Monday, April 04, 2005

OAS vote could be a referendum on Bush policies

Delegates from the Organization of American States will meet later this week to elect a new leader for the organization. The Bush Administration backs former Salvadoran president Francisco Flores for the position. And with the outcome of the vote depending on the votes of Caribbean nations, the US is promising economic aid to the island countries. As Washington Post columnist Marcela Sanchez points out, votes against Flores may reflect antipathy towards the Bush administration's foreign policy in the Americas:

And to promote its candidate, the Bush administration has backed a bill in Congress that promises $10 million in grants for the Caribbean, the region whose 14 votes at the OAS could deliver the job to Flores. He is running against Jose Miguel Insulza, the interior minister of Chile, and Luis Ernesto Derbez, the foreign minister of Mexico.

Not that there is anything inherently wrong with helping your friends. But in the current circumstances, Bush's endorsement of Flores has become more negative than beneficial.

During the run-up to the Iraq War, the Bush administration changed its attitude toward the region from one of partnership in a shared future to a with-us-or-against-us message. When some countries such as Mexico and Chile balked at supporting the war, they were diplomatically given the cold shoulder and their priorities belittled. Nowhere has the adversarial attitude been more pronounced than in dealings with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his ally, Cuban President Fidel Castro....

But if [Flores] loses -- and many Latin American diplomats here this week are betting he won't make it past the first round of voting -- Washington should take time for retrospection and realize that the circumstances that led to Flores' defeat were created largely by Washington itself.

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