From Chile - An Important Moment in US-Latin American Relations

Vina Del Mar, Chile - This week marks a very intense period of US engagement with Latin America.  Secretary of State Clinton visited Mexico for two days.  Vice President Biden has been holding bi-lateral meetings here in Chile attending the Progressive Goverance Conference, and participated in a wide ranging 3 1-2 hour discussion this morning with the leaders of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay (and Britain).  Tomorrow he meets with a group of Central American leaders in Costa Rica.  He offered this op-ed about our relations with the region in anticipation of this trip.  And then in mid April comes the Summit of the Americas, what will be one of the more important regional gatherings of the modern era. 

For seven years NDN has been making the argument that closer hemispheric relations was a political necessity in the 21st century.   America now has the 3rd largest Hispanic population of all the nations in the Americas, bringing us closer to the culture, language and people of the region than any time in our history.  Our identity is this emerging century will have an increasingly Latin flavor, and it will force our government to be more concerned than it has ever been with maintaining strong relations with our neighbors to the South.  

Even more importantly Latin America has been experiencing an exciting period of sustained prosperity and stable, democratically-elected governments. The region has made tremendous strides in throwing off ideological and political shackles that have held Latin America back for decades.  America needs to acknowledge this progress much more openly, and begin to treat the countries and people of Latin America as what they are truly are now today - brothers, neighbors, collaborators, partners, friends. 

This week the new Obama Administration has sent a very clear signal that it desires a new day in US-Latin American relations.  The leaders here at the Progressive Goverance conference have taken note of this attention, this respect, and I think in this extraordinary first 100 days of the Obama Presidency, the decision to engage decisively with this region this quickly is one of the most important decisions our new President has made - and one we talked about a great deal at our compelling forum previewing the Summit of the Americas this past Thursday. 

It has been exciting be have been a part of this great conference.  Once again kudos to Policy Network for pulling off a remarkable event.