A just published report by the Partnership for the Americas Commission, November 2008, called "Rethinking U.S. Latin American Relations", advances a list of concrete recommendations to improve progressively on that relationship, one that has, so far, fallen significantly short of its potential. Work on the report was led by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and promoted by the Brookings Institution, engaging dozens of distinguished intellectuals from both sides of the ocean. The main findings of the study follow:
"This report does not advance a single, grand scheme for
reinventing hemispheric relations. Instead, the report is based
on two simple propositions: The countries of the hemisphere
share common interests; and the United States should engage
its hemispheric neighbors on issues where shared interests,
objectives, and solutions are easiest to identify and can serve as
the basis for an effective partnership. In this spirit, the report
offers a series of modest, pragmatic recommendations that, if
implemented, could help the countries of the region manage key
transnational challenges and realize the region’s potential.
The report identifies four areas that hold most promise for a
hemispheric partnership: (1) developing sustainable energy
sources and combating climate change, (2) managing migration
effectively, (3) expanding opportunities for all through economic
integration, and (4) protecting the hemisphere from drug
trafficking and organized crime".
For each one of these four areas the report offers a list of concrete recommendations where, unfortunately, the establishment of a Commision for this or a Sub-Commision for that appears a little too frequently. Most recommendations, however, are very much to the point and should be the object of the new U.S. government's careful attention, since they distill the views of many experts in the four topics that the report considers of the highest priority.
The major absent topic in the report is education, a word that does not appear at all in the substantial text. Perhaps this is due to the belief that education is too "soft" a topic, as compared to more quantifiable ones such as energy, immigration and drug trafficking. The truth remains, however, that low levels of civic education constitute the essence of Latin American underdevelopment and that a massive transfer of civic educational "know-how" from the U.S. to the southern countries will be fundamental to minimize the assymetry between the two societies. How to transform millions of Latin Americans into citizens is probably the issue where the U.S. can play a major role of "technological" transfer. It certainly would not be as complex as sending a man to the Moon seemed to be in the 1960's, when President Kennedy announced this intention.
It will be only when Latin America becomes largely inhabited by citizens, in control of their own destinies and conscious of having both rights and duties, when a truly equal relationship will be established between north and south. Until this is accomplished, this relationship will continue being characterized by feelings of distrust, inferiority and resentment. An analysis of how this can be done should constitute a worthwhile project for the Commision.