Hillary Clinton Prepares To Visit Disaster Zone In Chile

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is currently traveling throughout South America, including a visit to earthquake ravaged Chile tomorrow. Guest host Lynn Neary will discuss what is at stake on this trip with Moises Naim, editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine.

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LYNN NEARY, host:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in South America on the first stop of a five-nation tour that includes a visit tomorrow to Chile.

To talk about the earthquake there as well as the state of relations between the U.S. and Latin America, were joined now by Moises Naim. Hes the editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine. Good to have you with us.

Mr. MOISES NAIM (Editor-in-Chief, Foreign Policy): Hi, Lynn, how are you?

NEARY: Lets talk first about the earthquake. President Michelle Bachelet yesterday decided to send troops to the hardest hit region, which has been the site of looting. And given her own personal history with the Chilean military, I wonder if you think this might have been a tough decision for her.

Mr. NAIM: No, not at all. Part of her personal history is that she was a minister of defense of Chile. So she is very well known in the military. She knows them well. And the military today are very, very different from what they were when they were in power during the Pinochet years.

NEARY: Now Chile has now asked for international help, but initially there was some hesitation. Why?

Mr. NAIM: One has to understand that this is one of the biggest earthquakes ever and that there is a certain amount of confusion and disorganization, and people are baffled and disoriented. Its very normal. And so, you know, they probably did not know and did not have a full understanding of the scale and scope of the needs that are coming forward, that will be needed.

NEARY: Well turn now to Secretary Clintons trip. During the previous administration, many Latin American leaders felt that Latin America was being sort of shunted aside. That it was no longer considered very important. Is that changing under Secretary Clinton and President Obama?

Mr. NAIM: Well, they tried. And one needs to understand that this is a long-felt perspective from Latin America. Latin America always feels, for good reasons very often, that it is not at the very high level of it doesnt get a lot of attention in Washington and elsewhere.

And there was an initiative just early in President Obamas administration. He went to a summit in Trinidad where he had all sorts of very good overtures. Hes developing a very strong relationship with Mexico. He tried, at the beginning, to develop a very consistent view about the Honduras situation consistent with the rest of the region, and he tried to develop a very close relationship with Brazil.

Unfortunately, in all of those cases, his overtures were either rebuffed or not well - their reply was not very effective on the part of Latin America.

NEARY: So what are the main points of discussion likely to be during this trip?

Mr. NAIM: Well, paradoxically, its going to be Iran. One of the, of course, Secretary Clinton is going to say that there is a policy towards Latin America. That Latin America is a priority. There are all sorts of initiatives that the United States wants to develop with the region and with specific countries.

But the one important item in the agenda is a visit to Brazil. Brazil has developed close ties with Iran. And the Secretary Clinton wants to use that visit to explain to the Brazilians what are the stakes concerning Irans nuclear program and what is the U.S. position and hope to get Brazils support too for the U.S. position.

NEARY: What is she likely to hear from Brazil?

Mr. NAIM: Probably not much that will make her happy, but it has become a very important point for Brazil to show its independence. President Lula personally is very committed to show that Brazil is now a global player that does not take instructions from the United States. And it has become kind of a point of honor for him and the Brazilians to show their independence.

NEARY: Yeah. Now, what about Cuba?

Mr. NAIM: Well, Cuba is an evergreen. Cuba is always there in the conversations. But, you know, its not that important anymore. It continues to be important in the minds of some leaders giving speeches. But in the practical realities of the daily realities of Latin Americans, Cuba does not matter much.

NEARY: And lets talk about Venezuela. Secretary Clinton is not visiting Venezuela. Shes not meeting with President Hugo Chavez. But is he the elephant in the room here?

Mr. NAIM: In many ways, he is. But in the many ways, its very important to understand that for him and for his political base and for his international image, its very important not to have a very harmonious relationship with the United States. He has, during the Bush years, those were the golden years for him because President Bush and others lack of popularity around the world and in Latin America, so he capitalized on that. And now, with Obama, he has more of a difficulty of doing it. But still, for him, its very important to show that he is at loggerheads with what he calls empire.

NEARY: Secretary Clinton wants to talk about Iran. But what are some of the issues she may hear about from the Latin American leaders themselves? What might come back at her?

Mr. NAIM: Its going to vary from country to country. One of the things shes going to find is that this is a deeply divided region where countries are pursuing different approaches. She will hear different things in Argentina from what she hears in Brazil but, in general, trade.

There are very important issues concerning trade and the fact that there has been complete paralysis in, you know, in the initiatives and concerning more trade agreements and climate change and the deep frustration about the lack of movement in that area.

NEARY: All right, thanks very much for joining us.

Mr. NAIM: Thank you, Lynn.

NEARY: That was Moises Naim and he is the editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine.

(Soundbite of music)

NEARY: Just ahead, by law, the U.S. military does not allow women to serve in combat. But some servicewomen say this is just not realistic given modern day warfare. And they say fear of sexual harassment should not prevent the law from being reversed.

Ms. CATHERINE ROSS (Former Army Reservist): And when I was in the army, I felt like the army, out of any of the employers I have ever had, the army was the most concerned with the sexual harassment and sexual assault.

NEARY: The state of women in combat. Thats coming up on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Im Lynn Neary.

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