Over the last decade an epoch-making political change has taken place in the Western Hemisphere: Latin America, a region that was once considered the United States' "back yard," is now more independent of Washington than Europe is.
But while Latin America has changed, U.S. foreign policy has not - even now, with the election of President Obama. Hence the region, including Brazil, finds itself increasingly at odds with Washington. The military coup in Honduras is just one recent and glaring example.
The elected president is kidnapped at gunpoint and flown out of the country; his supporters are arrested by the thousands, beaten, tortured, and some even killed by security forces; media outlets opposing the coup are intermittently shut down, their equipment confiscated. Despite widespread condemnation of these crimes from human rights groups worldwide, the coup regime now tries to legitimate itself with an "election." Almost every country in Latin America says no, we must first restore democracy, civil liberties, and basic human rights; Washington supports the "election.
It is not only on the question of democracy that Washington finds itself on the wrong side of history. It has also gotten the economics wrong. From 1960-1980, when according to Washington folklore the region's governments couldn't do anything right, the average Latin American's income grew by 82 percent. From 1980- 2009, a much longer period filled with Washington-sponsored neoliberal reforms, it grew by about 18 percent. No wonder that most of the electorate in the region has voted over the last decade to reject neoliberal policies. It is little comfort that the U.S.-based authors of failed policies in Latin America have now managed to tank the U.S. economy as well.
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Center for Economic Policy Research