ratification of the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement, it is expected that trade, already important, will grow. Chávez’ socialist ideology and
the tensions between the Venezuelan and the
U.S. governments have had little impact on
economic relations between the two countries. In 2006, the U.S. remained Venezuela’s most important trading partner for both
oil exports and general imports. In fact, U.S.
exports to Venezuela have grown dramatically
in the last ten years.
Similarly in the cases of Bolivia and Ecua-
dor, the U.S. is their most important single
The next trading partner. In the case of Ecuador, remit-
administration tances from the U.S. are a key source of rev-
shouldbebold enue for the economy and the dollar has
been the legal tender since 2000. It is widely
and establish expected that the U.S. military base in Manta,
an important Ecuador, will be moved to a new location in
aid package for Colombia after the U.S. military’s contract
with Ecuador expires in 2009.
infrastructure Mexico and Brazil account for 55 percent of
and institution the population of Latin America and the Carib-
building to bean and 53 percent of the region’s GDP. Wash-
ington should establish special relationships
help countries with both countries that acknowledge Mex-
demographically ico’s importance to the U.S. economy, demo-
linked to the graphics and security, and Brazil’s status as a
rising power on the world stage. Mexico needs
United Stat:es. U.S. cooperation on security. The Mérida Ini- tiative is a good start. However, it is impor- tant that it does not undermine Mexico’s still
young and fragile democracy. U.S.-Mexico
border cooperation should be enhanced and
both should explore establishing a regime to
The U. S. would gain from having a strategic
partnership with Brazil, the only other country in the hemisphere set to become a global
player. The two countries could cooperate on
issues ranging from global warming, trade and
governance, to more local challenges like energy security and regional stability.
The U. S. should continue to promote free
trade. Equally important on the agenda, however, should be the strengthening of democratic institutions. By most accounts, with
the exception of Cuba, elections are free and
fair in Latin American and the Caribbean. But
there is still much to do regarding economic,
political, ethnic, and social equality; democratic governance; public security; and civilian
control over the military. Washington should
be mindful not to undermine individual countries’ attempts to consolidate democracy and
provide cooperation when requested.
The Andean region today does not lend
itself to a subregional approach. If the free-trade agreement with Colombia is ratified,
U.S.-Colombia and U.S.- Peru relations will
likely follow the Mexican pattern of increasing ties and interdependency. Venezuela and
Bolivia will probably establish a pattern more
similar to the Southern Cone, where traditional diplomacy continues to be an important
link while Ecuador could go either way.
Concerning the small and natural-resource-deprived Central American and Caribbean
countries, the next administration should be
bold and establish an important aid package
for infrastructure and institution building to
help these countries demographically linked
to the U. S. become stable and prosperous societies, and thus better neighbors. Concerning
Cuba, the new administration should establish formal and informal channels of talks
with the island and integrate it gradually to
the Central American and Caribbean cooperation framework.
Latin American countries share a common
culture, a common language, and confront
common problems. Yet they relate in different ways to their international environment
according to their size and locatio.n. It is time to be pragmatic and acknowledge the differ- ences as well as the shared traits.
The U.S. should support—as partners—the fight against
drugs, beginning with its problem at home and working to
then destroy the hemisphere’s narcotrafficking network.—José