Monday, July 16, 2007

Bush Vs. Castro on Latin American Social Justice

For years US foreign policy elites have been telling the Bush Administration to get serious about the mounting problems of poverty and exclusion in Latin America. This is almost always framed as a way to counteract the growing anti-American and anti-free market sentiment - in order to reassert US & corporate dominance in the region.

Finally, almost 7 years of tone deafness and mounting electoral losses, we had the failed Bush trip to the region in March, which was preceded by Bush saying the words "social justice" and "the neighborhood" more than he ever had before. There were a couple new modest (but perfectly nice) health and educational programs, many pronnouncements about American values and mucho rehash of the same ole same ole.

Then we had 4 more months of the usual Castro-Chavez obsession, until last Monday's Bush chaired “Conversation on the Americas” event - designed as a follow up (echo chamber) to March's newfound social justice themes. But in the end we had nothing but a well rehearsed PR event full of press releases and empty rhetoric.

Everyone in Latin America knows the initiatives are too little too late, rife with hypocrisy, shallow in actual good deeds and therefore unlikely to produce anything near the desired result - reversing the dreadful polling data on the US in Latin America. The reason, like all US Government initiatives, is because any response must be organized solely within the confines of free market ideology and US foreign policy dictates.

Bush continues to hold dear to the BS that “the best way to help defeat poverty is to encourage commerce and trade.” While these are not necessarily bad things in and of themselves, the Administration does not say how that differs from the policy dictates of the last 27 years. Nor why the secret medicine is the narrow vision of NAFTA-style free trade pacts, which ignore the rights of workers, the environment and anyone or thing that can not be protected from the ravages of survival of the fittest? And nobody asks US officialdom why neoliberalism is so discredited in the world, why the 1980s and 90s were the worst decades on record for the poor people of Latin America, why Mexico has fared so badly, why Venezuela has prospered under Hugo Chavez?

In all the press releases and PR events, we have oft-repeated claims that Bush has “nearly doubled foreign assistance to the Western Hemisphere. But in fact Bush has proposed slashing “core development assistance” every year he has been in office, and that total aid dollars have dropped precipitously since 2001. In this year's budget, the proposed Bush Administration cuts amount to a 26% decrease from 2006 figures. Bush’s new money is mostly in the form of Millennium Challenge accounts, but these dollars only go towards 3 countries right now and are tied to discredited neo-liberal measures of progress.

We also hear repeatedly that the best way to overcome poverty in Latin America is through people to people relations, not government to government. This is little more than ideological trickery, as of course only people can help people, but only Governments can organize ways and means for people to help people. Of course, this is simply a way to say that the US may not be doing much directly, but we have billions in remittances and plenty of do-gooder Churches doing good work south of the border.

We have calls for extending health care and education “to all” at the same time the Bush Administration seems poised to veto a bi-partisan against extending basic health care to more children of the United States under the CHIP program. And for those who wonder whether such calls for universal health care in other countries is a bit absurd, when 50 million Americans lack access, don’t worry. According to Bush the United States already has universal health care access - “After all, you just go to an emergency room.” (July 10, 2007)

We have endless calls for “open and transparent government” from the same Government that has set new records for bogus claims of executive privilege and secrecy. And perhaps that is the central problem. Anything coming from war ciminal Senor Bush - this far into his term sounds as hollow as tin.

The list of relatively modest US Government development/aid programs on the fact sheet is aimed at winning hearts and minds, but are so limited and self-interested that they seem petty in comparision with the programs that even poor old Cuba manages to expand year after year. I will let Fidel Castro compare and contrast:

By Marc Frank, HAVANA
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Fidel Castro on Sunday scoffed at Bush administration efforts to ease social problems in Latin America, boasting his poor country could run circles around the United States in health and education aid.

"Bush will discover that the empire's political and economic system can't compete in the area of vital services such as education and health with Cuba, assaulted and blockaded for almost 50 years," Castro wrote in an editorial published by the official newspaper Rebel Youth.

"Everyone knows the U.S. specialty in the area of education is to steal brains," Castro charged, citing an International Labor Organization report that 47 percent of foreign-born students that complete a Ph.D. in the United States stay on there.

A Cuban literacy program is being used by millions throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, Castro said.

The 80-year-old Cuban leader has taken to writing opinion pieces as he recovers from a series of intestinal surgeries over the last year.
Castro on Sunday ridiculed the current four-month tour of the region by the U.S. hospital ship Comfort.

"You can't carry out medical programs by episodes," he said, comparing the ship's coming weeklong stop in Haiti with the hundreds of Cuban doctors working for nearly a decade there alongside Haitians trained in Cuba.

Bush highlighted a Panama-based center that has upgraded the skills of 100 Central American doctors and plans to establish a nursing school, among other projects, during his opening speech at the Conference of the Americas.

Castro countered on Sunday with the Cuban-run eye clinics in the region that have operated on 700,000 of the region's poor.

"Our country has dozens of thousands of Latin American and Caribbean students studying medicine in an absolutely free program," Castro said.

"We are cooperating with Venezuela to train more than 20,000 youth there as doctors," he added.

Also check the excellent wrap up over at Left I on the News



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