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South America’s Dangerous Left Turn: Part I

The United States has a problem with our neighbors to the South that has gone largely ignored by the mainstream media. Even though Venezeluan nutcase Hugo Chavez continues to grab headlines with his inflammatory anti-American rhetoric, what’s really going on in South and Central America is widely under-reported.

There’s a shrinking cadre of American allies in the region, which is making a dramatic shift to the Left. There’s Chavez in Venezuela; newly elected populist Evo Moralas in Bolivia, who centered his campaign around legalizing coca crops and is a self-proclaimed “nightmare” of the U.S.; and Nestor Kirchner in Argentina who has also joined the Anti-American bandwagon. Over the weekend, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice attended the inauguration of Chilean President-elect Michelle Bachelet, a former political prisoner and torture victim under the U.S. backed Pinochet government in 1973. We can all guess what her political leanings are and based on her victory, it seems as though the Chilean population hasn’t forgotten history either.

This series of election wins for leftist populists doesn’t bode well for the United States. Sine 1999, Chavez has been trying to build socialist alliances under the auspices of a Castro protege. Chavez has funneled money into leftist elections and tried to entice his neighbors by using his one and only trump card..Oil. He’s threatened to end all oil sales to the United States (12% of our imports) and offered “cheap” oil prices to other countries.

According to a January 2, 2006 op/ed in the Washington Post, the U.S. also isn’t exactly in good graces with a few other traditional allies. Mexico and El Salvador are closely monitoring a ground swell of what they view as “anti-immigration” proposals in Congress and U.S.-Chile relations may become strained if the U.S. decides not to send Pentagon pilots down to Chile to train their Air Force on on how to fly their newly acquired American made F-16s. Why? Because of all of the aforementioned countries’ decision to ratify the treaty creating the International Criminal Court and their failure to sign bilateral treaties with Washington exempting U.S. citizens from it. A U.S. law mandating an aid cutoff of any country who doesn’t agree to exempt U.S. citizens, puts us at odds with some of our southern neighbors.

What is the U.S. doing to combat this Leftist shift? Well, the passage of CAFTA is a start. CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) gives us much needed economic leverage in the region. We all know that money talks, and in a region where a majority of its citizens are impoverished, open markets can contribute to an attitude adjustment in favor of the U.S. A newly released fact sheet on this very issue by The Heritage Foundation offers a common sense approach to combat growing Anti-American sentiment in the region.

Hugo Chavez is hell-bent on diminishing the United States influence in Latin America and replacing it with a totalitarian bloc similar to the vision of Castro and Che Guevara in the 1960’s. Where they failed, Chavez is trying his hardest to succeed.

Chavez has already demonstrated his tactics extend outside of his Latin American influence peddling by cozying up to other sworn enemies of the United States like N. Korea and Iran. Make no mistake, Chavez’s alliance with these countries is not to exchange agriculture techniques; his intentions are much more nefarious and he makes no attempt to hide this fact.

I will elaborate more on this aspect tomorrow in Part II.

Written By

Mr. Setmayer is conservative media commentator and political consultant in Washington, D.C. She previously served as a research fellow and communications specialist for the Coalition on Urban Renewal & Education (CURE). She appears regularly on CNN, PBS and NPR's News & Notes with Ed Gordon.

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