April 12th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

Is there a Latino foreign policy?

Editor's Note: Antonia Hernández, Chief Executive Officer of the California Community Fund (CCF) and Solomon Trujillo, Chief Executive Officer of Trujillo Group Investments, are co-chairs of the Pacific Council on International Policy’s Latino Taskforce, the first group to look at foreign relations issues through the lens of Latinos.

By Antonia Hernández and Solomon Trujillo - Special to CNN

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s visit to the U.S. this week had the potential to repair the bilateral relationship between the hemisphere’s two largest economies and refocus U.S. foreign policy in its own neighborhood. Instead, Americans and Brazilians will bemoan another missed opportunity. Contrasted against the red carpet rolled out for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh - state dinner, honor guard, Jennifer Hudson - the lack of pomp and circumstance surrounding President Rousseff’s Washington debut is downright dispiriting.

President Obama’s announcement of a U.S. “pivot” toward Asia late last year left many Latinos scratching their heads. It is hard to understand why the Obama administration - and others before it - would hesitate to give a higher priority to our own hemisphere when redeploying the nation's economic, diplomatic, and military assets. A pivot toward markets much closer to home would better serve the national interest.  Such a “Latino foreign policy” would reflects our country’s changing demographics and allow our leaders to pay closer attention to the political, economic and social development of their own hemisphere.

As growing middle class countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, emerge as 21stcentury growth hubs, policymakers should focus on strengthening our nation's capacity to navigate a multipolar world where U.S. influence will continue to be challenged by new emerging powers. Many South American countries today are less likely to look north for advice and assistance, turning instead to China and India, while looking to Brazil for a model of self-reliance.

With exception of North-South trade, which continues to grow, America's official engagement with the region has been episodic, limited to crisis management and bilateral and sub-regional trade pacts.  In addition, there have been on-going clashes with Venezuela, resistance to U.S. leadership by Brazil, ongoing friction with Cuba, and America's symbolic affronts to the region as domestic politics blocked Senate approval of key appointments to positions with responsibilities for the region.

If these trends continue, U.S. leaders will wake up a decade from now in a hemisphere that is crisscrossed with Chinese investments in oil, copper, iron ore and soy beans, a weak dollar competing against Reals and Rupees, and a new generation of consumers filling up with Iranian oil. There is too much at stake to disregard our neighbors to the South at this critical time in their economic and social development.

Luckily, there is still time to change course. U.S. Latinos by virtue of their personal and familial histories look at U.S. foreign policy from a perspective that is different from the current crop of foreign policy practitioners. Latinos bring to the table a visceral understanding of the challenges shared across the hemisphere and a collective sense of frustration when Washington neglects its hemispheric neighbors with whom we share so many cultural values.

Domestically, the U.S. Latino community’s political and economic influence is growing. Latinos now make up 16 percent of the U.S. population.  While America's non-Latino population grew 9 percent in 2010, the Latino population grew 43 percent, and most electoral battleground states have large Latino electorates.

The Latino economic footprint is just as impressive, with purchasing power projected to top $1.5 trillion by 2015. Yet while both political parties seem to recognize the electoral significance of the Latino community, so far both seem to disregard Latino opinions, emotions, ideas and connections in formulating laws and regulations at the federal, state and local levels - including American foreign policy.

U.S. foreign policy is bound to become more informed by Latino voices for several reasons: the growing electoral strength of Latinos; the growing profile of Latinos at official levels – e.g.,  in the military, Foreign Service, and Congress, which means that Latinos are already positioned to play an important role in helping to clarify our hemispheric interests and to refocus foreign policy to achieve those interests; and because diplomacy is, above all, about relationships, Latinos can use their language skills and cultural affinities to help bridge the divide between the U.S. and our southern neighbors.

A Latino-influenced foreign policy would likely reaffirm traditional pillars of U.S. hemispheric policy - namely, the promotion of democratic political development and trade expansion via FTAs - but it would be more attuned to the ways in which trade stimulates economic development, and how rising living standards influence issues that directly affect the U.S., such as migration, drugs, and crime.

In addition, a Latino-influenced policy would give higher priority to further integrating our foreign policy with many of our own domestic issues, such as protecting energy security through joint energy development in hemisphere; strengthening the rule of law, law enforcement, and judicial institutions and administration; and achieving comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. in a way that mobilizes cross-border human capital and recognizes a longstanding economic dependence on migrant labor.

We believe that America's growing Latino population - including Latinos already in leadership positions - can be a major asset in reforming America's hemispheric policy. We also believe a Latino-informed approach to policy reform will better serve U.S. interests while resonating with our neighbors to the South.  However, America's Latino assets are not being used as they could to advance the nation's interest. Better relations with our neighbors are possible. Latinos can lead the way.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Antonia Hernández and Solomon Trujillo.

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. John McAuliff

    A good column. However, US policy in one area is already too heavily influenced by a self-interested segment of Latinos, Cuba. In this case, the rest of the Latino community needs to play an essential balancing role, pointing out how totally isolated the US is in the Hemisphere by its embargo and system change strategy as we are about to see in the Summit of the Americas.

    One wonders who was responsible for the disgraceful handling of President Rousseff's visit. If Dan Restrepo, a Colombian American who handles Latin America in the National Security Council, played a role by commission or omission, as he does in the failure with Cuba, it is time for him to be replaced.

    John McAuliff
    Fund for Reconciliation and Development

    April 12, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  2. j. von hettlingen

    The author shouldn't make any illusion, but to understand the practice in Washington: American foreign policy is the Monroe Doctrine – the 200-year-old principle that Latin America is the North's turf. The functionaries do what they like and tell everyone else to keep out. The idea that a Latin American country could actually serve as a model is beyond their comprehension.

    April 13, 2012 at 7:45 am |
  3. sweetgunner

    US needs so much of brazilian resources.. I think Obama should think twice while treating "latinos" that way, once Brazil is saving US from a worse economical disaster, since their tourism revenue had increased with brazilian visitors. Obama shouldn't be so prejudiced, since most of all brazilian's bad habits "imigrates" from US culture.

    April 13, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  4. matt c

    The Latino leadership in America is a largely keep-the-borders-open-at-any-cost lobby. From their Banana Republic
    to ours.

    April 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • bobo

      Hello, wake up yoo.. u r still dreaming... "keep-the-borders-open-at-any-cost".. I think it's high time for Latino countries close their borders to the US and stop trading with them.. Let them beg for a change to get into the Latino markets.. The ONLY latino country that migrates into the good OLD USA are the Mexicans... Brazilians are BUYING YOU out right now.. Go and look at the "House Sales" stats in Miami, Orlando and NY... You guys are finished for the next 20 years... The Americans will be cleaning the Office Windows in Sao Paulo soon.. :-))

      April 16, 2012 at 10:41 am |
      • The Decline

        LOL!! @ bobo. Hey, good luck with that 😉 Yeah, brazil, the best SA has to offer is still a sh**hole. yes their economy is doing well but thats not the only thing that makes a successful country. Cant wait to see what happens in "20 years" ahaha

        April 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  5. Gomez Shomez

    First of all the word Latino, by definition, would encompasses any group of people whose language is derived from Latin. That would include the Italians, Portuguese, Spanish, too. South America is a collection of separate countries each with completely different histories. So c'mon, this whole concept of a Latino foreign policy is an error is itself. Is there a European foreign policy? Or a Asian foreign policy? How about an African foreign policy?

    Do you call an Irishman an Englishman? Better yet, how about a foreign policy that is based on " Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none."

    Geezzzz. This is a stupid article.

    April 13, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • Olivero

      Nice name Gomez Shomez. You must be a racist idiot.

      A Latino or Latina is a person considered part of an ethnic background that is traditionally Spanish-speaking, especially a citizen of, or an immigrant from, a Spanish-speaking country. The term latino is used to refer to males only or a combination of males and females in a group, whereas the term latina is used to refer to females only.

      In the United States, the term is in official use in the ethnonym Hispanic or Latino, defined as "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race."[1][2] The term is also used in Spain as a term of self-identification for immigrants from Hispanoamerica.

      Latin countries may have different histories. I'll give you that, but they have way more in comman with themselves than with white people.

      Why should Latinos be subjugated to create a foreign policy JUST based on peace, commerce, honesty, friendship? Do white Aamericans feel like they'll be left out if Latino foreign policy is based on a common Latin culture with other Latin countries?? We Latinos can create a foreign policy that is comfortably based on our Latin common culture, made for the Latino population just as white Americans have done with the Europeans which includes peace, commerce, honest, and friendship.

      Its clear that white America will not reach out to Latin American countries as equals as has been shown throughout history.
      Latinos need to reach back to their roots to foster relations like those between the US and Europe.

      April 16, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  6. Gomez Shomez

    Oh yeah, one more thing . . .in this country I have always believed if you are an American . . . that is what you are.

    Don't let jerk-off cnn try to confuse you with this crap of a story. Real American Patriots hate cnn since it has been taken over by the dirty evil zine O ists.

    April 13, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • bobo

      "If you are an American" – When DID YOU become an American. The ONLY Americans are Native Indians, the rest of you are ALL IMMIGRANTS in the red men's land.. Got that.. SO stop your BS and look for your ancestars.. It's time a Native American gets elected as President to run their own country and kick out the White Men back to where they came from.. They couldn't get rid of YOU "so called AMERICANS" fighting with Bows and Arrows, may be they get can through Politics... Don't fortget, just because you have been living on that land for a while doesn't make you a Native... just like those Mexican people you loook down upon 😉

      April 16, 2012 at 10:52 am |
      • bogusboggs

        THIS is the best you have? "This is the Red Man's land"?
        Less than 1% of the total population; the world of 500 years ago ain't ever coming back, no matter how much you might wish it so. Besides that, if the "White Man" and everyone else who was not "indigenous" to this hemisphere were kicked out, there wouldn't be that many people left, 'cause you'd have to kick out the majority populations of EVERY country in this hemisphere, including Fidel in Cuba, Chavez in Venezuela, Ortega in Nicaragua et cetera. Kind of blows your argument up, don'tcha think?

        April 16, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  7. Apophis

    Ok... China and India received the brazilian president with a red carpet... In 2014, maybe China will be dominating everything in the south, while americans will be still spending time (and words) with Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Shakira, Cucarachas and so on...

    April 14, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • bogusboggs

      Odds are Castro and Chavez will both be dead in 2014, bright eyes!

      April 16, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  8. Apophis

    In fact, the embargo is against USA. I mean, USA is completely isolated of the rest of the continent... Even Cuba and Haiti have a better relation with all the other countries.

    April 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  9. alf67

    This article is sinophobic.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  10. pmcdonald

    Latinos will be about 50% of US population by 2050 (depending on how many Asians there will be). America needs to open itself up to Latino culture and needs so that it may transition to this new state smoothly. It will then be able to merge with Mexico without issue.

    April 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  11. Capricorn

    There is a Latino foreign policy......its called moving to other countries.

    April 17, 2012 at 2:57 am |
  12. Gerry Coakley

    Fidel Castro is a controversial and divisive world figure, lauded as a champion of anti-imperialism, humanitarianism, socialism and environmentalism by his supporters, but viewed as a dictator who has overseen multiple human rights abuses by his critics. "-

    Current posting produced by our personal blog

    May 5, 2013 at 11:53 pm |

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