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Latin America Has Never Stopped Being Washington’s Priority.

Translated Friday 16 March 2007, by John O’Neil

For Edgardo Ramírez, head of the Venezuelan Institute of advanced diplomatic studies, the US wants to hamper the process of Latin American integration.

HUMA: In your opinion, what are the objectives for George W.Bush’s Latin-American trip?

RAMIREZ: To understand this visit, it is fitting to return to an existing continental proposal: ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas, an alternative plan to the continental free trade zone that Washington is promoting - editor’s note). ALBA goes beyond commercial relations. This integration considers politics as the essential element for the construction foreign and international policies. It attacks the principal continental problems : poverty, inequality, and social marginalization. Another element is the usage of energy income as a major funding source for development programs. Latin America is forging a development that is respectful of each nation’s social, political, and cultural realities and their potential natural resource commodities. Faced with new liberation outlines and popular political participation, the United States, who has financed military dictatorships and today, Plan Colombia, claims to be eliminating poverty. It’s a way to confront the Venezuelan process or once again Mercosur because this is no longer simply a structure of commercial and economic integration. If the United States is truly concerned about poverty, the first thing to do, using its status in the World Bank and the IMF, would be to forgive all of the Latin American countries’ foreign debt.

HUMA: Do you share the view that for the last few years Latin America has not been a priority of the United States, more preoccupied with the war in Iraq?

RAMIREZ: Latin America has been a priority for as long as the US’s political hegemonic perspective has existed. The development and financing of Plan Colombia attests to that. When they maintain their military bases, as in Manta (Equador) at the triple border of Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil, it is unquestionably a priority. It is militaristic in order to assure the continent’s submission, domination and exploitation. It is false to claim that the United States is going back on its choices for Latin America. They intend to maintain their policy of interference under the pretext of their double war on terrorism and drug trafficking. However, everyone knows that if the United States wanted to tackle drug trafficking, they would start by controlling internal consumption, or would declare war on the banks which launder drug money. In addition, the 2002 National Security Strategy runs up against a historical doctrine which our libertadores, the historical figures of South American independence, advanced: freedom and sovereignty as well as the struggle against imperial powers. We are witnessing the same historical-political dilemma.

HUMA: Is it surprising that Venezuela was left out of this visit?

RAMIREZ: No. The United States wants to thwart the unity that we are seeking to build. Admittedly, within Mercosur different points of view concerning integration in the South American community of nations express themselves; but we have not lost sight of the fact that it falls to Latin America to define and choose the path of its integration process. By coming here the United States intends to upset this process and hopes to bear upon Brazil’s or Uruguay’s progressive governments. It is a question of creating internal contradictions through those governments but I think that Bush and US foreign policy are swimming upstream.

Published in the 8 March 2007 Edition

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