A New Strategy for Latin America
Most modern American presidents have been content to take Latin America for granted, bestirring themselves only in a crisis as when John F. Kennedy prevented the installation of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba in the 1960s and Ronald Reagan supported the Contras against the Marxist Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 1980s. President George W. Bush has the opportunity and seemingly the desire to chart a more interdependent course for U.S.--Latin American relations.
Bush's timing is fortunate because Latin America is on the verge of becoming the United States' second-largest trading partner and is competing with the Middle East as a major petroleum supplier. On the debit side, drug trafficking and crime networks have spread from Colombia both north and south. Several Latin American countries seem close to returning to old-style caudillo-led oligarchies.
At the same time, illegal immigration, particularly from Mexico, is increasing. Radical leftist groups met in Havana last December and vowed to fight against free trade and the U.S.-led war against terrorism.
A year ago, a Summit of the Americas, held in Quebec, addressed these and other problems, but little progress has been made. There is a need to implement a U.S.--Latin American strategy that will strengthen weak democracies, develop a modern security program to handle new threats like terrorism, and expand trade and economic reform.
While democracy and economic freedom have brought political stability and growing prosperity to much of Latin America over the last two decades, writes Michael G. Wilson of the International Republican Institute, there are multiplying signs of disillusionment and unrest across the continent. Argentina's economic and political collapse indicates the severity of the potential crisis. …