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Our maxim: “understanding before action”
Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

viernes, 16 de mayo de 2014

El Uruguay de Mujica da los pasos correctos.

Mujica’s U.S. Visit Underscores Uruguay’s Outsized Regional Importance.

Uruguayan President Jose “Pepe” Mujica’s May 12 meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington was an important if belated step in the right direction for U.S. engagement with South America, reconfirming to a frequently skeptical region the importance that the United States places on building relationships with leaders from across the political spectrum. 

Since his election in 2009, the former guerrilla fighter has guided Uruguay as a democratic leftist more interested in results than ideology. Certainly, the successful effort last year tolegalize the sale and distribution of marijuana and Mujica’s purposeful outreach to Cuba are among the topics that make headlines, but the hallmark of his presidency has been a focus on social development, economic growth with equity and democratic governance, not ideology or opposition to the United States. For a small nation nestled between two giants in South America—Brazil and Argentina—that’s a winning model, and one on which the United States can seek to build.        

Indeed, relations between Uruguay and the United States are strong. The two nations enjoy long democratic histories, and Uruguay has been a frequent partner on issues from global trade negotiations to international peacekeeping operations. When then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the unusual step of attending Mujica’s inauguration, it was an important signal of Washington’s desire to acknowledge and work with democratically elected leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean no matter their ideology. This was consistent with the way in which the United States approached the relationship beginning in 2004 with Mujica’s predecessor Tabare Vazquez, who, despite supposedly being at the vanguard of a pink tide of leftism washing over Latin America, set a course of strong, reasoned leadership in righting Uruguay’s economy while effectively engaging the international community. 

Economic relations blossomed: The United States became Uruguay’s largest market, and the United States and Uruguay signed a bilateral investment treaty that led to further economic cooperation. Regrettably the United States was unable at the time to move forward with Vazquez’s publicly stated desire for a free trade agreement, although the groundwork was laid for a broader and deeper economic relationship. Instead, Uruguay recommitted itself to the Mercosur economic relationship with Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay—and most recently Venezuela—that had previously dominated its international economic relations, while riding the swelling wave of global commodities markets led by China’s spectacular growth. 

Mujica’s U.S. visit toward the end of his term now provides an opportunity for bilateral re-engagement, particularly as demand from China slows and Mercosur becomes increasingly problematic as a vehicle for regional and global economic integration. Of course, with Uruguayan elections set for October, much of the agenda of the Washington visit may prove to be aspirational.

The Uruguayan president is humble and plain-spoken. He gives most of his small salary to charity, lives unpretentiously, shuns neckties and is unconcerned about appearances, as photos from the Oval Office meeting attest. It is this independence from convention that allows Mujica the flexibility to follow his personal instincts, including in areas fraught with political baggage such as marijuana liberalization. 

Internationally, that streak of independence also frees him to engage with the United States and other parties in ways other Latin American leaders would find difficult. For example, his expressed willingness to take in a small number of Guantanamo prisoners to help the United States address a complicated and difficult situation there is not a desire universally shared by other regional leaders. His ambition to expand trade beyond the Mercosur context has caused some heartburn with his larger neighbors. His efforts to promote inward investment, including in agriculture, energy and telecommunications, have put Uruguay in the company of much larger economies in the minds of investors. 

At a time when the United States seeks partners in Latin America and the Caribbean, Mujica is a leader with a unique story and a willingness to pursue common interests. Washington could improve its strategic position in South America by deepening the relationship with Uruguay, despite that nation’s relatively small size. 

A bilateral trade agreement may no longer be on offer, and the Mujica administration will soon be finishing up its term in office, but there remain a number of important steps the United States can take to strengthen Uruguay’s position in the region, with positive implications for Washington. Among these are holding the door open for Montevideo to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, linking the most vibrant, like-minded economies of Latin America, North America and Asia. Currently, Uruguay is focused on concluding trade negotiations between Mercosur and Europe. In the event these negotiations are not successfully finalized and the World Trade Organization also remains gridlocked, Montevideo will be looking to expand its options elsewhere. A more robust linkage with the Pacific would likely be on the government’s shopping list. 

Not only would this promote economic growth and development in Uruguay, it would also provide formal links to the global economy that go beyond Mercosur. Similarly, Washington should enthusiastically encourage any desire Montevideo may express to join as a full partner in the Pacific Alliance, currently consisting of Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile. Increased education links, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and training in entrepreneurial skills would also be relevant and appropriate.  

It’s not always easy to get the attention of Washington policymakers for Latin America matters, and small nations generally fare even worse within this context. But Uruguay has long played an outsized role in the region and is a friend of the United States. Together, the two nations share much in common and can work toward a mutually rewarding agenda. Mujica’s Washington visit was a reminder that timely engagement can yield lasting and important results. 

Eric Farnsworth heads the Washington office of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, whose Energy Action Group promotes sound energy policies for the Western Hemisphere. During the Clinton administration, he was the senior adviser to the White House special envoy for the America.

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