How have events of the past year — including the U.S. government shutdown, the NSA spying eruption and the conflict in Syria — helped shape the world’s view of America? Associated Press reporters asked that question of people across the world.
To David Evans, an 84-year-old Australian, the government shutdown was an indignity unbefitting a nation he has long loved. Evans adores America: He’s the former president of the Australian American Association, has a son who lives in Miami and, just last week, attended a ceremony in the Australian capital to mark the 70th anniversary of former U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s visit Down Under.
And yet even he has watched with dismay as the events of the past year leached away the luster from America’s once-golden image in his eyes.
“It was bizarre. And I just could not accept that a country like America could be brought almost to its knees by so few people,” he says. “I get a sad feeling that America is changing for the worse.”
Rafael Votiero, a 35-year-old Brazilian financial analyst, said his long admiration for the United States suffered with the NSA spying scandal. He believes the affair weakened Washington’s role on the world scene.
“It will become less omnipotent as the voice of other nations grow stronger and demand to be heard,” Votiero says.
“The United States is no longer seen as all-powerful, as it was in the 1960s and 70s,” says Kecizate Atahuallpa, a 65-year-old traditional healer who lives in the Peruvian highlands city of Cuzco. “It no longer has The School of the Americas training counterinsurgency forces in Panama, or the Summer Language Institute in the Amazon with its gringo missionaries.”
Both institutions were widely assailed by the Latin American left during 1980s Central America proxy wars as reactionary arms of U.S. imperialists.
“China is now appearing as stronger, and Latin American nations, dominated before by the gringos, have begun to defend their interests and there is distrust” about Washington, says Atahuallpa.
Nicolas Perez Cerezo, a bar and restaurant owner from the southern Spanish city of Seville, said the U.S. has barely figured into his thinking this year except that he believes the country is the only one capable of countering increasing Chinese global economic influence.
“What interested me most? It’s the corruption that is hanging over Spain at a time of rampant unemployment,” says Cerezo, 45. “It has gone through the roof. I see it like rats attacking each other to get off a sinking ship. But I look to the U.S. as the only country capable of maintaining a watchful eye on China. Otherwise, I think it would be able to gobble up half the world.”
“As the world’s biggest and most powerful country, it did not think about the feelings of the other countries when monitoring them,” says Lu Jinku, 29, an auditor for a foreign company based in Beijing.
“America is powerful, but it’s not as strong as it was before,” says Eddy Barrientos, a dual U.S.-Costa Rican citizen who runs an American-themed sports bar in San Jose, Costa Rica. “China is buying America. … I don’t see America being the first and top guy in the line anymore.”
“To me, America means drones, and drones mean the death of our people. How can we be friends with those who kill our people?” says Murad Ali, a rickshaw driver in Peshawar, Pakistan. “When Obama became the president, I hoped that there would be a positive change in American policies. I am surprised that Obama proved himself to be the enemy of Pakistani people and Muslims.”
Fauziah Shaari, a 53-year-old homemaker from an agricultural town in Malaysia’s northern Kedah state, has boycotted Hollywood movies for years in protest over what she views as bullying tactics by the U.S., turning instead to Bollywood shows. When she heard that the U.S. had spied on her country, it confirmed her worst impressions of America.
“I hate the U.S. — not the people, but its political powers,” she says. “The U.S. is a big power and it pretends to be good but it uses its power to intimidate and oppress smaller countries.”
“The U.S. is the world’s superpower and is the pillar of the West. It also serves as a counterbalance to China’s expansion ambitions in Asia and the Pacific,” says Do Cong Vinh, 37, a financial consultant in Hanoi, Vietnam. “The U.S. has enjoyed political stability. Even though the Republicans and Democrats are two political rivals, they both serve the American people and all developed countries have their own surveillance programs.”
Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney; Josef Federman in Jerusalem; Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan; Louise Watt and Fu Ting in Beijing; Tran Van Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam; Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Alan Clendenning and Harold Heckle in Madrid; Franklin Briceno in Lima, Peru; Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.