Romney pledge of active Latin role draws criticism

The Mitt Romney campaign is promising a more active policy in Latin America if he is elected president.

“Under a Romney administration, the United States will pursue an active role in Latin America by supporting democratic allies and market-based economic relationships, containing destabilizing internal forces such as criminal gangs and terrorists, and opposing destabilizing outside influences such as Iran,” says a white paper produced by Mitt Romney for President, Inc.

Latin America occupies only a small portion of the foreign policy outline, which is titled “An American Century: A Strategy to Secure America’s Enduring Interests and Ideals.”

The policy statement about Latin America quickly generated criticisms.  Veronica Salas, a research associate at the left-wing Council on Hemispheric Affairs, characterized it this wayand quoted segments of the candidate’s speeches:

“By stressing the inherent superiority of the United States in his speeches, Romney has fed the distaste for domineering foreign influences in Latin America. His imagery only strokes discord, as it situates the United States on the moral high ground bearing the ‘eternal torch of decency,’ a ‘lantern of liberty,’ while the rest of the world presumably stoops in boorish decay.

According to the white paper, Latin America figured in eight actions that Romney would take during the first 100 days in office. The white paper said he would launch a campaign for economic opportunity in Latin America.

The campaign would capitalize on the benefits arising from the ratification of the Colombian and Panamanian free trade agreements to launch a robust public diplomacy and trade promotion campaign in Latin America that contrasts the benefits of democracy, free trade, and economic opportunity with the ills caused by the authoritarian model of Venezuela and Cuba.

The policy outline is certainly combative: “Decades of remarkable progress in Latin America toward security, democracy, and increased economic ties with America are currently under threat. Venezuela and Cuba are leading a virulently anti-American ‘Bolivarian’ movement across Latin America that seeks to undermine institutions of democratic governance and economic opportunity. The Bolivarian movement threatens U.S. allies such as Colombia, has interfered with regional cooperation on key issues such as illicit drugs and counterterrorism, has provided safe haven for drug traffickers, has encouraged regional terrorist organizations, and has even invited Iran and foreign terrorist organizations like Hezbollah into the region.”

Naturally the white paper said that President Barack Obama “has done little to reverse these disturbing trends and has to some degree exacerbated them. He has neglected our democratic allies in the region while reaching out to those nations that are working against our interests and values.”

The Romney policy statement also promises to build on an existing anti-drug framework to create a unified hemispheric task force on crime and terrorism.

The policy statement also calls for more military training, cooperating and sharing of intelligence to combat narcoterrorists.

The statement also said that “Romney will use the full powers of the presidency to complete an impermeable border fence protecting our southern frontier from infiltration by illegal migrants, trans-national criminal networks, and terrorists.”

Although the Romney white paper came out last October, it gained new currency with the candidate’s speech July 24 to the Veterans of Foreign Wars where he spoke of links between Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Hezbollah.

Ms. Salas dismisses the policy statement as mostly rhetoric: “Certainly, a look at Romney’s proposals reveals mere talking points cemented with slogans over substance. For as much as he has attempted to portray Obama’s stances as competing with his own while distancing himself from George W. Bush, Romney may actually be too similar to his would-be predecessors for Latin America’s well being.”

“If he had his way after the campaign season, Romney would no doubt draw Latin America back to the days of the Monroe Doctrine, in which the United States alone could decide which powers meddled in the Americas.” she said.

Obama suffered a public relations disaster in Cartagena, Colombia, at the Summit of the Americas when the media spotlight focused on Secret Service agents and other U.S. employees cavorting with local prostitutes. Other countries also were critical of the administration’s Cuban policies and the continual U.S. war on drugs.

Obama has replaced his Latin American adviser, Dan Restrepo.

The Romney policy statement, some 43 pages, addresses China and the candidate’s hope to involve the country in some form of trade agreement to limit the current predatory policies. However, the document fails to address the expansion of Chinese influence in Latin America as well as in Costa Rica. Of course, the Obama administration has been concentrating on the war against cocaine smuggling and has given Costa Rica patrol boats and backing to build highway check points. China gave a soccer stadium.

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