Recently in Latin American Affairs Category

Do You Remember Eugene Hasenfus?

I highly recommend a December 27, 2009, post at Daily Kos headlined “Blast from the Past. Gene Hasenfus: December 1986.” It is about an event I’d forgotten about but readily recalled once I read the article, which notes that:

Twenty-three years ago, a complete unknown sprang into the international lime-light. His name was  Eugene Hasenfus. Shot down Oct. 5, 1986, while kicking crated cargo to anti-government terrorists from a CIA plane over the back-country of Nicaragua, his capture by Sandinista militiamen led to the exposure of what would become known as the Iran-contra affair. Three other crewmen died in the crash, but Hasenfus, against orders, had borrowed his skydiver brother’s parachute and, luckily for him – his name in German means "rabbit’s foot" – it opened. He landed in a jungle where he would manage to evade a Sandinista militia patrol for less than 24 hours. Upon his arrival at the Managua airport, a Sandinista soldier smiled and asked the sunburned, grime-caked Hasenfus, "What now, Rambo?" With this auspicious event began what should have been the complete unraveling of the Reagan administration.

Meteor Blade, writer of the article, adds: “When it came to Central America, that administration, with its ex-CIA Vice President and neo-conservative hatchlings making their early moves to dominate U.S. foreign policy, no deceit was spared the American people. Whether it was Guatemala, El Salvador or Nicaragua, we had your bold-faced lies, crafty lies, lies of the I-don’t-recall variety, revised memorandum lies, exaggerations, omissions, official misstatements, prevarications, phony redefinitions and historical revisions. Not to mention perjury.”

By the way, Hasenfus sued Richard Secord, Albert Hakim, Southern Air Transport (SAT) and Corporate Air Services (CAS)his employers and handlers in the Nicaraguan affair.” He lost but appealed the verdict.

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Wanted: A Consistent U.S. Position on Mexico

Denise Dresser, a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times' Opinion section and a columnist for the Mexico City-based newspaper Reforma, offers an insightful analysis of the often prickly relationship between Mexico and the United States as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton prepares to hold talks with Mexican officials March 26-28, 2009.

Ms. Dresser, a professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, writing in a March 23, 2009, opinion piece in the The Times headlined "The U.S. needs to unmix the message in Mexico," said as Secretary Clinton "prepares for her trip this week to Mexico, she needs to pack not only goodwill but a consistent U.S. position."

So, what should Ms. Clinton do? According to Ms. Dresser:

Clinton needs to set the record straight and tell both the Mexican government and the Mexican people what the U.S. wants, what it is prepared to do and what it expects in return.

She said, "The current void is being filled in a way that doesn't bode well for joint solutions to shared problems. July's midterm elections in Mexico are pushing Calderon to adopt knee-jerk nationalistic stances, because nothing unites Mexicans more than a good dose of anti-Americanism," Ms. Dresser added. "And in the U.S., the message vis-a-vis Mexico is often dominated by Republican hard-liners who would like to turn the border into the next political battleground."

I recommend Ms. Dresser's analysis to anyone interested in U.S.-Mexico diplomatic relations.

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Castro Calls on FARC to Release Remaining Colombian Hostages

According to Al-jazeera, former Cuban President "Fidel Castro has called on Columbia's FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia)  rebels to release its remaining hostages." The reportedly number around 700.

The call came in the wake of the rescue of former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt on July 2, 2008, and 14 other hostages, including three Americans, after Columbian intelligence allegedly tricked FARC into bringing them aboard a government airplane.

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China, Taiwan and Latin America

Writes Daniel P. Erikson and Janice Chen ["a joint degree candidate at the Georgetown University Law Center and the Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University" ] in an August 12, 2007, article in  Latin Business Chronicle (LBC):

China’s economic engagement with Latin America responds to the requirements of a booming Chinese economy that has been growing at nearly 10 percent per year for the past quarter century. The economic figures are impressive: in the past six years, Chinese imports from Latin America have grown more than six-fold, at a pace of some 60 percent a year, to an estimated $60 billion in 2006. China has become a major consumer of food, mineral, and other primary products from Latin America, benefiting principally the commodity-producing countries of South America—particularly Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Chile.

If you're interested in reading more, see "China, Taiwan and the Battle for Latin America." The article, according to LBC, is "an excerpt of a longer article that appeared in The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs."

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Guardian Unlimited: 'Give Ortega A Chance'

"In what critics call another sign of waning American influence in Central and Latin America, an "all-out" effort by the United States to convince Nicaraguans not to elect former Sandinista president Daniel Ortega to a second term has apparently failed," asserts The Christian Science Monitor's Tom Regan in a November 7, 2006, news analysis headlined "US fails in effort to derail Ortega presidential bid."

"Give Ortega a chance," the Guardian of London says in its November 8, 2006 leader. I concur. Although the Voice of America says "US Sounds Conciliatory Toward Nicaragua's Ortega, don't be surprised if the Bush Administration tries to undermine his government although he won through the democratic process.

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USA Today's Editorial On Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

"If the turmoil following Mexico's July 2 [2006] presidential election has shown anything, it is that Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftist candidate who narrowly lost, cares little about his nation's fragile democracy," declared USA Today in a September 6, 2006 editorial.

"What other explanation is there for his claims of widespread voter fraud, refuted by Tuesday's [September 5, 2006] unanimous ruling from Mexico's respected election court?" the publication asked. "How else should one interpret his current status as commander of a ragtag army of protesters intent on blocking streets and disrupting commerce, government and daily life?

USA Today said "López Obrador's protests have cost him dearly. A poll in late August by the Reforma newspaper showed that his opponent, Felipe Calderón, who won the July election 35.9%-35.3%, would have a 54%-30% advantage in a hypothetical rematch held now. Meanwhile, the Democratic Convergence Party, which had backed López Obrador in the election, has announced it will recognize Calderón's victory, as has the once-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party, which came in third."

To read the entire editorial, please see "Mexico's sore loser.

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