I could have written the headlines before President Bush went to Latin America early this month. "U.S. President Met by Demonstrations in (fill in the blank)." "Latin Leaders Condemn Yankee Imperialism" etc. etc. So what else is new? It's all so predictable and so tiresome.
While working on U.S.-Latin America relations for more than 20 years (1968-90), I handled a number of American VIP visits to the five countries where I lived and worked. During that period, I don't recall a single high-level visitor - from Vice President Dan Quayle to First Lady Rosalynn Carter - who wasn't greeted by anti-American street demonstrations, as Bush was in Buenos Aires, Brasilia and Panama City.
When things go wrong in Latin America, the locals' first response is to throw stones at the American Embassy. According to them, we're responsible for everything bad that happens anywhere in the hemisphere. Well, as I learned over the years, sometimes we are, and sometimes we aren't. It's a decidedly mixed record.
Violent demonstrations date back to a South American visit by then-President Richard Nixon in the late 1950s. "Nixon Stoned in Caracas," the headlines screamed, which didn't mean that Nixon got drunk, but rather that anti-American activists threw rocks at his motorcade as it traversed Venezuela's capital city.
So now, more than 50 years later, Venezuela's leftist, populist president, Col. (ret.) Hugo Chavez, is haranguing the hated Yankees in downtown Buenos Aires. I repeat my question: So what else is new?
President Bush went to Argentina for a "Summit of the Americas" designed to promote a U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Although he achieved his major objective when 29 of 34 participating nations voted to continue FTAA negotiations (an .853 batting average - not bad in any league), anti-Bush journalists and politicians rushed to categorize his trip as a failure. Now while I'm not Bush's biggest cheerleader, I am willing to give him credit when he does something right.
Chavez, who went to the Summit vowing to "bury" FTAA because it would "enslave" Latin American workers (his best friend Fidel Castro, couldn't have said it any better), roused the rabble but failed to recruit any new allies. Bush countered effectively in Brasilia by urging Latin leaders to boldly defend democratic institutions and reject any drift back to the bad old days of authoritarian rule, which is exactly what dictator wannabe Chavez seeks for Venezuela.
Reno Gazette-Journal columnist Emma Sepulveda issued her usual plea for the U.S. to "pay more attention to Latin America." Translation: Send more U.S. taxpayer dollars. That isn't likely to happen, however, unless Latin governments clean up their acts by fighting endemic corruption and spending our money more wisely.
A Judge Above the Law
I'm indebted to Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat for revealing the "above the law" tendencies of senior Federal Judge Jerome Farris, of Seattle, who enjoys a lifetime appointment to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Court of Appeals, the most reversed appeals court in the nation.
It seems that Judge Farris feels free to ignore the law when it affects him. Westneat wrote that in a negotiated settlement, the judge promised to "make the city whole" and pay $500,000 to restore a neighborhood park after his Vietnamese gardener cut down nearly 50 evergreen trees on the judge's expensive waterfront property. Nearly three years later, the judge has failed to follow through on his promises and apparently has no intention of doing so.
To try to get Judge Farris to pay what he owes, the city of Seattle placed a lien on his $2.4 million, 8,000-square-foot house on beautiful Lake Washington. The judge not only has paid less than half of the amount owed to the city, but has asked the city to reimburse the $200,000 he paid in 2002 plus 12 percent interest per year.
If he gets his way, the judge will actually make money by reneging on his legal obligations. Meanwhile, Farris continues to sit on the court that wants to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance and Christ out of Christmas. Nice guy!
UNR President Lilley
And speaking of nice guys, I'm not among those who lament the departure of UNR President John Lilley after only four years on the job. Lilley, who resigned last weekend to become president of his alma mater, Baylor University in Waco, Texas, has had a stormy tenure at UNR and is equally unpopular among university faculty, students and alumni. He has earned unfavorable comparisons with his popular predecessor, Joe Crowley.
The RG-J gave Lilley the benefit of the doubt by giving him "high marks for vision and some enterprising academic and fund-raising initiatives," but added that "it may be just as well that he has decided to resign his position and move on." I couldn't agree more. A standoffish Texan who came to Nevada from Pennsylvania, Lilley was never comfortable around here and always acted like a fish out of water - a cold fish at that. I heard him speak twice and he put me to sleep both times. And his top-down, unilateral decision-making style destroyed faculty morale.
This time around, the Board of Regents should seek a qualified Nevadan who knows something about local customs and history to take over at UNR. The Board needs to bring in a respected Nevadan to fix UNR, someone like Reno Mayor Bob Cashell or journalist/educator Warren Lerude, who have been mentioned as possible interim replacements for Lilley until a permanent president is chosen.
n Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, has been a Carson City resident for more than 40 years.