[Marxism] NYT backs Bush in Argentina, scapegoats Chavez for defeat of FTAA

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Nov 6 17:41:44 MST 2005

November 5, 2005
Free Trade Begins at Home

It was 11 years ago that Bill Clinton stood on a stage in Miami
flanked by the leaders of 33 North and South American countries and
proposed a hemispheric free trade agreement that would stretch from
Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. The Free Trade Area of the Americas, to
be completed by 2005, would be the largest in the world, encompassing
850 million people with $13 trillion in purchasing power, its backers

The summit meeting rang with optimistic calls about forging new ties
throughout the region. The cold war was over, and with the single
exception of Cuba, all of the region's countries were democracies and
believers in open markets, and they were listening to the structural
reform dictates of the World Bank and the International Monetary

Fast forward to yesterday. President Bush was in Mar del Plata,
Argentina, being heckled by protesters, not to mention taunts from
the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Mr. Chavez, who continues to
rant and rail against all things Yankee and often accuses the Bush
administration of trying to assassinate him, has decided to use the
summit meeting to try to drive a stake through the heart of the free
trade agreement.

That is hardly a tall order; the trade pact is not even on the barest
of life-support these days. A decade of retrenching in the United
States on trade, combined with economic and currency messes in
several Latin American countries, particularly Argentina, have left
governments with little appetite for opening markets. In fact, many
governments south of the border blame the American-pushed model of
free trade, open markets, privatization and fiscal austerity for the
vast increase in social inequality throughout the region in the past

It's not surprising, then, that the summit meeting leaders have
chosen to focus on more general issues, like employment and
democracy. "Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic
Governance" is the mouthful that's the theme of this meeting.
American and Canadian officials are still pushing the free-trade
message in the meeting's final communiqué, but it will clearly be
something far more vague than in the pact originally intended.

Still, a small step is better than no step, and perhaps it's enough
that after the last few years of putting Iraq and the Middle East
above all else, President Bush is finally paying a small bit of
attention to America's own hemisphere.

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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