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Latin America at a Crossroads

Last year witnessed a decisive turn in Latin America. A growing number of countries in the region now seem determined to pursue their interests regardless of what the United States desires.

José Miguel Insulza’s election as Secretary General of the Organization of American States, and the consequent defeat of the candidate supported by the Bush administration, emphatically demonstrated the decline of America’s continental leadership. The US not only lost control of the OAS, an organization that generally serves US interests, but also failed to get last month’s Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata Argentina to endorse unanimously a declaration supporting America’s trade and political positions for the region. This rejection came about despite the summit be structured in such a way as to promote and defend those interests.

Attempts throughout 2005 by the Bush administration to discipline Venezuela’s government also failed. President Bush was simply unable to get other governments to back to the policy of isolation he sought to impose on President Hugo Chavez’s government. America has also been frustrated in its desire to obtain regional support for its policy of direct involvement in the Colombia’s internal strife.

Of course, not everything went against America. The election of the Colombian Luis Alberto Moreno as president of the Inter-American Development Bank had clear US backing. This means that the bank is likely continue its orthodox, neo-liberal policies. But a clear line in the sand has been drawn between Latin American countries that want to pursue regional integration on their own terms, and those who see hemispheric integration as directed by the US.