How can the US improve its foreign policy toward Latin America? An American backyard or A Real Partner?

Over the historical course, the relations between Latin America and the United States has undergone different perplexing situations and still constantly evolving in some way. In order to deeply comprehend their relations, first and foremost, historical background and perspectives of their relations have to be taken into account. Amid the 1960s, due to some politically arduous situations, social movements, the U.S has opted for the way of militaristic intervention on behalf of its national or homeland security in the backyards.

At that time, the U.S commenced the implementation of its hard power toward Latin American countries due to some complex situations; from one side the moral trepidation on dispersion of Communism, from another side the sparking issue of homeland security beyond borders and in its backyards. However, even in today’s U.S foreign policy, nothing has changed except the Obama’s revitalization of the diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015. Basically, there is a clear fact that if the U.S mainly is eager to improve its relations with Latin American countries, before all else, it should draw conclusions from its historical mistakes which it did in past towards Latin America, especially amid the Cold War Era. The chosen antagonistic foreign policy toward Latin America during the Cold War Period should not be implemented or not be repeated again in the current time. Otherwise, the implementation of this kind of U.S-centric foreign policy towards the region at the present time have not gained anything at all, except arduous costs.

The big mistake itself arises from the U.S-centric approach toward Latin American countries. As the Secretary of the United States, John Kerry mentioned: Latin America is the backyard of the United States. The biggest flaw comes from this word which still keeps its so called U.S-centric hegemony and patronization over Latin American countries. Still, at that time, the U.S 35th President John F. Kennedy once said that Latin America is completely different issue and will be a critical one for a long time. Therefore, it could be said that if the U.S is really inclined to improve its relations with Latin America, first of all, it should take far more effective stances in its relations with Latin America. It is ostensibly that there are some overarching matters of the U.S foreign policy with respect to Latin America that could be improved. Even on this day, the processes and occasions happened in the 1960s, have the same morality over the U.S approach respecting to the region. But in general, are there any alternative approaches toward the region which have to be undertaken by the U.S? Will the successful implementation of these stances do benefit both the United States and Latin America? In any case, there are some proposals and recommendations for the U.S that it could change its so called U.S centric or unilateralist foreign policy in a much more flexible way with regard to the region. In the following part, the pivotal proposals that should have to be taken by the U.S were listed.

1.Latin America as a real partner instead of backyard. Once Bill Clinton said “ People are more impressed by the power of our example rather than the example of our power. This word is the apparent proof of how the US could improve its foreign policy towards Latin America. Today’s international relations do not support the imperialistic and any other hegemonistic stances toward other countries. Instead, the effective operation of soft power not only could gain benefits for each sides (both for the U.S and Latin America) but also help the U.S to create the idea of a real partner instead of a backyard toward the region. What the U.S and Latin America will get from this real partnership is the moral reconciliation in any fields, including culture, economy, politics and others.

2.Bilateral or mutual interests than U.S centric interests and unilateralism. For the sake of reliable partnership, first and foremost, the U.S should stop to see the Latin America as a recipient of its dictated policy, instead, should evaluate the potential power and capacity of the region by considering it as both an economic and political counterpart. It is completely false of the U.S foreign policy, that even today it is far more prone to keep its hegemonistic spirit over the region. However, while mentioned above that it will not gain any benefits for the U.S with the exception of heavy costs. Therefore, the relations between them have to based on common interests and bilateral actions rather than unilateral ones (the practice of China has to be implemented).

3.Promoting less militaristic approaches to the security issues (less U.S-centric interests) instead to be involved more in the development of domestic diplomacy of the region. This proposal, in my opinion is the most effective one for the further development and revitalization process of the relations between the U.S and Latin America. To a large extent, the U.S should invest in and support the international and regional networks like NGO’s IGO’s and other civic associations. Because of the fact that via the transparent actions of these kind of networks within the Latin American society, the morally mutual perception and behaviors could be reached over the future development of the U.S and Latin American relations. It is undeniable fact that under the condition of the effective accomplishment of a public policy or to be exact, the domestic diplomacy (the practice of domestic diplomacy in the example of small states, namely Norway, Denmark and etc.) both the U.S and Latin America would be able to achieve the development of civil society in the region in order to fight against  terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime, environmental degradation, natural resource and food scarcity at a bilateral level than unilateral level. Thus, by the effective apparatus system of domestic diplomacy, the both parties (the U.S and Latin America) could get the mutual understanding and accountability in their future relations.

4.More engagement rather than confrontation. (Positive sum strategy vs zero sum strategy). Before delving into the deep analysis of the U.S and Latin American relations from this conception, firstly, it is needed to underline the key elements of the engagement theory versus confrontation in order to identify what does the theory offers to us with respect to the U.S and Latin American relations. In any cases, the engagement is much more beneficial than the competition. Collaboration stands on the “win-win” proposition and is inclined to the mutual perceptions of the parties. However, the competition mainly focuses on the success of only one party and does not give a chance to another one. Therefore, the relationship between the U.S and Latin America should have to be characterized by the prism of the collaboration rather than competition, because both of them have a huge potential in order to participate in and get “win-win” position within the international system.

5.Mutual actions than unilateral ones on democracy, human rights, sciences, and energy security issues. (the concept of multidimensional partnership) This proposal offers the completely different way in the development of the U.S and Latin American relations. A multidimensional partnership can be considered as a further action in the U.S-:Latin American relations after the effective management system of public policy, meaning that it will be able to encompass science, energy field, democracy, and human rights. The concept at the same time will be able to take new prospects within the region by evolving fight against new threats including terrorism, drug trafficking, uncontrolled population growth, and migration. Hence, this concept could create an opportunity for both sides to reevaluate their relations, but this time on a multidimensional basis.

In conclusion, the U.S should avoid considering Latin America as a region for its antagonistic, patriotic and hegemonistic ideas, rather it should revise its angle of view and stances towards the region, and see it as a real partner for other countries which the U.S still do. During the sparking period of moral imperialism (mainly Cold War Era), what did the U.S win from its attitudes toward Latin America, to be honest, nothing, just loss of time? Although in some way they have been good economic counterpart toward each other. However heavy costs emanating from their relationship is much more than any good mutual benefits. What is truly required is the whole revision of the U.S foreign policy apparatus toward the region. Frankly speaking, if the U.S is eager to close its ties with Latin America, it is highly needed to review its foreign policy priorities toward the region. Otherwise, over high U.S-centric interests will remain for U.S itself, and will not achieve any gains from this relationship. Thus, the United States has yet to learn from its past. Only via non-interventionist, anti-confrontational, more equitable and flexible diplomacy, Latin America being considered as an American’s backyard will turn into to be a reliable partner and a neighbor region for the United States.

Nargiz Hajiyeva

Nargiz Uzeir Hajiyeva is a policy analyst and independent researcher from Azerbaijan. She holds master degree from Vytautas Magnus University and Institute de Politique de Paris (Science Po). She got bachelor degree with distinction diploma at Baku State University from International Relations and Diplomacy. Her main research fields concern on international security and foreign policy issues, energy security, cultural and political history, global political economy and international public law. She worked as an independent researcher at Corvinus University of Budapest, Cold War History Research Center. She was also a successful participator of International Student Essay Contest, Stimson Institute, on how to prevent the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons, by Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School. She is also an independent researcher and a policy analyst at Observer.ge and Politicon.net platform, and Wikistrat.Between 2014 and 2015, she worked as a Chief Adviser and First Responsible Chairman In International and Legal Affairs at the Executive Power of Ganja. At that time she was defined to the position of Chief Economist at the Heydar Aliyev Center. 

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