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Maybe they need bullshit detectors

6 March 2007

Do I have this right?  In the U.S., the politicians are bickering over how much port security is required… or even if it’s a requirement

While in the meantime…

U.S. offers aid to beef up security

The U.S. government will help Mexico acquire anti-terrorism equipment to ensure safety at key Mexican ports such as Veracruz, Tampico and Mazatlán, sources here told EL UNIVERSALThe value of the equipment will be around US$50 million, and U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to formally announce the measure during his visit to Mexico next week.Port security – especially regarding shipments of goods from abroad – is a central concern of the U.S. government.And speaking of Bush’s Magical Mystery Tour Michael Werbowski, who can get away with cutting through the bullshit, by writing for a Korean news service, says…

George W. Bush’s Latin American journey is notable for its timing, coming very late in his second term as president after years of neglecting what the U.S. considers its “backyard.” Perhaps it is too late.…Glaringly absent from the travel agenda are Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua. In other words, the places that are right now radically redefining the South and Central America’s — if not all of Latin America’s — relationship to Washington and in turn its image in the wider world. This absence evidently underlines the United States’ diminished and waning influence in what it deems its own playground since the days of the Monroe Doctrine.The U.S. president might be expecting the red carpet to be rolled out for him. But he may be lucky just to get a welcome mat at the door. Warm embraces historically reserved for European potentates, Vatican officials or, more recently, leaders of Mercosur, the regional trading “powerhouse,” will probably be replaced by courteous handshakes at official photo ops at best. Bush might give us a smile and pat his Uruguayan or Brazilian counterpart on the back just for good measure. Yet signs of open hostility to the American leader’s global policies from his retrograde stance on global warming to his fossilized view of Cuba and the Iraq War are likely to overshadow this visit in the form of street protests wherever he goes.

Bush is to arrive first at the gateway to Latin America: Mexico. His presence is a blessing to Felipe Calderon, who may have won the elections (by an even slimmer margin than Bush did in 2000) but has yet to win the confidence of foreign investors in his country and abroad. He must prove that “the steady as she goes” neoliberalism adopted by his predecessor, Vicente Fox, is still “the only game in town.” He has also to convince his American counterpart that Mexico’s boutique is still open for business to U.S. corporations and investment banks despite cheaper labor being available in Asia.

Calderon, though, no matter how much affinity he may have for his American guest and however negatively he may perceive Castro, Chavez or Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, knows he can’t completely sacrifice Mexico’s ties with the rest of Latin America as tribute to the “gringo God” of the North. Calderon may adopt a more pragmatic, less confrontational policy toward Cuba and foster better ties with Havana strictly for business reasons. The same could be true for Calderon’s ideological nemesis Chavez. Mexico does not wish to harm the courtship process with Mercosur, of which Venezuela is a key participant, by antagonizing America’s archenemy. In view of these realities, the ambitious agenda of President Bush’s trip is unlikely to reorient Latin America and steer the region into America’s backyard.

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