BUENOS AIRES - The meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Venezuelan counterpart, Elias Jaua, was certainly one of the most significant during the recent annual assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Guatemala.
During their 40-minute encounter, the two top diplomats agreed to reopen a dialogue at the highest level despite the profound differences that continue to separate the two countries.
Following this first step of rapprochement between Washington and Caracas, might something similar occur with Argentina in the near future? In conversations with various specialists from the U.S., Clarín found a consensus that the answer is a clear “No.”
Why is there more hope for warming of Washington's relations with Venezuela than with Argentina?
The reasons can be divided into three categories. In the first place, the Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, was the one who asked for the meeting with the American Secretary of State. It is difficult for Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to show interest in approaching the U.S. on the eve of legislative elections in October. To this day, the anti-U.S. rhetoric continues at the domestic, political level in Argentina.
Second, Argentina does not possess Venezuela’s geostrategic value for the United States. Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) the Venezuelan state oil and natural gas company, is the main provider of oil for the United States -- and the economic factor is even more important now than it was in the previous phase of Washington’s policy towards Latin America.
Third, Argentina is not among the candidate countries to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is currently of great interest in Washington. On the contrary, Argentina belongs to Mercosur (Southern Common Market), a supposed free trade area that is concerned more and more with resolving internal issues among its members.
While Mercosur was the rising alliance of the 1990s, many now consider it to be in decline. In fact, when announcing the cancellation of the Mercosur summit scheduled for June 28, Uruguayan Vice President Danilo Astori was quite explicit in his pessimism: “We never arrive at the common market, the customs union is shattered, and the free trade area does not work because there is no free movement of goods and services.”
All this makes the rising star of the region right now the Pacific Alliance composed of Mexico, Perú, Chile, and Colombia.
“Argentina is not high on anyone’s priority list in Washington,” Michael Shifter, the President of Inter-American Dialogue, told Clarín. “It’s simply not among the priorities at any level, not at a political, economic, or commercial level.”
More generally, Shifter is very skeptical of the United States’ renewed interest in the region and about the chances that the rapprochement with Venezuela takes hold. “In Caracas, the political situation is very complicated and the anti-Yankee rhetoric is still very strong,” he said. “We have seen periods of a lot of movement with the region and then they evaporate. Maybe Obama is searching for a foreign policy legacy in Latin America, after having failed in other parts of the world, but we shall see.”
Mark Jones from Rice University in Texas, confirmed that “there will be no rapprochement with Argentina. In Washington, there is the impression that the Kirchnerism is reaching its end.”
Jones says there is no fear that "the situation in Argentina worsens like in Venezuela, where there is always the danger that the impact of a destabilized Venezuela influences Colombia.” Jones also believes that Kirchner will not want to approach the U.S. before the elections. “For her, the psychological relation with the youth from the Cámpora movement is what's important, and she will not change it now.”