Are U.S. Views Still Relevant in Latin America?

Editor’s note: In the Featured Q&A of the Inter-American Dialogue’s daily Latin America Advisor, Andrés Rozental evaluates whether the U.S. government’s views are becoming irrelevant in Latin America and how relations between the region and Washington are shifting.

Andrés Rozental

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Latin America Initiative

I don’t think it’s as much a case of the U.S. government’s views becoming irrelevant in Latin America as it is a growing move toward countries of the region taking decisions which they consider best meet their own national interests. Often priorities don’t coincide, and while in the past there might have been enough leverage to dissuade hemispheric neighbors of the United States from pursuing independent agendas, most now feel that the time has come to do what they believe to be right, rather than what Washington wants.

While I’m not sure that allowing Cuba to attend the Summit of the Americas in 2015 is entirely against U.S. interests, I am convinced that a majority of the countries of the region consider it important to bring Cuba back into the hemispheric fold. This was already the case with the creation of CELAC four years ago, which excluded the United States but included Cuba. This year, since only Venezuela presented itself as a regional candidate for the rotating Security Council post, precedent at the U.N. dictates that the group’s nominee be supported if there are no alternatives. In 1979, a standoff between Cuba and Colombia only ended after three months and a record 154 rounds of voting; both eventually withdrew in favor of Mexico as a compromise candidate.

A corollary to the decline of U.S. influence in Latin America is the very low priority that the past few administrations in Washington have given to relations with the region. Other hotspots such as the Middle East, Afghanistan and relations with Russia and China among others, have also meant less time and interest devoted to Latin America in Washington, and that obviously has a bearing on how most of the region’s governments now feel about the United States.

This piece, along with other expert responses, was initially published in the Inter-American Dialogue’s daily
Latin America Advisor