March 22, 2002 | Commentary on Latin America
To that end, here are some helpful suggestions.
At the United Nations International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, President Bush and other leaders of industrious democracies will find themselves pressed to contribute more money to alleviate world poverty. Even though he recently pledged $5 billion over three years in new development funding, President Bush should explain that:
That may not go over well with some of the failed states and
dictatorships attending the Monterrey conference, but most Latin
American countries (except Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela) are trying to
move beyond first-generation democratic and free-market reforms.
They need assurances that what they're doing is right, and that
homegrown reform is the only sure path to development.
Later, President Bush will meet with his Mexican counterpart,
Vicente Fox, to discuss border security and an offer of $30 million
in U.S. aid to Mexico. That's not much when you consider that
countries such as Colombia get $1.3 billion. But Mexico is at
peace, has a wealth of natural resources and overflows with talent.
Rather than encourage Mexico to be a supplicant and send its
unemployed workers to us, President Bush should:
In South America, President Bush will get an earful from the
presidents of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru about the
resurgence of drug trafficking and the terrorist threat posed by
Colombian rebels and self-defense groups. In Peru, where the
leaders will meet, coca production is back on the rise, and the
Shining Path guerrilla movement, defeated in 1992, is making a
comeback. Moreover, these nations are struggling to fight off drug
traffickers and/or terrorists in the middle of a global economic
slowdown, as evidenced by the car bomb that blew up near the U.S.
embassy in Lima on March 20.
The president should:
In Central America, President Bush will see a region opening its markets and become more democratic. But rising crime, drug traffickers invading from Colombia and lagging efforts to educate labor forces are scaring away investment. All of this puts pressure on workers to migrate north to Mexico and the United States. What should President Bush do?
One more thing: Should President Bush encounter Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, he shouldn't shake hands. Chavez rules by decree and by bullying opponents, and he belongs with Cuba's Fidel Castro and Haiti's Jean Bertrand-Aristide on the list of pariahs. A friendly gesture toward Chávez would undermine the spirit of partnership that President Bush's trip promises to bring -- both to the United States and to its democratic southern neighbors.
Stephen Johnson is a Latin America policy analyst in the Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
This editorial is a Heritage web-exclusive