Winning the Future in Latin America

Saturday, November 7, 2015
By George Phillips in The Washington Examiner:

Winning the future in Latin America

The next president will be forced to confront myriad problems in the Middle East, as well as the growing aggression of Russia, China and North Korea.

But our next president should also lay out a plan for winning the future in Latin America because its prosperity is linked to ours.

The U.S. exported $424 billion in goods to Mexico and Central and South America in 2014 — more than the $333 billion we exported to Europe and nearly as much as the $480 billion we exported to Asia. The potential for even more economic cooperation is great.

Individual Americans bear the responsibility for the illegal drug use that led to more than 8,000 heroin and nearly 5,000 cocaine-related deaths in 2013 and landed hundreds of thousands of others in prison. But more prosperous Latin American nations will be better able to stem the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S.

Our nation also bears the responsibility of controlling our borders and maintaining fair and just immigration laws. But citizens of Latin American nations will be less likely to leave for the US if they have vibrant economies in their home countries.

Here are four keys to winning the future in Latin America:

First, bad actors need to be called out.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported that the Castro regime averaged of 741 arbitrary arrests each month in 2014 and 882 such arrests in September of this year — the month Pope Francis visited.

President Nicolas Maduro's continued failed socialist policies in Venezuela after the death of Hugo Chavez have left his nation in disarray with 56 percent inflation and a skyrocketing murder rate. More than 9,000 protests took place in 2014 against the government and they have continued throughout this year.

Unfortunately both Cuba and Venezuela push their oppressive policies and anti-U.S. message throughout the region and influence other leftist heads of state, including Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Juan Morales in Bolivia.

If a change in leadership occurs in any of these countries that is favorable towards the U.S., it will influence the entire region.

Second, heroes need to be raised up.

These include the Ladies in White in Cuba, brave women who led protests against the Castro regime for twenty weeks in a row this year against the imprisonment of their loved ones who have spoken out for freedom.

Leopold Lopez, a former mayor and presidential candidate, is a leading voice of opposition in Venezuela. He led a 30-day hunger strike in June on behalf of other political prisoners and was recently sentenced to 13 years in prison in what human rights groups have called a sham trial.

If heroes like the Ladies and White and Lopez are raised up by the US and the world as Lech Walesa was in Poland in the 1980s, they could lead their countries to freedom, as Walesa did.

Third, economic successes and failures needs to be continually highlighted.

In 2014, the average gross domestic product growth of the Pacific Alliance Trade Bloc nations of Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile, which have embraced trade and open markets, was an impressive 4.25 percent. In that same year, the growth of Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina — countries that have embraced socialism and protective tariffs — was a meager 2.5 percent.

The state of the economy in Brazil is so poor that a recent poll showed two out of three Brazilians wanted to impeach President Dilma Roussef — a former Marxist who now promotes socialism.

Finally, the message of the United States should be that we are trying to share the gift of free markets and economic prosperity with the world — not imposing our will on others. Throughout our history, both citizens of the United States and immigrants to our nation have lived with the promise that through hard work they could obtain a better life for themselves and their children due to our system of limited government and economic freedom. We want nothing more than for people in all of the Americas to share in this promise.

George Phillips served as an aide to Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, working on human rights issues.