If the United States’ government wants to truly work alongside the governments of Latin America, they seem to have one major request: treat them as equals and not act as imperial as we have in the past.
Two articles today emphasize this perspective. The first is from the NYTimes and notes the growing animosity between U.S. and Mexican officials trying to combat the ongoing drug war. One part of this relationship is that the United States gets to polygraph Mexican officials to attempt to make sure they are not working in collaboration with the drug cartels. There has been a somewhat humorous response recently from the new regime in Mexico to this action:
“So do we get to polygraph you?” one incoming Mexican official asked his American counterparts.
It is a worthwhile question in all fairness. And one must ask why the U.S. might balk at this idea? If we are asking the Mexican officials to confirm they are not working with the drug cartels through polygraphs, shouldn’t we extend them the same courtesy? What do our officials have to hide that makes them apprehensive about this? When this action is a one way street, it is rather insulting to the other side no matter how you try to sell it.
The second article from the AP states Bolivian President Evo Morales has expelled USAID, which, as stated in the piece, has a history of undermining regimes in Latin American states even if they were democratically elected. Part of the reason for Morales following through on this frequent threat was U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s flub of calling Latin America the United States’ “backyard”.
Using the word “backyard” to describe Latin America is not necessarily anything new in the U.S. but it is an insult to those countries, something that usually goes unrecognized to the point of it being second nature. The U.S. has its history of considering people second-class citizens. But in this case we are considering countries as second-class and, to the shock of no one, they kind of hate that.
The time is long overdue for a change in both language and actions in the United States’ government in regards to Latin America. If we want a healthy relationship with the region, we have to recognize they are truly our equals and our neighbors and no longer our “backyard”. The faster this change comes, the stronger the region will be.