Much has been made of the split within the European Union over whether to join Washington in its war on Iraq. Almost unnoticed, though, has been the split in the Americas that has left the United States virtually isolated in its own back yard.
To put it bluntly, France never got a chance to cast its Security Council veto because opposition from Washington's closest economic partners in Latin America ensured that the resolution could not pass. France may be the scapegoat, but Latin America was the resolution's undertaker.
Both of Washington's NAFTA partners -- Canada and Mexico -- have broken with the U.S. over Iraq. The only sizable Latin American nation whose leadership backs Washington is Colombia, the third-highest recipient of U.S. foreign aid after Israel and Egypt.
George W. Bush said as recently as last November that "the United States has no more important relationship in the world than the one we have with Mexico." But that relationship has now soured. President Vicente Fox was disappointed with the White House's unwillingness to pursue immigration reform after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In May of 2002, he told the Council of the Americas in New York that "there can be no privileged U.S.-Mexico relationship without actual progress on substantive issues . . . and there will be no substantive progress without comprehensively addressing the issue of migration."
In January, Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castañeda quit in frustration after failing to secure concessions on migration by aligning Mexico more closely with Washington on foreign policy issues, such as human rights in Cuba.
Then, in the past month, Mr. Bush found himself needing to ask a special favor of Mr. Fox. Mexico had won a two-year seat on the United Nations Security Council in October of 2001; its support was now crucial to passage of the Bush-Blair resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.
But Mr. Fox declined, and it is not hard to see why. Public opinion in Mexico is overwhelmingly opposed to war with Iraq, and Mr. Fox's conservative National Action Party faces difficult parliamentary elections in July. Absent a major concession from Washington such as a deal on migration, a yes vote would have been political suicide.
The other Latin American country with a seat on the Security Council -- Chile -- also said no. And it did so even though it is the only other Latin American country to have concluded negotiations for a free-trade agreement with the U.S. In the end, only Colombia, Nicaragua and El Salvador lined up with Washington.
This is not the first time the Bush administration has found itself isolated in Latin America. When the White House briefly gave its blessing to the abortive military coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez last April, Mexico led 19 Latin American nations in condemning the coup. Only El Salvador lined up with the U.S.
Frustrated in its attempt to develop a new relationship with the "colossus of the north," Mexico is again turning southward, reassuming its traditional leadership role in Latin America, and cultivating ties with the EU. Short of a major change of attitude in Washington, Latin America will pursue its own path toward economic integration, with rising hostility to the United States.
"Anti-Americanism" has been signaled as a primary source of concern in the post-Sept. 11 environment. With "anti-Americanism" on the rise throughout the Americas, one thing is certain: Washington's indifference to the concerns of its continental neighbors is beginning to compromise its own interests.
Andrew Reding is a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute in New York, and an associate editor of Pacific News Service in San Francisco.
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