The economic tango of Latin America
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Over 620 million people live in Latin America and many of them love dancing the tango. The passion, the mystery and the rhythm of the tango has made it more of an art form than a dancing science.
 
Such is the economy of Latin America as well. Economic mystery fills the air of Argentina. Economic passion fills the streets of Mexico. Economic rhythm drives financial markets in Chile.
 
With 20 countries and 7 time zones, the economies of Latin America are diverse, intricate, and in some cases frail.
 
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Make no mistake about it, stability in Latin America is critical to the security and economic welfare of the United States. But the United States takes Latin America for granted nowadays, and it shouldn’t.
 
With immense natural resources, a fast-growing population, and a hungry younger demographic, the region is poised to stretch its economic legs over the coming years. 

The economic diversity of the region provides opportunities for so much upside, and with examples of countries that have made great successes in economic growth thus far.

For example, Chile’s per capita GDP (when adjusted for purchasing power parity) is slightly over $24,000 per year. A great success that is nothing to laugh at. 

The same per capita GDP figure is less than $5,000 for Honduras, and that is nothing to laugh at either – where poverty in that country is a humanitarian crisis.

China’s president is visiting Latin America this week, making a visit to several countries in the region. There is no doubt that China wants to be seen as "more caring" than the United States.

While America has been obsessed with presidential elections, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and immigration issues, it has largely ignored Latin America as a region that requires security and economic growth.

For example, there are now reports that ISIS is actually targeting certain Latin American countries for recruiting – never heard that at the presidential debates did you?

Where there is economic poverty there will almost certainly be despair, where there is despair there will almost certainly be violence.

If the United States wants to be serious about long-term security, it should pay very close attention to the dynamics of its own hemisphere first.

In 1823 the Monroe Doctrine was established. The doctrine was U.S. President James Monroe’s way of basically putting the rest of the world on notice — that America would not accept instability in the Latin American region.

The doctrine has served America well. For all intents and purposes, America has been more secure because Latin America has generally been secure. 

Sure, the occasional coup has happened here and there. There have been some revolutions. And yes, some criminal gangs have grown from the region into America – but for all intents and purposes: all has been cool.

What is not so cool in recent years is that massive economic decline has happened in Venezuela, Brazil is economically on the ropes, and there is huge instability in the Mexican peso. These are just a few examples of economic insecurity, but there are many more.

The Congress of the United States needs to make a strident effort in 2017 to prioritize Latin America and to make a sincere effort to make sure "all is good in the hood" — America cannot afford an economically unstable region to the south.

Countries such as China are certainly prioritizing the region and the United States could very well lose influence to a growing superpower that is hungry for friends in the America’s.

If America were to show loving, tango- like passion for its neighbors to the south, that would go a very long way in protecting its own economic and physical security in the long-run.

 

Jonathan Galaviz is Chief Strategist at Global Market Advisors (GMA), an award winning economic and strategy consultancy. Oxford-educated, he frequently appears on CNBC, Bloomberg and the BBC. Find him on Twitter: @jongalaviz 

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.