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The Presidential Debates: Latin America Ignored

By Gonzalo Guimaraens - posted Tuesday, 2 November 2004

The presidential candidates of the United States, conservative George W. Bush and liberal John Kerry, ignored Latin America in the three pre-electoral debates. This is a particularly striking omission, because the first of them was dedicated to foreign affairs and held in Florida, a state with a strong Cuban and Latin American presence, where the problem of communist Cuba is a particularly burning one.

That relegation of Latin America to secondary status favours the "pink" and "red" Left of the continent, driven on to encourage anti-American resentment, isolating the United States from its southern neighbours and creating, in relations on both sides, a climate of "the worse, the better".

Military War and Information War

It is understandable that the international attention of the United States is turned primarily towards the unfolding military war in Iraq and Moslem-inspired terrorism. But it should not be all-consuming and prevent it from seeing that in Latin America - the US’s natural rearguard - they are becoming victims of another form of war that does not affect bodies, but rather people's mentalities: disinformation.


A recent investigation by Latinobarómetro in 18 countries of the region confirms the growth, in the majority of them, of anti-American feeling.

A Guarantee for the North's Stability

The stability and prosperity of the US’s southern neighbours constitutes a guarantee for the north's own stability. If the American presidential candidates had as part of their priorities the vast conservative and centrist sectors of Latin America as necessary and indispensable allies, they could have used those pre-electoral debates as a superb occasion to present their in-depth proposals for that region.

It is true that the interviewers in the three debates did not question the candidates on Latin America. Nevertheless, the rules of the debates granted each one sufficient time to recapitulate the ideas expressed and add, even if only briefly, other themes considered important. In recent months both candidates have made promises to the Hispanic voters in general, and Cuban Americans in particular. But they have done it on less important occasions.

Latin Americans: The Largest Minority

There is a paradox surrounding this relegation of Latin America to secondary status. In spite of being ignored, the region has acquired rights of citizenship in the United States itself via the 40 million people of Latin American origin who constitute the biggest growing minority of the country. Eight million of them possess the right to vote and, even though a minority, they may yet decide how the vote goes, particularly in at least four or five of the so-called “swing” or “pendulum” states, where slim margins exist between the candidates: Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

Cuban Americans: Once Again Decisive

In the presidential elections of 2000, the votes of the Cuban Americans in Florida - indignant with President Clinton for having delivered "boat boy" Elián González to the dictator Castro - were key in helping defeat the Democrat candidate and giving victory to the Republican candidate, President Bush. This indicates that in the next elections on November 2, in Florida, with one of the largest electoral colleges of the country, the Cuban-Latin-American community’s vote will again be crucial.

Natural Allies

As was acknowledged in the Third World Social Forum of Porto Alegre, a common strategy of the "pinks" and "reds" is the creation of the so-called "Lilliputian networks" with the objective of neutralising the influence of the American giant. These networks are inspired by the work of the Irish writer Jonathan Swift, in which a multitude of "dwarfs" managed to frustrate the giant Gulliver.


Instead, in the context of the Americas, Gulliver and the Lilliputians are called to be natural allies, replacing confrontation with collaboration. Even when one might make legitimate objections to aspects of the foreign policy of the present President and candidate Bush, the mere fact of seeing the Latin American Left so interested in the victory of candidate Kerry is a sufficient motive for not wanting him to win.

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An edited version which was first published in Destaque Internacional - Year VI - No. 151 - Buenos Aires / Madrid - Oct. 20, 2004 (translated from original in Spanish).

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About the Author

Gonzalo Guimaraens is a journalist and political analyst.

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