The invisible continent

For better or worse, Latin America is the invisible continent.

For better or worse, Latin America is the invisible continent.

Paradoxically, for better is demonstrated by the sad Venezuelan case. When Nicolás Maduro threatens the United States or Spain and spouts some filthy barbarities, nobody pays him any attention. That’s something to be grateful for. They don’t listen to him. He doesn’t count. He’s not perceived. He’s a cellophane dictator and that bothers him.

For worse, because no enemy is small, much less a Colombian oaf (his origin is doubtful) who is 2 meters tall and weighs 130 kilograms. Also because, as Panamanians say, there’s nothing more profitable than “sailing under a mother-effing’s flag.” Panamanians love nautical metaphors.

Nobody denies that Maduro tours the world exploiting his identity as a wandering boob and that he is an odd fellow who talks to the birds (and the ladybirds, one might add), but he does a lot more than practicing the language of birds and butchering grammar: he sponsors drug trafficking, issues illegal passports and associates with Iran, the FARC and the gangs of Islamic terrorists while fanning in his country the worst wave of corruption in recorded history.

All this, stresses Bolivian politician and politologist Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, unleashes the disorderly exodus of the least protected people. If Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Hondurans and Mexicans flee to the United States, it’s because people like Nicolás Maduro create the ideal conditions for millions (melluns, Maduro says) of people to think that all an enlightened Latin American can do is emigrate.

That is why it’s wrong for the U.S. to simply deal with the symptoms of evil — drug traffic, Islamic terrorism or the habitual problems of life, generalized corruption or illegal immigration — and ignore the cause of all those scourges. It’s like fighting with the chain and forgetting the monkey. It is an atrocious mistake to overlook Nicolás Maduro, Raúl Castro, Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega and the rest of the usual suspects.

At this moment, upon the mythical 100 days after settling in the White House, the administration of Donald Trump has still not nominated the State Department’s Under Secretary for Latin America. It has not formulated a coherent policy regarding the dangers that emanate from that region and has not designated a titular ambassador to the Organization of American States.

No one should be surprised, since the neighboring countries also lack an instinct of preservation and are incapable of formulating a foreign policy that might protect them.

In Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos toyed with the fantasy that Chávez was his new “best friend,” even though thousands of Colombian narcoguerrillas bivouacked in Venezuela and he knew it. Meanwhile, Lula’s and Dilma’s Brazil didn’t care that much of the coca produced by the FARC and exported by Venezuela through the Los Soles cartel (the cartel of Venezuelan generals) flooded the streets of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

At this point, it’s essential to formulate and answer three basic questions.

Why is it that the only Latin American countries that have formulated a joint foreign policy consistent with their objectives are totalitarian dictatorships such as Cuba, or disguised dictatorships such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador?

Maybe because they dream of sinking the United States and the values that give form and sense to the hated (by them) liberal democracies, and they know that, in order to achieve those purposes, it’s essential to act on the international field.

Why are the Latin American democracies incapable of generating an individual or collegiated foreign policy that might defend them from the permanent totalitarian siege?

Maybe because our political leaders (with some exceptions) don’t see beyond their noses or because they’ve delegated that function upon the United States, without understanding that this nation, in the long run, doesn’t care a hoot what happens outside its borders unless it affects the interests and safety of the United States. We can deduce this from the permanent isolationist trend that has existed ever since George Washington left power, advising his compatriots to avoid European entanglements.

Why is the United States more interested in what happens in Indochina or the Magreb than in what happens in its Latin American neighborhood, a short distance from the (still) imaginary Wall of Trump?

I suspect that has to do with the United States’ own self-perception. Despite Washington’s recommendation, the mainstream sees itself as an extension of Europe and has European concerns. For centuries, Latin America was a world spawned and zealously guarded by Spain. Very few Americans are capable of perceiving danger when it emanates from insignificant nations. That’s why they don’t see, hear or feel. Tragic! [©FIRMAS PRESS]

Published in Spanish by El Blog de Montaner on Saturday April 29th, 2017

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