Don't ignore Latin America
President Barack Obama's state-of-the-world speech before the U.N. General Assembly last month did not mention any Latin American country and virtually omitted the region as a whole. It was a major mistake.
Secretary of State John Kerry might just as well change his title to secretary of the Middle East because that's where he's virtually living these days. Kerry's first seven foreign trips after taking office on Feb. 1 were to Europe and the Middle East, and only two of his 14 trips abroad so far have been to Latin America.
Obama mentioned Latin America only tangentially when he said that “from Africa to the Americas” democracies have proven to be more successful than dictatorships and that “the same will hold true for the Arab world.”
By contrast, several of Obama's predecessors often referred to their grand plans for the region during their U.N. speeches. But Obama has not proposed regional trade or investment plans with Latin America.
The Obama administration has launched negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership with mostly Asian countries and a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with European countries but no Trans-American Partnership with Latin America. Mexico asked Obama to be part of the Trans-Atlantic trade deal but the United States' answer has been somewhere between “no” and “later.”
Granted, Obama has made six trips to the region and he recently asked Vice President Joe Biden to be his point man for U.S.-Latin American relations. And it's also true that Obama has had to deal with a particularly pitiful cast of characters in Latin America.
Authoritarian populist leaders in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, among others, have taken to new levels the old gimmick of blaming the United States for their economic shortcomings, even if many of them have enjoyed (and wasted) the biggest economic bonanza in recent memories.
As a result of these leaders' notoriety, many in the U.S. Congress see Latin America as a region led by clowns in funny shirts. Brazil's tensions with Washington over the U.S. electronic spying fiasco and new projections that Latin America's economic growth will slow down after a decade of rapid expansion are not helping generate big hopes for U.S. ties with the region.
But now is not the time for the U.S. to ignore Latin America. On the contrary, the decade of commodity-based authoritarian populism will soon come to an end — populism works only when there's money to give away — and a new generation of more responsible Latin American leaders are preparing themselves to be voted into office.
Geography is the mother of history and there is no region in the world that will have a greater impact on U.S. daily life in terms of immigration, the environment, trade, energy or culture than Latin America. The region deserves more.
Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for The Miami Herald.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Feds to protect 20 coral species
- Rossi: Steelers will make small strides this season
- Social media firms walk fine line with jihadists
- Starkey: Bucs still battlin’
- Not to be left behind, speedy Steelers are on the fast track in NFL
- Steelers have plenty of new faces at wide receiver
- Arizona Uzi shooting that accidentally killed instructor ‘just stupid’
- Clairton’s outgoing business manager to mentor successor
- Monroeville firefighters hope hot photo calendar will help raise money
- Man shoots at Pittsburgh police, arrested in East Liberty
- Snacks N’at: Coffee & Cream, Greenfield