Why Latin America is Crucial to the Global Community

In the post-Cold War world, Latin America and the Caribbean have become increasingly important. The region's vibrant cultures, its abundant agricultural resources, and its vast energy reserves have made it a major player in the international community, more so than at any time since the colonial era. Jason Marczak, the newly appointed director of Central Latin America Adrienne Arsht of the Atlantic Council, discussed his vision for the Center and approaches to regional challenges in an interview with Sen. Ashish Kumar of the New Atlantista.

This term refers to commonalities seen from the outside and not to any unity perceived by the inhabitants of the Americas themselves. For Latin America to be able to participate in a meaningful way in a rapidly changing global order, shaped by technological transformation and global issues such as climate change, migratory pressures, and security threats, effective regional governance and cooperation is essential. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of a unified approach to public health problems in Latin America. The current situation in Latin America is due to a complex set of interrelated social, economic, and political crises, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic and a growing wave of isolationism and “anti-globalism”. For a time, particularly until the death of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela had significant financial and political influence in Latin America, and governments across the Western Hemisphere were very divided in their responses, to the point that it became impossible to hold a regional meeting with all heads of state. The situation in Latin America is dire and there is ample cause for pessimism; however, this document postulates that all is not lost in terms of regional governance.

One example is the work of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, chaired by former presidents César Gaviria of Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil. This commission advocates an end to the drug prohibition regime in Latin America. Additionally, world powers continue to recognize Latin America as an emerging actor in establishing trade agreements. Regional actors also convinced Venezuelan Hugo Chávez to open a dialogue with opposition leaders after a failed military coup in 2002. South American governments strengthened their ties with Central America, Mexico, and some Caribbean nations during this period, as reflected by the growing number of visits from South American heads of state to their northern counterparts during the 2000s. The following 10 ideas can help initiate a constructive dialogue on reactivating regional cooperation in Latin America:

  • Encourage dialogue between governments
  • Promote regional integration
  • Increase collaboration between civil society organizations
  • Strengthen regional institutions
  • Promote economic development
  • Improve access to education
  • Increase access to healthcare
  • Promote environmental protection
  • Combat organized crime
  • Address migration issues
With 40 percent of the world's species, more than a quarter of Earth's forests, and the second largest reef on the planet, Latin America is an important source of hope for a planet facing climate change and an ever-increasing demand for food, water, and energy.

Latin American governments must work together to address their multiple challenges; recent events have shown that without better regional mechanisms these national and transnational issues—ranging from organized crime and environmental degradation to migration and economic growth—will be even more difficult to address with potentially devastating long-term consequences. In other words, Latin America must avoid internalizing the widening gap between a rising China and the United States in power.

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