To the Editor:
Peter Hakim frames the issues confronting Latin America in ways that seem too limiting ("Is Washington Losing Latin America?" January/February 2006). First of all, Hakim overstates China's influence in Latin America. Chinese President Hu Jintao's two visits to the region attracted attention. But local observers are astute enough to appreciate China's initiatives without pulling their children out of English classes and forcing them to study Mandarin instead.
Second, Hakim's article demonstrates that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is simply the bogeyman du jour inside the Beltway by crediting him with much more appeal than he really has. In fact, Chávez's checkbook is having a larger effect than his ideology. And not only do other countries in the region pay little heed to his pronouncements, but they are also growing tired of listening to him propose unworkable economic arrangements.
Moreover, the article conflates anti-Americanism and anti-Bushism. People in Latin America have always had complex views of the United States, but it is incorrect to think that they love or hate the United States any more than they did in the past. Latin Americans value their sovereignty and have always bristled at being taken for granted. Hakim is correct, however, that the current administration in Washington has displeased people in the region and that relations between the United States and Latin American countries are at a low point. A fresh approach from Washington, if it were genuine and respectful, could improve matters.
JOHN C. EDMUNDS
Professor of Finance and Research Director of the Institute for Latin American Business Studies, Babson College