Thursday, February 25, 2016

U.S.-Latin American Relations in the Campaign

Following up on yesterday's post about Ted Cruz's comments on the Panama Canal, check out this message (from the Foreign Relations of the United States series, see esp. pp. 102-103) the State Department sent to all diplomatic posts in the hemisphere after an OAS meeting.

—Panama Canal—The Latins, and the Panamanians in particular, were very satisfied with the evident will of the administration, as exemplified in your statement, the joint declaration and our approval of the resolution, to bring a Canal Treaty to a successful conclusion. But failure later, as you know, would severely damage our relations with the hemisphere.

Later (pp. 112-113) a memo was sent to Secretary of State Kissinger:

One reason is progress on important symbolic issues. The Cuban issue has been removed as a source of generalized controversy. A new Panama Canal Treaty seems conceivable. Another reason is that Latin American leaders have realized that constructive relations with the United States will not be facilitated by replacing inter-American organizations with purely Latin American organizations.

Sound familiar? The U.S. persists in a policy (in this case, the Panama Canal) that is very unpopular in Latin America and even prompts efforts to create organizations excluding the U.S. That was forty years, and one generation later the U.S. was facing exactly the same problem.

Current Cuba policy should be viewed in the same light as the canal 40 years ago, namely as a positive step that enhances U.S. security and improves hemispheric relations. Being obstinate is not good for security.


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