Columnist Andres Oppenheimer says:
If President Barack Obama's foreign aid budget request for 2011 is a reflection of his priorities in world affairs, it looks like the president is saying "adios'' to Latin America.
The administration's foreign aid request to Congress for next year calls for a 13 percent increase for Africa, a 7 percent increase for the Middle East and a nearly 60 percent increase for South and Central Asia, mostly for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. By comparison, it requests a nearly 10 percent cut in aid for Latin America.
Oppenheimer is offended.
Now, as I was reading the administration's foreign aid proposal, I couldn't help thinking -- taking a line from columnist Lluis Bassets of the Spanish daily El País in a recent article about how the Obama administration looks at Europe -- that Obama does not see Latin America as a problem, nor as a region that can help solve any problems.
He may be right that Buraq doesn't give a rat's bum about Latin America, other than those "migrants" he can welcome to the Democrat party's reserve army, to be swept up and bused to the polling stations when His Worship needs a few thousand or a few million votes.
But what a strange conception -- well, actually, it's the received wisdom in Liberalland -- Oppenheimer has about foreign aid, money siphoned from the ever-shrinking American middle class.
If Latin America is a problem (and how patronizing is that?), might I dare suggest that Latin Americans are the best people to fix it? If it is doing so flaming well that it can "help solve problems," why does it need, or deserve, any aid?
The budget request also calls for more foreign assistance for Zambia ($395 million) and Cambodia ($74 million) than for Guatemala ($67 million), which is reeling from a severe drought.
Let the bidding begin. Who's the most wretched? Guatemala leads with a severe drought. Top that if you can, Cambodia! Zambia, show us your disease! Don't be shy, the prize is worth it!
"It's a myopic view of the world,'' says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a New York-based group that represents multinationals doing business in Latin America. "Guatemala is falling apart, right on the border with our strategic partner Mexico.''
Mexico, our strategic partner? The country whose government publishes brochures giving illegals tips about how to slip into El Norte? A corruptocracy that is, for practical purposes, at war with the United States? It is Eric Farnsworth who has a myopic view of the world. Representing "multinationals doing business in Latin America" will do that to you.
Peter Romero, a former State Department head of Latin American affairs and most recently an Obama campaign advisor, told me that a nearly 10 percent cut in foreign aid to Latin America won't make that much of a difference because most of the region does not rely heavily on aid. "But, politically, it sends the wrong message,'' Romero said. "People will say Obama is not paying attention to the region.''
I suspect attention is not the kind of payment he has in mind.