Please bear with me; I am going to rant a little bit about politics.
Today we commemorate the Independence Day of the United States of America. It is an occasion to celebrate the legacy of those men who gave everything, including their own precious lives, so that the American people could live in liberty and dignity.
This legacy is precious, and the task of propagating the ideals of freedom and human dignity should be a commission to the American people to stand, proclaim and propagate those values everywhere.
I saw by myself what America stands for. I was there for nearly two years, as a lawful resident alien with a student visa, and I came to know the values, convictions, and the warm hospitality of the people of this great nation. However, when one goes around the world, is there appreciation for America? Maybe yes; but there is also a great amount of anti-Americanism, and this fact worries me a lot.
Why do people hate the U.S.? America is, after all, a nation founded on the ideals of liberty and dignity, and this should be welcomed by most. But we see deep hatred, mostly (but not rightly) justified by actions taken by U.S. government foreign policy. And employing a rhetoric of Anti-Americanism can take you places: witness the emergence of leaders such as Evo Morales in Bolivia, or Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. The average Latin American see the average U.S.-American as full of himself, arrogant, selfish, foolish, rude, and an all-around bully. And you know that’s not true… but they don’t. They just know what they experienced or what they learned through the media. First and foremost examples of that behavior are the people working in American embassies, right from the Ambassador to the lowliest attaché.
The State Department should really get its act together in Latin America. They might be highly efficient in implementing foreign policy guidelines and actions in Latin America, and they might be excellent in representing American interests, but in the propaganda department they are a failure of strategic proportions, a failure that is dangerously mounting to a vicious backslash.
Our recent ambassadors, for example, were people who were busy pressuring our government. In moments of great civil unrest and political crises, they helped to support one president (Juan Carlos Wasmosy) while they helped to depose another (Raúl Cubas). They are pressuring our government on areas such as drug trafficking, money laundering “piracy,” “intellectual property,” and so on. And they do not forget about the cultural and humanitarian aspects: we have the Peace Corps, USAID, and USIS. We have Medrete medical missions with the US Army. But somehow, the people remain unimpressed; there seems no real outreach to them.
How can this state of things be better? Should America desist on its foreign policy goals and actions, pearhps? By no means. But reach out to the culture! Get some radio program on the airwaves where you could put the best of American music, bring some noted artist to visit the country, and engage the embassy itself, and not an appendage, in visits to the country. These should mark a good beginning. Reach out to the people in the street with a message he is interested to hear!
Thankfully, the situation has improved here. The current U.S. Ambassador, Mr. James Cason, is someone who projects the image of a “friendly guy”, and not just a bureaucrat. He is fluent in Guarani, the indigenous national language of Paraguay spoken by 95% of the population, to the point where he can joke in it; and believe me, Guarani jokes are full of double-entendres in a way that only a true mastery of the language and its surrounding culture could make them possible.
So, this is my plea. Now, Happy Fourth of July! Have a nice barbecue or any other big karu guasu (“really big holiday dinner”, in Guarani) of your choice, and crack plenty of fireworks!