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Mas Protestas: What Connects Immigration and US-Latin-American Politics

It was the textbook example of agenda setting: As soon as President Bush restarted the debate over (illegal) immigration, the majority of US-Americans considered the matter of greater importance than the war in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of US citizens and non-citizens, legal and illegal, demonstrated on the streets from Washington D.C. to Washington State, often broadening the protest to include anti-war and anti-Bush statements. The fact that 461 bills concerning immigration and immigrants are currently pending in 43 state legislatures underlines that this is a smouldering issue, ready to be roused before the midterm election.
In his article Latin America's Left Turn in the May/June 2006 edition of Foreign Affairs the former foreign minister of Mexico, Jorge G. Castañeda, links the US immigration debate to its and Europe's policies towards Latin America:
In the process, one can also gain an excellent insight into what has been happening in the South in recent years:
Although the region has just enjoyed its best two years of economic growth in a long time and real threats to democratic rule are few and far between, the landscape today is transformed. Latin America is swerving left, and distinct backlashes are under way against the predominant trends of the last 15 years: free-market reforms, agreement with the United States on a number of issues, and the consolidation of representative democracy. This reaction is more politics than policy, and more nuanced than it may appear. But it is real.
Starting with Hugo Chávez's victory in Venezuela eight years ago and poised to culminate in the possible election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico's July 2 presidential contest, a wave of leaders, parties, and movements generically labeled "leftist" have swept into power in one Latin American country after another. After Chávez, it was Lula and the Workers' Party in Brazil, then Néstor Kirchner in Argentina and Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay, and then, earlier this year, Evo Morales in Bolivia. If the long shot Ollanta Humala wins the April presidential election in Peru and López Obrador wins in Mexico, it will seem as if a veritable left-wing tsunami has hit the region. Colombia and Central America are the only exceptions, but even in Nicaragua, the possibility of a win by Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega cannot be dismissed. […] Understanding the reasons behind these developments requires recognizing that there is not one Latin American left today; there are two. One is modern, open-minded, reformist, and internationalist, and it springs, paradoxically, from the hard-core left of the past. The other, born of the great tradition of Latin American populism, is nationalist, strident, and close-minded. […] Distinguishing between these two broad left-wing currents is the best basis for serious policy, from Washington, Brussels, Mexico City, or anywhere else. There is not a tremendous amount Washington or any other government can actually do to alter the current course of events in Latin America. The Bush administration could make some difference by delivering on its promises to incumbents in the region (on matters such as immigration and trade), thereby supporting continuity without interfering in the electoral process; in South American nations where there is a strong European presence, countries such as France and Spain could help by pointing out that certain policies and attitudes have certain consequences.
The full article is available at Foreign Affairs. Castañeda is author of Utopia Unarmed : The Latin American Left After the Cold War (Vintage).


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