Gov. Richardson's Eye to the South

Now is the time for the Obama Administration to institute a five-point plan to improve diplomatic relations with Latin America countries, according to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson in an op-ed in Saturday's Washington Post.

The former Democratic presidential candidate says the fallout from the debate over Arizona's controversial immigration law--largely invalidated by a federal judge and now under appeal--has "further alienated our neighbors throughout Latin America, who had been hoping for better relations with the United States after President Obama's election."

Richardson contends there's an opportunity to better engage with countries in the Western Hemisphere that he credits with impacting the day-to-day lives of Americans more than any other place in the world. His appeal is not grounded exclusively in economic terms noting that "Hispanics represent the biggest ethnic and most sought-after voting bloc in the United States."

The five-part plan includes a call for comprehensive immigration reform, relaxing travel rules to Cuba, establish a new multi-lateral partnership with Latin America countries, the passage of free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama and a hemispheric pact cracking down on illicit drugs. "Better hemispheric relations should be a foreign policy priority, not an afterthought," Richardson concludes.