WASHINGTON -- This week, the so-called mainstream media fixated on a Baghdad shoe-throwing contest, more government bailout bucks, and the delightful prospect of having Caroline Kennedy appointed to Hillary Clinton's vacant seat in the U.S. Senate. The potentates of the press gave short shrift -- or simply ignored -- two far more important news stories: the first-ever assembly of Latin American leaders gathered to stick it to the United States and the passing of a great conservative leader who helped Ronald Reagan become one of America's greatest presidents.
Both stories deserved more attention than they received. That, however, would require journalists, news directors and editors to have some knowledge of history and current events beyond what they can collect from a quick Google search and have attention spans greater than a fruit fly's.
First, the Latin Leader Finger-in-the-Eye Stunt. They called it the "Latin American and Caribbean Summit on Integration and Development." It brought all but one of the Latin American and Caribbean heads of state to Salvador da Bahia, a Brazilian resort city, for a two-day blame-America-first confab, Dec. 16 and 17. Only Colombia's Alvaro Uribe did not attend; there were disastrous floods last weekend that made nearly a quarter-million of his countrymen homeless. The talk wasn't as pretty as the scenery, and we weren't even invited.
Ostensibly, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called the summit as an effort to help resolve a number of simmering trade, economic and security disputes among countries of the region. But the real purpose was tipped by the fact that U.S. representatives were excluded and Cuban dictator Raul Castro was invited. On his first trip abroad as "president," Fidel's little brother was welcomed at the gathering as if he was the prodigal son.
Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez confirmed that the principal purpose of the gathering was to send an unequivocal message to the incoming Obama administration. On Tuesday, Chavez told reporters, "There is no doubt that a new historic era is beginning." Just to make sure everyone got the message, he added, "The presence of Cuba is a very strong signal that America is no longer the boss in Latin America."
That's an understatement. Over the course of the past two years, Venezuela has placed orders for more than $4 billion in arms from Russia. Moscow also has dispatched strategic bombers and nuclear-powered warships to the region for "joint exercises." Last summer, Iran agreed to build an ammunition plant outside Caracas.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.