Sunday, April 12, 2015

Historic Summit of the Americas in Panamá (Updated)

The big world news from the Summit of the Americas this weekend in Panamá was the unquestionably "historic" meeting between Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro.

The Buenos Aires Herald reports in VII Summit of the Americas features historic Cuban presence 04/10/2015:

"As we move towards the process of normalization, we'll have our differences government to government with Cuba on many issues. Just as we differ at times with other nations within the Americas, just as we differ with our closest allies," Obama said today.

Apart from a couple of brief, informal encounters, the leaders of the United States and Cuba have not had any significant meetings since Castro's older brother Fidel Castro toppled US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista in a 1959 revolution.

"The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past," Obama said.
One of the historical tidbits that Raúl Castro revealed in his speech was that John Kennedy had been scheduled to have a telephone conversation with just sent Fidel Castro a message asking to resume conversations around November 22, 1963. Which never occurred, for well-known reasons. (“Tenemos muchas diferencias pero vamos a avanzar” Página/12 12.04.2015) The English-language text in the Cuban paper Granma presents the statement from Raúl Castro's speech in an indirect quote, "President Kennedy was assassinated precisely at the moment when the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, had received a message from him looking to initiate a dialogue." It's not clear how close to the date of Kennedy's assassination this occurred. (Raúl: We came to fulfill the mandate of Martí with the freedom won by our own hands Granma 04/12/2015)

Argentine President Cristina Fernández also addressed the convention, V7inter - VII Cumbre de las Américas en Panamá: discurso de Cristina Fernández TV Pública argentina 11.04.2015:

The Spanish text is here, Cristina en la VII Cumbre de las Américas, en Panamá CFK Argentina 11.04.2015.

Her speeches are often substantial. But this one seemed to be a bit more reflective than others of hers I've read or heard.

She talked some about the historically bad behavior of the United States in Latin America, and more generally about the need to understand history to understand the presence. She expressed particular concern about the current fashion of "soft coups" (“los golpes suaves”) in which a wider variety of political and economic measures are used than with a more traditional military coup, of which Argentina has experienced several since 1955. The difference is a matter of emphasis, perhaps an emphasis which forms a qualitatively new approach. All military coups are to some extent military and civilian-political at the same time, a quality very much on display during the Pinochet coup of 1973 in Chile and the Argentine military coup of 1976.

Cristina notes of a golpes suave that they "siempre encuentran su origen en nuevas organizaciones bajo el nombre de ONGs" ("one always finds its origin in new organizations under the name of NGOs"), a reminder of the extent to which NGOs have been coopted by overtly political forces and governments to push for extra-constitutional regime change.

She called the Union's victory in the US Civil War "the basis of the greatness of the United States" because it resulted in freeing the slaves. She recalled "true patriots" like Lincoln, Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

And she talked about something basic in religious terrorism. She notes that when the "end of ideologies" was declared - apparently referring to post-Soviet end-of-history narratives but also echoing the ill-fated "end of ideology" phrase associated with Daniel Bell in the 1960s - fundamentalism appeared as an ascendant threat. She says that "with ideas, one can combat them with ideas. But when someone says they are killing in the name of God, it's much more difficult to give battle and combat him."

She concludes this portion of her speech by saying this means we have to face the specific challenges of the 21st century and we need new theoretical perspectives for understanding them. That's a very general statement, but in the context of her politics and foreign policy, she's defending the anti-neoliberal policies of "popular governments" like her own in Latin America. And more specifically her Left Peronista perspective.

"Left Peronista" is the construction I'm using in English to describe her approach, known as kirchnerismo, which is essentially assertive social-democracy of a kind major Social Democratic Parties in Europe no longer practice, besotted as they are with Angela Merkel's Herbert Hoover economics. Her Peronist Partido Justicialista (PJ), which is the original Peronist Party, is ideologically very diverse.

But, no, she did not say the United States is Exceptional. She did say we are "lucky."

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