Recalling the 1969 film, “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues her whirlwind tour of South American countries and Costa Rica.
An important theme seems to be meeting female heads of state, including even outgoing Chilean president Michelle Batchelet, who will leave office in a week. In addition to Batchelet, Clinton met with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, raising eyebrows in London with what sounded like an offer to mediate the dispute between the two countries over the Falkland Islands (las Islas Malvinas), which has heated up recently due to offshore oil exploration by British firms. Clinton will also meet with incoming President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, before returning to the United States.
A second important theme is Iran. In November 2009, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela seeking support for his country’s position on the nuclear issue. Secretary Clinton was to hold meetings in Brazil to try to persuade President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (“Lula”) to stop undercutting Britain, France, the United States and Russia (permanent members of the UN Security Council), the EU, and others in their efforts to persuade China and other Council members to accept the imposition of further sanctions on Iran. The new sanctions would be aimed in particular at the Revolutionary Guards and the enterprises they control.
A third theme was Venezuela, which has recently been invited to join MERCOSUR, the South American trade block, and which has also played a leading role in attempts to found a new hemispheric organization which excludes the U.S. and Canada. The founding of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States was announced on February 24, 2010, at a meeting in Cancún, Mexico. On her trip, Secretary Clinton has called forcefully on Venezuela to restore full democracy in that country.
U.S. news coverage of the trip has been very paltry indeed, which tends to confirm perceptions that South America has fallen off the radar of key decisionmakers in Washington.
Links to a number of press reports, from different countries, follow:
Juan Arias y Glória Torrijos, “Clinton fracasa en lograr el apoyo de Brasil para nuevas sanciones a Irán,” El País (Madrid),
4 de marzo de 2010
María Laura Avignolo, “Malvinas: enojo en Inglaterra por la oferta de Hillary Clinton,” Clarín (Buenos Aires),
4 de marzo de 2010
“Brazil rebuffs US pressure for Iran sanctions,” BBC News,
March 3, 2010
Luiz Raatz, “Irã usa Brasil, China e Turquia para evitar sanções, diz Hillary,” O Estado de São Paulo (estadao.com.br),
quarta-feira, 3 de março de 2010
Jean-Pierre Langellier, “Hillary Clinton au Brésil pour évoquer le dossier iranien,” Le Monde,
3 mars 2010
LeMonde.fr avec AFP, “Hillary Clinton au Chili pour quelques heures,” Le Monde,
2 mars 2010
Ken Dilanian, “Clinton ferries satellite phones to Chile,” USA TODAY, March 1, 2010
Carin Zissis, “Secretary Clinton’s Latin American Tour,” Council of the Americas
March 1, 2010