12 - British relations with Latin America into the 1990s  pp. 205-229

British relations with Latin America into the 1990s

By Victor Bulmer-Thomas

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The 1990s will be an opportunity for several European countries to re-examine their relations with Latin America. The quincentenary of Columbus' voyage, to be celebrated in 1992, will remind the British in particular of past associations and former glories; the golden age of this relationship (see chapter 1, by Leslie Bethell) ended many years ago, leaving a legacy which is visible in family names (for example, that of President Alfonsín Foulkes), company titles (for example, the Banco Anglo-Colombiano) and imposing architecture. Yet this legacy is of questionable value for rebuilding British–Latin American relations in view of the long decline in British influence over the last sixty years. If Britain is to establish closer relations with Latin America in the future, there will need to be a rediscovery of the continent rather than merely raking over the coals of the fire lit last century.

Although past associations have left a feeling of goodwill towards Britain in many Latin American republics, it is not an easily negotiable asset. Relations between states have always responded to more hard-nosed criteria and British–Latin American relations are no exception. It is contemporary and future trends within Britain and the republics, together with the broader international situation, which will determine future relations. In the 1990s, six themes are likely to be of primordial importance:

  • The structure and strength of the United Kingdom and Latin American economies,
  • The consolidation of the European Domestic Market, to be completed by 1992, and the commitment (or lack of it) by Britain to the European ideal,
  • The scope and scale of UK priorities towards other regions (for example, North America, the Commonwealth, the Pacific Rim countries)
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