EU, U.S. and Latin America: A trio playing different tunes

15/05/06

MOSCOW, (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Romanov)

Anyone thinking that the break-up of the Soviet Union will bury Marxism has
clearly been wrong. The left forces, though differing in color and spiced by
nationalism, are rapidly rising in Latin America. Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia
and Argentina, let alone Cuba, are taking on different hues of red.

Peru may join the group after the second round of elections, which are led
by Ollanta Humala, a Hugo Chavez-like nationalist. But life is unlikely to
improve substantially in the country even if victory goes to his rival Alan
Garcia, though formally he is a Social Democrat.

I worked in Peru during Garcia's previous presidency and suffered quite a
few shocks alongside ordinary Peruvians, such as galloping inflation, the
sway of terrorism, and the demagogic pledges of the authorities incapable of
solving a single problem.

A new brand of socialism has appeared in Latin American fuelled by
transnational corporations, unfair distribution of the local national
wealth, and Washington's short-sighted diktat. There is a substantial degree
of bitter truth in the current criticism of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
and Bolivian leader Evo Morales. Latin Americans are sick and tired of
injustice, poverty and underdevelopment bred by the inefficient local
political elite and the highly effective plunder of local resources by
foreigners.

There may be different solutions to this problem. The best solution could be
found if the regional leaders developed a common policy, but this is not
possible, though the continent also has other, less offensive political
colors. In fact, it has been split, with Argentina quarrelling with Uruguay,
and Bolivia unable to come to terms with Brazil after the nationalization of
the gas sector.

The South American Andes Commonwealth has been put in a difficult situation
after Venezuela left it for Mercosur (Southern Common Market), whereas
Mercosur has been offended by Uruguay's and Paraguay's stated intention to
pull out in order to have more beneficial contracts with the Untied States.

Outgoing president of Peru Alejandro Toledo and Peruvian presidential
candidate Alan Garcia are at daggers drawn with Venezuelan leader Hugo
Chavez over his statement that the two are totally alike, which led to the
recalling of the two countries' ambassadors. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio
Lula da Silva is worried over ceding regional leadership to Hugo Chavez.

Instead of joining forces to solve acute problems, Latin America is divided
politically, ideologically and economically, and this situation is
compounded by quarrels among its political elites.

According to the Venezuelan president, Latin America has entered a new age
marked by the development of a powerful left-wing block of Cuba, Brazil,
Bolivia and Argentina, as he said the other day in London. But this is a
disputable statement in view of the above developments. Left-wing
nationalism is only one element of a complicated process in the region and
nobody, not even Hugo Chavez, knows which trend will come up the leader.

Having burned their fingers in relations with the U.S., many political
leaders in Latin America now pin their hopes on the European Union, which
has been paying more attention to Latin America since Spain and Portugal
joined the organization. Unfortunately, Latin American countries cannot come
to terms with the EU either, which is divided over many issues, including
over state subsidies to agriculture, which are of vital significance to
Latin America.

Therefore, the nearly zero result of the recent Latin America-EU summit in
Vienna was predictable.

Miriam Gomes Saraiva, a professor of international relations at the
University of Rio de Janeiro and a doctor at the Complutense University of
Madrid, says that political dialogue, though complicated, will continue.
There is no other alternative for Latin America, which has become
disillusioned with relations with the U.S. and is looking up to the EU now.
There is certain logic in their relations because both sides are pursuing an
objective of diversifying their economic ties and partners.

But a formal similarity of interests has not ensured any visible
breakthroughs, though the dialogue began in the 1980s, when U.S. policy was
the overwhelming influence in Latin America. The center of gravity is
gradually shifting towards the EU, but too slowly to satisfy either side. To
come to terms and benefit from their cooperation, Latin America and the EU
have to solve their problems and minimize their internal contradictions.

So far, Latin America, the EU and the U.S. have been playing different
tunes, which sound nothing like a cheerful samba. -0-