Latin America’s Leftist Menace
By Frank J Gaffney Jr.
The Washington Times | October 18, 2006
America’s preoccupation with the crises du jour — the rising terrorist menace to the liberation of Iraq, the Iranian regime’s determination to acquire the means to act on its genocidal threats against Israel and the United States and, most recently, North Korea’s nuclear coming-out party — has left Washington ill-prepared to deal with one of tomorrow’s major security challenges: the rise of the radical anti-American left in Latin America. The emergence of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as the oil-rich heir to Fidel Castro’s revolutionary ambitions has translated into a mortal threat to liberal democracy, freedom and economic opportunity in much of the hemisphere. With Mr. Chavez’s money and Mr. Castro’s coaching, the two have adapted the longstanding Cuban revolutionary program of violent overthrow of elected governments to meet present circumstances. Today, virulent leftists are seeking, and frequently succeeding at, obtaining power through the ballot box then using it to destroy their government’s constitutional processes and any checks on that power.
The United States government has paid scant attention as Bolivia and Argentina have moved squarely into the Chavez-Castro orbit. A similar disastrous outcome was narrowly averted in Peru but may well be in the offing at this writing in Ecuador.
The region’s largest country, Brazil, is in the hands of a long-time Castro ally, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Despite his differences with Mr. Chavez and generally moderate approach to economic policy, Lula can be expected to make renewed common cause with the leftist agenda if he is re-elected on Oct. 29.
Particularly appalling, the region’s Axis of Evil is poised, all other things being equal, to return Nicaragua — the country Ronald Reagan did so much to help free from the Sandinistas’ communist rule — to the tender mercies of their long-time authoritarian comandante, Daniel Ortega.
Washington’s inattention may also encourage the most strategically important reversal sustained to date by the Chavez-Castro axis to be substantially undone. Despite its concerted and well-heeled efforts to ensure the election as president of Mexico of an ideological soul-mate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the results of a remarkably clean election gave the victory to a pro-American conservative, Felipe Calderon. There is, as a result, an unprecedented opportunity for constructive relations between the U.S. and Mexican governments.
Unfortunately, this opportunity — with all it portends for economic prosperity, sensible immigration policies and a common front against the hemisphere’s radical left — could be squandered if Mr. Calderon yields to pressure to make the same mistake as his predecessor, Vicente Fox. That will be the effect if the new president of Mexico restores to office Mr. Fox’s first foreign minister, Jorge Castaneda.
As a new analysis by Fredo Arias-King just released by the Center for Security Policy makes clear, Mr. Castaneda and his team (including such figures as Mexico’s former consul in New York, Arturo Sarukhan, Mr. Castaneda’s controversial half-brother Andres Rozental and Ricardo Pascoe, former Mexican ambassador to Cuba) are themselves radical leftists who did grave harm to U.S.-Mexico relations the last time around — and will surely do so again if given the chance.
For example, they were instrumental in withdrawing Mexico from the decades-old mutual defense pact known as the Treaty of Rio, a decision announced ironically just days before the September 11 attacks in 2001. They seemed determined to find occasions to work at cross-purposes with the United States — notably, in connection with our effort to hold Saddam Hussein accountable to various Security Council resolutions.
Most troubling, however, was the Castaneda cabal’s efforts to convert the initially pro-U.S. Fox and his government into friends of the hard left throughout Latin America.
Mr. Castaneda personally engineered closer ties to the Castro apparatus in Cuba, encouraged the narco-terrorist FARC in Colombia and strove to rehabilitate Danny Ortega and his Sandinista Party in Nicaragua. It is not hard to assign responsibility for these initiatives, since they were abandoned immediately after Mr. Castaneda left the foreign ministry.
As a result not only of their ideological bent but their incompetence, Mr. Castaneda and his team blew the opportunity afforded when the newly inaugurated George Bush assigned top priority to what he called a “special relationship” with Mexico and traveled there as his symbolic first trip abroad. Mexico dropped in the priority list for Washington, even before September 11, and has never recovered since.
The possibility that the likes of Jorge Castaneda might return to power is especially dangerous for both Mexico and the United States at a moment when Mr. Ortega may triumph over a divided democratic-right in Nicaragua and the Chavez-Castro axis is making inroads in so many other places. Under Mr. Castaneda or his cabal, it is unimaginable that the Mexican government would play the constructive role it might otherwise perform in the post-Castro transition in Cuba.
It would be a tragedy if, at this critical juncture — and despite the preferences a majority of Mexicans expressed at the ballot box, Felipe Calderon were to squander the chance for Mexico to serve as a bulwark against the combined dangers of Chavismo and Fidelismo and to enjoy a strong, constructive and mutually beneficial relationship with the United States. It is in the interests of both of our countries that President Calderon’s vision of a freedom-loving and -supporting Mexico be represented at the foreign ministry, not that of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Jorge Castaneda.