05/01/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Clinton Takes on Latin American Challenge

The greatest untold legacy of the neocon Right's obsession with the Mideast is our neglect of our neighbors to the south. Bush's voluntary involvement in Iraq not only tragically squandered blood and treasure, it has squandered the potential of having used the last decade to to solidify our relationships with Latin America.

While we cry about needing market places to export our goods, we have been blinded by our own tears to the great potential that lies at our doorstep.The population of Latin America was estimated to be over 560 million in 2006. Brazil, the region's biggest country, is receiving bullish reviews from all economic forecasters. A record low unemployment rate has boosted the 1.6 trillion dollar Brazilian economy into full recovery mode. Latin America's recovery is outpacing the US recovery; in fact, Chile's economy was gaining strength before the massive earthquake that hit last week.

The US has been so distracted by its Mideast adventures that we seem to be in a poor position to enjoy prosperity and peace in our own region.

This week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has embarked on a Latin American tour. The schedule is as rigorous and politically challenging as the Andes mountains as she visits six countries in five and a half days.

US relationships in Latin America, while filled with potential, are complicated. Past US administrations participated in outrageously aggressive behavior in the region. Our past support of illegal regimes has defined the US negatively by many. Adding insult to historic injury, Bush's failed coup attempt in Venezuela, followed by an almost complete abandonment of the region, has created a new generation of distrust.

Thankfully, Secretary Clinton is probably the best equipped individual to handle the almost insurmountable Latin American challenges. The Secretary is backed up by a president, in Barack Obama, who deeply understands the importance of international relationships.

However, time is of the essence. The future waits for no one nation, no matter the size. The losses of the "lost decade" included potential prosperity and peace to our south; sadly, this drain occurred as we traveled far and wide almost deliberately seeking the exact opposite. It is time to focus on the opportunities at our doorstep.

Mario Solis-Marich is a radio talk show host who can be heard on AM 760 in Denver and world wide at You can find Mario on Facebook.