Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission
"Fixing" A Failed Foreign Policy in Latin America
Philadelphia Society Regional Meeting
San Antonio, Texas
October 11, 2008
I served on the transition team of President-elect Ronald Reagan prior to his
inauguration on January 20th, 1981, the Communist guerrillas in El
Salvador were poised to capture yet another country in Central America. The
Sandinistas already had control of Nicaragua, and President Carter’s
disastrous foreign policy in Latin America had set up El Salvador as the next
nation likely to fall to the Communists. Jimmy Carter’s Ambassador to El
Salvador at the time, Robert White, was harshly critical of the anti-Communist
government of that nation while sympathetic to the leftist guerrilla forces in
El Salvador. The Communists in El Salvador mounted a major effort to seize
control of that country prior to Ronald Reagan being sworn into office as
President of the United States. Fortunately, their efforts were unsuccessful.
day one, President Reagan shored up the anti-Communist government of El
Salvador. And, that nation remained free – thanks to a Reagan foreign policy
in Latin America which was part of an overall strategy to reduce communist
influence worldwide. Leftist regimes across the globe were in retreat throughout
the Reagan years as the President put in place a policy to win the Cold War –
a victory achieved, by the way, with hardly a shot being fired by American
forces and very little loss of American lives. In fact, U.S. military
intervention in Grenada to rescue American medical students and overthrow the
Marxist regime of Maurice Bishop was one of the very few instances in which our
military forces were deployed in furtherance of our Cold War strategy. Instead
of U.S. direct military intervention abroad, we provided assistance and support
to various anti-Communist forces in critical battleground regions and helped
indigenous forces take their countries back from the Communists themselves. By
the time Ronald Reagan left office in 1989, we had won the Cold War, and the
Left was in retreat throughout Latin America, with Fidel Castro increasingly
isolated on his Communist island of Cuba.
forward to the present. We have had eight years of an ostensible Republican
Administration headed up by George W. Bush. The results aren’t pretty.
the domestic scene, the Bush Administration failed to act in time to stem the
credit and spending excesses of our “bubble economy.” While those excesses
started during the Clinton years as a result of bad decisions made by Fed
Chairman Alan Greenspan and Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, the Bush
Administration did nothing to reverse those flawed policies. Now, we are paying
a heavy economic price for postponing action to deal with what turned out to be
a slow moving train wreck. The Clinton and Bush administrations also made major
mistakes in dealing with the strategic threat of militant Islam. And, when it
comes to Latin America, our incoherent and thoughtless policy in that region has
allowed for the rise to power of a whole new batch of would-be Fidel Castros
throughout the Western Hemisphere. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we even have
witnessed the return to power of the discredited Sandinista forces, led by that
rather swarmy figure on the Left, Daniel Ortega.
Bush Administration has squandered the political capital built-up over three
decades of hard work by the Goldwater-Reagan movement, doing great damage to the
conservative movement, the Republican party, and our country in the process.
That capital is depleted, and we conservatives have to start all over in putting
together a set of principled policies to address the enormous economic, foreign
policy, and cultural challenges we face.
topic this afternoon focuses on the dangers rising on our southern flank.
Let’s begin with the powerful comeback of an anti-American leftist of the sort
that Fidel Castro typified in his heyday. Hugo Chavez declares Fidel Castro to
be his inspiration as he steadily centralizes all power in his hands in his
march to establish the People’s Republic of Venezuela.
revolution needs enemies to attack and blame. The United States fills that bill
for Chavez who proclaims us as the main obstacle in the way of the
implementation of his so-call “Bolivarian revolution.”
only is Hugo Chavez consolidating power in energy-rich Venezuela, but he also is
implementing a strategy to carry out his leftist brand of social and political
revolution throughout the region. That strategy involves helping like-minded
Leftists garner and solidify power in other Latin American nations while seeking
to undermine perceived enemies of Chavez’s “march to socialism” in such
nations as Colombia and Mexico.
next door in Colombia, Chavez has done his best to weaken the conservative
government of President Alvaro Uribe, who has been winning a long, bloody war
against the murderous narco-terrorists who call themselves the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia – the FARC, to use its Spanish acronym. Files found
in the computer of a dead FARC leader lend credence to the belief that Chavez
supports the FARC not just with words but with money and arms.
of mine who are close to the political situation in Mexico are convinced that
Hugo Chavez provided significant assistance to the Leftist candidate for
President in that country during the 2006 election, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
The conservative leader of PAN, Felipe Calderon, narrowly defeated his Leftist
opponent in that election, but Obrador continues to call himself (and behave as
if he were) the “legitimate president of Mexico.”
that Mexico shares a nearly 2000 mile border with the United States, Americans
don’t realize how close a call it was when a Hugo Chavez ally came dangerously
close to winning that election in Mexico.
prospect of political chaos returning to a country that has had its share of
violence since its revolution in 1910 obviously should cause us plenty of
concern. The situation in Mexico becomes all the more worrisome in light of the
drug-related violence presently afflicting the U.S.-Mexico border. An estimated
90 percent of the cocaine that enters the United States passes through Mexico.
to the Congressional Research Service, “Mexican drug cartels now dominate the
wholesale illicit drug market in the United States” with the seven major
cartels fighting and murdering for control of the lucrative trafficking routes.
The assassination of police officers and public officials is a key tactic of the
cartels. Texans are directly affected by the drug-driven violence which afflicts
our U.S- Mexico border communities. For example, as of last year, more than 60
Americans have been kidnapped in the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo. We
cannot afford to have Mexico fall under the control of a Hugo Chavez/Fidel
Castro style of regime. Yet, that could easily happen if we don’t put policies
in place soon to reverse current trends.
Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and our old “friend”
Daniel Ortega are busily at work imposing their leftist models of political
power in their respective nations.
can be done to reverse the situation? What is our strategy? And, where are the
Bill Caseys, William Clarks, Cap Weinbergers out there to execute a new foreign
policy direction for the United States in Latin America?
me at this point voice my strong disagreement with the sentiments reportedly
expressed by Senator Norm Coleman that Latin America needs more thinking along
the lines of Rousseau and Kant – and less of Aquinas. I would say just the opposite – Latin America needs to
return to the political philosophy of Thomas Aquinas – and I would add –
Jose Ortega y Gasset. And, that’s where the Catholic Church becomes so
critical in improving the situation in Latin America.
the Catholic Church has been a strong force for stability and conservatism in
Latin America. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 (like the French Revolution) was
fundamentally an anti-religious revolution which targeted the Catholic Church as
a principal “enemy” of the revolution. Unfortunately, the virus of
liberation theology combined with base communities – so called Christian
Marxism – gained significant influence within the Catholic Church beginning in
the late 1960s and continuing throughout the 1970s. This infiltration of the
Catholic Church by hard leftists paved the way for the rise to power of the
Sandinistas in Nicaragua and aided leftist advances in other South and Central
John Paul II cracked down on the “liberation theology” crowd in the 1980s,
and Pope Benedict XVI has continued John Paul’s policies in that regard. But,
it takes a while to “clean out the stables,” and that continues to be a work
the leadership of the Catholic Church in Latin America is an important ally in
building a constructive alternative to the anti-religious, leftist political
forces which have become so powerful south of our border.
addition, we need to encourage the continued development and education of young
scholars in Latin America grounded in the principles of ordered liberty and
protection of private property rights.
also need to address the out of control illicit drug trade by simultaneously
expanding our support for President Calderon’s valiant effort to go after the
drug cartels while initiating a new campaign here at home addressing the demand
side of the problem modeled on the successful “Just Say No to Drugs” program
led by Mrs. Nancy Reagan in the early 1980s.
we need a government led by conservatives determined to improve our relationship
with our neighbors to the South and support those forces for the good – those
economic and social conservatives in Latin America who are kindred spirits --
with the personal and political courage to stand up to the Leftist thugs like
Hugo Chavez who are working so feverishly to take away the freedom of the
average citizen in Latin America.
Pauken is Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission. He served as Director of
Action, an independent federal agency, during the Reagan Administration.