On one of my recent trips to Latin America, I saw a child no older than five years old standing at a busy intersection, begging drivers for money. He was barefoot and his skin and clothes were covered with a thick layer of black smog. This child had managed to learn how to navigate the heavy traffic, aggressive drivers and had developed strategies for survival. For him and for the other 220 million people who live in poverty in Latin
America, every moment of his life is a constant reminder of why the Bush's economic policies are not working.
Bush's close to 70% disapproval ratings in Latin America do not come as a surprise to people who live there. Last week, before Bush's arrival, Argentineans were predicting that thousands would hit the streets in protest, some even warned him not to come. Yet Bush and his advisors are clueless about the sentiment of those who disagree with them. And this is perhaps Bush's worst mistake. With a little research, Bush's advisors should have known that Argentina of all countries should be the last place the Bush should visit after the worse week of his presidency.
Argentineans know better than any other South Americans that Bush style economic development with open markets, deregulation and privatization only leads to increased poverty. After following the recipe of the free market, Argentina suffered one of the worst economic and political crises in the Americas in 2001 and 2002.
Most Latin Americans know that this summit is not about "creating jobs and about strengthening democracy" as the title of the summit claims but about pushing unfair trade deals that undermine the rights of workers in Latin American countries and destroy the environment.
But president Bush obviously did not read the early signs of disapproval of his actions like the stalled FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americans) talks, and the development of MECOSUR, an effort by Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Cuba to develop an alternative to the FTAA.
Now Bush is being forced to face the music and chanting of tens of thousands of people who are coming from across Argentina and Latin America to protest against him. In fact in Latin America he is being crowned as the most unpopular US president in history. It is time for the Bush Administration and for US citizens to open our eyes to the misery the poor in our nation and around the world are suffering. We can't continue to claim disbelief at the levels of poverty in New Orleans or at the failure of free trade in Latin America.
Ana Perez is the Cuba program director at Global Exchange, www.globalexchange.org.