Friday, August 19, 2005

Thomas Shannon: State's New Latin American Affairs Chief

Andres Oppenheimer introduces the Bush Administration's new chief of the U.S. Government's Latin American policy thus:
Thomas A. Shannon, President Bush's pick to become the head of the State Department's Latin American affairs office, is a low-profile career officer who is likely to conduct a less strident U.S. foreign policy in the region. But, from what some Republicans say, he may speak softly and carry a big stick.

Shannon, whose current job is White House chief advisor on Latin American affairs, was nominated this week to replace Ambassador Roger F. Noriega -- a political appointee -- as assistant secretary of state for Western hemisphere affairs.

''We are likely to see a change in style, in favor of greater moderation, multilateralism and quiet diplomacy,'' says Michael Shifter, a Latin American expert with the Inter-American Dialogue, a middle-of-the-road Washington, D.C., think tank. ``He understands the need for a different style to be effective.''
As a student of Latin American International Relations and US-LA Relations, I think Shannon's appointment is a much better and more pragmatic choice to take on this job than either of his two predecessors (Roger Noriega and Otto Reich). Shannon, as a career State Department officer, will understand the nuances of the Latin American reality much better and will certainly be much less ideologically-driven in his approach to the region. Noriega and Reich seemed to have difficulty getting "unstuck" from pre-Cold War mentalities that defined US-Latin American relations. This should not be the case for Shannon.

To the extent that Shannon can keep Bush and the higher ranking foreign policy politicos of his Administration from meddling in his work, I think he could do a decent job in repairing relations and advancing positive connections with the region. But I have to say that the current Rumsfeld tour of Latin America bodes ill for this possibility.

Good luck, Shannon. You're most certainly going to need it.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

TeleBush vs TeleChavez

Rep. Connie Mack (R) of Florida has proposed that the U.S. Government create and fund a state-sponsored TV broadcast (similar to TV Marti) to counter Venezuela's TeleSur Network, which was funded and sponsored by the Venezuealn government as a pro-Chavez network in that country. Is this a good idea? Andres Oppenheimer thinks not. Already, the global press is cynically referring to this initiative proposed by Mack as TeleBush, with the not-so-far-fetched notion that this broadcast will be nothing more than a U.S. Bush Administration propaganda machine against Chavez. Furthermore, why would the U.S. want to do this in a country where press freedom and alternative TV networks are still functional? Personally, I think it is a boneheaded move strategically, and will only strengthen Chavez in power and confirm the already-embraced idea of the U.S. as the bully of the Western Hemipshere.