In two interesting analyses of elections in Latin America, Professor Doug Hertzler, associate professor of anthropology at Eastern Mennonite University and Adam Isacson of the Center for International Policy remind us, and the U.S. government, to look closely at the reality in each country rather than viewing it in an ideological context.
In “It’s not about Chavez, ” Adam Isacson writes that “it’s hard to discern any pattern in the current set of polls and political outcomes [in Latin American elections]. To the extent that there is one, Latin American voters’ mood is turning against angry, extreme, polarizing leaders of all political stripes. Approval ratings seem to favor moderate pragmatists of the right and left (Martinelli in Panama, Funes in El Salvador, Bachelet in Chile and Lula in Brazil). They are less kind to more combative, partisan leaders (Ortega in Nicaragua, Fernández in Argentina, and even Chávez and Colombia’s Uribe who, while still quite popular, has seen a modest decline in his ratings).”
In “It’s Time with a New Relationship with Bolivia,” posted on Quixote Center’s website,” Professor Hertzler writes that just-relected President Evo Morales “has played a key role in ushering in a new era of democracy where the majority of poor and indigenous Bolivians are able to choose a candidate who they identify with and who is attempting to address their situation.” He urges a more pragmatic U.S. approach to Bolivia:
“The election of Barack Obama brought great hope for a better relationship, but after one year, little has changed. The Obama administration and the Democrats, citing erroneous data on the drug war, have twice refused to restore trade preferences which were unjustly removed and they have refused to acknowledge the ways in which Bolivia has been cooperating with counter-narcotics efforts…. The United States’ old approach to the drug war and economic development policies has been counter-productive and it’s time to allow Bolivia to try its own ideas. As Evo Morales begins his second term in office on January 22, the United States should move forward to reach agreement with Bolivia on respectful relations, transparent aid, and a new exchange of ambassadors.”
As Adam Isacson concludes, “There are no cold wars in Latin America, no rising or falling tides to be fostered or contained. Just democracies going in different directions, occasionally directions quite distant from the United States. Here in the United States, we have to get used to that, and stop viewing each electoral outcome as a harbinger of triumph or tragedy.”
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