Sure Essay

This essay has a total of 1416 words and 7 pages.


George W. Bush's decision to make his first overseas trip to Mexico, in mid-February, has
generated a great deal of speculation about what this could possibly mean for changes in
U.S. policy toward Latin America over the next four years. It is clear that Mexico is
vastly more familiar and comfortable for Bush than any other foreign country. In light of
the questions raised about the former Texas governor's foreign policy experience and
competence during the campaign, it is hardly surprising that he would look first to the
country immediately south of the Rio Grande to show he is up to the job.

Bush could be tempted to explore some initiative that would symbolize the "special
relationship" he is seeking with Mexico. This would naturally mean responding in some
fashion to Mexican President Vicente Fox's bold proposals on the two most contentious
issues in the bilateral relationship: drugs and immigration. During the U.S. presidential
campaign, both Bush and Gore seemed to be caught off guard by Fox's audacity. They had
presumably wanted greater democracy in Mexico, but were not prepared to deal with such an
independent leader who defied all of the conventions in U.S.-Mexico relations. The triumph
of the first opposition figure to defeat what Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa had once
described as "the perfect dictatorship" gave the initiative to Mexico in forging a more
constructive partnership with the United States.

It will not be easy to take full advantage of the opportunity afforded by the beginning of
both the Mexican and U.S. administrations. Fox is likely to encounter some resistance
within Mexico to the notion of deepening ties with the United States even further. In
trying to serve as an interlocutor for the rest of Latin America with the United States,
he will face a tough balancing act. How will Mexico retain its Latin American
identity—and its credibility on an array of hemispheric questions—as it moves closer
to the United States? Mexico, after all, played a key role in facilitating political
settlements to the Central American conflicts in the 1980s and 1990s. Particularly in view
of Fox's rather bold and promising gestures aimed at resolving the conflict between the
Mexican government and the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the Mexican leader may well want to
become active in trying to find a peaceful settlement to the decades-long conflict in
Colombia. Mexico's heightened visibility on Colombia and other hemispheric questions could
put some strain on its "special relationship" with the United States, whose $1.3 billion
mostly military, anti-drug aid package to Colombia has provoked a backlash throughout
Latin America.

Bush, in turn, will surely be tested politically, both within his party and among
Democrats, to win support for special terms to deal with Mexico on the drug and
immigration questions. And it is far from clear whether other key members of the U.S. and
Mexican foreign policy teams—most notably, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Mexican
Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda—will see eye-to-eye on such sensitive questions. Bush
and Fox may both be ranchers, but the former general and Gulf War hero, and one of Latin
America's leading, left-leaning intellectuals, do not exactly share a common background.

Although the U.S.-Mexico relationship has in the past set the tone for U.S. relations with
the rest of Latin America, it may be increasingly difficult to extrapolate from Mexico to
other countries of the region. When looking beyond Mexico, Bush and his team are on less
familiar terrain. As a result, there is likely to considerable continuity with Clinton's
Latin American policy, just as there was in 1993 when the administration of Bush's father
ended and Clinton's began. It would be a mistake to underestimate the power of inertia in
U.S. relations with most of Latin America and the Caribbean. If anything, the penchant for
unilateral action, already strong, could well intensify. The Bush team will probably
assign greater weight to matters of "national interest" and realpolitik, narrowly defined,
as reflected in what has come to be known as the "Powell doctrine." The rhetoric coming
from Washington on "softer issues" of democracy and human rights is apt to decline
somewhat—and the attacks on Castro's Cuba and Aristide's Haiti could well heat up.
(Haiti was in fact the only major issue in Latin American policy in which there was a
clear difference between Democratic and Republican positions during the Clinton

The profoundly troubled Andean region will continue to be a source of particular concern.
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