Year in Review: The Americas

January 3, 2011
Secretary Clinton Delivers Remarks in Quito, Ecuador

About the Author: Arturo A. Valenzuela serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

The past year saw virtually non-stop travel by senior U.S. officials, of multiple agencies, to Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. This reflects the pace and scope of our work to advance U.S. interests and develop the forward-looking partnerships President Obama committed to at the start of his administration. I will use this blog regularly in the year ahead to discuss specific aspects of this work, but wanted to offer some broad comments as we look ahead to the next 12 months.

Our policies in the Americas reflect important conceptual shifts underway in how we interact with our neighbors, and in how they approach each other. It's worth emphasizing this point, because a lot of policy commentary still reflects old assumptions and metrics that have long been overtaken by new realities.

One of the most significant trends in the Americas today is the continuing consolidation, in most countries, of resilient democratic and market societies. These are increasingly successful meeting their diverse peoples' needs, enhancing their opportunities, and realizing the benefits of their talent and industry. Another key trend, obvious as countries of the Americas become more integrated globally, is their increasing ability to help address some of the most pressing global challenges we all face.

Together, these trends are profoundly important. They are reshaping our approach in the region toward more concerted action together to confront the great trans-national challenges that will mold our common future.

Examples abound. Five Western Hemisphere countries -- Argentina, Brazil, Canada and Mexico, plus the United States -- are part of the G-20, trying to build a more secure and equitable international financial system. Mexico's successful hosting of the COP-16 highlighted its growing global leadership role on climate change. There is unprecedented and growing cooperation among countries of the Americas to stem the transnational crime-driven violence that jeopardizes our citizens' safety. Colombia's success on many fronts provides rich experience to share with others. It has simultaneously fought back a narco-insurgency, strengthened institutions of democratic governance and rights, addressed fundamental causes of longstanding conflict, and built bridges to neighbors -- all in ways that strengthen its own, and regional, security. Hemispheric leaders such as Brazil are major players on global food security and other issues, and we cooperate increasingly with regional countries on development priorities in third countries in Latin America and beyond. Chile's extensive set of trade agreements literally spans the globe and underscores the human opportunity that can flow from economic integration. Just as, decades ago, our relations with traditional European partners shifted outward in focus, the beginnings of a similar process are clear in our relations in the Americas.

Within the Americas, new patterns of cooperation are transforming ties between nations. After Haiti's catastrophic earthquake the region's enormous and poignant response highlighted the will and capacity for common cause in the face of great emergencies. Likewise, the Organization of American States' (OAS) efforts to promote fair and credible elections in Haiti bespeak a commitment of members' to help build effective democratic institutions as a cornerstone of stability and development. In 2011, the 10th anniversary of the OAS Democratic Charter, members are expected to adopt a Social Charter that underscores the link between democracy and social opportunity in the Americas.

As Western Hemisphere nations link up with other parts of the world in new networks of trade and cooperation, the benefits of regional integration become ever more apparent. As it has in Europe for more than 60 years, our diplomacy strongly supports open, forward-looking and inclusive regional and sub-regional integration. This can profoundly boost competitiveness and opportunity in ways that advance the interest of all of us.

Effective diplomatic and development policy in a new environment requires new tools. Collaborative initiatives like the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas and Pathways for Prosperity, where different partner governments have led dozens of projects, illustrate new approaches to address critical concerns such as environment, energy security, and social opportunity. These initiatives are poised to continue building dynamic relationships that deliver tangible services and solutions to people throughout the Americas.

Of course, to succeed, our policy must tailor its approach to the widely varying experiences and challenges of different countries. These include localized crises and development needs, as well as persistent inequality and exclusion. We understand that not all countries will seek reform and progress in the same way " an observation at the heart of our outreach to Ecuador. We seek productive and respectful relations with all, even where we may have disagreements, without disclaiming our fundamental values. This is why we continue to seek an equitable new basis for respectful and mutually beneficial relations with Bolivia. Unfortunately, there are some outliers to the broad and positive trends in the Americas today. We are very concerned anytime governments or rulers act to restrict democratic space and practice, or economic freedom. We are likewise concerned at any interruption of democratic constitutional order, or efforts, whether by governments or non-state actors, to undermine the integrity of institutions. Such actions are profoundly at odds with the trajectory of the region, its peoples' values, and our shared goals of successful, safe, and prosperous societies.

However, 2011 begins on a promising note for most of the Americas, which Secretary Clinton recognizes as "one of the world's most dynamic and diverse" regions. Growth and recovery are strong, civil society is vibrant, democratic governments are addressing key challenges, and polarizing voices are increasingly isolated. Polling data show Latin American publics' views of the United States have become strongly positive over the last two years. Secretary Clinton literally began 2011 in South America, and just returned from Brazil, where she attended the inauguration of its first woman President on January 1. That's a very auspicious start to what I expect will be a year of particularly productive U.S. engagement with its neighbors -- and I look forward to keeping you abreast of developments.

You can follow me on Twitter, @WHAAsstSecty.



New York, USA
January 3, 2011

Jimmy in New York writes:

Central and South American countries continue to abduct American children in record numbers. Why is this office, unlike that of the Secretary for the Asian hemisphere, so absolutely and consistently silent, and verging on complicit, with this issue?

West Virginia, USA
January 3, 2011

Pamela G. in West Virginia writes:

We must stop the violence the drug cartels are bringing across our borders.

Justice J.
January 4, 2011

Justice J. in Panama writes:

Panama's politicians need to stop using drug trafficking as an excuse for their corruption. What was the invasion for, then? If Hillary Clinton returns Manuel Noriega to Panama, justice can be served and the Republicans won't get their way. Please stop violating the Geneva Conventions just to ignore the past or the future will not be a good one!

solar c.
January 10, 2011

John R. writes:

If this can be enforced in the system, I believe the younger generation will look back and think more on their actions.


Latest Stories