THESES ABOUT GEORGE W. BUSH’S FOREIGN POLICY TOWARD LATIN AMERICA
Jose Z. Garcia email@example.com, New Mexico State University
Prepared for the Conference “Evaluating the George W. Bush Presidency
University of Hawaii at Hilo, July 29‐31, 2009
DRAFT: PLEASE DO NOT CITE WITHOUT AUTHOR’S PERMISSION
Abstract: U.S. policy toward Latin America under the Presidency of George W. Bush represented a
strong continuation of policies—toward trade, democratic governance, economic prosperity, and
security—in evolution since the 1980s, both in conception and execution. Negative reactions toward
some of these policies, however, were beginning to emerge during the Clinton administration in various
regions and sectors of Latin America, and these crystallized during the Bush administration, particularly
after U.S. responses to the events of September 11 took shape. Little was done to counter these
negative reactions, and they were fueled by the perception that Latin America was no longer a strong
priority in Washington. By the end of the Bush administration public opinion toward the United States
was in sharp decline in Latin America. In several countries chiefs of state were openly critical of a wide
range of U.S. policies, and in other countries leaders increased cooperative relations with other Latin
American nations and with other global powers. The Chinese, Russian, and Iranian presence in Latin
America increased significantly during the Bush administration, as the Monroe Doctrine seemed
increasingly irrelevant. Bottom line: While relations with most Latin American countries remained
strong, and Latin America continues to be a zone of peace, the legitimacy and prestige of the U.S. as a
global hegemon went into steep decline in Latin America during the Bush administration, and Latin
Americans feel less dependent on U.S. leadership and assistance.
Thesis One: George Bush’s overall policies toward Latin America represent a strong continuation with
previous U.S. policy, not a break with the past
In keeping with previous administrations, Bush emphasized the conventional themes for Latin America:
support for democratic governance processes; support for economic policies that emphasized free
markets, dropping trade barriers and emphasizing hemispheric trade alliances, privatization, and
responsible fiscal and monetary policy, support for counter‐drug measures in Latin America. Bush
shared in the vision, shared by President Clinton and his father before him, of a huge trading bloc of the
Americas, which could rival the European Community and the Pacific Rim. Very little that the
administration did in relating to Latin America deviated from these goals. One theme in this paper is
that circumstances after September 11 changed the context within which his policies toward Latin
America were viewed in Latin America.
Thesis Two: During the Bush Administration Latin American countries were confronted with evidence
the U.S. government now believed Latin America had diminished in strategic importance. Latin
Americans, whether positively or negatively disposed to the U.S. during the administration, reacted to
this growing perception.
At the beginning of the Cold War Washington, when it thought about Latin America, beheld a rapidly
growing continent, replete with natural resources, but politically unstable and not yet settled in its
ideological and geopolitical loyalties. In spite of a few nasty moments of imperial outreach earlier in the
century, and occasional disagreement over U.S. interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine, Latin Americans
clearly leaned toward the United States as a model for capitalist development and democratic self‐
governance, and, perhaps with less enthusiasm, as a partner in what promised to be an epic hegemonic
struggle with the Soviet Union. These leanings had been nurtured by several generations of personal
ties forged through U.S. investments, by a remarkably consistent Good Neighbor Policy of non‐
intervention that, during the 1950s, Guatemala notwithstanding,1
remained intact during the Republican
administration of President Eisenhower, and by a genuine admiration for the plucky Yanks who had
taken on imperial Germany and Japan and, using their famous Yankee ingenuity, had triumphed. And in
return, Americans tended to put their best face (if not always their Latin American policies) forward
when dealing with Latin Americans because, from the beginning to the end of the Cold War, Latin
America mattered in the dramatic, global struggle for the hearts and minds of a bipolar world.
One of the often unspoken issues underlying debates about Latin America during the post‐Cold War
period was the extent to which Latin America mattered to the U.S. in the emerging global order. This
question would become salient, not so much in Washington’s dealings with Latin America during the
Bush II administration, but in Latin America’s response to rapidly moving events at the global, more than
hemispheric, level, after September 11. That is, for many Latin American leaders during the second
term of the Bush administration, the operating question became this: given the unwillingness of the
U.S. to place Latin American agendas on the table, and given what appears to be a global strategic vision
of President Bush that largely ignores Latin America, what is the optimal response for us to make? This
question was high on the minds of leaders with both positive and negative predispositions toward the
United States. In some cases leaders, such as the case of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, leaders used the
Bush administration as a foil, taking advantage of negative public opinion toward him, and framing the
inter‐hemispheric agenda openly in counterpoint to U.S. policies, although not necessarily, interests. In
other cases leaders improved relations with other countries, in and out of the hemisphere, pointedly
ignoring the United States. The net result was a diminishment of reliance on U.S. leadership.
Thesis Three: Many Latin Americans have come to believe important elements of U.S. policy toward
Latin America are essentially partisan in nature; that is, biased toward privileged sectors. This was
true before the Bush administration, but it culminated during the Bush years, complicating relations
especially in the growing list of countries electing Leftist leaders.
Until the last decade of the Cold War, the rhetoric behind U.S. actions was relatively neutral, or
balanced, ideologically; that is, the forces of the Right—fascism, undemocratic oligarchies controlled by
dictators—were seen to be as intolerable (although not always treated that way) as the forces of the
Left—Marxist thought, socialist and communist parties. Underneath the umbrella in between these two
evils, Latin American governments, in the view of Washington, were free to pursue whichever policy
preferences they preferred. That is, communism and fascism aside, the U.S. promised neutrality, non‐
See Bryce Wood, The Dismantling of the Good Neighbor Policy, University of Texas Press, 1985.
partisanship, in their dealings with Latin Americans. Governments could pursue restrictive trade policies
under the theory of import‐substitution industrialization, or they could emphasize trade, under the
more orthodox liberal doctrines of the day. They could favor statist intervention in the economy, with
government control over railroads, airlines, portions of the industrial sector, etc., or they could leave
these to the private sector. They could emphasize agricultural development or industrial development.
They could redistribute income through taxation policies or agrarian reform. They could function under
one‐party, two‐party, or multiparty electoral systems or even, although officially frowned upon, regimes
of exception (that is, dictatorships), as long as these did not embrace communism. Government
regulation could be restrictive or generous to foreign investors, trade unions, peasant organizations,
armed forces, bureaucracies, and so on.
This posture, it should be emphasized, was more rhetorical than operational, a statement about the
theoretical rules of the game, not how the referee truly enforced them; asymmetry in power relations
between Latin America and the U.S. was an acknowledged reality. U.S. embassies in Latin America had
“positions” on all of the above issues, generally the product of a combination of pressures from U.S.
business interests and a calculus of consequences on the communist‐non communist scale. And these,
if they were deemed important enough, could be reinforced with delays in aid packages, promises to
increase assistance, symbolic gestures, linking tensions on a given issue to positive action on other issue‐
agendas, etc. But the rhetorical exercise of neutrality, or non‐partisanship, was nevertheless vital for
both sides. Aside from serving a an important legitimizing an asymmetrical status quo, dignifying both
parties, it offered a valuable framework of norms that could help actors distinguish the likelihood and
intensity of U.S. response to, say, new tax policies incidentally hurting U.S. investors, as opposed to new
trade union laws benefitting Marxist labor unions.
This secular neutrality would end with the rise of the doctrine of neo‐liberalism as the prescribed
economic development mode for Latin America under the Reagan administration. The break was not
completely sudden, since there had been voices, such as the IMF, in the U.S. calling for more “market‐
driven” mechanisms for economic development as far back as the mid‐1960s. Nor was the push for
neo‐liberalism solely the product of U.S. instigation. Powerful forces throughout Latin America were
behind the trend as well. Following the coup against Allende in 1973, for example, the Pinochet
government and many sectors of Chilean society openly embraced the neoliberal prescriptions of the
“Chicago Boys;” in fact, the Chilean success in producing rapid growth in the 1980s helped “sell” neo‐
liberalism to other Latin Americans much more effectively than economic advisors working in U.S.
embassies. Many voices in Latin America—academics, business groups, political parties, banks, joined in
the chorus call for neoliberal reform. Nevertheless, the U.S.’s whole‐hearted embrace of neoliberal
policy prescriptions at the end of the Cold War, given the concrete instruments of U.S. policy that
increasingly came attached with neo‐liberal strings, caused the U.S. to be associated with it. As a
general statement it can be said that in the post‐Cold War period the Left in Latin America has focused
on the negative impact neo‐liberal policies, harshly criticizing the alliance of forces pushing neo‐
liberalism both in Washington and Latin America, have had on Latin American societies.
That the Clinton administration embraced neo‐liberal reform (he called it “globalization) fully in his
dealings with Latin America during his tenure in office appeared to confirm the hypothesis that the
doctrine of neo‐liberalism was not a temporary aberration, but a relatively long‐lasting policy shift in
U.S.‐Latin American relations, and it was during the Clinton administration that a growing body of
literature critical of the effects of neo‐liberalism as applied in Latin America began to emerge, unifying
the Left in large portions of Latin America, particularly in Mexico, Venezuela, the Andean region, much
of Central America, and parts of the Southern Cone.
Thesis Four: During the Bush administration The Washington Consensus came to be viewed as a failed
project, leading to a search for alternative models.
The debt crisis of 1982 marked a starting point for region‐wide neoliberal reform in Latin America. In
the early 1980s global economic many in the last stages of military dictatorships, had been living on
borrowed money. When Mexico defaulted on her debts in 1982, after a lengthy splurge in spending, a
serious international financial crisis ensued. High oil prices, low rates of growth, inflation, high interest
rates, and a fall in non‐oil commodity prices combined to force governments into serious adjustments.
Public spending was slashed. Imports fell by 45%2
between 1981 and 1984, and exports were promoted
as a means of paying huge debts loads that had been accumulating since the collapse of the Bretton
Woods system in the early 1970s. The trade deficit in Latin America shifted from a $2 billion deficit in
1981 to a $31 billion surplus in 1983, most of which went to pay interest payments on debt.3
American countries found they could not keep up with their debt schedules the IMF stepped in to
renegotiate debt. But as a precondition of loans and debt restructuring the IMF required debtor nations
to sign agreements which allowed the IMF to dictate important facets of domestic economic policy.4
Many of these prescriptions were simply good common sense: tighten your belts and pay your debts as
well as you can; get the government out of business, let market forces determine prices, supplies, and
By 1990 the policy prescriptions were common enough to be summarized as “The Washington
Consensus” in an article by John Williamson,5
and the phrase became commonplace as a shorthand
reference not only to a package of neo‐liberal reform, but also, in many ways, a phrase that summarized
the coming of U.S. global hegemony in a post‐Marxist world where capitalism had triumphed. With the
fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the decision of China to enter the global
marketplace, former socialist countries joined the bandwagon. As Dani Rodrik puts it, “there was more
privatization, de‐gregulation, and trade liberalization in Latin America and Eastern Europe than probably
anywhere else at any point in economic history.”6
Albert Fishlow and James Jones, The United States and the Americas, The American Assembly, 1999, p. 25.
Alexander Theberge, “The Latin American Debt Crisis of the 1980s and Its Historical Precursors,” April 1989.
Ibid, p. 11.
John Williamson, ed. Latin American Adjustment: how much has happened? Washington, DC, Institute for
International Economics, 1990.
Dani Rodrik, Harvard University, "Goodbye Washington Consensus, Hello Washington Confusion? A Review of the
World Bank’s Economic Growth in the 1990s: Learning from a Decade of Reform" Journal of Economic Literature
XLIV (December 2006): 969‐83.
One problem was, the rush to adopt neo‐liberal policies did not result in rapid economic growth in most
countries that adopted them. The 1990s saw less GDP growth per capita in Latin America than in 1950‐
1980, the heyday of protectionism, despite the widespread dismantling of protectionist regimes, state‐
run enterprises, and all the predicted benefits of “freeing up markets” and “globalization.” On the other
hand, China and India, which remained un‐privatized, highly protectionist, and hardly models of neo‐
liberal reform, were highly successful during this period.7
As evidence accumulated in the early 2000s
that countries that had embraced neo‐liberal policies were not necessarily better off, strong criticisms of
the theory and practice of neoliberal reform surfaced not only in Latin America but also in the United
States. Perhaps the most persuasive critic was Joseph Stiglitz. Writing in The New Republic in 2000 he
I was chief economist at the World Bank from 1996 until last November, during the gravest
global economic crisis in a half‐century. I saw how the IMF, in tandem with the U.S. Treasury
Department, responded. And I was appalled." New Republic, April, 2000.
Stiglitz won the Nobel prize in Economics the following year and in 2002 he published Globalization and
in which he argued the IMF had done great damage by imposing economic policies it as
a condition to qualify for IMF loans or IMF‐influenced banks. It forced on governments textbook
prescriptions particularly unsuited to less developed countries, often with disastrous consequences.
Another problem was more political in nature. Neo‐liberal reform, as it was practiced, came to be seen
in many quarters as a set of policies that encouraged corruption, largely among elites, and which
resulted in greater impoverishment of the poor. Stories circulated about the low prices the well
connected wealthy paid for privatized industries, about growing income disparities between rich and
poor, about well‐heeled international corporations paying bribes to legislators, and about the new
“informal sector” made up of growing numbers of persons unemployed by shrinking government
budgets, cost‐conscious privatized industries, such as airlines, and other indicators of “the discipline of
the market.” By the early 2000s many countries had either elected politicians who openly adopted an
anti‐neoliberal stance: Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela in 1998, Inacio Lula was elected
in Brazil in 2002, Lucio Gutierrez was elected in 2002 in Ecuador, Nestor Kirchner in 2003 in Argentina,
Tabare Vazquez in 2004 in Uruguay, Michelle Bachelet in Chile in 2005, Manuel Zelaya in Honduras in
2005, Evo Morales in Bolivia in 2005, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua in 2006, Rafael Correa in 2006,
Fernando Lugo in Paraguay in 2008, Mauricio Funes in El Salvador in 2009. While the presidencies of
these “new left” leaders have been characterized by varying degrees of accommodation with more
conservative forces in their countries, by the end of the Bush presidency it was clear the reaction against
what was perceived in Latin America as the imposition of neo‐liberalism by U.S. policymakers was
gaining popularity and was spilling into latent and sometimes not‐so‐latent forms of anti‐Americanism.
George Bush became president just as these reactions to neo‐liberal economic disappointment were
beginning to find effective political expression. The widespread lack of popularity of the war in Iraq
throughout Latin America, combined with a strong feeling the U.S. had downgraded the importance of
Ibid, p. 4.
Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents, W.W. Norton, June, 2002.
Latin America, when added to the growing unpopularity of The Washington Consensus, produced a
visceral reaction in many parts of Latin America.
Thesis Five: Latin America as a priority region in international affairs changed abruptly after the
events of 9/11.
“Should I become president I will look South, not as an afterthought, but as a
fundamental commitment of my presidency.” George Bush, Florida International
University, Miami, August 25, 2000.
The above quote remains one of the most widely cited quotes in articles about the Bush policies, by
writers of all ideological stripes, always in ironic contrast between the rhetoric and action of the
administration. During his presidential campaign George W. Bush promised to make Latin America a
high priority in his administration, making this the “century of the Americas.”9
With Latin America now
more firmly governed by elected officials, with virtual unanimity among Latin American leaders in favor
of the Washington Consensus view on the overall direction of economic policy, and with a long tradition
of Western values, it appeared to be an appropriate time to fathom a Western Hemisphere trading bloc
that could rival the EU and the Pacific Rim, at least as a powerful organizing concept. Why not extend
NAFTA throughout the hemisphere, solidifying economic and business ties, while strengthening
hemispheric security relations at the same time? It seemed an auspicious moment to begin a long‐term,
strategic partnership that could compete, conceptually, with the highly popular idea of NAFTA, which for
the first time in U.S. history, included Mexico into the mental geography of North America.
President Bush’s first foreign trip was to Mexico, to visit with President Fox at his ranch. They discussed
immigration, drug trafficking, and energy cooperation, and it appeared Mexico would be a high early
priority for the new administration. High on Fox’s agenda was comprehensive immigration reform, and
President Bush appeared to be positively disposed to reach a mutually satisfactory accommodation.
President Fox visited Washington in early September 2001, just before the attacks on the twin towers.
Bush asserted during the visit that “Mexico…is our most important relationship.”10
Bush also attended the third Summit of the Americas, in Quebec, in April 2001. There, he congratulated
the 34 leaders in attendance, noting that the region had entered a new era with the spread of
democracy. Bush promised to negotiate a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) by 2005. This would
help integrate an area of 800 million people with a combined production at that time of well over $10
trillion, a trading bloc more modest in size and scope, but nevertheless comparable in some ways to the
European Union. Bush did mention other issues—drug trafficking, health, and education, but in a highly
conciliatory speech he accepted some responsibility for the persistence of these issues and promised to
cooperate in resolving them. In short, he gave every indication he would not only follow existing
policies toward Latin America (emphasizing democratic governance, free trade, assistance for counter‐
See Georges Fauriol and Sidney Weintraub, “The Century of the Americas: Dawn of a New Century Dynamic,”
The Washington Quarterly, Spring 2001.
George Dietrich, editor, The George W. Bush Foreign Policy Reader, M.E. Sharpe, 2005, p. 267.
drug and other U.S. priorities) except that Latin America would enjoy a higher and perhaps more
ambitious profile than it had under previous administrations.
U.S. response to the September 11 attacks changed all of this, both with respect to the U.S. view of Latin
America’s place on the hierarchy of priorities, and Latin America’s view, overall, of President Bush and
U.S. policy. Although Latin Americans strongly condemned the September 11 attacks, serious dissension
appeared over the war in Iraq. In 2003 Chile and Mexico were in the rotation for positions on the UN
Security Council. Both countries refused to approve a resolution authorizing the removal of Saddam
Hussein. This was very much in keeping with their longstanding record of upholding non‐intervention in
international affairs. But the U.S. was asking the government of Mexico to vote with the U.S. on a
highly salient issue that would have contradicted strong public opinion in Mexico City. In the end, the
U.S. could only get 7 out of 33 countries to support its position at the U.N.
Virtually all Latin American authors dealing with U.S. relations agree that Latin America was immediately
downgraded as a priority for the Bush administration.11
It did not go unperceived that George Bush
failed to go to the presidential inauguration of Inacio Lula in Brasil, or to Lucio Gutierrez’s presidential
inauguration in Ecuador, both in January of 2003. In Bolivia, President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, a
staunch advocate of neo‐liberal reform in the 1980s, and during his first term in office from 1993‐1997,
did not receive the support he might have expected from the U.S. embassy during the crisis which led to
his resignation early in his second term as president in 2003. Perhaps most important, Argentina, a
poster child for IMF‐orthodoxy in economic policy, was not given much of a break when the Argentine
economy began to collapse in 2001. Instead, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill suggested out loud that the
problems were self‐created and that foreign assistance might create a “moral hazard” in which debtors
came to expect bailouts and postpone needed policy reform. Eventually the administration did support
new loans, but as a condition of these loans Argentina was forced in 2002 to cut 3% and then 18% of
government spending to reduce a deficit, creating 20‐25% unemployment rates after IMF‐inspired
measures were unable to prevent the largest debt default in history. Argentines were less than fully
amused when in 2009 the Bush administration drastically increased U.S. government spending in the
face of a serious financial crisis, rather than follow prescribed neo‐liberal policies they had imposed on
much of Latin America for the previous two decades.
On September 9, 2003 Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "There is no region on earth that is more
important to the American people than the Western Hemisphere….The Western Hemisphere is the key
to our democracy, our security and our prosperity." Nevertheless, on February 11, 2004 Powell told
Congress aid to Latin America would drop in FY 2005 to $721 million from $757 million in 2004. This
difference between rhetoric and action, coupled with a tendency to lecture down to Latin Americans,
typified U.S. diplomacy during the first years of the administration.
See for example, Jesus Velasco Marquez, “America Latina en las plataformas de campana,” Foreign Affairs en
Espanol, 4:2, 2004, Donna Hrinak, “Cuatro Anos mas para America Latina,” Foreign Affairs en Espanol, 5:1, 2005,
Claudio Fuentes y Francisco Rojas Aravena, “El patio trasero: Estados Unidos y America Latina pos‐Iraq, Nueva
Sociedad, 185, 2003.
Latin American economic performance also declined, due to a reduction in commodity prices,
slowdowns in Argentina and Brazil, and the global recession of 2002‐2003. Per capita production went
down 2.6% in 2002. Some Latin Americans hoped for a surge in U.S. assistance, but this did not occur. A
survey of public opinion in leaders in six Latin American countries in 2003 showed that 87 percent had a
negative opinion of President Bush.
Thesis Six: Reinforcing the view that Latin America was low on the President’s priority list, and that
his orientation toward Latin America was partisan, obsessed with security, was his appointment of
Otto Reich as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
In spite of opposition from moderate quarters, Bush appointed Otto Reich as Assistant Secretary with
the Latin America portfolio. Reich was known as a hard‐liner from the Reagan administration, a Cuban
American with well known antipathies toward Castro, and a shady past in the Contra Wars of the 1980s.
He had headed the Office of Latin American Public Diplomacy, set up by the White House principally as a
mechanism for assisting the Contra cause. In 1987, the General Accounting Office described this
agency’s activities as including prohibited, covert propaganda activities such as writing op‐ed columns in
the name of contra leaders for publication in U.S. newspapers. Reich received a “recess appointment,”
without congressional approval, since Sen. Christopher Dodd refused to hold a hearing for him. This
meant he could only hold the position one year. During that year, however, there was a coup against
Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, and Reich was said to have held meetings with Pedro Carmona, leader of the
coup, months prior to its execution. He is also said to have assured several Latin American ambassadors
in his office that the U.S. would back the coup, since, he said, Chavez had resigned from office.12
Bush administration did endorse the coup, although Chavez was returned to power by another faction
of the armed forces two days later. Reich was not highly respected in Latin America. He was considered
knowledgeable only about Cuba and Central America, and even here from a partisan point of view
unpopular in Latin America, and the knowledge that the U.S. Senate had refused to confirm him was
seen as further evidence the President was acting with capriciousness toward Latin America.
Another administration official linked to the coup was Elliot Abrams, convicted in the Iran‐Contra
scandals of lying to Congress, pardoned by George H. W. Bush, was appointed as the National Security
Council’s senior director for democracy, human rights, and international affairs. He was accused of
having approved the coup beforehand, to conspirators. Although little evidence of this was produced,
and the White House denied all involvement, his presence in the administration did not reassure Latin
Americans that he would be evenhanded in his support for democracy.
Thesis Seven: The most successful policy orientation with Latin America during the Bush
administration was in the area of trade policy.
As was true of his predecessors, George W. Bush aggressively pursued trade with Latin America,
implementing free trade agreements with Chile, the Dominican Republic the Central American
countries, and Peru. Trade agreements have also been signed with Colombia and Panama, but they still
Ed Vulliamy, The Observer, April 21, 2002.
await congressional approval. On the other hand the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) proposal,
stalled when it became clear Brazil would not support the FTAA unless the U.S. agreed to eliminate
agricultural and other subsidies. After that, U.S. strategy was to strike trade agreements with individual
countries on a bilateral basis, except for the Central American Free Trade agreement, which was sub‐
regional in nature. These agreements covered well over 80 percent of total U.S. trade in the
hemisphere, in countries totaling about 50 percent of the hemisphere’s non‐US GDP.13
including Canada, Mexico, Chile, and Colombia, began negotiating with each other and other countries
to forge their own tariff reductions. This network of trade agreements created what Eric Farnsworth
called a “spaghetti‐bowl” dilemma, making supply chain efficiencies more difficult.14
And Brazil has
simply used its productive capacity to strengthen its regional influence.
As was the case in the 1990s, Latin America remained the fastest growing U.S. regional trading partner
except for Africa. Between 1996 and 2007, total U.S. merchandise trade, exports plus imports, with
Latin America grew by 137 percent, compared to 110 percent for Asia, 114 percent for the European
Union, 294 percent for Africa, and 120 percent for the world.15
Nevertheless, as a proportion of total
trade with the world, U.S. trade with Latin America in 2007 (imports plus exports) remained exactly the
same, at 19%.16
Foreign Aid as percent of GDP has been falling in the US since the early 1990s, and it is low compared to
most developed countries. Individual countries in Latin America nevertheless received increasing funds
during the Bush administration. Colombia, Peru and Bolivia were among the top aid recipients in the
world and the region’s share of total foreign aid increased from 8.2% in 1994 to 11.4% in 2004. Although
the overall composition of foreign aid spending has varied little globally, U.S. military spending in Latin
America steadily increased for drug trafficking programs, most notably in Plan Colombia. Foreign aid to
the military tripled from 1997 to 2005, compared to a only a 150% growth in development and
economic assistance. The emphasis on antiterrorism also increased the amount of resources devoted to
police training and military aid in the case of Mexico while in the rest of the region, antiterrorist funds
were spent in counter‐drug activities, counter‐guerrilla assistance, and other security programs.
Thesis Eight: In the wake of what appeared to be a period of neglect in many areas of policy, other
powers explored relations with Latin America, and Latin Americans explored new relationships with
each other and with other regions. George Bush’s popularity was extremely low throughout the
Eric Farnsworth, “A Way Forward for Hemispheric Trade,” Current History, February 2009. P. 90.
Ibid, p. 90.
J.F. Hornbeck and Marisabel Cid, “U.S.‐Latin American Trade: Recent Issues,” CRS Report to Congress, July 18,
Ibid, Calculated from Table in Appendix
According to Latinobarometro, an extensive opinion survey taken yearly throughout Latin America,
approval of the United States plummeted in much of Latin America during the first five years of the Bush
administration, dropping 20 points or more in Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador; by more than 30 points
in Mexico and Uruguay; and more than 40 points in Argentina, Paraguay, and Venezuela.17
Americans answering that they had a “good” or “very good” opinion of the United States fell from 73%
in 2001 to 58% in 2008. In 2006 a Zogby poll showed fewer than 20% of Latin American elites gave Bush
a favorable approval rating. 18
The Latinobarometer showed George Bush’s approval rating to have
dropped steadily in Latin America from a high of 4.9 on a scale of 1‐10, to 4.2 in 2008. In 2008, out of a
list of 16 chiefs of state (plus the King of Spain), largely from Latin America, only Daniel Ortega scored
lower (4.0%). Hugo Chavez, whose rating in 2005 was 4.9%, equal to George Bush, in 2008 scored
slightly higher (4.3%) than George Bush.19
Support For Democracy
“It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of Democratic movements
and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our
world.” George W. Bush, Second Inaugural Address
presidential elections, won by the leftist candidate. The Bush administration also supported
governments in Peru and Ecuador and Colombia. So the record In April 2002 a coup attempt was made
against Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez. Many believe the administration supported the coup,
despite protestations to the contrary. That same year in Bolivia Ambassador Manuel Rocha a career
diplomat, warned Bolivians the U.S. would withdraw its foreign assistance if Evo Morales were to be
elected President. This backfired, and Morales suddenly jumped in the polls from fourth place to a
close second, and he finally lost to his opponent by less than 2%. In 2003 Bolivia President Sanchez de
Lozada, a strong ally of the administration, found himself in a serious budget crisis and a controversy
over contracts for concessions to foreign firms and asked the U.S. for budget support, warning that his
government might fall if such aid were denied. He received virtually no support,20
and was indeed
forced to resign. In 2004 the U.S. played a major, public, role in deposing Haiti’s constitutional President
Jean Bertrand Aristide. That same year U.S. officials openly spoke out during the presidential campaign
against the FMLN. On the other hand, the Bush administration helped the Brazilian government during
the 2002 presidential election, which allowed the Brazilian Left to win for the first time. And the Bush
administration adopted a neutral policy in the Uruguayan here is mixed.
As Latin Americans looked at the United States with some bewilderment, believing the President was
dealing in ways that were counterproductive for the advancement of broader U.S. interests in Latin
America, other powers were beginning to take note of opportunities. During the Bush administration
trade between China and Latin America increased from $10 billion to $100 billion. Russia began
Cynthia McClintock, testimony presented before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the
Western Hemisphere, Feb. 4, 2009. Quoted at http://americas.irc‐online.org/am/5859.
Nick Miroff, “How George W. Bush Unified Latin America,” Mother Jones, March 25, 2006.
Latinobarometro, Informe 2008, p. 110.
Jorge I. Dominguez, ReVista, Spring/Summer 2005.
increasing sales of military weapons, with a $3 billion sale in 2006 to Venezuela21
buying 50% of Brazil’s
and exploring a deepening of relations with Latin America. Even Iran has gotten into the
act, with a visit of President Ahmadinejad to Caracas, La Paz, and the appointment of a Hezbollah
sympathizer, Alejandro Hamed Franco, as foreign minister in Asuncion. Moreover, Latin Americans have
pointedly left the U.S. out of regional conferences they have held to discuss outstanding diplomatic
While the Bush policies toward Latin America, in themselves didn’t fail; that is, trade relations remain
strong, the trend toward democratic governance structures continues, and U.S. drug and other security
policies remain in place, the Bush administration’s continuation of Latin American policies from previous
administrations, precisely at a moment many Latin Americans began to challenge them, convinced many
Latin Americans that it was the United States, not Latin America, that was stuck in the past. Continuing
a drug policy that had failed over a thirty year period seemed pointless. Continuing to lecture Latin
Americans about neoliberal doctrine just as Latin Americans were organizing effectively against it,
seemed counterproductive. Appointing diplomats with shady pasts and Cold War attitudes seemed
condescending. Ignoring Latin America’s agenda with the United States, i.e., to free up agricultural
markets, to initiate comprehensive, humane, and effective migration policy reform, seemed arrogant.
Reducing Latin America as a priority seemed needless. And since the Bush administration appeared not
to address strong indications that Latin America wanted to be part of a partnership, with give and take
on both sides, Latin Americans simple began fending for themselves. President Obama faces a set of
countries far less committed to partnership with the U.S. than Bush did eight years ago.
Daniel P. Erikson, “Requiem for the Monroe Doctrine,” Current History, February 2008.
Alex Sanchez, “Russia Returns to Latin America,” Council on Hemispheric Affairs Report, February 14 2007.