains an unpredictable region.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | October 30, 2010

Argentina: A New Chapter of the Same Story

Argentina is a well-known country for the quality of its writers and, from time to time, not very often, alas, for the quality of its political leaders. As a gifted country for fiction and emotion, these skills have permeated politics and influenced the style in which politicians communicate with the people and how people absorb reality. This is why so many talented pundits miss the point when it comes to decipher political behaviors as well as social reactions: emotional processes deal at the same time with reality, own fictions, and other people’s fictions. Not to mention the difficulty added when  power in place delivers fiction instead of truth or manipulates aspects of truth.

What we have seen these days in Argentina, with the disappearance of former President Kirchner, doesn’t necessarily instruct us about greats changes to come but rather alerts us on the will to continue the same politics. Argentina continues to face, then, the same battle between two projects: one in power, semi-totalitarian in quest of total and lasting power, and another subdivided in several proposals, peronist and not peronist,  looking forward a true democratic and free society.

Between fictions written from power, or history written by the people in need of its own truth, Argentina is living now, not a change in power, but a sudden twist in the same plot.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | October 14, 2010

Chile: A New Victory for Piñera

 God helps those who help themselves, and the Chilean President Sebastián Piñera showed, along with all the Chileans that trusted his leading in the miner’s rescue, the trait that so many leaders in Latin America have historically lacked of: that things, no matter how difficult or impossible they look, yet can be done. Of course, what is required is not only the faith and the will, but the personality of a true boss, able to exert power with the skills of an entrepreneur. He looked for a solution –he knew where to find it, in the country with the best and most advanced technology in the world, the United States– and he devoted time, resources, and organization to bring up the miners, before sending  down  a group of rescuers, rescued themselves  in the last part of the wonderful and successful job.

An example for Latin America and for the rest of countries in the world that also need a little push towards the belief  that great things can be done if only there is someone to properly plan for them and make them come true.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | October 1, 2010

Why Latin Americans are as tired as Americans

An attempt to a coup d’état in Ecuador; elections punishing Chávez in Venezuela; the Argentine Supreme Court attacked by the President and the remainder of her supporters; polls that only a few days before elections in Brazil begin to unfold a very different truth than an automatic triumph for Dilma, Lula’s presidential choice; Mexico’s ongoing trouble with the inner war against drug lords: everything in Latin America talks of a very serious political crisis that matches the current American crisis previous to November mid-term elections. There is a continental political uneasiness and  some fear that it might spread beyond control if nothing is done to clarify which are the roots of  the current disorder.

Tiredness is nothing but the symptom of hopelessness, and hopelessness only comes from confusion. What Americans, Latin or not, all over the continent are experiencing is not exactly the result of the financial crisis but rather the consequence of a lack of faith in global capitalism. Few people firmly believe these days in  free markets, less in the cooperation under the frame of large unified federations to advance common international laws and a stable global currency. The struggle is, as usual, for what some leaders believe to represent a national advantage: a big state with endless spending, national currencies manipulated according to fiscal deficits, or twisted laws for every president’s political benefit. While at the end of the 20th century the United States was the example to follow to building a democratic, fair, and wealthy society, during  the past decade the mirror has tarnished, offering a grim and confusing landscape.

It will take some time yet to assure the passage from confusion to enlightenment, from anger to lucidity. The truths of the wonderful and victorious days of the end of the century will finally emerge from the ashes of  old delusions and Americans from everywhere will take again the road to success. Not the road less traveled, neither the trodden path of statism under any of its shapes, but the safe road of what really works to establish a prosperous and thriving global community.

It’s all about being nationally continental and continentally global. The new political grammar has some new adverbs and a few simple new rules; once learned by leaders willing to explain them to the people, a common language will take over and the world will be once again on its way to unstoppable growth and progress. Until then, we will see the fire of outdated and useless ideas burning to death.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | September 10, 2010

United States: Leader or Follower?

These days the talks in the Americas revolve around local issues –the bloody war on drugs in Mexico; the coming elections in Brazil; the ongoing drama with the miners in Chile; the scandalous and corrupted government in Argentina and the still weak leaders who oppose to it; the security challenges faced by the new Colombian President; the Tea Party movement, the mosque to be built close to Ground Zero, and how all this will affect the November elections in the United States. This return to the domestic and the avoidance of international issues is based on the fact that no one feels too sure about where the world is headed to and who is in charge of steering it.  Fidel Castro woke up from a long slumber, dressed as the commander in chief he never resigned to be and announced that the United States or Israel or both combined would soon nuke Iran and start a global nuclear war. Chavez echoed and a few days later Secretary of State Clinton stepped out to claim the dawn of a new moment in the American foreign relations, characterized by international friendship and cooperation. The global disorientation looks at its peak.

Not in tune with the romantic violins the Secretary of State seemed to be hearing, some wonder if we are not immersed in a sort of collective state of denial of what is being at play right now. In an excellent article at the Council on Foreign Relations, The Tricky ‘New American Moment’ by Stewart M. Patrick (http://www.cfr.org/publication/22897/tricky_new_american_moment.html ),  the author points out several real politick problems that seem not addressed or properly advanced by the Secretary of State, and he hints that there are more foreign policy ideas in the current administration and beyond, than those exposed to the public consideration.

In fact, no one dares to talk about the U.S. foreign debt and whether it will be solved by a controlled devaluation of the dollar or if the devaluation and inflation risks will be averted by resorting to SDRs as the medium to convert the debt in a manageable burden, a sensible measure to reassure foreign creditors but which would restrain the American power over its own currency and national interest. This postponed decision, which explains the incredible amounts of federal money invested in the meantime in all sort of programs –the basis to the Tea Party protesters’ anger–, will probably have to be faced after November elections and, whichever is the option the Government and the new Congress may come up with, it will clearly signal the end of recession and the beginning of a trustable recovery. Foreign affairs, in the world as well as in the Americas, depend today on the road the United States will take to solve its own economy issues. Once decided, signed, and agreed who and how will pay the debt, the world economy will restart on a safe ground and international relations will take a new turn.

Latin America, which had a hard time to be finally convinced that capitalism and free market were the solution to its lasting underdevelopment drama, has found in what looks like a capitalist terminal crisis in the States, new excuses to return to its old statist practices and to speak with renewed ease of a multipolar world in which the United States would be just one more country, and never more the richest or the most military powerful. The old envy that wants the powerful wanting cannot see the fact that what is at stake, after the first decade of the 21st century, is not exactly wealth or military power but a consistent scheme for growth and global progress. This scheme was consistent and convincingly led by the United States until 2008 and has been put on hold since then. Thus, it’s time, not for a romantic capricious dawn, but for a real decision on leading the world, not because of wealth or military power but because of knowing better, having achieved a free, prosperous, fair, and working society which, in spite of the current dark moment, is still the envy of the world.

The United States– its people and its administration– has to make a choice: to be the world’s leader, because of its own success and know how and because of its responsibility toward the rest. with the confused Americas in the first place, or the follower of those who, having achieved less, cunningly claim for a new shared leadership based on the temporary weakness of the one doomed to rule.

Ortega y Gasset, the Spanish philosopher, rightly remarked that there is always the need of one in command, in Nature as well as in organic human communities inspired in Nature. Until a rising and promising new leader challenges the United States, it would be wiser to reinforce the leader we have and which has done remarkably well until these last missteps, which can then be seen more as the product of a disorganized growth rather than as a permanent system flaw.  The Americas need the beacon but also more light and detail on these issues, not always properly discussed.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | August 13, 2010

The Americas: Chains of Freedom

While the world continues to spin around, with no clear leadership and an extraordinary global confusion about what’s actually happening, the Americas ride their own specific dangerous wave: the threat of war between Venezuela and Colombia averted but always pending, the drug lords in Mexico gaining more power, Brazil’s complicated foreign policy, Argentina lost in a long and messy pre-electoral time, the United States still under the weather and making sure illegal immigrants are kept at bay not because of the usual economic problems at a time of high unemployment but because the Mexican drug war has already crossed the border.

What remains clear is that, far from the dreamt unity, the gap between Latin America and the United States has grown wider. Once again, the misunderstanding about absolutely necessary  laws and what is often seen as a racist enforcement creates hatred and resentment on each side of the border. We have seen these types of situations  along history, how negative feelings toward the United States are fueled within Latin American communities and how Americans mistrust in return Latin Americans, no longer perceived as friends but as potential law breakers or enemies. A mutual commitment to respect a fair regulation that takes into account human rights as well as national American rights couldn’t be so difficult to obtain, if only lawmakers would seriously work on a solution, leading the problem instead of being overwhelmed by it. November elections offer a stage to unfold this lasting drama, which involves legal  immigrants (needed as local workers); employers who should only hire under legal terms;  illegal immigrants who should return to their countries if they are not legally required or allowed to stay; and wannabe immigrants who should rather be encouraged to stay in their countries within the frame of a financial and economic partnership with the rest of American countries, including the United States.

It’s maybe time for a new leadership in the United States, one able to find the right continental balance, creating a more cooperative and safe environment for all the American countries. Latin Americans will understand better the power of law enforcement if  their own original countries  are ruled by the same fair law and by the same fair economy.

The now shaky global project needs that all its continental parts fit together, and not only Europe needs an urgent fix so that the clock of progress continues to ticking. The Americas are also waiting for their leader and their plan; or should we start saying, for “its” leader and “its” plan, if the Americas are really doomed to be a unity. After all, what we are seeing now is nothing else but the battles to build a larger federation. The States have some experience  about the price to pay for this achievement. Freedom comes sometimes under the odd shape of chains and the requirement to break them. Whether linked by mistrust or by love, by hatred or prejudice, the Americas cannot ignore the bond or the demand to succeed a fair entente.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | July 1, 2010

The Americas and the World Disorder

When will the world financial crisis be over? When everyone agrees on who will finally pay the bill for the 2008 crisis. President Obama’s  financial overhaul to be approved in the coming days as well as some of the talks at the Toronto G-20 meeting are setting the tone, and it finally looks like the Volcker rule will prevail, even if not all of it at once. This means that, in spite of the recent financial bad news with stocks plummeting once again, the beginning of the actual end of the crisis may be ahead. 

Financial pundits who respond to those who will be affected by the new regulations are spreading woeful news about future markets to create doubts about the solution. The very sensible Volcker rule commands that only banks should be backed up by the government and not side investment business connected to banks. This rule is based on the need to reach a higher competitive and free market also in the financial industry and reaffirm what constitutes the core of the global market.  

The current world disorder doesn’t represent the failure of capitalism or free market economy, but a pause to make the necessary corrections to access the next global level. Incompetent national leaders and even many major political analysts are then missing the point when blaming global capitalism and making a plea for closed markets and more state regulations. Social-democrats and socialists in the Americas firmly believe these days that history is proving that they were always right and that global capitalism and free markets are a scam. Far from being a scam, once the bill is paid –including the political bill that has allowed so many to think that the time when capitalism would hang itself with its own rope had come—we will see a great recovery of world capitalism, with its banks properly healed by Dr.Volcker’s medecine, and markets soaring.

 This would be then the right time to promote and develop the Americas free trade zone and to align reluctant Latin American governments behind fair capitalist procedures to assure a global recovery that will benefit, as it has in the 90’s, emerging markets and Latin American markets in the first place. Also the occasion for the Americas to join the world free market as a promising new federation and for Europe to assess the path started more than fifty years ago, going to the next level. 

Of course, things could go wrong once again, because of terrorism, wars, or an excess of greed from investment corporations left behind, but more likely they won’t. The danger of a global recession is too big if the halt to find a solution lasts for too long. In the financial world, no one actually believes in the big bad wolf coming this time under the shape of a rope. Capitalism is smarter than that and never suicidal, as Dr. Marx wanted, not finding another way to end it.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | June 20, 2010

Colombia’s New President

Today’s election confirmed Juan Manuel Santos as the new President of Colombia. He won by 69% over his opponent Mockus. This result must be read as the decision of Colombians to remain under the same foreign policy and the same safety and military rules. The country has yet to advance some economic and financial reforms, so some of the change Antanas Mockus wanted to lead will still take place, probably under some form of coalition or participation in the government.

Looking to reinforce a different model in South America, opposed to Chávez’ s, Santos is expected to be not only Uribe’s continuity  but a more advanced version. If there is a federation of American nations along the road, Colombia could be one of those more suited to immediately accept  the common rules, based on a free market and a military alliance, if some reforms are soon set in place.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | June 8, 2010

The Americas: Old and New Loyalties

While economists work on global currency problems, the whole world will have, for a month, a nationalistic fit and each country will fiercely root for itself. When it comes to soccer,  that is the universal football, continental identities don’t count. Still, there is some global flair in this new World Cup to start next Friday 11th June in South Africa: it’s the first time the African Continent hosts the contest. After 32 cups, Europe and the Americas are even. Who will break the tie? Or will Africa win over them?

The Americas as a whole, represented by the United States, Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina teams, represent a new option to root for when national teams fail to reach  the next level. The idea of considering the Americas home, instead of only our homeland, has great advantages for soccer fans: we have exactly 7 more chances to bring home the World Cup.

In the meantime, and even if we happen to be Argentines, we could rejoice in  the next World Cup that will be played at home, in the Americas, specifically in Brazil which has already introduced into the media the 2014 logo.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | May 30, 2010

Colombia Elects a New President

Today’s election left a clear front-runner, Juan Manuel Santos with more than 46% of the votes, doubling the votes of his  so promoted opponent  Antanas Mockus who,  far behind him, got only a poor 21,5% .

Even with what has been considered  a landslide of votes, Santos, the popular President Uribe’s candidate, couldn’t reach the required 50% to win the election. Therefore, a second round will take place next June 20th.

Colombians have clearly stated that they have a quite different opinion from media and pundits who tried to sell Mockus as a strong candidate and change as the unavoidable next big thing to happen in Colombia. In three weeks, though, Colombians need to assess the clear message they have sent out today: too soon to change, too early to give up on safety with a dangerous border.

Previous posts: http://thecontinentalblog.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/colombias-change/  (April 25th 2010)

http://thecontinentalblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/colombian-elections/ (March 15th 2010)

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | May 28, 2010

United States and Latin America: Broken Hearts On Both Sides

At this point, we don’t know if the delayed romance between those two will ever prosper. A shared continent and a common European and native origin had given hopes that eventually there would be a match, but recent news talk rather of a split. Things couldn’t be worse at this moment: President Obama sending troops to the Mexico border to rightfully try to keep at bay smugglers of both human beings and drugs, all going awry in Arizona because before all had gone awry in Mexico with drug cartels out of government control, Brazil making again queer movements with Iran and dragging behind him more South American countries. More security and even an American heavy troop deployment at the border make sense for the same reasons American troops in Colombia or mistrust about Iran’s nuclear policy make sense. But Latin America’s paranoid reaction to this new American policy was the expected: a massive rejection of what is seen as a United States threat to subdue Latin America.

 As the wall before, this new war at the border creates the precise atmosphere anti-American leaders need to breed resentment and hatred. Recently, in Argentina’s Bicentennial parade, the unity of the Americas was claimed as the main goal for years to come and expressed in a bunch of white balloons, one for each country save one –the United States. If Latin Americans can show a broken heart, so does the United States, because it never feels good to be hated, qualified as evil because of being successful and systematically rejected because of not complying with neighbors unconscious expectations. It’s as hard to be the first and the best as to try to succeed and never get it right. Within the same old frame of mirroring paranoia, there is a broken heart on both sides.

Who invades whose space? Who invades whose culture? The old British solution of parting South America from North America only hinders the United States– which could lead a bigger continent than the Northern– and South American countries other than Brazil– the natural South American leader if the United States chooses to be absent.

 The option of unilingual countries within a multicultural and multilingual continental umbrella has not reached the public discussion. Language, as well as culture, continue to be seen as a war field in which one can only aggress, invade, and subdue when not destroy the other. The simple rule that allows each country to keep its own language and its own culture under a multilingual and multicultural continental frame– as in Europe– continues to be ignored. Old wars stagnate within the collective unconscious, blocking political creativity and new solutions. Of course, there are also all the global powers playing their game, trying to balance the United States’ power, as well as local players trying to benefit from the mess. However, the Americas’ fate should be discussed in the first place by Americans, all of them, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. 

Even without South America, Northern Latin America will remain as a problem if not addressed within a new frame. Illegal immigration into the United States needs a separate policy from the fight against drug cartels and any other kind of Latin American terrorism. Illegal immigration is mostly an economy problem, in which employers should be enforced as well as illegal workers. At the source of most of the problems natives perceive with immigrants, we always find illegal work; then it’s illegal work which needs to be solved.

The United States is not the only country in the Americas to have this problem; Argentina, which has historically received immigrants from all its neighbors, has also to deal with it. The United States have also a continental example in the drugs war started by Mexican cartels: Colombia has dealt and continues to deal with cartels and the FARC guerrilla supported by Venezuela and Cuba. If the whole continent agreed in common security policies and over an immigration creative law, all could benefit. The main problem in the Americas is the lack of a productive dialogue over a common project. When the United States acts without considering Latin America’s feelings and perceptions, Latin American countries become the easy prey of anti-U.S. leaders. Thus, disunion substitutes union, and what sometimes looks like a convenient divorce, only represents the loss of a productive partnership.

Within the new world disorder, this failure at becoming partners may not look too relevant. Latin America is certainly not the first of the United States’ worries. It shouldn’t be the last either.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | May 21, 2010

Argentina’s Bicentennial

Next Tuesday 25th May, Argentina celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Revolución de Mayo, May Revolution, which ousted viceroy Cisneros and replaced him by the first local government. Even if Argentina’s formal Independence was declared only the 9th July 1816 –which makes of it the true Bicentennial date–1810 is seen as the beginning of Argentina as a Nation.

Not in the best possible shape –all the bets are that rather 2016 will find the country at its best when it finally  gets rid of the possible worst and unprepared government in decades– Argentina will still celebrate with the best it has now, its good-hearted people and its hope, in spite of all the misdoings and mistakes.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | May 10, 2010

Costa Rica: Laura President

A refreshing image, a new leadership in Costa Rica and Latin America, Laura Chinchilla has been sworn past Saturday 9th as the first woman president in her country. She replaces the Nobel Peace Prize President Oscar Arias and she has promised to continue his work while pushing her own agenda, mostly in education and safety “so that children can enjoy the fruits of liberty,” and free trade, which will make of her a strong voice to promote  unity in the Americas.

Chinchillas’ term runs until 2014 and she will certainly bring a lot of attention to Costa Rica, a small but respected country which has always taken the lead in education and peace,  and looks forward to sharing  its successful experience with the rest of Latin American countries.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | May 4, 2010

Continentalism: Chile takes the lead

While the South American presidents met today to name the new secretary of the UNASUR — started by the former Argentine President Duhalde to halt any efforts the United States would try in the region to link the three Americas in a whole free market–, Chile (even if voting for the equally anti-U.S  Kirchner,  now  a lawmaker questioned himself for corruption)  set a very different position toward future.

In an extensive and comprehensive interview in the Argentine newspaper La Nación, Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera, reminded past Sunday  the promise President George H.Bush made to Latin America at the beginning of the 90’s. George Bush’s pledge was to unify the continent, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, in a common market, as a first step that would lead later to a political union such as the European Union.  Piñera stated that the United States still has a debt in regard of Latin America and this unfulfilled promise. Indeed, it was this American desertion that  allowed anti-American leaders like Duhalde, Chávez, the Kirchners, and others, to work toward a South American union which only political purpose is to keep the United States at bay in the region and  the people in South America, prisoners of old prejudices against the right way countries and economies grow.

Through the firm voice of Piñera, South Americans can hear the liveliness of a project that too many leaders, in South America and the rest of the Americas, including the United States, have tried to bury. Those leaders have been successful as of now, but  in spite of petty victories they may want to show as great battles won, future may bring a complete different turn around in the Americas policy. Piñera, as the successful man he has always been himself in business and life, seems to know that, before anyone else does.

“Estados Unidos está en deuda con la región” http://www.lanacion.com.ar/nota.asp?nota_id=1260377

We cannot but warmly recommend the reading of  the wonderful article written by Tom Buhrow at the International Herald Tribune “We’ve Waited Too Long for Europe,” with an excellent take on the difficulties of building an authentic federation of nations. The Americas can learn from Europe, and Argentines, in particular, as one the first countries which in the 90’s saw the great opportunity opened to Latin America, if and when a continental federation would follow the United States’ dream of the FTAA.

Buhrow’s, as a German, explains why Germany believed and needed so badly a federation, and why this country was probably the strongest motor behind it, even if not successful yet.

Buhrow’s German point of view resorts often to images which are familiar to our readers, of marriage, love, and partnership, making of any continental federation issues, in Europe as well as in the Americas, an emotional matter. As emotional as nationality, that old previous stage of communities, even if now these are reluctant to move on into continentalism.

Tom Buhrow’s article at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/28/opinion/28iht-edbuhrow.html?scp=1&sq=Tom%20Buhrow&st=cse

 Spanish Translation at La Nación: Hemos esperado demasiado tiempo a Europa  http://www.lanacion.com.ar/nota.asp?nota_id=1259317

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | April 25, 2010

Colombia’s Change

In less than a month, elections in Colombia will determine who succeeds President Alvaro Uribe. His candidate, Juan Manuel Santos the former Minister of Defense was the frontrunner until the unexpected candidacy of Antanas Mockus, elected twice major of Bogotá, who took the lead over Santos opponent, former Chancellor Noemí Sanín. The move looks a bit like the equally surprising rise of Marco Enriquez Ominami in Chile, the candidate who was expected to defeat the now President Sebastián Piñera.

Since Uribe has been a great president, with a clear foreign policy that included the control of the FARC and Venezuela’s push,  along with a close partnership with the United States, it was more than evident that political forces opposed to Uribe from inside Colombia and from other countries in Latin America, would work against power in place, to weaken it or to substitute it.

 At the same time, Mockus high scores in recent polls may be showing that Colombia craves for a change, a softer policy that would help to integrate people who already  feel themselves free from any harm. Whether Colombia is actually ready to change into that direction or not, is more a matter of realism than wishful thinking. In this sense, Colombians may finally perceive that a strong hand is still needed and give Santos a victory, postponing change to a later date.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | April 25, 2010

United States-Latin America: Inmigration Issues

Because President Obama attacked the new law against illegal immigration to be enforced in Arizona, the eternally  postponed debate has reached again headlines, in the United States and  Latin America. Also in the rest of the world, always eager to check out any U.S. government behavior that may create more resentment and enemies to take political advantage over the still first country in the world.  Conspiracy theories  based on old prejudices of race and culture feed many discussions about this issue but the core of the problem, which is not any rightful U.S. policy against illegal immigrants but the deplorable state in which most of the Latin America population lives, remains unaddressed.

From time to time, particularly when close to elections, politicians and candidates promise to enforce always newer and more severe laws. We all remember the wall that was to be built along the whole Mexican border to protect the U.S. as a  fortress. However, immigrants find always ways to get through, despair and need awake ingenuousness.

There seems to be no problem with Asian immigrants, Australian, or Europeans. The specific immigration threat is seen as coming from Latin America. The perception, which might be quite accurate, is that, were the door left open, every Latin American would move into the United States. Which clearly shows where the solution lies, in none other than the so needed continental policy, that would help Latin Americans to stay in their countries while the United States exports its quality to Latin America.

Latin American leftists who hate capitalism would be the only people against this movement toward continental improvement and maybe they would find partners to oppose within American extreme conservative circles who don’t quite like to associate with people too different from them. Every Latin American  at the right, center, or left  who cares for efficient  institutions and a state administered without  corruption, would enjoy the U.S. cooperation to improving governments; and all those already in the know that wealth is only created by free markets and investment protected by steady laws, would help to make of each and any country in Latin America a prosperous member of a continental federation. At the same time, smart Americans who always look for business opportunities and new markets, especially in the service sector, would discover in a continental policy a new path to growth.

Immigration issues are easy to solve as long as the United States becomes not only generous but also ambitious about its own delayed role in Latin America, and as long Latin American leaders shed the old Cuban dress and see in the United States a wealthy brother from whom to learn and not the incarnation of a nasty empire, ready to swallow weaker countries.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | April 15, 2010

Argentina: The Invisible Revolution

While the current Argentine government tries to play globally smart, smiling to Obama first and signing a nuclear agreement with Russia a few hours later, Argentine people watch and think. Absolutely disappointed with those now in office and definitely not happy with those voted June 28th 2009 to transform a quasi totalitarian and corrupted regime in a democratic and transparent one, Argentines have plunged in what would look like one of the usual depressive states but constitutes instead a deep reflective mood.

Foreigners wonder why Argentines never seem to love their fellow citizens or even their country and why political family grudges always renewed themselves  to be solved only by occasional violence. There are historical reasons, mainly a long conflict to create a truly democratic society that has not been properly digested by everyone and which is at the basis of some remaining racism and hatred based on class, culture or ideology.

 This  conflict had its peak in the mid-20th century when the Peronist movement succeeded to creating a largely inclusive middle class that shaped Argentina as the most socially avant-garde country in Latin America.  The scars left by that movement toward equal rights are still there and while leaders in government who claim themselves as Peronists try to renew the old class conflicts, Argentines, and among them a vast majority of Peronists,  have made an effort to move ahead. Their massive support for the farmers and what is called in Argentina “el campo,” that is, all the farm and country activity and production, show that things have truly changed in the past half century, and that the farmers and also the aristocratic “estancieros” from the past, are now Argentines like everyone else. More so, urban Argentines perceive they all belong to the same productive class, the class of those who work, Perón would say, no matter if as owners and entrepreneurs or hired on a salary or wages basis.  The old Peronist revolution is over, in spite of the efforts some delayed leaders who have no new ideas make to bring it to life again. If the old is over, something new must be boiling beneath what still looks as an outdated landscape.

In fact, a new invisible revolution is slowly taking place: the empowered democratic society doesn’t accept any more to be ruled by people who abuse power to benefit themselves, become richer, or simply to fantasize over impossible budgets or lie about the real state of the finances. Argentines, who felt what they wanted for quite a while but had not the words to express it, have found in the past months a new vocabulary. They have rediscovered the meaning of the state institutions and the way the Republican Constitution has organized power to create always a balance to precisely avoiding abuse and corruption. They know now where lies the cause of so much collective unhappiness created  by politicians without scruples working within paralyzed institutions. Argentines now understand.  They can make by themselves, without any politician having now to lead or help, the right diagnostic on the state of the Republic and they can lead with their vote.

However, the invisible revolution has a second part: a coming of age on how Economy actually works. These days there is a rediscovery of   Federalism’s financial meaning, that is, how taxes can actually be collected by provincial states and town councils. This, which may surprise Americans and even some, by now, more advanced Latin American fellows, is a major event in a country where the so-called (in the past) Federal leaders never talked about fiscal federalism and submitted without blinking to the powerful Centralized state.

 There is also a rediscovery of what means a Central Bank and what  inflation, that old well-known companion to Argentine economy, can do to impoverish all. The epiphany on capitalism as the medium to create enough wealth to keep society truly and thoroughly democratic will not take too long to show up. In regards of  economy, people have as much questions as they previously had on abuse and corruption, and there is an increasing demand of leaders who can give the proper rational answers and explain what happened in the recent past,  a code still to be cracked by a majority of Argentines historically fed by statism and anti-capitalism.

Local and foreign media look obsessed with every day political struggles, and often forget that the star of the political process to come, the true leader of change, will be no other than the Argentine people, finally with the will of power to change their fate. They woke up and know now that nobody will give to them the right answers if they don’t dare to ask the right questions. While journalists talk about the irrelevant, always behind facts, the invisible revolution is taking place, source of future events that will surprise more than one.

In the meantime, rags from a rusty past are held as a flag while living dead rule, mistaking history for eternity.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | April 8, 2010

Brazil-United States: Done Deal

Flirting with Iran? Being too nosey in the Middle East? Forget about that, it was all about the global minuet danced by secret diplomats at work. While the four horsemen of the Apocalypse – Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina – haven’t got yet which is the dance and which are the right steps, even if bluffing sometimes to get some advantage, Brazil has decided to sign a military cooperation agreement with the United States. This agreement, which includes American military bases in Brazil, will definitely make of the Americas a safer continent. Now Colombia will not feel as lonely in the struggle to stop any Venezuelan unlawful action.

These are great news, even for the countries who are still reluctant to join the continental safety policy. Since Uruguay seems now also committed to sign an equivalent agreement, the safety border could go now as far as to the Río de la Plata. When Argentina goes back to its senses, the whole continent will be safe, except for a few places here and there that will not endure to remaining opposed for too long.

While global policy is slowly turning around, seeking again for cooperation toward  global safety, the Americas have recovered their own sensible goal, in spite of all the meanderings, doubts and bad choices from recent past.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | March 26, 2010

United States: Political Health

No one doubts a health care reform was needed in a country in which millions of people lack of a proper health insurance. Everyone, though, in the United States and the Americas, which often look at the American model for an inspiration,wonders  if the recently approved reform was the right one to solve the problem. At least, it solved a political problem, since a weakened President Obama  needed this success not only for his own sake, but to keep a certain credibility of his administration in a world  too messy to depend on a stumbling leadership.

If politically healthy to the United States’ strength in the world, there is still to be seen how well  reforms will perform for the not insured and the previously insured. Nothing seems to have been seriously discussed within the proper frame: accepting the market rules, but helping everyone to fit in.  Once socialized medicine is completely discarded as an efficient option, we will see more serious, creative, and responsible solutions to one of the most painful public problems. Along with education and the lack of proper housing, health is also the main problem in Latin America, in which the debate about state and market is as passionate as it has been these days in the United States.

Of course, Latin America would expect from the United States an ingenious market solution rather than a corrupt state system that leaves everyone worse in the long run. Hopefully, this incomplete and not efficient reform will open a sincere debate in which it’s accepted that a nation needs healthy people as well as a healthy market and, from there on, find the proper financial shape of health care insurance.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | March 15, 2010

Quo Vadis, Lula?

Now, it’s not about receiving Ahmadinejad with a warm hug but visiting with Israel, at a moment in which Israel seems to defy the United States strategy for the Middle East. Lula has traveled a long way to give his advice where no one asked for it.

It’s hard to know if President Lula, soon to leave office, is looking for order or progress, as the Brazilian motto proposes, or just aspiring to a personal place on the international stage. Whatever his hidden agenda is, if enhancing Brazilian role in the world at the same time than his, or just acting randomly at a time a seemingly weakened United States allows this kind of boldness from second-rate countries, Lula’s attitude is not convenient for the strategy of the Americas seen as whole. What is required, instead, from Latin American and United States authorities, is a firm continental strategy that works for an increased continental safety. Opening the door to Iran or meddling with U.S. and Israel affairs lacks of that usual cleverness many attribute to President Lula.

Maybe the Department of State knows where Lula is headed, but there seems to be a bit of confused threads in that department, as the recent visit of the Secretary of State to Argentina has shown, rewarding those she should have rather punished for their misbehavior.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | March 15, 2010

Colombian Elections

On Sunday 14th, Colombians elected new Senators and Representatives. In spite of a very slow counting that may take a week to get to final results, the coalition of parties behind President Uribe has shown up as the clear winner, thus assuring the best chances to Uribe’s candidate for President, probably his Minister of Defence Santos.

Even if Alvaro Uribe couldn’t get a third term with a Constitution amendment, he seems to hold enough power to enforce the same tough policies against the FARC, against any Venezuelan intrusion, and toward a strong cooperation with the United States.

A key person in the continental project, Uribe hasn’t received all the needed help from the United States Congress. The Free Trade Agreement with Colombia is still waiting its turn.

While Colombians have been consistently doing their homework with both Latin America and the United States, they have not been sufficiently rewarded for their efforts. They should and Uribe in the first place, as the architect of the strongest bond Latin America has with the United States, in the most possible dangerous border.

Posted by: Diana Ferraro | March 11, 2010

Chile’s New Era

Chile’s new political era was announced today by a strong aftershock of the devastating earthquake that created yet to be counted victims and thousands of millions in loss. President Piñera takes office with a huge task ahead him. He has not only to assure for Chile the best capitalistic instruments to allow its maximum growth but also to dedicate resources to  reconstruction.  A challenge he will certainly meet with more success than other candidates would, since he has the ideological means to optimize Chile’s financial answer. While the earthquake represented a tragedy to Chile, Piñera means good luck for the country, since he is going to be the one in charge in such unfavorable circumstances.

The bar is high, since President Bachelet did well and ended her term with an 80% of people’s approval, but Piñera brings with him a new rationale, more conditioned by the intelligence to understand markets and trends than by the power of nature. Civilization has always won that war, so far, and there is a great political tradition on how to face adversity, avert any danger and overcome the downturns of fortune.

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