When George W. Bush, long before 9/11, in February 2001 and on the eve of a visit to Mexico, promised to build “a century of the Americas” he was well aware that American future couldn’t be separated from its neighbors.
By then, his pledge was to keep the United States engaged in the world but to work closely with its neighbors “to build a western hemisphere of freedom and prosperity, a hemisphere bound together by shared ideas and free trade from the Arctic to the Andes to Cape Horn”. He remarked at that time, in the historic address to employees of the State Department: “Our future cannot be separated from the future of our neighbors in Canada and Latin America.” Colin Powell, by then the Secretary of State, started to work in improving relations with Latin American countries, previously dismissed by the Clinton administration. That is to say: there is a clear Republican pattern which acknowledges the need of Continental policies, as well as a Democrat pattern which tends to lean more on Europe and global trade rather than reinforcing an hemispheric partnership.
Parties and leaders from different ideologies in Latin America also differ about this issue and seem to be a better match to one party or the other, which explains the current state of affairs in many countries in Latin America. Some of them express a great disdain for any partnership with the United States, when not hatred, and more rarely a support to Bush and the Republican party former policies. President Obama’s administration is seen as not quite interested in any close partnership with Latin America, in spite of the compassionate racial speech, and many local Latin American leaders see this lack of interest with pleasure because they are naturally anti-American.
It’s hard to remember how all the Continental project started, with the first proposal of President George H. Bush for a Free Trade Area in the Americas, and how all this was suddenly forgotten after 9/11 events which, even under George W. Bush’s leadership, forced the United States to address very different and more urgent missions than to unify the Americas.
The current global financial crisis, with the United States’ power at stake and the underlying probable dollar devaluation as well as the decision to go sooner than later for a global currency renew the question about what the United States will finally propose to the Americas and how many Latin American leaders will be ready to join any plan of union.
The Americas will still remain in limbo for a while. The recent victory of the Republican Party in the November elections gives hopes that this issue may be addressed again by the new emerging Republican leaders and corresponded with their natural partners, those Latin American leaders in tune with free trade, democracy and freedom, reinforced and assured by a common Continental law.
In spite of the fact that the project has been dismissed for a decade, a new chapter may begin for the Americas, once the US global monetary position in the world is clarified and the need to enlarge productive markets takes the lead.