Let’s build a real Good Neighbor policy!

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We should revive Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy to bring peace and cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean, and stop US meddling in their politics. From migration, the war on drugs, poverty and the environment — we only stand to benefit from a policy that is based on peace, cooperation, and respect. The Coronavirus pandemic reminds us of the value of good neighbors; it is time we applied that to the relationship between the United States and its neighbors in the South.

For too long the United States government has conceived of Latin America and the Caribbean as its backyard, and it is through that perspective that the U.S. has carried out its foreign policy of exploitation and control for most of the past 200 years. There was a brief period during the New Deal era that the U.S. understood the need to be a “good neighbor” and this is a concept we desperately need to revive today. Just as the frame of a “Green New Deal” changed the discourse on U.S. environmental policy, progressives need to frame a “Good Neighbor Policy” for the 21st century that will improve our relations within the regional community.

What would it mean for the United States to be a Good Neighbor, it should:

  • Not meddle. Meddling in the affairs of other countries can take many forms, whether it’s interfering in domestic policies, interfering in elections, applying sanctions, military interventions or outright war, among others.
  • Respect and appreciate differences. Countries in the hemisphere have different cultures, religions, ethnicities, languages, political systems and histories; we must treat others equally under international law, respect our differences and learn from them.
  • Work together for the common good. Whether it’s trading fairly, building regional democratic institutions, addressing the climate crisis or helping migrants, only by working together can we resolve the problems we face. 

The coronavirus pandemic reminds us of the value of good neighbors; it is time we applied that to the U.S. government’s foreign policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean, a policy that has historically resulted in war, coups, dictatorships, police states, human rights violations, migration, environmental degradation and division. It is not difficult to find the links between, for example, trade that favors corporations and industrial farming, and mass migration. Or between drugs flowing north and weapons flowing south. The connections run deep between U.S. foreign policy aimed at domination and the violence inflicted on poor people south of the border.

The peoples of the Caribbean and Latin America have been aware of this for centuries. In 1829, Simon Bolivar, leader of an independence movement against Spanish colonialism, said the United States seems destined to plague the Americas with misery in the name of liberty. Yet we know that this has nothing to do with destiny, it is the result of a political establishment that cannot yet conceive of what it is to be a Good Neighbor. It is up to us to educate our politicians and let them know the benefits of a Good Neighbor policy.

Therefore, I pledge to work to transform the United States into a Good Neighbor.


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