- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2008



The column by G. Philip Hughes and J. Paul Johnson titled, “McCain’s Latin America gambit” (Commentary, July 9), correctly stated that Sen. John McCain’s visit to Latin America came at a peculiar time in this election season. However, to say that he is “underscoring the importance of U.S. relations with our Western Hemisphere neighbors” is misleading. The Bush administration’s post-Sept. 11 policies have neglected Latin America, and the next president must prioritize a more holistic and active engagement with countries in the region, not just economic and geopolitical allies like Mexico and Colombia. Mr. Hughes and Mr. Johnson laud current U.S. policy without properly critiquing its intricacies.

Although security, free trade and diplomacy are all key issues in a globalized world, to claim that current policies are suitable is simply irresponsible. They naively credit Plan Colombia for leading to the recent successes against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). This may be partially true, but more than half of Plan Colombia’s $6.1 billion has gone toward ineffective coca-eradication operations. Coca is now produced in twice as many Colombian provinces as when the plan started.

The authors praise NAFTA but see no reason to “fix” its shortcomings relating to energy policy, labor and environmental standards, and intellectual property rights. If elected president, Mr. McCain must do more than continue the Bush administration’s dismal policies and lack of diplomacy with our southern neighbors. Mr. Hughes and Mr. Johnson fail to understand what a U.S. foreign policy should entail so that neighbors don’t feel like they are still getting the old “backyard” treatment. To create successful partnerships with other countries, we must begin with an honest, critical assessment of existing objectives.


Council on Hemispheric



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