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George W. Bush and America's Neglected Hemisphere

When the NATO Allies gather in Istanbul, much of the talk will concern the divisions between America and Europe over Iraq. But Europe is not alone in its estrangement from the United States under President George W. Bush's leadership. Among the vast list of unforeseen consequences springing from the US fiasco in Iraq is the vital fact that, across Latin America, anti-Americanism is on the rise and is rapidly generating myriad grim effects on the region's politics.

The parallel with Europe does not end there. Before the Bush administration, various American presidents worked hard to change the US relationship with Latin America from one of hegemon and dominated states to something like the relations that exist with the European allies. All of that is now gravely at risk - a dangerous turn of events. Complete estrangement from the US in Latin America will not only harm hemispheric relations, but may discredit broader ideas that are closely associated with the US.

Many of these pernicious side effects can already be perceived. The first, and deepest, consequence consists in plummeting prestige of and respect for the US and the Bush administration in Latin American public opinion.

This was not the case at the beginning of Bush's term as president. On the contrary, many capitals south of the Rio Grande had high expectations for the team that moved into the White House in 2001. After all, during his first nine months in office, Bush declared that he would devote tremendous attention to the hemisphere, and his actions seemed to back up his rhetoric. He visited Mexico before any other country, renewed Temporary Protection Status for Central American immigrants, maintained President Bill Clinton's waiver of certain trade restrictions on countries and companies doing business with Cuba, and gave new impetus to the negotiations to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas.