Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Speaking truth to power

Below is an excerpt of an article published in The Economist. It says what the U.S. press does not say.

All in all, this is a pretty good time to be an American. Think about it. The middle class is expanding and growing richer. Once-stark inequalities are shrinking. The quality of governance has improved by leaps and bounds. Politics is becoming less ideological and more centrist and pragmatic. And never before have Americans held such sway in the wider world. Oh, perhaps a clarification is in order. This is a pretty good time to be a Latin American. For the citizens of the United States, who tend somewhat presumptuously to think of themselves as the only Americans, this is not altogether such a good time. In the United States, in point of fact, all those trends are running in the opposite direction. The middle class is beleaguered; inequality is growing; government is gridlocked; politics is increasingly polarized and the superpower is in a funk about its global decline. Isn’t this high time for the United States to pay a little more attention to the big changes taking place in its own back yard? If geography is destiny, and the United States and Latin America need one another so badly, what prevents them from consummating the romance? Analysts at the The Interamerican Dialogue pinpoint three policy differences between the US and its Latin neighbors:  immigration, the war on drugs and the embargo on Cuba. America’s broken immigration system is “breeding resentment across the region”, they say: Latin Americans find the idea of building a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico “particularly offensive”. The north’s war on drug traffickers serves mainly to spread corruption, fan criminal violence and undermine the rule of law. And as for Cuba, the embargo imposed by the United States has probably been counter-productive, prolonging the repressive rule of the Castro brothers instead of helping to end it. These observations are hardly novel. The problem, as everyone knows, is that each of these issues is tangled in the domestic politics of the United States. In the past few years Mexico’s improving economy, slowing population growth and a weak jobs market in the north have cut the flow of immigrants across the Rio Grande. Even so, immigration remained a toxic issue in the Republican Party. To make progress in the war on drugs, the United States needs to curb demand for illegal narcotics at home, but no American politician dare broach the idea of decriminalization. Attempts to intercept the guns that flow south to the narco-gangs antagonize America’s muscular gun-rights lobby. And Cuba policy is held hostage by the Cubans in Florida, a critical swing state. From Washington, the periodic whining from Latin America about the lack of respect and attention the region receives from the yanquis can become wearying. If Latin America is doing so damn well all of a sudden, why does it not just get on with the business of standing on its own feet? As for the tricky issues of immigration, drugs and Cuba, can’t those southerners see how things stand north of the border? Don’t they understand that the thorny domestic politics of the United States make serious action on them impossible? They can see. They do understand. But in recent decades some of the countries of Latin America have managed against much greater odds to summon up the courage to overcome their own impossible domestic politics. It may be time for the United States to follow their example for a change.

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