International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

December 10, 2002

December 10, 2002





** Observers find Latin American democracies working but being put to the test amid turmoil in Venezuela, ongoing conflict in Colombia and the populist-leftist "trend" in Brazil and Ecuador.

** Writers concluded that the leftist "phenomenon" is growing out of frustration with "neoliberal" economic reforms and "corruption" of traditional political parties.

** Most held up Brazil's Lula as an "inspiration" for the region, treated Ecuador's Lucio Gutierrez with caution and expressed growing disdain for Venezuela's Hugo Chavez




Lula represents 'responsible left,' should champion region's cause in Washington: Observers looked to Brazil's President-elect Lula as a source of inspiration for Latin American leadership and a "reason to believe in politics for those who seek change."  Brazilian writers claimed he has the potential to become a "political figure of historic significance," provided he heed independent Jornal da Tarde's call to accept "the path of democratic capitalism" without appearing "submissive" to the U.S.  While many praised Lula's promise to make Mercosur a priority, a pledge which won over the Argentine press, others cautioned that this shouldn't be done at the expense of trade negotiations with the U.S.  Expectations were high for his trip to Washington.  Writers speculated that Lula will be on a "public relations" gambit to reassure the Bush administration.  "At the end of the day," as Rio's right of center O Globo reflected, the success of Lula's government will "depend on what is gained at the economic and commercial negotiating table with the U.S."


With Lucio Gutierrez, Ecuador's papers and others 'hope for the best':  Most agreed that Ecuadorians had no choice but to vote for the former coup leader, "resting on the rubble of traditional political parties," conceding he was the "lesser evil."  While they doubted his ability to inspire political and fiscal stability, they were optimistic that he would not fashion himself in the Chavez model.  Quito's leading centrist El Comercio worried about Gutierrez's "dilemma:"  Either he can try "to achieve political consensus in order to have a stable government," or steer "away from negotiation and toward political reform."


Hugo Chavez vilified by Venezuela press, neighbors keeping their distance:  Observers were mystified by Chavez's insistence on "clinging" to what was left of his "deflated" power and "galloping loss of prestige."  Independent Venezuelan dailies condemned his "obsession with imposing a totalitarian project" and claimed he was "destroying institutions" and "escalating" the country's polarization with the "militarization" of Caracas.  The consensus was that Chavez either step down or call for elections.  While nearly all Latin writers suggested Chavez was courting another coup attempt, a conservative Spanish daily cautioned that as "grave" as the situation had become, even the "fracturing of society" could not justify "illegal solutions." 

EDITOR:  Irene Marr


This analysis is based on 61 reports from 14 countries over Nov. 22- Dec. 9.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




ARGENTINA:  "Criticism of Bush's policy on Latin America"


Ana Baron, Washington-based correspondent for leading Clarin, wrote (12/6):  "On the eve of the meeting between Lula and President Bush in Washington, the White House policy on Latin America was harshly questioned.  Arturo Valenzuela, in charge of Latin American affairs at the NSC during the Clinton administration, said Bush does not have a strategy for the region and that the control of crises, in countries like Venezuela and Argentina, has failed.  According to Valenzuela, Bush hasn't even managed to satisfy the expectations he generated when he initially prioritized the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.... Valenzuela maintained that the Bush administration was wrong in failing to criticize the temporary coup d'etat against Chavez in Venezuela...and he added that the U.S. should have helped Argentina get out of its convertibility system....  Michael Zarin, a State Department officer, responded to Valenzuela's criticism by praising the change of U.S. policy on Colombia, by of eliminating the artificial distinction made by the Clinton administration between drug traffickers and guerrillas....  Valenzuela also said that the policy of withholding U.S. visas from politicians accused of corruption, like Arnoldo Aleman in Nicaragua, was not good diplomacy because it turned the U.S. into a corruption court."


"Lula In Argentina"


Daily-of-record La Nacion held (12/4):  "Lula came to our country in fulfillment of an election promise that Argentina would be his first foreign destination if he were elected president.  This is why...his visit was much more than a protocol visit.  His proposal to relaunch Mercosur was particularly valuable....  It is pertinent to remember that before the end of the convertibility system (in Argentina) quite a few observers doubted the efficacy of Mercosur vis-à-vis other forms of (trade) integration, which were more tightly linked to the United States.  This controversy has taken new directions following the Argentine crisis and today Mercosur is reinforced as an important objective for the peoples and governments of the Southern Cone, regardless of the fact that one should, at the same time, bet on the progressive building of the Americas' huge common market (FTAA)....  It is highly commendable that the Brazilian a statesman who supports the best democratic principles.  At a crucial moment for Latin America's political future, Lula's administration could have some healthy strategic value for strengthening democracy in the region, beyond his ideological principles."


"Mercosur Lula-bies"


The liberal, English-language Buenos Aires Herald editorialized (12/4):  "Lula was right to take his aim of 'rebuilding' Mercosur beyond a vague wish list to basing it on a concrete model (the EU), proposing common institutions such as a parliament and court, a common currency and citizenship and presenting a united front to the outside world, be it the IMF or the FTAA.  Yet, Lula's vision collides with an adverse reality.  'Green money' quasi-barter arrangements clash with the fact that trade between the two regional giants...has never been lower since Mercosur became an incomplete customs union at the end of 1994.... Lula's proposal of a common currency was more favored by circumstances since the exchange rates of both countries against the dollar have practically converged with remarkable stability in recent weeks.... Unfortunately, monetary convergence necessarily comes at the end of an integration process where Mercosur has not been doing its homework, especially in recent years.  Lula's visit was largely free of ideology and nor should any ideological misgivings deny him the benefit of the doubt before he takes office. Lula's election victory has given fresh reason to believe in politics for those who seek change...and if he can establish a responsible left as a viable option for Latin America, this should surely be more welcome than populism or military rule to everybody who is not a downright fascist."


"Lula Commits His Support For Argentina In Its crisis"


Ana Gerschenson, political columnist of leading Clarin commented (12/3):  "Lula was in Buenos Aires for less than 24 hours.  However, this time was enough for him to promise Duhalde that when he goes to Washington next week he will ask the IMF and President Bush, to immediately help Argentina.  In a matter of hours, Lula proposed to rebuild Mercosur, create a Mercosur Congress by popular vote, establish a new economic model in the region and negotiate, from now on, 'always together' with the United States and EU....  Lula explained over and over again that Mercosur should now follow the road of Europe."


"A New Opportunity For Integration"


Osvaldo Calello, columnist of business-financial El Cronista, highlighted (12/3):  "Lula's decision to make strengthening Mercosur one of the central goals of his foreign policy has a special meaning in the prospect of relaunching the regional bloc on a new basis.  While Mercosur's recent years have been marked by ups and downs...Argentina's abandonment of convertibility, with the subsequent reduction in the gap between the Argentine peso and the real, the final automobile regime deal, the agreement to put an end to trade sanctions and the change of political scenario in the two countries, have all created the possibility of placing the integration project in its exact strategic prospect....  To emphasize all this, Lula said yesterday that the next deal should be held between Mercosur and the Andean Community,  [as the] first step toward a South American integration policy.  He also spoke about common Mercosur policies regarding the FTAA, the U.S. and the EU, and placed the project of a common currency on the horizon 'in order to reinforce defenses against international financial turbulence.'"


"A Piece Of Peace"


Michael Soltys, executive editor of liberal, English-language Buenos Aires Herald, asserted (12/3):  "This column will lead with peace breaking out in Colombia.  Or at least the AUC paramilitary are proposing an indefinite ceasefire that goes beyond the Christmas truces they have offered ever since 1997.  Fuller details on their conditions will have to await the commencement of talks, but basically the AUC is seeking a legal whitewash that gives it political status and financing--it remains to be seen what implications such legality would have for the release of jailed AUC combatants, the pardon of those still in the field and the extradition of their leaders Carlos Castaño and Salvatore Mancuso to the U.S., as requested by Washington.  The State Department is indeed seen by some analysts as the prime mover behind this development, with the [paramilitaries' ceasefire] being U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's condition for the continuation of aid.  Other see the background as Colombia's new government under anti-guerrilla hard-liner President Alvaro Uribe, viewed as sympathetic to the paramilitaries (to the point of complicity in the opinion of some)--also army-paramilitary links have long been alleged."


"Axis Of Evil, Good Or Indifferent?"


Michael Soltys, executive editor of liberal, English-language Buenos Aires Herald wrote (11/26):  "Even the most ardent supporters of the market economy and the Washington Consensus should wish Ecuador's president-elect Lucio Gutierrez all the best in making dollarization work for a leftist agenda--in terms of creating constructive new options for the region, as important as Brazilian president-elect Lula emulating the responsible left now ruling much of Northern Europe.  Otherwise, applying 'axis of evil' logic seems even more misguided for the region than for the world as a whole.  Fortunately, the United States shows little enough sign of falling into this error, even ahead of the hardliner Cuban-born US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Otto Reich's exit....  Washington is steering well clear of demonizing either Lula or Gutierrez along the lines of Cuba's Fidel Castro or Venezuela's Hugo Chavez."


"Message for Argentina"


Left-of-center Pagina 12 carried an opinion piece by Claudio Lozano, economist from Central de Trabajadores Argentinos (Argentine Workers' Union), who judged (11/26):  "The trend in Ecuador completes the Latin American panorama featured by an increasing questioning of the new liberalism of the '90s....  In practice, the whole process (in Latin America) reflects the absolute failure of U.S. policy in the region and seriously hinders the FTAA project promoted by George W. Bush.  Particularly in Ecuador, it represents the possibility of starting to reverse the dollarization experienced by its economy....  Both Gutierrez and Lula will be valued for their ability to respond to their countries' crisis....  Argentina will have to decide whether it will accompany the changing trends of the region...or will continue being an extension of U.S. policy in the hemisphere and the region."


"New Ecuadorean President"


Conservative La Prensa editorialized (11/26):  "Retired Colonel Lucio Gutierrez will be the future Ecuadorian president....  He will take over in the same position of Venezuelan Hugo Chavez after having attempted to perform a military coup against democratic governments....  Gutierrez is a military man who  will have to tackle economic issues, like unblocking stalled negotiations with the IMF in order to sign a letter of intention, strengthen the dollarization process imposed two years ago, which is considered weak by economic analysts, and face an increasing demand from workers for economic and social improvements. His closest aides attempt to distance Gutierrez from his leftist image....  Ecuador elected its president but it is hopeless because a man won who will have to change even his personal ideology in order to save the country, and this sparks distrust."


"Elections In Ecuador Revive Country's Historical Division"


Pablo Biffi, on special assignment in Quito for leading Clarin, noted (11/25):  "Despite being the favorite candidate, the victory of former colonel Lucio Gutierrez in Ecuador unveils the ballots' volatility and the pollsters' consequent difficulty to assess social mood, the apathy of the Ecuadorian people vis-à-vis two candidates that didn't trigger many passions or expectations, and marked, once again, the historic and irreconcilable differences between the mountains, with Quito as its prime example, and the coast, represented by the port of Guayaquil....  All in all, the country once again voted as it has been doing all through its history: the coast picked a local candidate, like Noboa; and the mountains chose a candidate supported by the indigenous sectors....  These results confirm that Ecuador, with apathy and by voting as they say for the 'lesser evil,' voted for a change.  Gutierrez appeared like a candidate who understood change similarly to other Latin American leaders: if the poor and excluded aren't included in the 'production and consumption' system, growth won't be possible.  His speech is similar to Lula's in Brazil and Evo Morales' in Bolivia."


"What's Left After Otto Reich"?


Ana Baron, leading Clarin Washington-based correspondent, remarked (11/24):  "With Otto Reich's departure from the State Department's Bureau of Hemispheric Affairs, U.S. policy towards the region is once again under scrutiny....  The situation in Latin America since Reich took over in January has worsened.  Anti-U.S. feelings skyrocketed; Washington's neo-liberal policies are being strongly questioned and the region is going through a deep economic crisis, with Argentina as its most visible example.  Leftist and populist options managed to step into the administrations of many countries in Latin America.  Lula's victory in Brazil is a strong example of this.  For Washington, it was a very important sign of alert.  Although he promised that the region would be a U.S. foreign policy priority during his administration, the truth is that Bush focused all his attention on the war against terrorism....  The truth is that all Latin America is now a powder keg.  Venezuela is a totally divided country where nobody can forecast whether President Chavez will survive or end up overthrown from power.  In Colombia, the fight between the guerrillas and the military is bloodier than ever.  In Peru, the image of the administration falls in the eyes of the people who don't benefit from an improvement in their economy.  Otto Reich stepped down, but leaves behind an enormous deficit in U.S. policy towards the region."


BRAZIL:"The New American Passion"


University professor Gilberto Paim stressed in independent Jornal da Tarde (12/9):  "Lula represents the American dream.  This phrase, voiced by U.S. Ambassador Donna Hrinak, was heard and read when a significant portion of the Brazilian public feared the possibility that Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva might be elected president....  It was the first indication that U.S. official circles were giving high priority to the [Brazilian] fight against corruption....  And as these circles associate corruption with extremely unequal income distribution, the World Bank did not wait for the new government's inauguration to promise surprising financial support for Lula's social programs, particularly the fight against hunger....  Lula has two options before him: to consolidate the Brasilia-Caracas-Havana-FARC-MIR axis, with a foreign policy geared toward the Third World, or to strengthen the Brasilia-Washington-New York axis, to be able to carry out development programs involving long-run investment and massive imports of technology at a level capable of making Brazil a modern power.  If he accepts the path of democratic capitalism, he may become a political figure of historic significance throughout Latin America.  The markets' message is clear: the left wing does not produce economic growth nor eliminate unequal income distribution."


"Two In One"


Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo political columnist Eliane Cantanhede noted (12/8):  "Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will talk with George W. Bush face to face, reaffirm his commitment to honor contracts and to maintain fiscal responsibility, and introduce into the international agenda something so far considered mere rhetoric directed at certain audiences: poverty.  Lula will tell Bush that globalization, North-South relations and the American continent need a social shock.  [Discussions about] Brazil's dramatic, anguishing, shocking, humiliating and ingrained inequalities will move temporarily from the south to the north of the continent, from Brazil to the U.S.  This is really something.  Instead of sitting down to discuss only the FTAA, economics and trade, the president of the world's most powerful nation and the president-elect of South America's principal nation will be discussing another type of 'business': people, persons."


"Lula & Bush, A Meeting with Sparks"


Rio's right-of-center O Globo (12/09) ran a byline by correspondent Silio Boccanera (12/9):  "Bush, America's most right wing President will receive his most left wing counterpart in Brazil's history....  It's difficult to foresee amiable relations between the two governments with such a background and taking into consideration Brazil's trade conflicts with the U.S. (FTAA, textiles, steel, orange juice, cotton, sugar, to mention a few.)  Relations were already not so good between Bush and Fernando Henrique...and some already foresee they will worse with the leftist who reached power in Brazil and with the prospect of the rightist's re-election in Washington.  The fear that Brazil's example may be copied by its neighbor's may lead Bush to frown, take off his cowboy hat and adjust the guns in his cartridge belt....  So far Washington's official rhetoric with Brazil's elect-President is cordial....  But, as respected economic annalist Paul Krugman has already alerted...Bush's rhetoric slides into fantasy.  Krugman wrote in the New York Times that President Bush even lies, says one thing and does another makes up facts when necessary, has taken the government to the extreme-right and has no intention to move towards the center.  The left gives him the chills."


"Negotiating  With The U.S"


Mario Garnero, President of the "Forum of the Americas:" had a byline in respected center-left Jornal do Brasil (12/8):  "It's time to outline and implement a new partnership [for the two  countries'] bilateral relations....  Brazil's trade strategy towards the American market should in fact be re-considered.  One cannot allow bi-lateral trade to be paralyzed by difficulties in Brazilian exports of two low-price products like  steel and orange juice....  Relations with the U.S. will certainly not be the ideal one dreamt of by those in favor of free trade.  But, Brazil cannot give itself the luxury of failing to negotiate privileged access to the planet's largest  market.  Bearing this in mind we can concentrate efforts on the construction of a well-balanced FTAA that may of benefit to all....  We must strengthen our ability to diversify and promote our exports to the U.S. [and to] attract U.S. investments.  Those should be essential goals in the Lula-Bush meeting."


"Lula And Foreign Policy"


Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo political columnist Eliane Cantanhede commented (12/6):  "Let's hope that Lula delivers a courageous but diplomatic speech before George Bush and chooses well each diplomat who will represent Brazil overseas....  To promise changes during the campaign is easy, but to implement them when elected is another thing--including those in the complex and sensitive area of foreign policy."


"Mercosul's Future"


The lead editorial in center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo opined (12/5):  "President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's decision to make Mercosul's deepening and enlargement a priority of his administration is auspicious.  Mercosul is above all a kind of democratic support in the region....  Mercosul's second dimension is also a political one.  Thanks to the existence of the bloc, its four members have acted as if they were only one nation in various international fora, where they have shown exemplary cohesion....  Last but not least, Mercosul has a vital commercial dimension, evidenced by the expansion of regional and extra-regional trade....  [However], the president-elect can do little to deepen and enlarge Mercosul as long as the bloc's individual members are busy extinguishing fires at home.  But this is a temporary situation.... The Mercosul crisis--which is above all a sum of all its members' crises--has made clear that the antidote to further turbulence is not only the strengthening of the national economies' fundamentals, but also concerted planning for this great region's development."


"Lula, Mercosul And FTAA"


The lead editorial in center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo (12/4) noted:  "Lula has apparently put aside the thesis that the FTAA would represent Brazil's 'annexation' by the U.S. and assumed the pragmatic view that, despite U.S. hegemony, the FTAA will be what the participating nations make it.  In another demonstration of realism, Lula seems to have discarded the counterproductive proposal of an exclusively bilateral understanding between Mercosul and Washington, the so-called '4+1' formula, which would suit the powerful '1' more than any one of the '4'.  Nothing indicates that the Lula administration will adopt a different line toward the FTAA than the one currently being followed [by President Cardoso]--that is, intense multilateral negotiations involving all the nations of the continent except Cuba, with similar positions among Mercosul members."


"Companion Bush"


Steel industrialist Benjamin Steinbruch commented in liberal Folha de Sao Paulo (12/3):  "One cannot have any illusions about the immediate results of [Brazilian President-elect] Lula's visit to the White House.  The most we can expect is that Bush, who is smarter than one may think, does not wish to introduce new antipathy [into relations] with Latin America's largest nation.  This is why Lula should be prepared to convey to the U.S. president some information he surely has had no time to consider.  Bush probably does not know how seriously his administration's protectionist measures affect a nation that needs to increase its exports to achieve its ultimate goal of economic growth and jobs creation....  Nonetheless, Lula should use his time to give the U.S. president some information which, due to his heavy responsibilities as the leader of the world's most powerful nation, he has not had the time or obligation to learn."


"Time's Up


Rio de Janeiro's respected center-left Jornal do Brasil editorialized (11/30):  "Hugo Chavez clings to what is left...but the truth is that his power  is completely deflated....  The presidential system has no place for quick constitutional moves.  Chavez either bows to a plebiscite or throws the country into the crossroads of a coup.  When one observes the Venezuelan crisis more closely, the maturity of Brazilian democracy stands out....  May Lula's  election serve as an inspiration to Venezuela.  Brazil had better understand there are no islands of peace in a world  victimized by terrorism."


"The Latin American About-Face"


Center-left Jornal do Brasil ran a byline by political scientist Emir Sader (12/1):  "The current decade will be one of great transformation for our  continent.  From President Lula's election in Brazil, that of Lucio  Gutierrez in Ecuador, the uncertain elections in April of 2003 in  Argentina, as well as developments of the Venezuelan crisis, to the 2005 elections in Uruguay....  Such political transformations are the result of an increasingly generalized feeling of a need for another type of politics.  A  post-neo-liberal era is not yet on the Latin America's horizon, although in 2003 a turnover may occur in Brazil, just as with the unfolding of the crisis in Argentina.  If the latter ends up in dollarization of the continent--including Brazil--it will be condemned to an even deeper  crisis.  If, on the other hand, a formation of a Brazil-Argentina axis is  concluded, it may truly represent the transition of the neo-liberal  hegemony--with all its side-effects--and of a new historical period in which Latin America will go from the most convoluted region in economic and social terms, into that which will open new horizons for those frustrated with the new century."


"Neither Anti-U.S., Nor Docile, Lula Will Tell Bush"


Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo economic columnist Clovis Rossi commented (11/30):  "President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will make clear to George Walker Bush that his Workers' Party administration wants relations that do not require submission to the U.S., but that are free of the anti-American an ideological bias reflected in much of the party's history....  In practical terms, to eliminate the ideological bias means two complementary things: to admit that there is a conflict of legitimate interests between the two nations, and that an attempt will be made to introduce into the dialogue a positive agenda that emphasizes more mutual interests than differences....  Both the USG and the GOB want to reduce or possibly eliminate piracy that violates IPR principles.  Brazil and the U.S. are equally interested in fighting drug trafficking.  It is clear, however, that the emphasis on the positive agenda does not eliminate differences, especially in regards to the FTAA negotiations.  Lula is prepared to tell Bush he favors a gradual integration in the Americas, but he will add that his administration's number one priority is Mercosul and South America....  Senator-elect Aloizio Mercadante [who will accompany Lula to the U.S.] hopes that that the U.S. 'understands that the success of the Lula administration is the success of a leftist democratic policy, which is best for the region.'"


"Without Common Sense"


Right-of-center O Globo editorialized (11/27):  "The election of Colonel Lucio Gutierrez as President of Ecuador could reinforce the ideas of some analysts in the U.S. press that there is a supposed growing 'axis of evil' in Latin America....  The victory of a union leader in Brazil, a military populist in Venezuela, and the victory in Ecuador of someone with a similar profile to Chavez, and all getting along with Fidel Castro, have generated strong pronouncements from conservative thinkers in Washington.  The President-elect, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and the PT leaders are separating themselves from the possibility of any Latin American ideology against the United States.  At the end of the day, the success of Lula's government will depend on what it gains at the economic and commercial negotiating table with the U.S.  It's also true that there is a reason for the vote for the left in South America.  And the explanation most reasonable is the frustration with the type of economic policy that most of the people haven't gained from in the last few years, even though it's indisputable there have been modern advances in the economy, privatization and the opening up to international competition.  But calling this an 'axis of evil' is pretty far-fetched."


"The Left Wing In The Americas"


Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo editorialized (11/30):  "The parallel between Ecuador's recently elected president, Lucio Gutierrez, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is inescapable.  Both are military men who hold vague leftist ideas and participated in coup attempts before being elected.  One can also see traces of megalomania in both leaders....  [However,] Gutierrez's curious similarities with Chavez are not sufficient to predict in his administration the same difficulties and problems affecting Chavez.  To a certain extent, Gutierrez's election also bears similarities to that of [Brazilian President-elect] Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva....  Immense frustration resulting from ultraliberal reforms played an important part in each election....  It is reasonable to suppose that other leftist candidates will be voted into office in Latin America's next elections.  Despite the serious economic crisis affecting the region, its democracies are working."


"Cautious Optimism"


Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo's political columnist Eliane Cantanhede commented (11/24):  "Considering the course of relations between Lula's Brazil and Bush's U.S., it suits the needs of the new Brazilian administration to maintain good communications with the U.S.--while warning that it will 'be tough' [in trade negotiations].  It also suits the aims of the USG and U.S. companies to have faith in Lula and the Workers' Party, albeit with caution....  Lula has many domestic priorities, but he also has an overarching foreign priority: to revive confidence in Brazil and attract new investment....  International anxiety about Brazil is extremely high, especially in Latin America.  Lula could end up being a fiasco, revisiting the same problems between intentions and practice as [Venezuela's Hugo] Chavez, albeit less traumatically.  Or, in a diametrically opposed scenario, Lula could provide the answer to the question the whole world is looking at: how to advance from globalization, neoliberalism and privatization toward a model that addresses both social concerns and fiscal balance.  If he succeeds in such an historic feat, Lula will become an international leader."


"Brazil-U.S. Relations According To The Bush Doctrine"


Liberal Folha da Sao Paulo's economic and political columnist Luis Nassif observed (11/22):  "Brazil-U.S. relations depend on a better understanding of what the Bush Doctrine represents for U.S. diplomacy....  Washington's hardcore power establishment (the NSC, the Pentagon and the White House) sees the world from a geopolitical, not ideological, standpoint....  From this perspective, South America has two major problems: Colombia and Venezuela....  In regards to Brazil, its strategic goal is not having a tough, aggressive adversary in international fora--something that has been facilitated by Brazil's vulnerability in the economic-financial area....  If Lula is capable of doing a good public relations job in Washington, he will meet with increased approval.  One of his strongest attractions, in terms of U.S. political culture, is his humble, working-class background.  It differentiates him utterly from the typical revolutionary intellectual, whom Americans detest."


CHILE:  "U.S. Has No Clear Logic Toward Latin America"


In its prime-time newscast, conservative Catholic University Television (12/04) featured international commentator Karin Ebensperger, who stated (12/4):  "Chile has been negotiating a free trade agreement with the U.S. for the past 12 years.  It is logical that Washington defends its interests and that Chile does not sign until the conditions are favorable and represent our interests.  Whether this agreement is signed or not, once more we face the lack of a coherent U.S. Latin America policy....  Defying all logic, the U.S. has no clear policy toward Latin America and never has.  Washington only reacts when something concerns them, and then it reacts badly.  With the Alliance for Progress to stop the advance of communism, changing governments through the CIA, petro dollars, their war against drugs in Colombia--everything has been done wrong.  More than a decade ago, Washington began with the FTAA and the FTA, and it still has not happened....  The signal Washington is sending to Latin America by delaying Chile--although the U.S. has stated that Chile is an example to the region--is very negative.  Let us hope the U.S. will understand that it is in their own benefit to sign agreements within the region and that it practices a little more of its own preaching about free trade being beneficial for everyone."


"Lula's Visit"


Government-owned, editorially independend La Nacion held (12/3):  "It's very important for Brazil to do well, particularly in the social and economic arena.  First, because this will benefit Brazilians themselves and second, because it will exert a positive influence in the region."


COLOMBIA: "Ecuador: A Shift In Direction"


The lead editorial in top national El Tiempo noted (11//26):  "The presidential election of Colonel Lucio Gutierrez in Ecuador...will mark a shift of course in the neighboring country's policies on almost all issues, from economics to security.  Equally or even more it means a new vision of Ecuador's relationship with its neighbors, especially Colombia....  Initial statements by the Ecuadorian leader-elect show a friendly and understanding attitude towards Colombia; they also raise a few reservations.  His announcement on the possibility of Ecuador's participation in a peace process (Colombia's) precipitate....  Inauspicious also is the lack of clarity of his statements on the proposed visa requirement for Colombians....  The 'Lucio' phenomenon is similar to other recent political experiences in Latin America, as in Peru and Venezuela, where a non-party candidate who reaches people's enthusiasm in the midst of a crisis defeats the traditional political parties.  It's too soon to know if it will evolve and have an epilogue of the same kind.  All we can say is that it offers Colombia a promising and unpredictable horizon."


"Ecuador Enigma"


The lead editorial in Cali-based El Pais observed (11/25):  "Despite the clear results, the presidential election of Ex-Colonel Lucio Gutierrez raises more questions than answers in both Ecuador, and neighboring nations, and in Latin America as a whole....  Ecuadorian voters had few options....  Now pending are the consequences of this election."


"Lessons Of The Popular Shifts In Ecuador"


An op-ed by a former Minister of Treasury (1976-1977) in top national El Tiempo stated (11/26):  "Resting on the rubble of traditional political parties, the corruption boom, and winds of economic crisis, the coup Colonel Lucio Gutierrez cleanly defeated the unscrupulous and ambitious Plutocrat Alvaro Noboa in the neighboring and friendly Republic of Ecuador....  The phenomenon in Ecuador, as a result of its origin and circumstances--a shift to a populist-leftist candidate--is similar to the one in Venezuela with a Colonel, where corruption crumbled traditional political parties....  (The phenomenon) also is similar to Brazil's with President-elect Luis Inacio 'Lula' Da Silva....  Both events stimulate reflection on how wrong it is to abolish political parties in a democracy, serving as channels and supporters." 


ECUADOR:  "Bush's Agenda"


Column Francisco Rosales Ramos wrote in center-left, influential Hoy (12/2): "The U.S. President wants to talk about drug trafficking, the fight against terrorism and trade with the president-elect, Colonel Gutierrez. That's fine; those are Washington's interests.  Now it is the president-elect's turn to add his own priorities to that agenda.  They will include, certainly, the IMF agreement, the policies of the World Bank, external debt, Plan Colombia, and U.S. protectionism....  It is a good opportunity first of all for the two to get acquainted, which will facilitate future communication, and for Gutierrez to clearly spell out Ecuadorian interests in its relations with the U.S.  The U.S. is our major trade partner, our biggest investor, a superpower and the leader of the hemisphere....  President-elect Gutierrez's visit to Washington will be a test for him and his foreign affairs team in this complex field, after the faux pas with Colombia."


"Dignity And Sovereignty"


An opinion column by Rodrigo Santillan in left, sensationalist La Hora (12/2) noted: "No U.S. president has failed to impose his own geopolitical ideas in an effort to increase U.S. power and influence, naturally, against the dignity and sovereignty of the aggrieved peoples.  Thus, we have the Monroe, Kennedy, Nixon, and now Bush doctrines aimed at making the U.S. master of the entire world....  With the Bush II doctrine, international law is shattered and nations are subjected to unacceptable humiliation--in exchange for a few miserable dollars they lose their national dignity and sovereignty.  And what is even worse:  there will be governments that will become submissive and will kneel down in before the emperor....  We refuse to even imagine that President-elect Lucio Gutierrez would accept proposals from Bush who has been kind enough to invite him to the White House.  In defense of the honor, dignity and sovereignty of this poor country looted by corrupt officials and divided by the moral misery of politicians, Gutierrez will have to speak out firmly and loudly to Bush about the Manta Base; Plan Colombia and its ominous consequences; about drug trafficking that would not exist if it weren't for the six million U.S. consumers; about FTAA which is nothing more than neo-colonization....  Ecuador has to rescue its dignity, independence and sovereignty, and the president-elect has an historic opportunity."


"Relations With The U.S."


Leading centrist El Comercio editorialized (11/29):  "U.S. diplomacy is not subtle as French diplomacy has been historically and as is the current diplomacy of the Vatican.  It is simple, convinced of its righteousness and willing to use force in an exceptional manner; in addition, because of its religious background and moral arrogance it tends to interpret in its own way that biblical statement--with us or against us....  Against this backdrop, the new Ecuadorian government needs to repair the inexplicable deterioration of relations with the U.S....  To that effect, (Gutierrez) needs the professional assistance of experienced people, such as those we saw during the most difficult times of our territorial conflict."


"Bush's Invitation"


An "Analysis" column in center-left influential Hoy (11/28) asserted:  "We have to uncover the real meaning of U.S. President Bush's invitation to the Ecuadorian President-elect, Lucio Gutierrez, to Washington for a face-to-face meeting to address issues such as the fight against drugs and bilateral trade....  First, we should mention that a similar invitation was never extended to President Gustavo Noboa, despite 'suggestions' made by officials from our country, added to which was the long period during which the U.S. Embassy in Quito was not headed by someone with the rank of Ambassador.  It seems that the State Department did not take seriously the origin of Noboa's Government that took office on January 22, 2000 in one of the rooms of the Ministry of Defense, with the support of the military top brass....  What does that mean?  U.S. diplomacy is undergoing important changes, among which is a greater role in social and academic activities, as well as economic and political ones, without getting to the point of meddling in the internal affairs of the country....  This U.S. 'siege' of Lucio Gutierrez is probably aimed at thwarting another Hugo Chavez-like regime.  The cooperation being offered by the U.S is not impartial; nothing is impartial in international politics....  Gutierrez is a fighter against corruption and that 'connects' him with U.S. diplomacy, but will it connect him with Bush's other arguments?"


"Different Levels Of Agreement"


An editorial in leading centrist El Comercio observed (11/27):  "The president-elect won't have time to cater to jealousies and smooth rough spots.  On the contrary, from his first day in office he will need a balanced cabinet that will become the foundation of his new administration.  The president is going to have a full agenda and little time to be the arbiter of conflicts among those who do not understand the advantages of teamwork....  Under these circumstances, we cannot overlook the existence of a determined opposition that will seek openings for power and successful collaboration with the executive branch.  The dilemma [for Gutierrez] is dramatic:  either he tries to achieve political consensus in order to have a stable government, or he steers away from negotiation and toward political reform.  A third element is a historical challenge:  how to initiate a dialogue with the U.S. and Colombia, one that promotes good relations while at the same time respecting Ecuador's decision not to get involved in the conflict in the north?"


"Gutierrez Must Move Quickly"


Leading centrist El Comercio offered this analysis (11/26):  "Lucio Gutierrez's mandate is simple:  increase productivity to improve fiscal stability, increase foreign investment, and save what is now being lost to corruption to allow for more spending on social programs.  Greater expenditures for education and health, and housing programs that generate jobs--nobody disagrees....  However, Gutierrez will be faced on one side with an administration dominated by the interests of political parties.  Political strategy has required splitting up major government functions, which, in effect, has caused a paralysis that has produced few reforms....  Gutierrez sent a clear message once he had won:  he expects a response to his call for reconciliation, but he is not going to wait for it.  The Colonel's nature makes it difficult to imagine him negotiating a status quo to remain in power until the end of his time in office.  Nor can we imagine him making decisions by committee either, as Pachakutik proposes....  Gutierrez's mandate is simple, but his success is based on a new balance of forces which, for now, seems unlikely."


"Message To The President Elect"


Leading centrist El Comercio editorialized (11/25):  "The time remaining until the inauguration is very short.  During this time he (Gutierrez) will have to disclose the names of those individuals chosen to accompany him and inform them of the complex agenda they will inherit....  He will have to pay special attention to the international field as well as to those aspects of internal governability....  To do so, an immediate dialogue with the president of Colombia and the principal officials of the United States is indispensable....  Internally, with the moral guarantee from the popular mandate, he will have to find areas of agreement with the leaders in the National Congress....  Finally, he will have to appoint efficient and honest individuals to head the main institutions of the state in order to enhance the respectability of the Republic."


"The Challenges Of The New President"


Center-left, influential Hoy opined (11/25):  "The new president is charged with the immediate task of erasing initial distrust.  Economic agents will be eager to know the names of his collaborators, as a signal of the direction the president will take in his tenure.  The economic circumstances do not allow for delays.  In the horizon of immediate expectations there is an accord pending with the IMF, which is unavoidable not only to achieve fiscal balance in 2003, but also as a guarantee for foreign investment....  The country needs to strengthen stability, foster productive reactivation, adopt measures needed to sustain dollarization, in particular strict fiscal discipline--all these are possible only through a basic national accord."


"The Future"


An editorial in Guayaquil's (and Ecuador's) leading center-right El Universo declared (11/25):  "Yesterday we elected a new president...and nobody doubts he will have the responsibility for a country besieged by difficulties.  We don't intend to advance concepts.  We want to highlight the fragility of institutions that has affected national efforts to grow, and which ought to be corrected with national accords among those who respond to the demands of change, peace and improvement in a country that in each democratic election proclaims its right to hope."


GUATEMALA: "Venezuela On The Verge Of Anarchy"


Influential morning El Periodico stated (12/9):  "The national Venezuela is leading the country to chaos and anarchy.  Chavez refuses to leave power. His administration has been erratic and has engulfed Venezuela in a profound economic, social, and political crisis....  Why is Chavez afraid of a referendum to revoke the very constitution that he advocated?  Might it be he is afraid to face the overwhelming reality of public disapproval?  In any case...Chavez must leave."


PANAMA: "Colombia: Paramilitaries Ceasefire"


Conservative El Panama America commented (12/5):  "Before the recent Colombian election, those against Alvaro Uribe ran words of alleged links between him and the 'Colombian United Autodefenses (AUC),' popularly known as paramilitaries.  Although the political links were refuted by Uribe...the recent voluntary demobilization of irregular forces has reinitiated the comments....  Powell's recent visit to Colombia has favored the subject...and according to El Tiempo de Bogota the Colombian government is looking for a dialogue....  U.S. mediation, highlighted by the presence of General Powell, denotes that Colombia has entered a decisive stage of relations with extremist forces, under the impulse of a leader ready for peace, or by force to rescue democracy."


PERU:  "Challenges For The Future President"


Straightforward flagship El Comercio editorialized (11/26):  "Lucio preparing to take office....  As Ecuador's new president he faces many challenges....  He needs to restore negotiations with [international] financial institutions, implement a politically unpopular plan of fiscal austerity and [measures] to overcome poverty affecting 60% of the population....  It is...positive that Gutierrez has called political leaders, businessmen, bankers and the civil society to participate in...fighting the economic crisis....  But the elected president must also pay attention to international relations and promote dialogue with Colombia and the fight drug trafficking.... Peru expects that...Ecuador...will succeed in carrying out such difficult endeavors...and that its new president boosts implementation of the peace accords...signed between Peru and Ecuador." 


"Ecuador Moves To The Left"


Influential political analyst Mirko Lauer wrote in center-left La Republica (11/26):  "The...victory of Lucio Gutierrez in Ecuador is one more sign that Latin America is fed up with the unpopular right wing stance...which, in the disguise of modernization, has impoverished the region during the 90s.  The various left wing tendencies...have arrived and will remain as long as the [U.S.] empire allows them."


VENEZUELA:  "The Strike Isn't Pretty"


Oil expert Alberto Quiros wrote in liberal daily-of-record El Nacional (12/8):  "The temptation to believe that this government makes mistakes [such as the National Guard's attacking the demonstrators in Chuao on Dec. 4] because it is totally incompetent and even politically autistic, would be an error that would cost the opposition greatly.  Let's consider a different interpretation.  The premise is that Chavez doesn't want a consultative referendum, or early elections, or a recall referendum.  What to do, then, faced with an opposition bigger every day?  For the government, there is no negotiation possible, since the final objective would always be Chavez's departure....  That's why it decided to militarize Caracas and takeover the Metropolitan Police....  All of this is meant to interrupt the negotiations."


"Don't Mess With Petroleum"


Leading national liberal daily-of-record El Nacional editorialized (12/6):  "Chavez should forget once and for all his obsession with imposing his totalitarian project.  He should make an open and frank commitment to renouncing his plans to name a Taliban 'parallel junta' as the new directors of [state oil company] PDVSA. The president's national broadcast yesterday showed once more how far the President is from understanding what's happening in the country.  The PDVSA crisis is part of a larger national crisis.  In times like these we live in, the president of any country would reflect and think about what to say to the nation, calling the major protagonists to the presidential palace to dialogue.  Chavez doesn't do this because he doesn't know how; he is unable because of his own personality and because of the project he wants to impose on Venezuelans."


"The Hour Of The Charter Has Come"


Centrist El Globo published an op-ed by Eddo Polese stating (12/6): "The events of recent days show that the country can no longer continue to be a victim of a regime that tries to ignore what is essential for the people--to live in freedom to be able to prosper.  If there was anyone, in or out of Venezuela, who still thought that the Chavez regime was democratic, they can no longer think so after the brutal action of December 3 to disperse a peaceful demonstration and the merciless aggression against journalists and cameramen....  By trying to impose, under the mantle of democarcy, a project that is contrary to democracy's principles, the government has created a situation completely contrary to the ends and purposes of a democratic rule of law....  We have been fortunate that the OAS Secretary General has reserved such particular attention to the country and even offered to serve as facilitator.  Nonetheless, we believe that the circumstances are such now that the Secretary General is obligated, without further delay, to take a report to the Permanent Council, because what is at stake is preserving and strengthening democratic institutionality."


"Venezuela Fragmented"


An op-ed by Rafael Bayed in centrist El Globo judged (12/6):  "In the United States there is a growing awareness in government circles about the possiblity of an absolutist government along Castro-like lines that will endanger its oil supply, not just to the U.S. but to all of South America.  For U.S. analysts, Chavez could become a danger for the continent's socio-economic stability.  The Venezuelan people have the chance to gain for the support of their actions the invocation at some time of the OAS Democracy Charter, leading to an exit from this opprobrious regime currently managing the destiny of the republic."


"The Solution Is The Consultative Referendum"


Conservative sensationalist 2001 editorialized (12/6):  "Faced with the president's call for confrontation among Venezuelans, it is clear that the solution to the crisis is electoral, which means we should move toward the consultative referendum fixed by the National Electoral Council for February 2.  Yesterday, from the earliest hours, the violent pro-Chavez circles, knowing that the opposition planned to march from PDVSA's headquarters in Chuao to the PDVSA office in La Campina, gathered there in an open provocation to prevent the march, which was wisely called off by mayor Leopoldo Lopez.  We know the fears of President Chavez and the government of an election, but it is the civic, constitutional and democratic alternative....  The objectives achieved by the national civic strike, with its massive demonstrations in the street, have been overwhelming.  Only the government blindly refuses to recognize this, because it refuses to understand that this people wants to continue living in democracy and not be degraded to a Cuba-like state.  The consultative referendum is the path."


"Hugo Vs. 'The Thing."


Usually critical of the U.S. Tal Cual editorialized (12/4):  "The weight of the Constitution and the laws are flattening the government.  It must understand that the time has come to advance political solutions unless it wishes to begin governing without regard to the Constitution.… Continuing to block the electoral solution will inexorably lead to governing by repressive means for there exists a state of civilian rebellion that can be put down only by force.”


"Neither Legitimacy Nor Dignity"


An editorial in leading, liberal daily-of-record El Nacional held (12/4):  "With its actions the government has  distanced itself even more from its duties and obligations of governing....  It has again assumed the role of being a faction divorced from the nation...demonstrating its inability to understand and interpret the aspirations of a peaceful people."


"A Strike For A Democratic Solution"


Conservative, sensationalist, popular 2001 editorialized (12/1):  "Venezuela can tolerate no longer the uncertainty to which this government has subjected us: Production is virtually paralyzed, unemployment is at never before seen levels, thousands of businesses have closed and the economy has hit rock bottom despite having historic levels of petroleum income.  Add to this the unhidden efforts to destroy [state oil company] PDVSA and the gigantic debt we have been submerged in.  Faced with the government effort to close off peaceful solutions [by blocking the consultative referendum], and even though the National Electoral Council's president has announced that the referendum February 2 will proceed, we Venezuelans have to join in the civic strike.  We are all making an enormous sacrifice...but we do it because we love Venezuela, and we aspire to solutions that help all of us, without exceptions, in the name of future generations."


"The Takeover"


Leading liberal daily-of-record El Nacional stated in its editorial (11/27):  "The takeover of the Metropolitan Police has backfired on President Chavez's government and become a factor of political perturbance.  The international press considers the takeover as an obvious sign of Chavez's autocratic objectives.  Chavez was warned of the serious consequences that this violation of municipal autonomy would have.  But he opted to escalate the type of 'state of exception' we are already living under with the militarization of Caracas....  Chavez used all the public powers that it controls to pave the way for the nighttime takeover of the Metropolitan Police, making all of them accomplices in this constitutional violation....  The government is destroying institutions without any consideration at all....  There is still hope for the Supreme Court to act....  Venezuelans watched in amazement as Chavez announced what the Supreme Court decision would be, affirming that the court 'would reject Caracas Mayor Alfredo Peña's request for an injunction'....  To top things off, Chavez affirmed that the takeover was irreversible.  All this demonstrates that the president and other high officials of the regime are interfering with justice....  The takeover of the Metro Police is rejected by 75% of the population.  Crime plagues the city.  God willing, the Supreme Court will rule quickly and return the police to the control of the mayor, thus re-establishing the mayoralty's autonomy.  The defense of the rule of law has no alternative."




BRITAIN:  "Latin America's Left Shift"


Government-run BBC TV noted (11/25):  "The victory of ex-colonel Lucio Gutierrez in Ecuador's presidential run-off appears to be part of a Latin American trend to shift to the left.  A former coup leader, Mr. Gutierrez, seems to have a great deal in common with Venezuela's controversial left-wing president, Hugo Chavez, and his victory follows the election of the Workers Party candidate, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Brazil....  On face value, Ecuador's new president-elect, Mr. Gutierrez, seems much more in the Hugo Chavez mold.  He is an outsider and former coup leader who campaigned in military uniform.  The election in Ecuador was far more polarized than in Brazil.  But at the same time, the president-elect has toned down his rhetoric in recent weeks, promising to govern within International Monetary Fund guidelines and to attract foreign investment." 


GERMANY:  "Hopes"


Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau judged (11/26):  “The poor and the Indians have high hopes for the Gutierrez presidency.  He made sure to have the backing of the United States.  The international financial institutions also have nothing against him....  It remains unclear how all of this can be reconciled with Gutierrez’s rather vague campaign platform.  Ecuador has become economically dependent since giving up its own currency for the U.S. dollar.  While inflation has gone down, the gap between rich and poor remains large.  The new president will likely have to disappoint voter expectations.  Meanwhile, the United States is likely to give him a free rein.  He is expected to play an important role in the fight against drug trafficking, also part of his campaign platform.  But nobody can tell what will happen if he demands a higher share of the profits from oil exports.”


"Getting Elected Instead Of Staging A Putsch"


Ingo Malcher observed in leftist Die Tageszeitung of Berlin (11/26):  “The traditional political camps in Venezuela and Ecuador have lost their support because they fought democratic participation for years and embraced an economic model that left the majority in poverty....  Both Gutierrez and Chavez lack clear ideas for political reform....  Nevertheless, the election of left-wing candidate Lula in Brazil has created a new set of conditions for Latin America’s economic integration.  Over the past decade, political conditions for the continent’s growing together have never been better.  Such a development might create an alternative to the reigning economic model, especially the U.S.-backed plan for a free trade zone from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego....  One must doubt whether Chavez and Gutierrez will be able to improve the situation of the poor with their political mix of military honor, nationalism, and promises of justice.  Their opponents, however, should not judge too quickly.  The old parties, with their ineffective structures, failed to bring about change for decades.”


RUSSIA: "Responsible Politician"


Emil Dabagian of the Latin American Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences observed in reformist Vremya MN (11/27):  "Gutierrez has in many respects gone the path of his idol (Venezuela's Hugo Chavez).   Done that in less than three years.   But the likeness is only superficial.   Gutierrez's program does not fit the stereotype.   It is quite moderate and balanced, and the one who stands behind it seems like a responsible politician."


BELGIUM:  "Powell's Visit To Colombia"


Independent La Libre Belgique concluded (12/5):  "But the United States is not willing to make any concession.  Yesterday, Colin Powell met with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to defend his tough approach.  In a continent which, slowly but surely, is swinging to the left, it is out of the question to let Colombia do the same."


IRELAND:  "Powell Meets Colombian President"


The liberal Irish Times' foreign correspondent Deaglán de Bréadún observed from Bogota (12/5):  "Mr. Powell told reporters he was seeking ways to give further assistance to the Colombian government's campaign against 'narco-traffickers and narco-terrorists'.  But he was also expected to stress the importance of preventing human rights abuses by the Colombian security forces....  The United States has provided well over $1 billion in aid to Colombia since 2000, mostly in military goods....  Last September, the State Department drew protests from U.S. rights groups after certifying that Colombia's armed forces had met human rights standards imposed by Congress in three areas.  The action cleared the way for the release of $41 million in military aid.... The Secretary of State said there had been a significant expansion in coca eradication efforts in Colombia this year but it had not reached the point where eradication was outstripping plantings."


SPAIN: "Election In Venezuela"


Conservative ABC  stated (12/3):  "However, Chávez's galloping loss of prestige...degradation of public life and fracturing of society should not give cause for illegal solutions.  Therefore, neither coups d'état nor street riots instigated from certain circles are valid, which could become a grave civil confrontation....  The opposition should be a little bit patient and Chávez should understand that bringing the election forward is fully justified."


"There Is No Exit For Chavez"


Independent El Mundo commented (12/5):  "Venezuela is heading for civil confrontation with grave consequences.  Everybody has noticed that the U.S. has abandoned the temptation to support the idea of a military coup.  The April eleventh attempt was solved without practical results but without blood too.  There is no margin for new experiments....  Diplomatic pressure and street demonstrations seem to be the key in order to have Chavez abandon power.  Economic data and not the opposition is what really is going to defeat Chavez."



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