by Fausta Rodríguez Wertz
Vice-president Joe Biden was in Chile for the presidential inauguration of Michelle Bachelet.
Bachelet previously served as President from 2006–2010, but could not serve two consecutive terms, so she ran, and won this second term. Bachelet has already proposed increasing corporate taxes and closing tax loopholes to sponsor a system of free college education, changes to the constitution, and more spending to address inequality. This does not bode well for the most successful country in South America if she steers the country away from its free-market economy.
Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico compose the Pacific Alliance, a trade block created in 2011 which aims to
- Build, in a participatory and consensual manner, an area of deep economic integration and to move gradually toward the free circulation of goods, services, capital and persons.
- Promote the larger growth, development and competitiveness of the Parties’ economies, aiming at achieving greater welfare, overcoming socio-economic inequality and achieving greater social inclusion of their inhabitants.
- Become a platform for political articulation, and economic and trade integration, and project these strengths to the rest of the world, with a special emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region.
Biden scheduled face-to-face meetings with each of the Pacific Alliance presidents, Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Ollanta Humala of Peru, and Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, having already met with Bachelet.
Earlier during his visit, Biden had
called the unstable situation in Venezuela “alarming” and said the Caracas government lacked even basic respect for human rights.
The Pacific Alliance arose as a free-trade, pro-democracy answer to the pro-Communist, pro-Cuba UNASUR that was the brainchild of the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. Hugo’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, was scheduled to attend Bachelet’s inauguration, and had called an emergency meeting of UNASUR to take place in Chile, saying that the UNASUR heads of state are “welcome” to condemn the opposition’s violence.
Maduro had certainly made his agenda clear.
In anticipation of Maduro’s visit, several Chilean congressmen wore #SOSVenezuela buttons to the inaugural, showing their support for the protesters:
Maduro decided at the last minute to skip Chile altogether, and took a hike. He sent his Foreign Minister, Elias Jaua.
Brazil, the largest UNASUR country, demurred on taking a stance on Venezuela. Biden was not invited, and it’s a good thing he’s not perceived as being involved with any of the UNASUR doings.
Better yet, I applaud Biden’s attention to the Pacific Alliance presidents. That is the kind of organization the hemisphere needs.
Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on US and Latin American politics and Culture at Fausta’s Blog.
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