THE BLOG
09/02/2011 08:33 am ET Updated Nov 01, 2011

The Latin American Spring

For years the U.S. Media and public discussion have focused on the Middle East and North Africa. This has meant scant attention to the profound changes underway in Latin America: the Latin American Spring. This change includes progressive policies achieved after electoral victories, Latin American scampering away from U.S. control toward regional solidarity, and major social and economic developments in Brazil. The countries having elected progressive governments are Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador and recently Peru. This phenomenon has been termed the Pink Tide. Among the changes they have implemented are more democratization, redistribution of resources towards the underprivileged, public health and education programs, protection of natural resources from foreign depredation and improvement of labor, gender and minority rights. In Bolivia and Peru progressive indigenous leaders have son the presidency. Women are president in Brazil and Argentina.
The consolidation of regional international structures has been hastened by disappointment with the Obama administration. Early in his tenure President Obama wet to a heads of government meeting in Trinidad All of the other governments there were prepared to take that opportunity to bring about the integration of Cuba into the Organization of America States (OAS). President Obama said that was not the table for discussion. The greatest source of Latin disappointment, however, was Obama's efforts to prevent the prevention of the Latin American Spring to Honduras. President Zelaya in office had been converted to progressive goals. When the military overthrew him, the United States did not name the coup a violation of international law nor demand the immediate return of Zelaya from exile. Brazil supported his return and gave him shelter in their Embassy in Tegucigalpa. The U.S. temporized until Zelaya's term had expired.
These events led to an acceptance of the idea that Latin America needed its own international organization not subject to U.S. manipulation. In February 2010, Mexico hosted a conference to which the United States and Honduras were not invited (nor was Canada) of the 32 other sovereign states in the hemisphere. The Conference launched a new organization, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which denounced the U.S. role in Honduras and scheduled a follow-up meeting in Caracas for the summer. (it has been delayed because of the cancer treatment of Hugo Chavez).
Previously, another international organization, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), had been created. In September 2008 it denounced a U.S. effort to encourage the secession of the more prosperous eastern part of Bolivia. Even U.S. ally Colombia supported this condemnation. In Ecuador when the U.S. lease of its largest military base in South America, Manta, came up for renewal President Correa said he would consider a new arrangement if the United States would allow Ecuador a base in the Miami area and permit Ecuadoran military to be stationed there. In July 2009, the U.S. lost its base rights.
When the U.S. financial collapse happened, President Inacio Lula da Silva said that Brazil had followed U.S. financial advice in the past, but that advice was wrong. Brazil was not severely affected by the international crisis and, in fact, maintained an impressive rate of social and economic development afterwards. Major petroleum deposits have been discovered off the coast. With its large population and economic prosperity, Brazil has become an important player on the international state. It is under consideration for being a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations.
Cuban accomplishments in education, health and social justice preceded the Pink Tide. Without the example of its international independence from the United States and the success of its social development, it is hard to imagine the coming of the Pink Tide Cuba and Venezuela have been in the process of integrating their economies. Current reforms are aimed a rationalizing the economy and allowing more individual economic initiative. Continued U.S. economic and diplomatic hostility toward Cuba is an irritant for all of the hemisphere. It is as insulting as the perceived walling out of Latin Americans at the U.S. Mexican border.