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No Ground to Stand On: Obama’s Hollow Condemnation of CELAC

By: Javier Garay - @Crittiko - Feb 5, 2014, 6:21 pm

EspañolTension has spiked between the United States and Latin America since the second CELAC summit. After it wrapped up on January 29, the US State Department made known its disappointment with the support that leaders of the region gave to Cuba’s autocratic regime.

While it’s true that the CELAC declaration from Havana reveals Latin America’s support for the Cuban dictatorship, it gets worse: the region backs Argentina and Venezuela’s backward regimes, and a rejection of democracy and freedom was on display. This provides yet another reason to believe Latin America has a long and arduous road ahead to truly achieve lasting development.

What’s most surprising, though, is the Obama administration’s expression of disagreement with the region’s aversion for liberty. One day before the summit ended, Obama delivered the State of the Union address where he clearly supported the same values the summit had embraced.

For example, Obama hinted he would impose laws by decree if Congress didn’t cooperate. With this statement, he rejected the basic foundations of liberal democracy, including the balance of powers — even his own campaign stances. This comment alone puts the Obama administration in the same league as regimes from Venezuela, Argentina, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia — governments that have worked to concentrate all power in the hands of their executives.

Most of the initiatives he mentioned during his speech, including the minimum wage raise, expressed a dismissal of free markets — and it’s well known that the United States has been losing its economic freedom at an accelerated rate under Obama’s administration. The minimum wage increase, for example, is a policy that the statist governments of Venezuela and Argentina apply every year.

What’s astonishing is that the US government, as it exists today, represents many of the very ideals it condemns. Given this, what does Obama’s statement really mean?

It would appear that Obama’s main concern is the CELAC declaration itself, which appears to heavily criticize the United States. The document mentions the embargo with Cuba, unilateral blacklisting, and even demands the pardoning of debts and raising of foreign aid. Secretly, though, what Obama wants to maintain is the country’s dominant, even hegemonic, role in the international pecking order.

Nonetheless, the lack of awareness Obama and his team apparently have towards market dynamics seems to carry over to international affairs.

The preservation of US leadership abroad, as well as the current international hierarchy — which the United States has helped build — requires more than the release of statements rejecting summits or even the use of military force. Every war the United States has taken on in recent years has undermined that same order of power, and has eroded its leadership legitimacy.

Maintaining its leadership will also take more than donating resources to other countries. This strategy won’t achieve the original objective, and will rather increase the pressure to raise the value of aid — making expectations impossible to satisfy.

Not even international organizations, which have been created under the US established order, can safeguard US international interests anymore. Last week, representatives from the United Nations and Organization of American States also gave their support for the Cuban regime.

The element that preserved the United States’ place in the global rankings was the exemplary role the country held for its virtues. Economic development, freedom of expression, private entrepreneurship, innovation — among others — were a few of its iconic attributes. Something as subtle as being the role model was what allowed the US-made global hierarchy to prevail.

The CELAC declaration is reprehensible, but so is the US critique. Such an objection cannot come from a government that shares, through both its stated intentions and actions, the same principles that support the document.

While Latin America wastes time attending summits which only help to perpetuate their causes for underdevelopment, the United States — once a leader of the free, developed world — is regressing in terms of strengthening a truly free society. Obama shouldn’t be concerned about the threats to his country’s leadership. He should be concerned about how his policies will continue to lead the world into a race toward statism.

Translated by Marcela Estrada.

Javier Garay Javier Garay

Javier Garay is a professor at the Externado University of Colombia. He has written two books on international issues, such as development, after his doctoral dissertation focused on the same topic. Follow him on Twitter @crittiko and through his personal blog, Crittiko.