Waiting for Change: Trends in U.S. Security Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean

Waiting for ChangeAcross Latin America, governments and publics viewed Barack Obama’s election with surprise and hope. Presidents eagerly lined up to shake his hand and share a brief moment of history at the April 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, and many dared to dream that a new relationship with the region might dawn. President Obama’s words at the summit helped inspire that hope.

I know that promises of partnership have gone unfulfilled in the past, and that trust has to be earned over time. While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations; there is simply engagement based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values. So I’m here to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout my administration.

A year later, those unrealistic expectations are much dimmed. The rollout of a major base agreement with Colombia appeared to signal that the Obama Administration was escalating rather than scaling down the U.S. military footprint in the region. The administration’s weak response to the Honduran coup, despite the Organization of American States’ marshaling of a united front against it, crushed hopes for greater U.S. support for democratic rule. The refusal to use conditions attached to military aid to Colombia and Mexico signaled to human rights groups that the United States would continue turning a blind eye to its closest allies’ abuses. As 2010 began, however, the opportunity for the United States to respond generously to the earthquake in Haiti offered an opening for shifting perceptions.

Our fifteen years of documenting trends in the U.S. military relationship with Latin America, through Democratic and Republican administrations, have convinced us that the underlying, structural relationship is only affected to a limited degree by the White House’s current inhabitant. It has also convinced us that a growing trend towards the militarization of U.S. foreign policy spans administrations. Despite this reality, we are disappointed that the Obama Administration has not taken strong, identifiable actions to improve relationships with the region. We still hold out hope for change. But it must come soon. 

To read this report in Spanish, click this link: http://www.wola.org/sites/default/files/downloadable/Regional%20Security/2010/esperando%20el%20cambio.pdf

Para leer este informe en español, haga click aqui: http://www.wola.org/sites/default/files/downloadable/Regional%20Security/2010/esperando%20el%20cambio.pdf