Latin American Challenges

April 10, 1981

Report Outline
Schism Over El Salvador
Latin America and the World
Search for New Latin Policy
Special Focus

Schism Over El Salvador

Conflicts Between United States and Mexico

The course of U.S. relations with its two closest neighbors seldom runs smooth. Attending to Canadian and Mexican affairs is, therefore, a top foreign policy priority of most incoming American presidents. Ronald Reagan visited Canada last month, and, until he was wounded by a would-be assassin's bullet on March 30, was scheduled to meet with Mexican chief of state José Lopez Portillo on April 27–28 in Tijuana and San Diego. Before taking office, Reagan met with Lopez Portillo on Jan. 5 at the border city of Juarez.

The Reagan administration's evolving strategies in this hemisphere, and especially in strife-torn Central America, have cast a shadow over Washington's dealings with both Canada and Mexico. In Ottawa, Reagan was able to soothe Canadian fears of an impending U.S. military intervention in El Salvador. But when his meeting with Lopez Portillo is finally held, Reagan may have a more difficult time. Mexico not only sharply disagrees with Reagan's stance in Central America, but sees itself as a potential rival of the United States for power and influence in the region.

There are enough bilateral problems to keep Reagan and Lopez Portillo talking for a month. The principal issues are oil and aliens, and how much of each will cross the border from Mexico to the United States in the next several years. Terms of trade are also critical. Mexico is the United States' third largest trading partner, with a 1980 combined export-import total with this country of $27 billion. Despite the large volume of bilateral trade, the Mexicans have serious complaints about their access to the American market, particularly for fresh vegetables. Fishing arrangements are also in dispute. Last July, the United States embargoed imports of tuna fish and tuna products from Mexico and in December the Mexicans banned U.S. fishing vessels from Mexican waters. Another issue of long-standing concern is control of the illicit traffic in drugs from Mexico to the United States.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Latin America
Sep. 14, 2018  Turmoil in Central America
Jun. 05, 2012  China in Latin America
Mar. 2008  The New Latin America
Jul. 21, 2006  Change in Latin America
Mar. 14, 2003  Trouble in South America
Nov. 09, 2001  U.S.- Mexico Relations
Sep. 19, 1997  Mexico's Future
Jul. 19, 1991  Mexico's Emergence
May 05, 1989  New Approach to Central America
Mar. 06, 1987  Soviets' Latin Influence
Dec. 26, 1986  Pinochet's Chile
Nov. 08, 1985  Troubled Mexico
Apr. 10, 1981  Latin American Challenges
May 05, 1978  Central America and the U.S.A.
Sep. 23, 1977  Mexican-U.S. Relations
Jun. 04, 1976  Relations with Latin America
Oct. 21, 1970  Chile's Embattled Democracy
Jun. 24, 1970  Mexico's Election and the Continuing Revolution
Apr. 02, 1969  Economic Nationalism in Latin America
Jul. 19, 1967  Guerrilla Movements in Latin America
Dec. 28, 1966  Militarism in Latin America
Oct. 20, 1965  Common Market for Latin America
Aug. 04, 1965  Smoldering Colombia
Jun. 23, 1965  Inter-American Peacekeeping
Dec. 11, 1963  Progress of the Alianza
Oct. 05, 1962  Arms Aid to Latin America
Dec. 13, 1961  Land and Tax Reform in Latin America
Jul. 26, 1961  Commodity Agreements for Latin America
Jan. 11, 1961  Revolution in the Western Hemisphere
Feb. 10, 1960  Inter-American System
Feb. 10, 1960  Inter-American System
Jan. 13, 1960  Expropriation in Latin America
Jul. 02, 1958  Economic Relations with Latin America
Mar. 02, 1954  Communism in Latin America
Jun. 20, 1952  Political Unrest in Latin America
Sep. 18, 1950  War Aid from Latin America
Oct. 31, 1947  Arming the Americas
Jul. 24, 1946  Inter-American Security
Jan. 02, 1942  Latin America and the War
Jul. 10, 1941  Export Surpluses and Import Needs of South America
Jun. 04, 1941  Economic Defense of Latin America
Jun. 25, 1940  Politics in Mexico
Nov. 01, 1939  Pan American Political Relations
Oct. 10, 1939  United States Trade with Latin America
Apr. 07, 1938  Protection of American Interests in Mexico
Mar. 04, 1936  Peace Machinery in the Americas
Sep. 27, 1933  Trade Relations with Latin America
Oct. 16, 1928  Pan American Arbitration Conference
Jan. 12, 1928  The Sixth Pan American Conference
Jan. 10, 1927  American Policy in Nicaragua
Dec. 27, 1926  Relations Between Mexico and the United States
Regional Political Affairs: Latin America and the Caribbean
U.S. at War: Cold War