Era of U.S. Hegemony in Latin America is Over, Says CFR Task Force

Era of U.S. Hegemony in Latin America is Over, Says CFR Task Force

May 13, 2008 10:49 am (EST)

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Contact: Aerica Kennedy, CFR Communications, 202-518-3448, [email protected]

"Latin America is not Washington’s to lose; nor is it Washington’s to save," finds a CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force. "U.S. policy can no longer be based on the assumption that the United States is the most important outside actor in Latin America. If there was an era of U.S. hegemony in Latin America, it is over," the Task Force concludes. However, "Washington’s basic policy framework, however, has not changed sufficiently to reflect the new reality."

The report, U.S.-Latin America Relations: A New Direction for a New Reality, is chaired by former U.S. trade representative Charlene Barshefsky and former commander of the U.S. Southern Command General James T. Hill (U.S. Army, Ret.). The task force is directed by CFR Fellow Shannon K. O’Neil and advised by CFR Senior Fellow and Director for Latin America Studies Julia E. Sweig.

"Latin America has benefited greatly in recent years from democratic opening, stable economic policies, and increasing growth," says the report. But "Latin American nations face daunting challenges as they integrate into global markets and work to strengthen historically weak state institutions. These challenges increasingly matter for the United States, as deepening economic and social ties link U.S. well-being to the region’s stability and development."

"U.S. policymakers must change the way they think about the region," says the report. The traditional tenets of U.S. policy—opening economies, strengthening democracies, and fighting drug production and trafficking—remain important priorities, but the Task Force has identified four areas that should provide the new basis of U.S. policy toward Latin America.


  • "The Task Force finds that comprehensive immigration reform is necessary to create a system that better meets U.S. security, economic, and foreign policy interests, and must be a priority for the next Administration." The Task Force recommends "closer cooperation with Mexican law enforcement authorities, particularly for the interdiction of illegal crime and human smuggling networks that operate along our shared border."

Poverty and Inequality:

  • The United States should expand targeted assistance for poverty alleviation and institution building by fully funding the Millennium Challenge Account and developing new initiatives to reach the poor regions of the larger middle income countries. "U.S. funding for targeted assistance and antipoverty programs should reflect the priorities of Latin American governments and also involve restructuring and integrating the programs of various U.S. government bureaucracies" and multilateral institutions.
  • Alongside aid and other measures outlined in the report, "The United States should approve pending free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama" and extend trade preferences to Bolivia and Ecuador to encourage productive relations with these complex countries. "The United States should promote more open trade in areas of Latin American comparative advantage as an important step to reduce poverty and inequality in the region, which will further broaden long-term economic opportunities for Latin America and the United States," finds the task force.

Energy Security:

  • "In the oil and gas sectors, more effective production and extraction will increase worldwide energy supply and put downward pressure on prices." The Task Force notes that the expansion of alternative energy markets "aided by U.S. domestic and foreign policy incentives, can benefit the environment, foster economic development through technology transfer and adaptation, and aid in poverty reduction through job creation in the hemisphere." The United States should focus on the prospects for boosting oil and gas production in Mexico by promoting U.S. company service contracts and through assistance in the ultra-deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Public Security:

  • "The United States can support Latin American efforts to meet security threats by offering resources and expertise aimed at improving law enforcement, judicial institutions, and public transparency and accountability. Improving public security requires strengthening the rule of law throughout Latin America. In the end, these changes must come from Latin American governments themselves. Nevertheless, the United States can play a positive role by offering support for security sector and judicial reform, regional cooperation, and information sharing."

The Task Force also recommends deepening U.S. relations with Brazil to promote global trade negotiations and manage energy demands; strengthening cooperation with Mexico to stop narcotics trafficking, increase U.S. investment in energy production, and reform immigration policies; using multilateral institutions to address foreign and domestic policies of Venezuela; and opening informal and formal channels of communication with Cuba. "The United States should initiate a series of steps, with the aim of lifting of the embargo against Cuba," says the report.

"By truly beginning to engage Latin America on its own terms, Washington can mark the start of a new era in U.S.-Latin America relations," concludes the report.

Independent Task Force on U.S.-Latin America Relations

Charlene Barshefsky, Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale, and Dorr LLP
R. Rand Beers, National Security Network
Alberto R. Coll, DePaul University College of Law
Margaret E. Crahan, St. Edward’s University
Jose W. Fernandez, Latham & Watkins LLP
Francis Fukuyama, Johns Hopkins University
Peter Hakim, Inter-American Dialogue
James A. Harmon, Harmon & Co.
John G. Heimann, Financial Stability Institute
James T. Hill, The JT Hill Group, Inc.
Donna Hrinak, Kraft Foods, Inc.
Jim V. Kimsey, America Online, Inc.
Jim Kolbe, German Marshall Fund of the United States
Kellie Meiman, McLarty Associates
Shannon K. O’Neil, Council on Foreign Relations
Maria Otero, Acción Internacional
Arturo C. Porzecanski, American University
David J. Rothkopf, Garten Rothkopf
Julia E. Sweig, Council on Foreign Relations

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