U.S. and Latin America need closer ties

Four former presidents of Latin American countries and the former president of Spain joined in an ardent plea for the U.S. to strengthen its ties with those countries that share the values of freedom, democracy, and economic progress. In their editorial today in the Wall Street Journal, José Maria Aznar (Spain), Vicente Fox (Mexico), Andrés Pastrana (Colombia), Julio Maria Sanguinetti (Uruguay), and Franciso Flores (El Salvador) also pointed out that “Free trade is one way to help prevent the resurgence of autocracy in the region.”

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.

The former leaders called on President-elect Obama to support their efforts in realizing a common dream based on democratic values and principles. That plea is especially apt when these few Latin American countries are surrounded by or adjacent to leftist governments increasingly hostile to the U.S.