It seems to be the time of year for U.S.-Latin American relations editorials. Here is a new one in the Miami Herald from Robert Weiner Associates (which I am not familiar with). As most do, it calls for passing FTAs with Colombia and Panama. The logic, though, raises questions:
Because we want to stop the flow of drugs to the United States from the South, and alternative crops would reduce drug cultivation, it's common sense to do everything possible to promote legitimate-product trade deals with Latin America.
The problem, though, is that we passed free trade agreements with Mexico and with other Central American countries, yet cultivation has increased in Mexico, as has drug trafficking in Central America. This is not to say that FTAs necessarily cause an increase in the flow of drugs, but I just don't think there is evidence that they decreases it.
I do agree with the idea of refocusing on the Peace Corps. Too many people argue for big ticket diplomacy, where you announce some huge new initiative and then wait for applause (and, indeed, I think there tends to be too much emphasis on the U.S. getting credit as a goal in itself).