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The U.S. Strategy for Latin America

What are the Bush Administration's core beliefs in helping Latin America develop?

November 24, 2003

What are the Bush Administration's core beliefs in helping Latin America develop?

During the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) talks in mid November 2003, delegates made only modest progress. Even though U.S.-Latin American relations are currently less than stellar, U.S. officials try to put a positive spin on the issue. In our Read My Lips feature, we present the views of Otto J. Reich, the U.S. Special Envoy for Western Hemisphere Initiatives.

How do you view Latin America's growth potential?

“This continent has all the natural and human resources necessary to achieve levels of development like those of Europe and North America. The creative forces of the population must be allowed to flourish.”

Yet, what makes Latin America unpredictable?

“This is a continent of contrasts: Side-by-side, we see unbelievable wealth — and unbearable poverty. We see freedom and repression, world-class literature and high illiteracy rates, privilege and injustice — abundance and hunger.”

Why have only a few been able to benefit from Latin America's riches?

“There is too much false nationalism — and not enough real commitment to national advancement. Too many wrong policies have been practiced — and there has been far too much corruption.”

How does this affect the lives of Latin American poor?

“This is a continent where peasants and laborers work from dawn to dusk, but reach the end of their lives in misery.”

Could increased U.S. investment bring about change?

“On a trip to a Latin American country, I was asked by a reporter why the U.S. government did not ‘send’ more investment to that country. As self-evident as the answer was, I had to explain that the U.S. government cannot order any company to invest — the countries themselves have to create the conditions that attract investment.”

Which Latin American countries can count on U.S. support?

“We will work with democratic governments who protect human rights, who invest in their people — and who govern efficiently and honestly.”

How will this affect U.S. relations with Cuba?

“This president will not do business with a tyrant.”

Wouldn't closer U.S.-Cuban relations open up the country?

“Decades of trade and tourism with Europe, Canada and Latin America have not moved Cuba one step closer to individual liberties, have not created one free newspaper, one radio station, trade union, civic association — or any other institution of a free society.”

What will it take to develop U.S.-Cuban relations?

“Until there is a democratic or transitional government in Cuba, we will continue to use the dissuasive tools of the economic embargo and travel restrictions.”

And finally, what does Cuba teach its Latin American neighbors?

“This is not rocket science, it is elementary: Free peoples create wealth. Repressed people do not.”

The excerpts presented in this Read My Lips feature were drawn from Ambassador Reich's address at the Miami Herald Americas Conference on October 28, 2003.