Key Issues in US-Latin America Relations

March 19, 2010 — Michael Shifter, José Cárdenas, and Eric Farnsworth joined us for a discussion on U.S. policy toward Latin America. Michael Shifter is Vice President for Policy and Director of the Andean Program at the Inter-American Dialogue. José Cárdenas is former USAID Acting Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean. Eric Farnsworth is Vice President of the Council of the Americas.

Shifter began the discussion by focusing on the current state of the U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America and highlighting the challenges Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faced on her most recent trip to the region. He highlighted many of the challenges the United States faces in its efforts to re-engage with Latin America, and the economic, political, and security risks the country faces if it should fail to do so.

Cárdenas followed by describing the impact of Chinese, Russian, and Iranian political and economic involvement in the hemisphere as real or imagined threats to U.S. influence in the region. Farnsworth rounded out the initial remarks addressing the rise of Brazil as not only a regional, but a global power. Brazil’s economic and political developments have made it a leading voice for stability in the region, but also a counter-weight to U.S. influence in Latin America.

The Question and Answer session began with a discussion of the emerging relationship between Brazilian President Lula da Silva and the regime in Iran and the impact that up-coming Presidential elections may have on this development. Brazil featured prominently in the Q&A as the speakers discussed energy policy, diplomatic challenges to engaging Latin American countries, and the importance of trade and investment within the hemisphere. Moreover, all three speakers agreed upon the strategic importance of free trade agreements, especially with Panama and Colombia. The briefing concluded with a discussion of the war on drugs and the Mérida Initiative, in essence returning to the strategic role Latin America plays in the future of U.S. economics, politics, and security.

Security for a New Century is a nonpartisan discussion group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are OFF-THE-RECORD. It is not an advocacy venue. For more information, please call Mark Yarnell at (202) 224-7560 or write to [email protected].


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