Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Latin America: Former White House spokesman slams Chile over US role in mine rescue

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Latin American challenge is to engineer passage of the Colombian Free Trade Agreement, invigorate largely shut-down people programs like the Peace Corps throughout the region, and stop the flow of drugs to the U.S., say former White House drug spokesman Robert Weiner and policy analyst Caitlin Harrison. In an oped in today's Miami Herald, they assert that Chile's initial failure to recognize the U.S. role in the miners' escape, despite American companies and NASA's making the drill, the escape capsule, and providing close-quarters survival strategies, shows the need for action to reverse America's image that has lagged since its high point under President John Kennedy.

They say: "A hot issue in the new Congress, and one area that could be bipartisan, will be free-trade deals in Latin America, specifically with Colombia and Panama. Since we want to stop the flow of drugs to the U.S. from the South, and alternative crops would reduce drug cultivation, it's common sense to do everything possible to promote legitimate product trade deals with Latin America.

"The Colombia trade agreement was negotiated three years ago. But there is now hope -- the new Congress may be more supportive of free trade."

"On the morning following the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera thanked the Presidents of Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, the Israeli Prime Minister and the U.K. Prime Minister for their help. Missing: the USA even though America created the escape capsule and the drill, and U.S. psychiatrists and scientists led the closed-space survival strategies.

"Only a full day after the worldwide publicized speech by the Chilean President thanking every country but ours was there an Obama-Pinera telephone exchange. Damage control was done after the fact.

"Is the real reason for no credit that Central and Latin Americans are so jealous, and at the same time so afraid, of the Yankee and Big Brother image we've been in the past, that political survival means to ignore us?

"Our Latin American volunteer programs have crashed to near zero. Hillary Clinton must begin a discussion with the Peace Corps about reopening countries including Chile (where the program has been closed since 1998) and should dramatically increase volunteers in critical countries like Colombia -- a country that would benefit from a large volunteer base to develop crops other than drugs, but only has nine volunteers total. Likewise, Venezuela's program closed in 1977, Brazil's in 1981, Argentina's in 1994, Uruguay's in 1997. Bolivia, another major drug supplier, is currently suspended with zero volunteers.

"The Alliance for Progress, which helped reduce illiteracy and doubled and tripled college attendance in many countries, was dissolved in 1973 (under Nixon and Ford) likely because it was a 'Kennedy' creation.

"People-to-people programs work. It may be no coincidence that without our 'people' programs, thirteen of the 22 constitutional governments in South America have since become military dictatorships.

"It's time to rejuvenate the relationships between the United States and Latin America. It's time for the trade deals that will turn economics into popular support for America. The Chilean miners are a lesson."

Link to article: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/01/03/1997848/pass-pacts-with-panama-colombia.html

Source: Robert Weiner Associates