For much of the last decade, the United States has been relatively disengaged from Latin America, getting involved mostly to combat drugs or violence. Now, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has approved a measure that would further limit the U.S. role in the region.
Under the proposal, which would have to be approved by both the House and the Senate, the U.S. would eliminate its $48.5-million contribution to the Organization of American States, the oldest and largest regional diplomatic group in the Western Hemisphere.
Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) and Connie Mack (R-Fla.) argue that the U.S. should defund the OAS because it has been "destroying democracy in Latin America," as Mack put it, and endorsing the United States' political foes — namely Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Republicans on the committee suggested that it would be crazy for the U.S. to continue making a nearly $50-million annual contribution to an organization that often takes positions that conflict with Washington's.
But slashing the U.S. contribution won't promote democracy in Latin America, nor will it silence Chavez, a pugnacious but democratically elected leader. What it will do is send a strong signal that the U.S. is content to disengage still further, to conduct what foreign policy it must on a bilateral basis only, and to give short shrift to regional issues. As Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) noted, Washington might as well consider "an amendment to pull out of the world, to build a moat around the United States and put a dome over the thing."