LatinaLista — It is safe to say that the United States was a bit distracted the first weekend of November. There was so much focus on the November 7 elections that, as usual, the rest of the world, aside from Iraq, mattered little to the majority of us.
As much as this election focused on immigration policy, at least in the minds of Republican politicians, so it was the topic of debate at the summit.
Yet, hardly any of us knew it.
Heads of state attend the sixteenth annual 22-nation IberoAmerican Summit
(Source: Cumbre Ibero-Americana)
Over three days, the leaders of: Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, MÃ©xico, Nicaragua, PanamÃ¡, PerÃº, Paraguay, Portugal, Principado de Andorra, RepÃºblica Dominicana, Spain, Uruguay y Venezuela, met and talked about immigration policy â€” basically U.S. immigration policy.
It seems our South American neighbors and European friends, who belong to the summit delegation, don't like the direction of our immigration policies.
They dislike the policies so much that all of them signed a resolution that has become known as the "Commitment of Montevideo."
"We believe the construction of walls does not stop undocumented immigration," said the resolution, adding that new border barriers lead to migrant-smuggling rings while harming "spirit of understanding" between neighboring countries.
It would be easy to dismiss this summit as just a U.S. bashing bash against our policies â€” if it weren't for something significant that happened at the summit:
"This the first time in the history of the Iberoamerican community that a joint declaration has been reached on immigration," said Enrique Iglesias, head of the summit's general secretariat, during the closing session that included Spain's King Juan Carlos and leaders or envoys of Portugal, Andorra and 19 Latin American nations.
"I believe immigration is the great issue of the century," Iglesias said, adding that the accord "will be the point of reference for ongoing dialogue of the 22 countries."
The significance of 22 nations making their feelings known about how much they dislike our policies is something not to be ignored - after all, our economic existence is as much intertwined with their survival as their's is with ours.
Yet, hardly any publicity of the summit was brought to the attention of the American public.
It's as if the scenario in the Middle East is happening all over again, when we scratched our heads and asked in ignorant innocence in the aftermath of 9/11 â€” when did the Muslim world start to hate us?
This may well be the beginning of the end in South and Latin America of tolerance of U.S. policy practices.
As proof that there is sound reason for the leaders of Latin and South America to be fed up with our policies, an unlikely column appeared today that outlined the evolution of global opinion turning against the United States.
What's so unlikely about the column is that it's not written by an activist or a blogger or even an opinion writer on foreign policy issues. It's written by someone accustomed to logically evaluating financial markets â€” financial columnist Malcolm Berko.
Without being defensive or in favor of a particular cause, Berko's column outlines the cold, hard facts.
It's up to us to either see them for what they are, or risk scratching our heads and being the only ones clueless as to why our global neighbors don't like us all that much.
Financial pressures lead others to hate U.S.
By Malcolm Berko
Dear Mr. Berko: I recently returned from my first foreign posting in Turkey and I was amazed at the anti-U.S. mood of the people. But in May 2005, just before I left, you advised me to buy 125 shares of the closed-end Turkish Investment Fund, which I did at $14.75, and sold it when I returned this March at $28. It's now $17.05. Should I buy it back?
I know this second question isn't a stock question, but why do so many people in the world hate the United States? Sometimes I was afraid to step outside my workplace because I could feel the hate. I thought we were helping these people. What do we do wrong? If they hate us, why do they all covet the U.S. dollar?
T.E., Aurora, Ill.
Dear T.E.: At least two or three readers ask me that question each month, so it's time I responded. But meanwhile, don't buy back that Turkish Investment fund. The Turkish economy is beginning to founder and some observers think the radical Islamists in Turkey will suffocate the country in the next few years.
Money is the universal language, which is understood by every culture in every society. Because people share this column on the Internet, I've communicated with educated readers all over the world. These folks have investments in our market and while some suggest that "love makes the world go round," I can tell you from experience it's money that makes the world go round. It's the U.S. dollar, not the riyal, yen or peso that people use to measure their wealth. Heck, even the value of a barrel of oil is measured in U.S. dollars, as is an ounce of gold.
However, many of the folks with whom I talk believe this may not last much longer. They think that our government believes its manifest destiny is to convince the world that the "Anglo-Saxon race," its form of democracy, ideas and policies are naturally superior. Around the time of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Congress began to keep report cards on other nations. If those countries fail to earn a passing grade, Congress will use political and economic sanctions to make them kneel.
Most educated people from South America, Europe or the Middle East know this is true. Some suspect this is our way of atoning for several hundred years of black slavery.
Congress keeps a detailed score of human rights, political, social and economic abuses of every country on the globe. We judge whether other countries allow their citizens the same freedoms and opportunities we do. If not, we threaten them with economic or political sanctions. How would you feel if France told the United States it must abolish the death penalty or it would forbid imports of American steel?
We grade other countries on their respect for religious freedom and insist they emulate our labor laws. We demand they limit their export of cheaper commodities like sugar, meat, oranges, wool, steel, ethanol, lumber, leather, etc. If not, Congress imposes political or economic sanctions. Congress withholds assistance from countries whose legal systems don't match our standards and limits trade with countries whose definitions of "free speech" are not as liberal as ours. Congress will use political sanctions against those countries that fail to promote our definition of democracy, that won't allow equal rights to women or accept our concept of a free press.
How would you feel if Japan insisted that we ban gun ownership in America or they would expel the American ambassador? Congress bans imports from countries using child labor, whose fishing nets do not use turtle extenders or that allow cock fighting. Congress tells other countries how to float their currencies, manage their health systems and their schools and insists on special investigations of airports and harbors. Gee whiz, can you imagine the uproar if
Germany demanded to inspect our airports, railroad yards and harbors? Congress self-righteously sets itself as enforcer, judge and jury of other nations.
While some of these goals may be legitimate, we do not have the right to demand them of other nations. We don't have the right to force our form of democracy on Iraq, to insist that China ban child labor, to demand South American farmers stop growing poppies, to police the harbors in South Africa, to demand religious freedom in Russia, to influence elections in Venezuela or require Vietnam to limit the hours of its workday.
Congress, Republicans, Democrats, our religious organizations and corporate America do not understand the seething resentment this has nurtured aboard. We are so convinced of our superiority that we cannot see the clouds for the rain. And the tolerance of other cultures is being strained.