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How the U.S. is Losing Latin America

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Recently, American foreign policy priorities have been highly focused on the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions. Between winding down the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and navigating the tumult caused by the Arab Spring, President Obama has spent much of his diplomatic capital in the Middle East.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the president has further increased American diplomatic involvement. For the past few years, the U.S. has engaged China on trade and security issues, grappled with the increasingly volatile situation in North Korea, and worked to develop more robust trade partnerships with other countries in the region.

Meanwhile, American clout in Latin America is waning. Nick Miroff of the Washington Post wrote in January that “with Washington’s diplomatic attention largely focused elsewhere, on Asia and the Middle East, Latin America’s shift had resulted in declining U.S. influence.” Mark Weisbrot agreed with this analysis when he wrote in The Guardian that “Latin America, and especially South America, has become independent of Washington in the past 15 years…”

This presents a huge challenge to American foreign policy interests. Already, the trade relationship between the United States and Latin America has suffered. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, exports to South and Central America decreased from approximately $183 billion in 2012 to roughly $169 billion in 2013. At the same time, imports from Latin America were approximately $172 billion in 2012, and decreased to roughly $146 billion in 2013.

Even as trade between the United States and Latin America has been disappointing, China has moved into the gap left by the lack of U.S. interest in the region. Patricia Rey Mallen of the International Business Times reported in December 2013 that “in some Latin countries, China has even reached the status of top trading partner. For example, with respect to Brazil, China surpassed the U.S. in 2009…”

Not only is China working to out-trade the United States in the Latin American region, China is also working to out-invest the United States in the region. Weisbrot writes:

“China has already helped Venezuala with tens of billions of dollars of loans–much of which has already been repaid–as well as investment. It has also provided significant lending and investment in Ecuador, Cuba, Brazil and other countries.”

The United States has also made critical mistakes with regard to many countries in Latin America. Last July, Anthony Boadle of Reuters reported that several nations in the region were “irate” in response to allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency has been monitoring the Internet.

Then in September, before the United Nations General Assembly, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff condemned NSA phone eavesdropping. She also cancelled a state visit to the United States.

In the end, it is apparent that the United States cannot afford to lose influence in Latin America. According to a January report by the World Bank, GDP growth in Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to be 3.7 percent in 2016. Columbia is expected to see growth at or above 4 percent for the next several years. Brazil’s growth rate is expected to increase from 2.2 percent in 2013 to 3.7 percent in 2016.

In Foreign Affairs, Christopher Sabatini wrote that “twenty-first-century Latin America has its own, autonomous power dynamics. A little realism would go a long way.”

What should the United States do to reverse its declining clout in Latin America?

Latin America is poised to make solid economic gains in the next several years, and the United States should actively re-engage in the region. On issues of trade and security issues, America can make substantial progress with countries like Mexico and Colombia and Brazil. The United States cannot allow itself to be out-done in its own backyard, and especially by one of its primary rivals: China.

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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52 comments
Ronnie Marques
Ronnie Marques

Dear author: you can't lose what you never had

Sincerely
F**** you

Elisabeth Bird
Elisabeth Bird

@Ronnie Marques  Quite agree, but they did have some countries, much against the will or interests of the people (eg Cuba 1898-1959 for example).  There are many ways in which the US 'had' Latin American countries, without having any right to them, such as economic domination, which they are still keen to get back.  Now, with stronger regional co-operation through ALBA and CELAC, and with more advantageous trading options with China and the EU as well as within the region, the US is finding it harder to impose their views.  If US domination continues to decline all over Latin America and the Caribbean, it can only improve the socio-economic position of the populations of these countries because where the US penetrates an economy it is only the interests of its own big businesses that benefit.


Maybe it is more accurate that 'you deserve to lose what you should never have had in the first place because you had it for the wrong reasons'.  

kbd
kbd

@Elisabeth Bird @Ronnie Marques et al

You would have to be particularly naive to think that the Chinese are in Sth America out of charity. We should all laud the Chinese political model, after all its history on civil rights, its adminstrative transparency, its separation of powers, and its history of protecting its citizens (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/maos-great-leap-forward-killed-45-million-in-four-years-2081630.html) ensures its ONLY interest is one of benevolence.

But then I guess 'birds of a feather . . .'

Fred Conquest
Fred Conquest

How can you lose what you never found in the first place ... Sometimes idiots get to be President ... and more often that we all think.

DeNeice Kenehan
DeNeice Kenehan

This narcisisstic analysis doesn't address how we can COOPERATE or ASSIST Latin America, even meet their commercial, economic, social needs in a market analysis. How can the USA be a better neighbor? What can we do to help them? It just complains:: 1. They are buying less from us than we are from them, 2. They are going to buy more from China than from us. Such a selfish perspective. And naive. Fear-driven. This is amygdala reptilean thinking. This is the kind of analysis that concludes with "Let's sell them guns. And if they don't need them, let's start a war there so we can sell guns. Before China does." Sick. Barbaric. D

Charles Curtis
Charles Curtis

we are the laughing stock of the world -- no wonder, look at what we have become ---

DeNeice Kenehan
DeNeice Kenehan

China respects their Sovereignty: the quality of having an independent authority over a geographic area. We don't. We are Empire-builders. It's why we have wars in 134 countries, to keep our military industrial complex fully engaged and flu$h. America has been in the corporate fascism business since World War I. But we have a great PR machine. We can convince families to send their own children "over there" for some noble lies. If we had an Egalitarian policy toward the world's nations and citizens, rather than a smug Authoritarian sense of superior entitlement, we would find a community of friends with the same shared intentions. DeNeice Obstruct Plutocracy~Liberate Democracy PS Here's an example of how we interact with our Latin neighbors, CNN tells Venezuela what they are doing wrong: http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2013/11/16/five-ways-to-ruin-an-economy/

DeNeice Kenehan
DeNeice Kenehan

China respects their Sovereignty: the quality of having an independent authority over a geographic area. We don't. We are Empire-builders. It's why we have wars in 134 countries, to keep our military industrial complex fully engaged and flu$h. America has been in the corporate fascism business since World War I. But we have a great PR machine. Will even convince families to send their children "over there" for some noble lies. If we had an Egalitarian policy toward the world's nations and citizens, rather than a smug Authoritarian sense of superior entitlement, we would find a community of friends with the same shared intentions. DeNeice Obstruct Plutocracy~Liberate Democracy PS Here's an example of how we interact with our Latin neighbors, CNN tells Venezuela what they are doing wrong: http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2013/11/16/five-ways-to-ruin-an-economy/

Tom Pisarek
Tom Pisarek

The US has become the stereotype of the Cold War Russia. Spying on our citizens. Private prisons for profit (only in capitalist systems). Siberia in dictatorships. Uber militarism. Society driven by fear. A news agency driven by propaganda i.e. Fox. While China is our image of the Cold War i.e. building hospitals, schools, roads in poorer countries. I do not blame the current President. He has been trying to clean up the Cheney / Bush messes.

Curt Greenleaf
Curt Greenleaf

Its not the Presidents that do this, it is those who pull their strings. The Lobbyists on behalf of those who seek profit and control over other Nations and their people.

Curt Greenleaf
Curt Greenleaf

There are 3 times as many military actions going on in the world under the Obama administration as there were under Bush, and he we bad enough.

Jack Waugh
Jack Waugh

I don't even read this piece; the title is preposterous enough. No one in the US has the right to influence other countries.

Michael W. Flower
Michael W. Flower

What are you talking about , all of LATIN AMERICA are HERE !

Adam Reynolds
Adam Reynolds

The united states has become the stuff people flush in their latrines. We have effectively ruined our relationships with just about everyone on the planet because of our perpetual war machine. Stop the wars stop getting into other countries business stop these ridiculous trade agreements and start a manufacturing base. We are going to need to make stiff here because nobody is going to sell us theirs anymore the path we are on

Jack Hearst
Jack Hearst

I agree actually Latin America could be one hell of a staging area if it was shored up

Larry A Harding
Larry A Harding

I do not blame south america for gettig tired of our buullshit politics look what this country has donein the last 70 years

Mark Biglen
Mark Biglen

Freedom, and Democracy, sure resemble Tyranny and enslavement.

Rick Gorud
Rick Gorud

"Influence".....right. How many more right-wing dictatorships must we back? How many more students, labor leaders and/or indigenes must we pay to be slaughtered?

David G. Jeep
David G. Jeep

We never had any ownership!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Judith Shields
Judith Shields

No, rhinos, tigers, elephants, and orangutans are the ones disappearing. Humans are breeding like rabbits.

Marilyn Daley
Marilyn Daley

We are disappearing from the face of the earth.

Charlie Johnson
Charlie Johnson

we should DEFINATELY send back every illegal that came from each of those countries. maybe that's why were losing them. its worth a shot.

Tim Mitchell
Tim Mitchell

you need to lead by example . the way the United States treats it's own citizen's especially our poorer citizen's repulses most right thinking people . before we go around telling other people how to treat their citizen's we need to get our own house in order

Jim Gonzalez
Jim Gonzalez

What is never talked about is the similarities that here in the US have with these failing goverments in Latin America. They see that we are becoming them, they see light while we continue are path into a broken country. We are accepting the lie in the name of making everyone feel good. In my own words, "blablish".

Matt Laaksonen
Matt Laaksonen

Maybe they can stage another Operation Condor... oh wait, they're doing that here.

Kountry Kev
Kountry Kev

Sure we can. Keep everybody the fuk out of here and in their own country.

Curt Greenleaf
Curt Greenleaf

In the last 150 years, Americas "influence" on Latin America has been with the use of Political Destabilization and Military Force on behalf of Corporate interests, just as in other parts of the world under the guise of "Freedom" and "Democracy".

Jeff Vondell
Jeff Vondell

But our business has already sold it's butt to China ( Given our technology and invested as well) how can that be????

Sean Baldwin
Sean Baldwin

Maybe they're getting tired of US foisting murderous dictators on them and the govt funded "drug war" that is turning thier countries into battlegrounds.

Elisabeth Bird
Elisabeth Bird

The enthusiasm of successive US governments for their participation in Latin American affairs was never reciprocated by the people of anywhere else.  Martí recognised this by referring to 'Anglo-Saxon' and 'Our' America.  If you start with the Monroe doctrine and work your way through history to the present, this is not surprising.     

mdcs87
mdcs87

It is COLOMBIA not Columbia...when will your understand?

Alex_G
Alex_G moderator

was latin america ever really the US's to begin with? The usual narrative, at least since the turn of the century, is that US-Latin American relations were never really in vogue

bobconner
bobconner

@Alex_G  not in vogue except for maybe Oliver North and Robert McFarlane :-)

Elisabeth Bird
Elisabeth Bird

A lot of those murderous dictators were trained and put in place by the CIA, of course.  There's nowhere in the region that would like to go back to that situation, so whatever comes next can only be better.


Unfortunately, even American Presidents who start off with good intentions soon discover how little scope they have to use them.