Even though Latin America is important to U.S. trade and investment, American foreign policy places scant emphasis on the region’s 26 countries.
Some Americans continue to criticize the North American Free Trade Agreement, but closer integration of the economies of Canada, Mexico, and the United States was inevitable. This nation still needs sound immigration policy for its economy to work.
Latin America’s political and economic success depends on how well its nations can build their own institutions, instead of following political demagogues. Venezuela has $100 billion in annual oil revenues, yet it is an economic mess plagued by corruption, a high crime rate, and grossly inadequate infrastructure.
Colombia, by contrast, is cursed by the narcotics production within its borders. Yet it has experienced strong growth in its gross national product.
The U.S. policy of isolating Cuba, which the rest of Latin America despises, would benefit strongly from actions by President Obama. Washington could have revised Cuban policy after Mr. Obama took office in 2009. It could have worked with President Raul Castro, who is slowly bringing change to Cuba.
That would have produced fruitful results in U.S.-Cuban relations. It still can be done, if the President is willing to try.