With only 10 months before primaries in the United States, and a year and a half before the next presidential election, one would think that the domestic economy and unemployment rates would have priority in the campaigns of presidential candidates. However, the instability created by the riots in several countries of North Africa and their global consequences, as well as the U.S. military intervention in Libya, is leading everyone to believe that foreign policy will emerge as the main issue. Unfortunately, I fear that Latin American countries will continue being ignored.
The U.S. is mired in a deep recession, while its armed forces are fighting on two fronts, and the country now has to face the political and military crisis in Libya. President Barack Obama has given up, at least temporarily, considering his country "the indispensable nation."
However, Libya is just one small part of a crisis that began in Tunisia, went through Egypt and is still spreading to countries with autocratic governments that have been important U.S. allies in the region until now. The old paradigm that led the U.S. to deal with despots in order to maintain regional stability has collapsed; that situation has forced Obama to redefine the principles of a new foreign policy. Should it be based on the support of "universal democratic values" to legitimize military interventions in situations like Libya, or should it be based on the geopolitical and economic interests of the country?
Regarding U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns has said that the goal is to promote peaceful change toward democracy and economic modernization, and to achieve a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine to ensure the security of Israel and the isolation of Iran.
That being the case, and considering the poor results of Obama’s trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador and taking into account his previous meeting with the president of Mexico in Washington, one must ask if he has really tried to implement a regional policy toward Latin America.
I think not. The famous speech delivered by Obama in Chile, which many people have compared to a similar one made in Cairo, has disappointed Chileans. Nor were there any repercussions for the rest of the countries of the region.
In Santiago de Chile, Obama spoke about drug trafficking, insecurity, migration and trade, but he did not say what his government would do to reduce drug consumption in the U.S., to stop arms smuggling into Mexico and to fight against criminal gangs deported from the U.S. to El Salvador.
He did not set a date to sign the free-trade agreement with Colombia and Panama, and he did not say when he would resolve the immigration situation of millions of people who have been working in the U.S. for years and do not have documents that certify their citizenship.
Actually, part of the problem is that no one can propose a policy for something that does not exist. Latin America is a fabrication designed to the hide linguistic, ethnic, social, economic and political variations of the hemisphere.
But the main problem is that as long as the conflict in the region is manageable, it is likely that Obama, or whoever takes his place in 2012, will continue to manage the U.S.’s relationship with every country of the subcontinent, while devoting a little more attention, at least rhetorically, to Mexico and Brazil, two countries that carry weight on the American continent.