Last fall, I took issue with Romney’s expressed foreign policy vision for Latin America. As I said then, it was a very Cold War-like view of Latin America that saw the spectre of terrorism in places like Venezuela (which has not been involved with any act of terrorism, foreign or domestic, in the United States), a vision that mentioned Iran twice in the Latin America policy section while completely disregarding Brazil, the largest economic power in the region and an increasingly important player in global politics and economics.
As most know by now, this weekend, under the shadow of the Olympics’ closing weekend, Romney announced Paul Ryan, a member of the House of Representatives, as his running mate. The immediate focus has rightly fallen on his budget plan that destroys social programs while cutting taxes for the wealthy, could lead to a massive rise in unemployment rates, and relies on nearly $5 trillion dollars of fabricated figures just to add up.
That said, Ryan also has recently provided his own vision of foreign policy. The speech is somewhat confused, with Ryan blaming social programs for the US’s foreign debt (and projected cuts in defense spending) before then promoting a 21st-century version of American Exceptionalism. Rob has some general criticisms that one can read here. I will say that, unlike Romney, Ryan actually mentioned Brazil:
We must also embrace the opportunities that trade offers to strengthen our ties of friendship. The administration finally is no longer impeding long-overdue free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama. These agreements serve our mutual political and economic interests, and they should be sent forward for the prompt consideration of Congress.
Part of revitalizing our network of friendships and alliances is expanding that network to include the rising democratic powers of India and Brazil, which share many of our core principles and interests.
I strenuously disagree with his emphasis on free trade agreements typical of 1990s neoliberalism, which, as several of us have commented, is a failed economic vision for the region in many ways. And admittedly, his discussion of Brazil is pretty superficial, and suggesting that the US work more closely with a growing economic power isn’t exactly a controversial stand. But unlike Romney’s policy, at least Ryan acknowledges Brazil’s status as a “rising power” in the world and perfunctorily recognizes Brazil’s potential as a trading partner, which is far more in touch with actual conditions in Latin America than Romney’s emphasis on the (greatly-overstated, to put it mildly) threat of terrorism in Latin America.
That’s not to say Ryan has provided some transformative and realistic description of Latin America as a whole and provided cutting insights into how the US can react with the region in the twenty-first century. Again, there is plenty to dislike in his vision of foreign policy, his budget, and his social policies, but at least (and it is the very least possible) he doesn’t use Cold War-like spectacles to see the boogeyman of terrorism in Latin America. There are many reasons to vote against Romney/Ryan, and it’s still going to be Romney’s foreign policy platform, not Ryan’s, should they win. But at least Ryan isn’t (yet) as absurd regarding the region as he is on the domestic front.