Almost two weeks ago the president delivered the State of the Union and talked about many of the domestic issues affecting us today and how he intends to solve them. The president only talked about foreign policy towards the end of his speech and mentioned every single region of the world, except Latin America. Sadly, president Obama is not the first United States president to omit Latin America from his speeches, although I hope he will be the last. The region, which the United States often tends to forget, belongs to The Americas provides the highest number of immigrants and makes up a significant share of U.S trade.
The United States has become highly unpopular in the region and part of the reason why has to do with the way the United States refers to Latin Americans. A Latin American probably knows the United States as the country that deposed four legitimate governments and imposed, by force, the Free Trade Area of the Americas. There is something in our politicians’ speeches that make them sound as if people from Europe, Asia and even those in the Middle East are civilized enough to compromise with the U.S. However, when it comes to Latin America, the United States almost always offers an ultimatum and leaves no room for dissent.
Today, Latin America is the world’s region with the highest concentration of leftist governments. Nicaragua, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia have governments that in the past conformed to U.S petitions but that today have radicalized their anti – neoliberalism and anti – U.S interventionism. Although some don’t want to hear it, the United States is mostly to blame for this. Argentina, Mexico and Chile are examples of countries that are constantly sanctioned by the IMF and the United States in spite of following the ideal neo liberal receipt prescribed by the United States, which has failed every time.
Perhaps the saddest thing is to see this administration distancing itself from the region by alluding to free trade agreements with Europe while in Latin America only a small number of countries have a free trade agreement with us. Mexico is the only Latin American country enjoying privileged economic relations with the United States, absorbing more than 58% of the entire region’s trade. The most outrageous number is easily calculated with some elementary math; the remaining 42% of trade is split between the other 23 countries of Latin America.
Two years ago the Spanish-speaking network Univision broadcast an investigative report showing links between terrorist groups trying to infiltrate U.S nuclear facilities and the Venezuelan ambassador Livia Acosta in Miami. The report culminated in a federal investigation that found evidence of the Iranian influence in more than three countries in the region. Another scary aspect of this isolation that will haunt us soon is the declining influence of the Organization of American States and the Inter- American Human Rights Commission.
In 2005, Venezuela launched the Bolivarian Alternative for the people of the Americas Organization and in 2011 the Community of Caribbean and Latin American States, which replaced the OAS as the most important multinational organization in the Americas. The CCLAS does not include the United States and Canada and its constitution clearly deviates from U.S policy recommendations. One of the organization’s objectives is to form an alliance with the European Union in order to replace the U.S dollar as the dominant currency and to reduce dependency on U.S exports.
President Obama made a big mistake by not referring to Latin America in his speech. The president, his cabinet and the U.S government in general are clearly not paying too much attention to what happens south of their border. A region from which millions of U.S citizens can trace their ancestry and that is very proximate to America must be a priority for the United States.
Now is the time to treat Latin America as a grown up adult and not as a child who is waiting for orders and punishments. Maybe this time it is America who needs to learn something from its neighbors.