Latin American Democrats Need U.S. Support

Free trade is one way to help prevent the resurgence of autocracy in the region.

We are friends of the United States. We admire the long and firm commitment of the American people to the values of freedom, democracy and individual dignity. When we served our countries, we did our best to strengthen hemispheric and transatlantic links with the U.S.

[Commentary] Martin Kozlowski

A few weeks ago, the American people held their 56th presidential election. The freedom of the American people to express their will through the democratic process has shown the world once more that the achievements of a great nation rely on the strong respect for the principles of pluralism, free public opinion, and the rule of law.

We have always believed that close relations among democratic nations is not only good bilaterally but globally as well. Friendship, respect, cooperation and trade among democracies promote prosperity, encourage stability, and reinforce freedom.

President-elect Barack Obama and his new administration and Congress will face difficult challenges and threats. Their decisions and actions will play a decisive role in the promotion of democracy and prosperity throughout the world.

Right now, we are undergoing a financial crisis of unprecedented dimensions. In this globalized world, cooperation, leadership, intellectual honesty and political courage are required more than ever. Judging from our experience governing, we can see that some new answers will be required to address this crisis. We need creative solutions, and they should be based on the sound principles of accountability and transparency. However, we should not neglect the other problems we face.

Mr. Obama’s choice for secretary of state — Hillary Clinton — will help build bridges of understanding and cooperation with Latin America. Latin America is an integral part of the community of nations that share the values of liberal democracy and market economy. Its combined GDP is larger than China’s GDP.

History shows that whenever Latin America has been neglected the cause of freedom and prosperity has been undermined. Therefore, it is essential that nations that embrace the principles of freedom and democracy band together to face today’s security threats.

We live in a dangerous world. The demise of communism was a step forward in the cause of liberty. But history has returned. The old enemies of free and open societies pose new challenges to the world. Terrorism, whatever its nature, continues to pose a threat to civilization and peace. Islamism is both a model and a yoke for millions. Regressive utopianism is spreading in many Latin American countries through a wave of populism. Nationalism and religious fanaticism continue to feed conflict and instability.

The enemies of freedom that share anti-Western views are now forming new alliances. Liberties and freedoms are progressively being diminished inside some Latin American countries while hard-power foreign policies are being implemented as a means to increase influence and weaken the common enemy: the West. Latin Americans must continue to work with their American partners and friends to ensure the protection of democracy and other civil institutions. We must promote a transition to democracy in Cuba and direct our efforts to avoid the resurgence of authoritarian regimes.

Poverty is a painful reality in many countries. Millions of people do not have access to health care or education. This is unacceptable. We strongly believe that the benefits of globalization should be available to everybody. We have found in our own countries that strengthening democratic institutions, providing good governance, and opening up our borders to trade is the best way to improve social conditions and economic welfare.

Latin America has much to gain from free trade. Successfully negotiating free-trade agreements will help bring progress and prosperity to Latin American countries, as well as around the globe.

Today, there are over 40 million people with strong links to Latin America who live in the U.S. and, through their dynamism, contribute to its greatness. The tradition of freedom embraced by the U.S. is in accord with Hispanic traditions and culture. The peaceful coexistence of the American and Hispanic traditions reinforces the idea of Latin America being part of the Western world.

Latin America needs support against the threats it currently faces. It is essential that Latin America be able to count on the support of the U.S. if it is to succeed at promoting and consolidating common values and principles.

Latin American democrats share the dream of freedom and progress with the American people. President-elect Obama embodies a hope that should be fulfilled.

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