Saturday, February 27, 2010

Weisbrot: Latin America's path to independence, Get Lit on the Magic Bus

I'm thrilled to see the Get Lit Players featured in this august
gathering. If you see these teen-age wizards, just once, you'll
not only understand why, but become fans. Join me. -Ed


(An Evening with the California Poet Laureate & Friends)

Monday, March 1, 2010 ~ 5 P.M.

USC Davidson Conference Center

Welcome by Howard Gillman, Dean of the College
of Letters, Arts & Sciences
Prof. Meg Russett, Chair, Dept. of English
& Prof. Carol Muske-Dukes, California Poet Laureate

Readings and performances by:

THE GET LIT PLAYERS (teen "proactive" poets of LA!)

Dana Goodyear
Tom Healy
Cecilia Woloch
Gabrielle Calvocoressi
Carol Muske-Dukes

Guest reading by Stacy Keach
Guest reading by George Wendt

Cocktail reception & book-signing following program

~ Admission Free ~

Enter through Gate 4 at Jefferson Blvd. and Royal St. Parking Structure D
Fee - $8.00

Sponsored by the Office of the Dean of the College and the Dept. of English
with support provided by the Office of the Provost


Latin America's path to independence

With the creation of a new regional organisation, Latin America is emerging
as a power bloc with its own interests and agenda

By Mark Weisbrot 25 February 2010

Latin America took an historic step forward this week with the Unity Summit
and creation of a new regional organisation of 32 Latin American and
Caribbean countries. The United States and Canada were excluded.

The increasing independence of Latin America has been one of the most
important geopolitical changes over the last decade, affecting not only the
region but the rest of the world as well. For example, Brazil has publicly
supported Iran's right to enrich uranium and opposed further sanctions
against the country. Latin America, once under the control of the United
States, is increasingly emerging as a power bloc with its own interests and

The Obama administration's continuation of former President Bush's policies
in the region undoubtedly helped spur the creation of this new organisation,
provisionally named the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
Most importantly, the Obama team's ambivalence toward the military coup that
overthrew the democratic government of President Mel Zelaya in Honduras last
summer provoked deep resentment and distrust throughout the region.

Although the Obama administration was officially against the coup, numerous
actions from day one - including the first White House statement that failed
to condemn the coup when it happened - made it clear in the diplomatic world
that its real position was something different. The last straw came in
November 2009 when the Obama administration brokered a deal for the return
of Zelaya, and then joined the dictatorship in reneging on it. Washington
then stood against the vast majority of the region in supporting the
November elections for a new president under the dictatorship, which had
systematically repressed the basic rights and civil liberties necessary to
an electoral campaign.

Arturo Valenzuela, the US state department's top official for Latin America,
said that the new organisation "should not be an effort that would replace
the OAS [Organisation of American States]".

The differences underlying the need for a new organisation were clear in the
statements and declarations that took place in the Unity Summit, held in
Cancun from 22-23 February. The summit issued a strong statement backing
Argentina in its dispute with the UK over the Malvinas (as they are called
in Argentina) or Falklands Islands. The dispute, which dates back to the
19th century and led to a war in 1982, has become more prominent lately as
the UK has unilaterally decided to explore for oil offshore the islands.
President Lula da Silva of Brazil called for the United Nations to take a
more active role in resolving the dispute. And the summit condemned the US
embargo against Cuba.

These and other measures would be difficult or impossible to pass in the
OAS. Furthermore, the OAS has long been manipulated by the United States, as
from 2000 when it was used to help build support for the coup that overthrew
Haiti's elected president. And most recently, the US and Canada blocked the
OAS from taking stronger measures against the Honduran dictatorship last

Meanwhile, in Washington foreign policy circles, it is getting increasingly
more difficult to maintain the worn-out fiction that the US's differences
with the region are a legacy of President Bush's "lack of involvement," or
to blame a few leftist trouble-makers like Bolivia, Nicaragua, and of course
the dreaded Venezuela. It seems to have gone unnoticed that Brazil has taken
the same positions as Venezuela and Bolivia on Iran and other foreign policy
issues, and has strongly supported Chávez. Perhaps the leadership of
Mexico - a rightwing government that was one of the Bush administration's
few allies in the region - in establishing this new organisation will
stimulate some rethinking.

There are structural reasons for this process of increasing independence to
continue, even if - and this is not on the horizon - a new government in
Washington were to someday move away from its cold war redux approach to the
region. The US has become increasingly less important as a trading partner
for the region, especially since the recent recession as our trade deficit
has shrunk. The region also increasingly has other sources of investment
capital. The collapse of the IMF's creditors' cartel in the region has also
eliminated the most important avenue of Washington's influence.

The new organisation is sorely needed. The Honduran coup was a threat to
democracy in the entire region, as it encouraged other rightwing militaries
and their allies to think that they might drag Latin America back to the
days when the local elite, with Washington's help, could overturn the will
of the electorate. An organisation without the US and Canada will be more
capable of defending democracy, as well as economic and social progress in
the region when it is under attack. It will also have a positive influence
in helping to create a more multipolar world internationally.

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