Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"The Other America"

Those who are concerned about how things are going (or rather, NOT going) in Central America should check out this article by TIME magazine Latin America bureau chief Tim Padgett in the March 8th edition of the Jesuit magazine America.

Among the points Padgett makes:

  • Central America "is arguably a more dangerous place today than it was when right-wing death squads and left-wing guerrillas ravaged the isthmus a generation ago. Thanks largely to corrupt justice systems, the region has one of the world’s highest homicide rates: 80,000 murders in the past six years, more than the 75,000 people killed in El Salvador’s horrific 1980-1992 civil war. Guatemala has even had to cancel daylight saving time because the dark mornings are a boon to armed thugs. Other indicators are equally dismal. Only sub-Saharan Africa has a worse regional literacy rate than does Central America—just one reason why Central America also has an average 47 percent poverty rate, 10 points higher than the average of Latin America as a whole."

  • "Central America is still wrestling with the institutional backwardness and epic inequality that led to the conflicts of the 1980s. This time a different bogeyman spooks the right and incites the left. Back then it was Cuba’s communist leader, Fidel Castro. Today it is Venezuela’s socialist president, Hugo Chávez."

  • The Obama administration at first condemned the Honduran putsch and imposed economic and political sanctions. But in the end it backed down and became one of the few nations to recognize the results of a new presidential election held by the coup government in November...Given how long and how deeply the United States was engaged in Central America, that is hardly a legacy of which Americans can be proud. It may not have been the responsibility of the United States to make a new Switzerland of Central America, but ever since its Mayan glory faded a millennium ago, this region has been most famous for natural and political catastrophe. In light of the role the Reagan administration played in stoking the internecine carnage there, the United States had an obligation to do more than walk away after the combatants received their beans and rice...Such neglect tends to diminish America’s moral standing as the lantern of New World ideals like democracy and opportunity, if the nations we rub shoulders with are left in the shadows..."
Anyway, the article continues in a similar unsparingly critical analysis of how various Central American countries, particularly Honduras, continue to fall into the mistakes of the past and how the United States has really not been especially helpful in its foreign policy towards the region. I found it a useful look at how we have gotten into the mess we are in.

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