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Rediscovering Latin America: After Six Years, Washington Finally Looks South

Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007

Some statements go down in history with such a painful belly flop that one can never again quote them without thoroughly soaking them in the deceptively soothing balm of irony. It's not quite Chamberlain's immortal "peace in our time," but the words uttered by President George W. Bush on Sept. 5, 2001, little more than seven months into his first term, clearly fall in this category. That day, the Bush White House was hosting its first official state visit. President Bush stood next to Mexican president Vicente Fox on the South Lawn and earnestly declared, "The United States has no more important relationship in the world than the one we have with Mexico."

Six days later, the World Trade Center smoldered in ruins and Washington's best-laid plans for Latin America lay asunder, thoroughly torn. Mexico, and the rest of Latin America had plummeted from the ascribed top spot in the priority rankings, tumbling all the way to completely off the list. ...

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