Posts tagged ‘Americas’

03/22/2011

Chile: Who Changed to Democracy?

President Obama said yesterday in South America that Chile made great change from dictatorship to democracy. I had to think about that. A more correct statement would be: Chile has always supported democracy; it is the U.S. that has changed, since it is the U.S. that no longer promotes dictatorship in Chile, but instead accepts democracy and the choices made by the Chilean voters.

Chile is a South American state in the Andes Mountains, where copper and iron ore are mined. Many of their mines were owned by U.S. interests. Back in 1965, a democratically-elected Chilean Senate voted to nationalize U.S.-owned copper mines, including Anaconda, Cerro and Kennecott. Their legislation was not carried out at first, until a man named Salvador Allende campaigned in 1970 to implement their laws. He was democratically-elected.

Behind the scenes, President Nixon’s CIA tried but failed to prevent Allende from being elected. The CIA conspired with International Telephone & Telegraph to disrupt Chilean politics. Meanwhile, Allende went ahead and nationalized copper, iron-ore and other concerns. Several UN Resolutions had made it clear that countries had right to control their own natural resources, without outside interference. Nevertheless, strikes, demonstrations and sabotage in 1972 led to a state of emergency. It was the U.S., and not the Chilean people, who engaged in a war against democracy and the freely-elected Chilean government.

Nixon’s CIA sponsored a military coup in 1973, which led to the execution of Allende. It was the U.S. that ushered in Gen. Augusto Pinochet and his brutal dictatorship. We were the ones responsible for his army and the arrests of thousands, the torture of political prisoners, and the death of many. Pinochet remained until 1990, when his collaborators gave him immunity from prosecution, so he could leave office. Pinochet, the dictator the U.S. had installed, finally died in 2006. Ironically, that same year Chile freely elected a Socialist woman as their president.

The point is Chile did not change; their voters have always wanted democracy. What changed is America. It is the U.S. that moved out of the dark days of the Nixon era, when dictatorships were supported, and into the light of the Obama presidency, where we are now promoting democracy.

03/21/2011

Brazil: Time to Trade in South America

President Obama did the right thing by leading a mission to Brazil for the purpose of improving U.S. trade in South America.

Brazil and the U.S. need to become stronger trading partners.  Brazil has much to offer in terms of natural resources. It is physically the largest South American state. Its width can be pictured by considering the fact that the Trans-Amazon Highway runs 3,400 miles from the Atlantic, in the east, to Peru, in the west. Brazil, with 200 million people, also has a large population. Its customer base is second in the Americas, only to the U.S.

Many Americans still harbor images of Brazil as a military dictatorship. Military juntas ruled from 1930 through 1954 and again from 1964 through 1985. They set aside constitutional law and dissolved political parties. They heard civilian cases in military courts. They denied individual rights. Political prisoners were subjected to torture and death squads.

But the days of military rule are gone. During the Jimmy Carter presidency, Human Rights became an issue worldwide. Brazil implemented reforms in 1979, and ended military rule in 1985, as the people voted again for the first time in decades. Brazil recently acknowledged their history of human rights abuse and moved on. Last year, they elected their first female president. Internationally, they have served on the Security Council 10 times since WWII. If the UN Charter were being drafted today, they certainly would be in line for a permanent seat.

Brazil is now a leading global economy. They joined the World Trade Organization 16 years ago. They are an industrial state that produces cement, steel, iron and vehicles. They are no longer limited to just coffee, corn and rice. 89% of their people are now literate. They host 33% of the top 100 Latin American colleges. Their scientists set off a controlled nuclear chain reaction, 54 years ago already. They launched a rocket into space in 2004.

The U.S. will never again have the preferred trading status it enjoyed during the 25 years following WWII, when Europe and East Asia were flat on their backs. It is a competitive world now and the U.S. must improve trade relations with other nations and particularly with developing states like Brazil.