Venezuela’s Chavez Puts Latin America’s Dignity to the Test

A simple word from Venezuelan president Chavez was enough to put to the test the current foreign policy of Latin American governments with the United States

A simple word from Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez was enough to put to the test the current foreign policy of the governments of the “sister countries” of the continent with the United States of America. “There is an element that we must defend, and that is dignity“. And as if it wanted to leave doubts on the goal of his message, he added: “I want to make a call for reflection to our brothers of Latin America and the Caribbean”.

Chávez attacked through those statements the pressures exerted on countries of the Mercosur and the Andean Community, by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick. The goal of the U.S. representative is that they lower the tariffs, that they do not negotiate separately of the “Doha Round” of the World Trade Organization, and that they are open to bilateral pacts.

Two current events prove the application of the word “dignity” to State policies. First, the XI United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), held from June 13 until the 18th in Sao Paulo, the economic capital of Brazil.

The second event is the launching of the Third Round of Negotiations of the Global System of Trade Preference (GSTP), which will start in November of this year and will last until the same month in 2006. The proposal of Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and other States, is to this make negotiations excluding the rich countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), that is, outside the WTO. China and India agreed with the idea, and that is when the preoccupations began for Washington, the European Union and Japan.

“Dignity” weighs more than a tariff 

The reaction was immediate. Both the word used by the Venezuelan president to test the national self-esteem of his colleagues, and the practical scenario he had chosen to demonstrate it, pleased some while bothering others.

The president of The Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez, said that the good thing about the U.S. “commercial aperture” to its country, is that it will allow the creation of maquiladoras or sweatshops in that part of the island.

Didier Opperti, Minister de Foreign Relations of Uruguay, maintains that the Round of Doha, within the WTO is better for Uruguay and Latin America and that its country will only be saved by free trade.

The minister of Economy of Chile, Nicholas Eyzaguirre, in addition to being very happy about Chile’s candidacy to be part of the club of rich countries, indicated that his government prefers the negotiation of tariffs within the WTO-Doha, to a south-south negotiation within the G-77.

Also in Argentina, that reaction of “dignity the other way around”, has followers. The neoliberal press, such as La Nation and Channel 9, recently tied to the Cisneros Group of Companies, and their affiliated such as INFOBAE and Radio Diez, dedicated some time to ridicule both things: the Chavez suggestive little word, and the “meeting without any rich” countries of the south.

In the Argentine chancellery, where the “neoliberal school” predominates on the hand of economist Martin Redrado, Secretary of Foreign Trade and director of the Capital Foundation, beneficiary of the businesses during the Carlos Menem presidency, “both things” caused disgust.

Paraguay has not made a decision, but many assume it was not excited either. The dependent character of their nation and its economy prevents it. The second figure of the Paraguayan state, Chancellor Leila Rachid, presented their position on the matter very clear: “the problem with the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) is that it has been ideologized and it is preconceived to be imperialistic” (abcColor, 28-12-03). This position by the Paraguayan State was confirmed in January of 2004, when Paraguay refused to attend the G-20 Summit in Caracas, which brought together the nations of the “south” which in vain try to defend the price of his raw materials and maintain a dignified place in the world economy and politics.

By a rare trick of politics and linguistics, a single word, “dignity”, allowed to reveal that for many governments, its application before the United States is worse than the greatest tariff imposed in Doha by the WTO.