President of Costa Rica: United States not to blame for past, present or future ills confronting Latin America

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The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers (NAFBPO) extracts and condenses the material that follows from Mexican and Central and South American on-line media sources on a daily basis. You are free to disseminate this information, but we request that you credit NAFBPO as being the provider.

La Prensa (Managua, Nicaragua) 5/7/09

(Full translation of speech by Oscar Arias, President of Costa Rica, at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Trinidad & Tobago on April 18, 2009)

“I have the impression that every time Caribbean and Latin American countries get together with the president of the United States of America it is to ask for things or to demand something.  Almost always it’s to blame the United States for our past, present and future ills. I don’t believe that is at all just. We cannot forget that Latin America had universities before the United States created Harvard and William & Mary, which are the first universities of that country. We cannot forget that in this continent, as in the whole world, at least until 1750 all Americans were more or less the same: all were poor.

When the industrial revolution came about in England, other countries hopped on that wagon: Germany, France, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand…… and thus the Industrial Revolution passed over Latin America like a comet, and we didn’t realize it. Certainly, we lost the opportunity.

There’s also a very big difference. Reading the history of Latin America, compared with the history of the United States, one realizes that Latin America did not have a Spaniard John Winthrop, nor a Portuguese who might have come with a bible in hand, ready to build “a City on a Hill”, a city that would shine, as was the wish of the pilgrims who arrived in the United States.

Fifty years ago, Mexico was richer than Portugal. In 1950, a country such as Brazil had a higher per capita income than that of South Korea. Sixty years ago, Honduras had more riches per capita than Singapore, and today Singapore – in something like 35 or 40 years – is a country with $40,000 annual income per person. Well, we Latin Americans did something wrong.

What did we do wrong? I cannot list all the things we did wrong. To start, we have a seven-year schooling. That is the average length of schooling in Latin America and it’s not the case with the majority of Asian countries. It’s certainly not the case in countries such as the United States and Canada, with the best education in the world, similar to the Europeans’. For every 10 students who enter high school in Latin America, in some countries only one finishes. There are countries with an infant mortality of 50 children per thousand, when in the more advanced countries it is 8, 9 or 10. We have countries where the tax load is 12 percent of the gross national product, and it’s no one’s responsibility, except our own, that we don’t tax the richest people of our countries. No one is to blame for that, except we ourselves.

In 1950 each American citizen was four times richer than a Latin American citizen. Today, an American citizen is 10, 15 or 20 times richer than a Latin American. That is not the fault of the United States, it’s our fault.

The value system of the 20th century, which seems to be the one we are putting into practice in the 21st century, is a wrong value system. Because it cannot be that the rich world devotes 100 billion dollars to alleviate the poverty of 80 percent of the world’s population – in a planet that has 2.5 billion human beings with a $2 a day income – and that it spends 13 times more ($1,300,000,000,000) in weapons and soldiers.

It’s incredible that Latin America spends $50 billion in weapons and soldiers. I ask myself: who is our enemy? Our enemy, of that inequality which President Correa (of Ecuador) points out very correctly, is the lack of education; it is illiteracy; it’s that we don’t spend on the health of our people; that we don’t create the necessary infrastructure, the roads, the highways, the ports, the airports; it’s that we are not dedicating the necessary resources to stop the deterioration of the environment; it’s the lack of equality which we have, which really makes us ashamed; it is a product, among many things, of course, of the fact that we are not educating our sons and our daughters.

One goes to a Latin American university and it still seems we are in the sixties, seventies or eighties. It seems we forgot that something very important happened on November 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, and that the world changed. We have to accept that this is a different world, and about this I honestly believe that all thinking persons, all the economists, all the historians, almost agree that the 21st century is the century of the Asians, not of the Latin Americans.  And I, unfortunately, agree with them.  Because while we keep arguing about the “isms” (which is better? capitalism, socialism, communism, liberalism, neo-liberalism, social-christianism…) the Asians found a very realistic “ism” for the 21st and for the end of the 20th century, which is pragmatism. Just to mention an example, let us remember that when Deng Xiaoping visited Singapore and South Korea, after having realized that his own neighbors were quickly becoming richer, he returned to Peking and told the old comrades who had accompanied him on the Long March: “Well, the truth is, dear comrades, that I don’t care whether the cat is black or white, the only thing that matters to me is that it catch mice”.  And if Mao would have been alive he would have died again when he said that “the truth is that becoming rich is glorious”.  And while the Chinese do this, and from 79 until today they grow at some 11, 12 or 13 percent, and they have taken some 300 million out of poverty, we keep on arguing about ideologies which we should have buried a long time ago.

The good news is that Deng Xiaoping achieved this when he was 74 years old. Looking around, I don’t see (among the presidents who participated in the Summit) anyone who is close to 74 years of age.  That’s why I ask you not to reach that age in order to make the changes which we have to make.”

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La Prensa Grafica (San Salvador, El Salvador) 5/7/09

* Some 1,395 Salvadorans have been assassinated in the period from January to April of 2009, according to a report by the National Civil Police. This yields an average of 12 homicides per day. Sixty one murders have occurred during the first six days of May. (El Salvador is slightly smaller than Massachusetts; its estimated population for mid ’09 is 7,185,000)

* The Inspector of the National Civil Police has ordered the opening of investigations on 14 members of that agency due to their links with well known merchandise and drug smugglers. Those fourteen cases will be added to three others against police chiefs in the eastern portion of the country due to their association with the “Los Perrones” criminal group.
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El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa, Honduras) 5/7/09

* An investigation concerning the kidnapping for ransom of a well known entrepreneur’s grandson revealed that two police agents linked to organized crime were directly involved in the affair. The unpaid ransom was for 1.5 million dollars. Honduras’ Minister of Security said the two “are not exactly members of the police but rather criminals infiltrated into the Police”

* 81 Hondurans arrived at Tegucigalpa’s airport yesterday after deportation from the United States; two of them were immediately arrested “by Interpol” due to pending criminal charges in Honduras.
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El Diario de Coahuila (Saltillo, Coahuila) 5/7/09

Mex. military seized five tons of marihuana from two locales in the town of Diaz Ordaz (some 10 mi. up the Rio Grande from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, near McAllen, TX) Two subjects were arrested.
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El Financiero (Mexico City) 5/7/09

The flu epidemic event was unable to halt the violence of organized crime. Contrary to the declarations by Janet Napolitano there has been an average of 15 executions daily on the northern boundary of the country; according to official data, from April 23 to date there were around 216 executions. Chihuahua, a northern border state, continues to head the list of these events.
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El Universal (Mexico City) 5/7/09

The state of Tabasco Dep’t. of Justice began a case against Jose Macias, the driver of a semi truck which was found to have 1,773,998 pseudoephedrine pills hidden under a false floor. The event took place on the Villahermosa-Coatzocoalcos highway.
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Frontera (Tijuana, Baja Calif.) 5/7/09

At 6:40 a.m. today, on the main avenue of the Los Laureles section of Tijuana: the body of a man, wrapped in bedding and covered with a plastic bag. Minutes later, in the La Mesa area of town: another victim of execution, also wrapped in a blanket. There was also a preliminary report of a shootout between police and a couple of armed robbers at a store in Tijuana. And “Preventive State Police” announced the arrest of thirteen narco retailers last night and this morning, mainly on the east side of town.
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La Cronica de Hoy (Mexico City) 5/7/09

In Coyuca de Catalan, Guerrero, police came upon the body of a man who’d been dumped on a street crossing. His hands and feet had been tied with electrical wire. His eyes had been taped over. He had been shot at least twelve times with cal. 7.62X39 mm. and .38 super firearms.
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The Mexican government has announced an end to the worst of the swine flu virus emergency. The attached cartoon appeared today in Milenio, a Mexico City paper. Its title reads: “Off with the mouth covers”. The man says: “At last, back to normality”
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– end of report –

Back to normality

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