News and opinions on the situation in Venezuela
Bush blunders … US media covers up on Free Trade, Argentina, Brazil Pastor Valle-Garay
Published: Sunday, November 06, 2005
In a special article for VHeadline.com, York University’s Pastor Valle-Garay writes: George W. Bush found no respite abroad from his mounting troubles at home. In fact the Summit of the Americas in Mar de Plata, Argentina, became another showcase of his presidential blunders.
While the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), Bush’s pet project in the Hemisphere, failed to materialize, his trip was framed by huge protests held simultaneously in the Argentine, Brazil and Panama.
Coupled with the violent demonstrations, the FTAA rejection reflects a long-held belief that Bush may be the most reviled US president in the often difficult history of US-Latin American relations.
US political observers and media analysts took a different tack.
Cuban-American Otto Reich, Bush’s former special assistant for Latin America whose blatant interference in the Hemisphere’s political and economic affairs have made him widely despised in Latin America, blamed the demonstrations on President Hugo Chavez. While CNN showed its television audience the massive gathering of 50.000 protesters in the city’s soccer stadium and in the streets of Mar de Plata,
Reich dismissed the protestors indicating that “ten to twenty individuals” were not representative of the political views of the Latin American people.
Unless CNN deliberately intended to offer a biased, sanitized view of Bush’s visit to Latin America to an unsuspecting public, Reich’s expertise and commentaries of the events should embarrass the news agency.
After listening to his remarks and watching the CNN live images from the Summit, it becomes obvious that besides Reich’s legendary history of failures in the White House, he also failed elementary math and is equally incapable of counting with the fingers of one hand. Besides, Reich’s credentials as a self-styled expert on Latin American politics are highly questionable. He failed miserably in various attempts to topple the legitimate government of Cuban President Fidel Castro. Two years ago his failure to evaluate the presidential elections in Brazil and his failure to engineer the overthrow of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez forced President Bush to eliminate his candidacy to the post of assistant secretary of state for Latin America.
Meanwhile John King, CNN’s White House correspondent, also downplayed for the US television viewers the significance of the demonstrations. Reporting from Washington King insisted on characterizing the demonstrators as a bunch of “anarchists” until Lucia Newman, CNN’s Latin American specialist attending the Summit, contradicted King’s statements indicating that the demonstrators belonged to the rank and file of Argentine’s powerful unions whose organizational political skills enabled them to bring down Argentine’s president during the collapse of that country’s economy in 2001, blamed largely on the US devaluation of the Argentinean peso.
No one in the US media … reporters or analysts … bothered to look for the real causes behind the protests and the failure of the FTAA in the Summit of the Americas.
Perhaps the US media should have taken a closer look at home.
Last week’s visit to Canada by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice illustrated the troublesome side of trade agreements with the United States. While in Ottawa, Ms. Rice publicly refused to abide by the decisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which ruled that the US must lift protectionist barriers blocking the sale of Canadian softwood lumber in the US. According to Rice the softwood lumber issue can only be settled in US courts.
If this is the one-sided way NAFTA works between these two close neighbors, and the largest trade partners in the world, it is no wonder such Latin American economic powerhouses like the Argentine, Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela and Uruguay oppose the FTAA.
The partnership gets worse with Mexico, the third clog in the NAFTA triangle.
Mexico’s participation in NAFTA has brought that nation more hardships than benefits. These results serve to underscore Latin America’s reticence about signing on the dotted line. The promise of a buoyant Mexican economy never materialized. Instead Mexico’s maquiladoras, the infamous assembly line factories manufacturing goods for US and Canadian consumers, became centers of cheap, exploitative labor whose disregard for the health and safety of their personnel and the lack of environmental protection placed Mexican workers at great risk.
Thus it can be assumed that most Latin American leaders do not wish their nations to be clones of Mexico’s maquiladoras and become hopelessly manipulated by US multinationals as it has already happened with weaker, submissive economies in the Dominican Republic and in Central America.
US media gurus and political analysts, however, have been so infatuated with President Bush that they blindsided US public opinion rhapsodizing over Bush’s economic, military and security accomplishments through rose-color glasses. It worked for a while. Not anymore. As last week’s US polls show, Bush popularity and credibility among US citizens has hit the skids and now it looks like the chickens are coming home to roost.
Paul Krugman’s Opinion column ‘Ending of Fraudulence’ (November 31, 2005), brings the media to task for being less than forthcoming with its readers.
Krugman’s take on the media is absolutely correct.
With few, honourable exceptions, the press must be held largely responsible for misinforming the public and, in the process, creating a monster. It inflated Bush’s head from the get go. Not a difficult task considered the superficiality of the President’s noggin. But as a result of fawning over him on his decision to invade Iraq and blowing way out of proportion his role in the aftermath of 9/11, Bush as well as the American people started to believe that the man could do no wrong.
Shades of Harriet Miers’ most unfortunate quote “He’s the most brilliant man I’ve ever met.”
As illustrated by Reich and King regarding the protests in the Argentine and Brazil, the media shoulders a large share of responsibility for creating a larger-than-life, fictional character from the Texan simpleton. Much too soon in Bush’s Presidency the media discarded its role as an objective observer, became Bush’s rooting section and on the flimsiest of foundation created a personality cult. Bush could not live up to it. Once his image, and those of the sycophants surrounding him, crumbled in a heap of lies and deceptions, Bush and company stood naked for what they are: an opportunistic bunch of bureaucrats who wrap themselves around the US flag and Christian fundamentalism, abuse other nations and damage the image of the United States at home and abroad.
The US media now appears bewildered by the turn of events. It should not.
Paraphrasing Bill Clinton’s electoral slogan on the economy … it’s the press, stupid!
America remains a great nation of great human beings.
Lousy leadership, though.
It was the message from the Summit of the Americas and from the massive demonstrations which the US media attempted to dismiss during Bush’s visit to the Argentine, Brazil and Panama last week.
It is unfortunate that the US media attempted to block the sun with one finger.
In doing so, it further damages Washington’s reputation at home and abroad.
Hopefully the US will survive … in spite of Bush … the nation’s strength lies on its ability to overcome hurricanes, earthquakes and charlatans with equal grace … and on the consoling thought that once Bush’s term in office is over three long years from now the United States Constitution bars this president from re-election.
Pastor Valle-Garay is a Senior Scholar at York University in Toronto, Canada.
You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org