Monday, August 03, 2009

Brazil and Spain Express Concern over Increase of U.S. Troops in Colombia

Brazil and Spain Express Concern Over Increase of U.S. Troops in Colombia
The recent agreement to put more U.S. troops in Colombia is raising concerns beyond just Venezuela:

Spain’s Miguel Angel Moratinos and Brazilian counterpart Celso Amorim expressed their reservations about the effects the military program could have at a press conference within the framework of the Spanish official’s visit to Brazil.

The two ministers also called for dialogue between Venezuela and Colombia and agreed to work “to avoid a spiral of misunderstandings” between those two countries.

This is a good diplomatic move that gives greater weight to regional concerns than Chavez's opposition alone could ever achieve. However, I don't know how much it will actually accomplish.

To be clear, I think the U.S.'s decision is a bad one, for a number of reasons. The "war on drugs" is pretty ineffective in its focus on the supply side rather than the demand side, and basing more troops in Colombia isn't going to solve this problem. What is more, it is clear that this will add to regional suspicion and tension in South America. While Obama's diplomatic efforts in the hemisphere thus far have been admirable in comparison to past administrations (dating to about, oh, 1848), the presence of more U.S. troops on any country's soil is a legitimate cause for concern, regardless of who is president of the United States. For these reasons, I think it's important that Brazil and Spain, who are far from antagonistic towards the U.S., raise these concerns. Again, I'm not sure it will result in any real change in the decision to move troops to Colombia when the Ecuadoran bases close (rather than, you know, having the troops actually come back to the U.S. when the bases close). But Brazil's and Spain's questions and objections should at least make the U.S. stop and take notice, and give the opposition to such a move much greater legitimacy than Chavez's opposition alone could accomplish.

And, on a side note, can we please stop referring to Daniel Ortega as part of some "leftist" "alliance?" Firstly, as I've noted before, these notions in the American media of "leftist alliances" in Latin America are false and lazy. Just because countries are friendly with each other, or from relatively similar political ideologies, does not mean they are some new axis, and American journalists' inability to look at Latin America with a view that is more complex than "leftist" is just shameful. Secondly, and more directly related to Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega has hardly been "leftist." If you want to refer to the Sandinistas as leftist, fine - it's still probably a lazy categorization on the part of the media, but at least it's fairly accurate. But when the actual major "leftist" political group in a country disowns the president as not representing leftist goals, ideals, and missions, could we at least respect that country's political spectrum, and agree that just because a leader isn't as "conservative" as America would like does not mean he/she's some radical "leftist" political force?