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Latin America: Put the Countries Ahead of the Issues

Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009

Long before we knew who the 44th president of the United States would be, Latin America experts began debating the list of priorities that should guide the next administration's regional policy. From Foreign Affairs to the Brookings Institution to the Washington Office on Latin America -- every magazine or think tank with a background in the region was shopping a set of ideas that could reverse the low tide of the Bush years.

Some argue for more emphasis on free trade, a robust regional security initiative, and a strategy to isolate Hugo Chávez and his populist ilk; others want to de-emphasize trade, limit the military's role in security operations, and encourage more engagement with the region's leftist leaders. Some suggestions are more convincing than others, but all the prescriptions for regional rebirth are flawed. My advice to President-elect Barack Obama is to be wary of any attempt to pin American policy to four or five objectives. ...

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