Brazilian Embarrasses Bush

American dominance has once again been reduced

By Gabriel Buelna
Published on LatinoLA: March 19, 2007

Brazilian Embarrasses Bush

With daily American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan increasing, most Americans seem to have forgotten about Latin America. President George Bush has. After seven years in the White House, Bush attempted to make up for lost time by undertaking a whirlwind tour of Latin America, with special emphasis given to Brazil. Touted as a tour of the region to illustrate America‘«÷s commitment, the trip actually had a dual focus of developing a strategic relationship with Brazil, focusing on the biofuel Ethanol, and attempting to counterbalance the increased influence of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In the end, the tour backfired with a reduction in American influence in Latin America and a substantial increase in Brazilian influence among the nations south of the U.S. border.

The cast of characters in this Bush induced drama includes Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Lula) of Brazil and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Lula helped found the Brazilian Workers' party and has been jailed for his views several times. Elected in 2002, Lula‘«÷s victory marked the first civilian to civilian transfer of power since 1962. After orchestrating a failed 1992 coup d'?ģtat against former President Carlos Andr?ģs P?ģrez, Chavez went on to win the presidency in 1999 and has been subsequently reelected twice.

While Lula and Chavez share similar ideologies, their strategies have differed sharply with regard to how they govern and their relationship with the United States. Chavez has continuously focused on his Fifth Republic Movement, seized private property, threatened to nationalize others and remained the proverbial thorn in the side of the United States. Conversely, Lula has focused on increasing Brazil‘«÷s economy by increasing trade, creating jobs and creating a middle ground approach to its relationship with the United States.

Brazil‘«÷s economic and political power derives from the decision in the 1960‘«÷s by its military dictatorship to move toward biofuels such as Ethanol and become independent of oil. Since then, the country moved to the point where it produced 4.23 billion barrels of biofuel per year in 2005, compared to United States‘«÷ production of only 3.9 million barrels. Both India and China combined produced only 1.5 million barrels of biofuels the same year.

Bush‘«÷s trip finished in Mexico, where President Felipe Calderon waits for an immigration accord that has yet to materialize. The biggest winner of Bush‘«÷s Latin America journey is Lula of Brazil who emerged as the elder statesman, promoting a Brazilian product designed in laboratories as a viable alternative to fossil fuel. Lula‘«÷s message to Bush focused on developing strategies that would increase environmentally friendly exports, create jobs, and remain capable of replication throughout the developing world. Brazil didn‘«÷t ask for hand outs, only that the tariff on biofuels be reduced. Rebuffed by Bush, Lula offered a new way for Latin America, while our president reached no accord, and only motivated millions of protesters throughout his tour.

In the end, the new Lula way or the Lula Doctrine for economic development and diplomacy with the United States appears to have replaced the 184 year old Monroe Doctrine of complete American dominance. The Monroe Doctrine was the embodiment of the United States‘«÷ warning to the European nations to stay out of Latin America. The political and military might of the United States made enforcing the doctrine simple. Today, our country does not have the military resources or the will to continue the model. We‘«÷re dependent on others for our fuel and our capital to run our economy. Lula did not embarrass Bush by insulting him or taunting him like Chavez; instead he embarrassed Bush by heralding in a new, sophisticated, and sustainable era of Latin American independence, while simultaneously extending an olive branch. The leftist and ex-Communist caught everyone by surprise.

So why does this matter to you? In the 1980‘«÷s, the United States represented two percent of the population, while using fifty percent of all resources. At the time, the Soviet Union existed, with China and India a mere blip on the global economic radar. Over the past twenty or so years, the Soviet Union disintegrated, while China and India experienced economic explosions predicated not merely on trade, but on the application of technical expertise.

During this same time period, Latin America was largely ignored. Economies in Latin America waxed and waned, but the Brazilian economy has remained relatively stable due to its possession of a significant agricultural, manufacturing, mining, and service sectors.
The introduction of the Real in 1994 is considered a major success in Brazil‘«÷s economic history and the outlook of Brazil‘«÷s economy is almost always referred being extremely positive. As the United States stopped paying attention to the region, the United States lost control. How this loss of control will affect the world has yet to be seen. Clearly, there is no destabilization of Latin America. What we do know is that this is the end of a sort of extended Colonialism in Latin America. Bush‘«÷s tour marked the end the historical perceptual occupation of Latin America by the United States. As economies become the newest weapons of choice, it is clear that the U.S. is not the only one with an arsenal or the knowledge of how to develop one.

The victory of Lula brings one more observation to mind. While the political left has been winning throughout the region and world, Lula and Chavez offer different leadership styles. One views the militaristic model of Che Guevara as its source and the other has chosen development and democracy. How these choices will ultimately shake out, I don‘«÷t know. I just know the world changed, American dominance has once again been reduced and the world we knew in the eighties and early nineties no longer exists anywhere.

What do you think?

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About Gabriel Buelna:
Gabriel Buelna is Executive Director, Plaza Community Center, faculty member - Chicana/o Studies Department at CSUN, and appears on KMEX 34 and Telemundo 52. Receive articles via e-mail

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