The United States and Latin America

"Some have described the century just passed as the American century, now we look forward. We have a chance to build a century of the Americas, in which all our people, north and south, find the blessings of liberty." 

-- George W. Bush, September 5, 2001 during a state visit by Mexican President Vicente Fox







Lead Scholar: Dr. Evan D. McCormick

Days after President Bush delivered the above remarks, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC seemed to dash the hopes of renewed relations in the Americas.  U.S. attention turned instead to the Middle East and the Global War on Terror, conjuring the unilateral impulse that had motivated U.S. intervention in Latin America throughout the twentieth century. As one Latin American leader would later remark, “Since we are not a threat, we have been consigned to irrelevance.”

Eight years removed from the end of Bush’s term in office, this oral history project revisits Latin America’s role in U.S. foreign policy during the Bush administration, re-evaluating the notion that the region became irrelevant. Throughout Bush’s two terms, Latin America remained a region of challenge and opportunity for the Bush administration. Hugo Chavez’s campaign to displace U.S. hegemony caused ripples throughout the hemisphere, affecting U.S. relations in places like Nicaragua, Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil. While the Bush administration sought to expand free trade throughout the hemisphere, closer to home it dealt with the political repercussions of Northward-flowing immigration and an expanding cross-border drug trade. Far from irrelevance, Latin America retained its historical status as a crucial theater of U.S. diplomatic leadership, security concerns, and domestic political importance.

The project will focus on executive branch policymaking and bilateral and multilateral relations in the Western Hemisphere. It will draw on interviews with key officials from the Bush administration, congress, think tanks, and, where possible, foreign governments to answer four broad, thematic research questions:

1. How did the September, 11th attacks alter the Bush administration’s strategic approach to Latin America, particularly its vision for forging a “Century of the Americas”?

2. What was the administration’s strategic response to the rise of Bolivarian populism, spearheaded by Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, and its spread throughout the region?

3. What challenges did the administration face in advancing two broad policy initiatives: expanding free trade in the hemisphere and reforming immigration? 

4. How did counternarcotics, U.S.-Mexico border violence, and security in the Americas assert themselves as priorities over the course of Bush’s two terms, and how did the administration respond, relative to other diplomatic efforts?


David Aguilar
National Chief of the United States
Border Patrol (2001-2010)
Stephen Johnson
Heritage Foundation (1999-2006);
Assistant Secretary of Defense for the
Western Hemisphere Affairs (2007-2009)
John Maisto
Special Assistant to the President and
Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs on the National Security Council (2001-2003);
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (2003-2006)
Roger Noriega
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (2001-2003) 
Matthew Rooney 
Deputy Assistant Secretary for relations with Canada and Mexico

These interviews will remain sealed from public viewing until a date specified in the agreement with each individual.