If you have been following your newsfeed over the past year, you might be forgiven for believing that Latin America is a wreck. Venezuela has descended into a socialist nightmare. Zika spreads across Central America and South America. Cartel violence ravages Mexico. To the casual observer, it must seem like things couldn’t get any worse.
If you look past the headlines and into the data, the surprising truth emerges: in many respects, times have never been better for Latin America. Since the early 1990s, many of the civil wars and internal conflicts that plagued the region for decades have come to a close. Unprecedented peace has developed alongside a growing interest in economic liberalization: reforms in countries like Peru, Colombia, and Panama have pulled millions of Latin Americans out of poverty. A new trade bloc stretching from Chile to Mexico—the Pacific Alliance—has united much of the region in the pursuit of free trade and free movement. Where functioning democracies were once a rare sight in the region, stable democracies and strong civil liberties are increasingly the norm in Latin America.
All should come as great news for Americans. Aside from the obvious intrinsic benefits of poverty reduction and the spread of democracy, a prosperous and free hemisphere is good for Americans of all varieties. In the spirit of neighbors helping neighbors, here are three things the United States can do to empower these positive trends.