Posada, U.S.-Mexico Relations and Brazil-Argentina Rivalry

Treatment of Posada Will Test Integrity of Washington’sAnti-Terrorism Crusade
The Bush administration’s response to the Luis Posada Carriles case brings to mind its similar mishandling of the 2002 attempted coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The White House cheered the temporary downfall of the democratically-elected Chávez, despite its commitment to the “spread of democracy.” Similarly, Washington appeared to hesitate over its pledge to fight terrorism at home and abroad by not acknowledging for weeks that it knew Posada was in the country, proof that the $3.8 billion spent on border security each year is completely ineffective in deterring terrorists from entering the U.S. The administration’s policy shift in both cases came only under intense international pressure to abide by the White House’s own standards. Once again, the Bush administration has revealed an enormous capacity for selective indignation depending on whether the villainous act was committed against a country with a political ideology acceptable to Washington.

The Breakdown on Immigration Issues
President Bush’s May 11 decision to sign into law the “Real ID” bill stung millions of Mexicans as it represented the last likely opportunity that the Bush administration will have during the Fox presidency to come forth with a dramatic move opening up the U.S to a more hospitable treatment of would-be Mexican immigrants. It also makes it a certainty that future immigration issues would be treated in a criminal justice context rather than as an aspect of trade or employment. The new legislation will prohibit thousands of illegal immigrants from obtaining drivers licenses, which are critical to their economic livelihood, and authorizes the financing of a fence along part of the U.S.-Mexico border. On May 13, a frustrated President Vicente Fox expressed the anger and outrage felt by many Mexicans when he hastily said: “There is no doubt that Mexican men and women […] are doing the jobs in the United States that not even black people want to do there.” While Fox managed to shoot himself in the foot with patronizing remarks (despite his subsequent apology), the distraction caused by Fox’s undiplomatic performance could thwart Mexico’s hopes for a favorable immigration compromise with Washington before Fox leaves office.

Brazil-Argentina Ties Worsen
Brazilian President Luis Inácio “Lula” da Silva’s leadership initiatives have included orthodox domestic economic policies and taking issue with the U.S. on trade and foreign policy initiatives, while managing to maintain good relations with Washington as well as doing no small service to the Bush administration by having the Brazilian military head the U.N. peacekeeping mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH). Meanwhile, Lula has Brazil well on its way to becoming, or at least acting as, South America’s lone super power – much to the ire of Argentine President Néstor Kirchner. While Buenos Aires, which was a very large regional trading power until the financial crisis of 2001, should feel miffed if Brasilia insists on exerting disproportionate influence on cooperative ventures such as the proposed South American Community of Nations and the Southern Cone trade bloc MERCOSUR, any opposition from Argentina to Brazil’s efforts to seek permanent membership of the U.N. Security Council almost certainly will be counterproductive. Brazil, whose population is more than five times that of Argentina and whose GDP is greater than that of Russia, possesses the numbers to be South America’s definitive “big guy.” Without dispute, it could serve the area as an effective advocate for South America’s interests, much more than any of the council’s current permanent members. A permanent seat on the Security Council would provide Brazil with increased leverage in its dealings with dominant states around the world, allowing it to more effectively lobby for favorable trade terms and debt repayment conditions from a position of strength, thus benefiting the continent as a whole, including Argentina.