With the introduction of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, influence from outside powers in Central and South America had been strategically limited to the United States. It is a doctrine that shaped the Cold War, and has served to deter international meddling in Central and South America.
Recently, influence is growing from unexpected regions; notably, from Asia and the Middle East.
In the past few decades, Latin American dependence on US policy has waned for a number of reasons, including a distracted US diplomacy, as well as a desire from Latin American powers to decrease their economic dependence on a single market.
Chile, as an example, has recently signed FTAs with the European Union, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, China, and Japan.
Also, some states in the region are wooing international interests, sometimes in ways that are destabilizing the region.Iran has made inroads in the region by partnering closely with Venezuela, as well as a few other progressive nations which have been following the lead of Hugo Chavez’s socialist policies. It’s not clear which of the two countries initiated the odd partnership, but the results have been, at best, inflammatory.
Additionally, China has made its economic might (from a massive trade surplus) felt through billions of dollars in loans throughout the region.
Since 2005, China has lent more than $70 billion dollars into the region. That is more than the entire annual GDP of Guatemala. The loans have predominantly gone into Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador.
However, the US economy still represents approximately of quarter global GDP, and as recently as 2006, more than 25% of Chilean exports, for example, went to the United States.
The US has not entirely neglected the region, and just recently signed a major trade agreement with Colombia at the behest of mostly conservative members of Congress.
Regardless, with the US increasingly focusing on internal politics, and global threats internationally, increased influence from non-traditional players in Latin America may be come the rule, rather than the exception.