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The Next President's Policies Toward Latin America

November 5, 2008
The Institute for Global Leadership

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Back in 2000, then-candidate George W. Bush pledged to make this a "Century of the Americas." ''Our future cannot be separated from the future of Latin America,'' then-candidate George W. Bush told a Miami audience in 2000. ''Should I become the president, I will look south not as an afterthought, but as a fundamental commitment.'' His campaign promised improved trade relations, solid partnerships, increased development aid, and a more humane and pragmatic immigration policy. President Bush's first international trip was to visit his Mexican counterpart, and his first major international event was the Third Summit of the Americas in Quebec.

Most expected the Bush administration to respond strongly to the ever-growing interconnectedness of the Americas, making the region an important foreign policy priority. But following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. foreign policy understandably shifted elsewhere and America's traditionally welcoming borders were tightened. With a few exceptions such as free trade agreements and counterdrug initiatives, U.S. policy toward Latin America continued to look like an afterthought.

Eight years later, presidential candidates once again used a Miami stop on their campaign trail to stress the importance of Latin America to the United States, with both Democrats and Republicans pledging to repair relations with the region. "Latin America today is increasingly vital to the fortunes of the United States, and Americans north and south share a common geography and a common destiny. It is time to embrace this destiny for the benefit of all our peoples," said John McCain.

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