Cargo trucks in Long Beach. (AP)

Cargo trucks in Long Beach. (AP)


The Western Hemisphere Is in Play

By Eric Farnsworth

It’s a moment for the U.S. to help shape the future of the hemisphere through economic engagement and trade, writes AS/COA's Eric Farnsworth in Barron's.

The philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset might have been describing the state of the Americas today when he wrote presciently we do not know what is happening to us, and that is precisely the thing that is happening to us. Technological transformation, massive migration, rampant crime, and sluggish economies are remaking politics as democratic guardrails are weakened. Authoritarian leaders from both in and outside the region, including China, are aggressively promoting alternative agendas contrary to open-market democratic practices.

It’s a moment for the United States to help shape the future of the hemisphere through economic engagement and trade, boosting post-pandemic economic and social recovery while offering a critical transmission belt for democratic values. But it won’t happen without Washington’s lead, at least not on the basis of the inclusive economic development, transparency, and rule of law that the Americas require to unlock sustainable growth. Challenges are manifesting. At least one failed state—Haiti—is on the brink of international conservatorship while another—Venezuela—appears a black hole, sucking in all around it while reflecting no light. Argentines face triple-digit inflation and may soon elect an erratic outsider as president.

El Salvador and Honduras are exploring the outside boundaries of democratic practice while Guatemala has barely averted full democratic breakdown—so far. Once Washington’s closest regional ally, Colombia now seeks to reorient its political, trade, and security relations. In just over eight months, Brazil’s president has repositioned his country as an enabler of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal aggression on Ukraine while pursuing anti-Western global links with China, Iran, and others.

Mexico’s leader continues to undermine hard-won democratic norms in the run up to elections in 2024. It’s all a far cry from the rhetoric of shared values and common interests that once prevailed. Yet despite divergent directions, each of these nations want closer economic relations with the United States, actively seeking investment and working to position themselves, at least superficially, as logical destinations for post-pandemic near shoring. They recognize that economic growth is critical to addressing their disparate difficulties, and without it, it will be impossible to do so. Even the worst regional actors—Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela—are desperate for increased U.S. investment, as shown by incessant demands for sanctions relief...

Read the full article.