Many feel Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went overboard while visiting Quito on June 8 and courting populist President Rafael Correa. Reported The New York Times, “Clinton woos a Leftist President, while Foreign Policy observed ‘Dearest Hillary’ charms Ecuador’s President Correa.
Before the Secretary traveled to Quito, veteran diplomat Roger Noriega warned:
The high-level visit to Quito is clearly part of a charm offensive to coax Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa out of the camp of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez. However, no rapprochement is worth asking Secretary Clinton to turn a blind eye to Correa’s authoritarian style, his abuse of the courts to attack opponents and the media and his tolerance of drug trafficking and other corruption.
Clinton dismissed them as disagreements; while Rafael Correa boldly lied claiming his leftist government is not anti-capitalist, anti-American, or anti-imperialist. “We are pro-dignity, pro-sovereignty, pro-social justice, pro-good life for our people. We are in favor of the good things.”
The State Department gave no indication the Secretary raised Ecuador’s ties with Colombian narco-terrorists, growing relations with Iran, or its restrictive press laws in private talks.
The Secretary’s speech billed as “the broad outline of the Obama Administration’s policy” for Latin America featured a grab-bag of statist ideas, none of them unique to the Obama Administration. Mrs. Clinton urged improvements in the region’s education performance, facilitation of microfinance, empowerment of women, more poverty reduction programs, and promotion of corporate social responsibility. In brief, she offered a policy of liberal good intentions.
Totally absent from the Secretary’s speech was any mention of individual freedom and liberty, rule of law, or protection of property as bulwarks against the statist tendencies too often shaping policy in Latin America. On the importance of trade as an engine of growth and job creation, all Secretary Clinton managed to say was: “Trade between the United States and our partners reached more than $600 billion a year.” By comparison U.S. official aid to region is $2 billion and is not going to grow. The key variable of economic freedom that has proven essential to creating genuine opportunity and prosperity wasn’t mentioned at all.
While Clinton made have won the temporary plaudits of a temperamental populist, her failure to advance U.S. interests, identify regional security and governance threats, grapple with authoritarian populism, or encourage expanded trade, market access, and direct and secure investments demonstrates that the Obama Administration is still struggling to define an effective policy for the Americas.