If you got a larf out of the way overwhelming support for the Iraq War was bolstered by the constant repetition of the number of countries participating in the “Coalition of the Willing” (including Rwanda, Tonga, Moldova, the Solomon Islands, etc.) or got a kick out of how maps showing large, sparsely-populated counties were used to pimp President Bush’s 2004 electoral “mandate”, you’ll be happy to know that the administration’s skill at promoting meaningless figures is has been taken on his tour of South America.
Sometime Bush buddy, Mexican President Vicente Fox is following the White House playbook, describing how the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas enjoys near-universal support in the hemisphere despite the opposition of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez:
Fox argued that the 29 countries that want to forge ahead should form the trade zone on their own — even though that would leave out Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela and dash hopes of creating a bloc that would eclipse the European Union.
Twenty-nine countries sounds like a lot, until you think about the five countries that are mentioned in the quote as not happy with the agreement. Argentina’s pretty big. And, uh, doesn’t Brazil cover a huge chunk of South America, and have some huge cities, to boot? Just who are those other countries in the 29 besides the US, Canada, and Mexico?
Well, there’s Belize and Barbados (with a little over a quarter-million people each). Antigua and Barbuda (one country), Saint Kitts and Nevis (one country), Dominica, Granada: they have a total of less than 270,000 combined. (All figures quoted here are July 2005 estimates from the CIA World Factbook.)
In fact, the population of the five countries aligned against the agreement totals out to over 260 million. The population of the other 29 countries is nearly two and a half times that: slightly more than 608 million.
If you exclude North America (the US and Canada), however, the populations of the countries in Central and South America are virtually even. Those 27 countries have a combined population of just under 280 million.
|Antigua and Barbuda||68,722|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||38,958|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||117,534|
|Trinidad and Tobago||1,088,644|
|TRADE ZONE COALITION||608,186,225|
|LATIN & CENTRAL AMERICA COALITION||279,647,050|
|TRADE ZONE NON-PARTICIPANTS||260,789,822|