Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton specified the three
guiding "D's" of U.S. foreign policy: defense, development, and
diplomacy. When she heads south for the inauguration of El
Salvador's new president and the May 31-June 2 annual high-level
meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS), the secretary
needs to pack a fourth "D": democracy.
El Salvador's New President: The End
of an Era
Although incoming President Mauricio Funes of the leftist
Farabundo Marti Front (FMLN) has sent some hopeful signals that he
intends to pursue a Brazilian-style social democratic course, he
will be under heavy pressure to veer sharply to the radical
In attendance at both events will be Venezuela's Hugo
Chávez. Notwithstanding his fawning public relations
offensive aimed at winning over President Obama at this past
April's Summit of the Americas, Venezuela's populist president
wants to put the FMLN and Funes in his hip pocket. He hopes to lure
Funes into becoming an active member of ALBA, his "Bolivarian"
coalition, along with Cuba, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. With Honduras
leaning in Chávez's direction and Guatemala troubled by
political and security turbulence, Chávez sees himself as
the arbiter of Central America's future development.
The challenge for the Obama Administration is to face the
reality that, with the end of the 20-year reign of the pro-U.S.
National Republican Alliance (ARENA) in El Salvador, the U.S. has
lost a close regional ally. The Administration must look seriously
at deteriorating economic and political conditions in Central
America, where poverty, violence, drugs, and vendetta politics
raise the specter of lawlessness, un-governability, and potential
The foundation of a viable U.S.-El Salvador relationship rests
on respect for the democratic process, preservation of the rule of
law, and open, market-friendly policies. Mutual cooperation in
areas such as counter-drug and anti-gang activities--hallmarks of
previous years--need to be preserved. If El Salvador becomes
another Latin platform for advancing an anti-American agenda, it
will negatively impact negatively future levels of U.S. assistance
through the Millennium Challenge project and USAID as well as on
U.S. immigration matters.
Pathways to Prosperity in the
Americas: The Market Way Is the Only Way
Last year, the Bush Administration launched a new initiative:
Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas (PPA). The PPA marked an
attempt to re-energize U.S. government and regional efforts to
enlarge a free-trade area in the Western Hemisphere and create
positive momentum for open-market policies. It offers a platform
for a coalition of willing countries to advance freer trade, open
investment markets, effect more efficient and less costly
regulation, enhance regional competitiveness, and promote greater
By agreeing to attend a ministerial meeting for the PPA in El
Salvador, Secretary Clinton lends continuity to a key initiative of
the previous Administration. Hopefully, follow-up actions will include
kindling congressional movement on the free trade agreements with
Colombia and Panama.
The OAS: Defending Democracy or
The concept of a unified hemisphere living working harmoniously
was enshrined first in the 19th century's Pan-American Union--the
philosophical precursor to the Organization of American States
(OAS). Since the late 1940s, the foreign ministers of the Americas
have met annually in the OAS's General Assembly to resolve
differences of opinion.
This year's gathering of the world's oldest regional
organization takes place in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. In that
steamy economic hub, delegates will work through a jungle of agenda
items--105 in all. The meeting's central theme, "Toward a Culture
of Non-Violence," aptly reflects the chief concern of the region's
citizens, who are all-too-often besieged by drug traffickers,
criminals, and corrupt officials. Additionally, Western Hemisphere
diplomats also promise to give high priority to assisting the
continuing failed state of Haiti.
It is Cuba, however, that has everyone abuzz. Pressure to return
Cuba to the OAS is being applied by the ALBA coalition. Leaders
like Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chávez urge Latin
American states to impose a deadline for Cuba's re-entry or create
an alternative body "for Latins only" if Cuba is kept out.
The campaign by the left for Cuba's re-entry into the OAS begins
with a possible repeal of the 1962 expulsion resolution. OAS
Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza of Chile argues that the
expulsion was a result of Cold War politics and is an artifact of a
bygone era. Insulza ignores the continuing totalitarian
nature of the Cuban system, which still adheres to a destructive
Marxist-Leninist model that is incompatible with the principles and
spirit of the OAS charter.
Secretary Clinton promises to fight to link any revision in
Cuba's OAS status to movement by the Castro regime to comply with
the democratic governance provisions of the 2001 Inter-American
Democratic Charter. As the Miami Herald recently argued,
"Unilateral OAS readmission of Cuba will sacrifice principles to
appease a dictatorship and lead Americans to ask whether the
continued existence of the OAS--and U.S. membership and financial
support for it--would serve any useful purpose."
For its part, Cuba says it has no interest in rejoining the OAS.
Its foreign minister denounced the body as a tool of "U.S. Empire"
and "anachronistic." Other nations like Bolivia, Nicaragua, and
Venezuela are itching for sustained conflict with the U.S. to
distract attention from their homegrown assaults on democracy.
- El Salvador. Secretary Clinton should remind President
Funes that El Salvador is an important anchor for peace and
prosperity in Central America. She should also make clear that
either reverting to the polarizing politics of the guerrilla 1980s
or joining Hugo Chavez's anti-American club will have negative
consequences for U.S. bilateral relations and for the people of El
- Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas. The secretary
should strongly recommit the U.S. to the pro-trade, pro-market PPA
coalition and work for congressional approval of the pending U.S.
free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.
- Cuba. Secretary Clinton must stand firm against an
unconditional return of Cuba--one that fails to pass the democratic
bar--to OAS membership. She must also work to enlist other
democratic regimes in applying pressure upon Cuba's leaders to
begin a peaceful transition to political and economic pluralism and
encourage enhanced support for Cuba's growing domestic democratic
Into the Lion's Den
A triad of key challenges--market-based growth and development;
protections of citizen security against drugs, crime, and violence;
and preservation of basic political freedoms and liberties--sit
atop the real agenda for the Americas. Even as she descends into
the despotic lion's den created by Latin America's latest breed of
pseudo-democratic strongmen Secretary Clinton needs to deliver a
strong message regarding where the U.S. stands on democracy
Ray Walser, Ph.D., is a Senior Policy Analyst
for Latin America in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for
Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom
Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage