(Traditionally The Southern Cone refers to those countries in South America situated around the Tropic of Capricorn - Argentina,Chile and Uruguay. But many of the same geopolitical issues that affect these countries also involve some of the most populated parts of Brazil,so I am going to refer to the entire region of Paraguay and Brazil as part of The Southern Cone for simplicity sake.)
And yet,it is Brazil deep in the isolated south,that is the most populous state in South America, accounting for over 50% of the population of South America. The city of Sao Paolo,Brazil is the largest city by population in South America. You would think that the US would gravitate toward that center.
But compared with South America's Caribbean based countries,the Southern cone conducts less trade with the United States than with China. (Germany and Argentina are also prominent trade partners for Brazil,although Japan is starting to make in roads)
The reason for the US disinterest is that from the start,because the US was such a powerhouse compared with the rest of the Americas,she tended to interact with only those countries along the Caribbean which she felt could pose any direct threat to her trade /sea lanes.
And of those,her choice of interactions were to treat them as though they were puppet colonies she could manipulate at will to suit her agenda with no regard for the countries' citizens and what the consequences of those actions might be.
The Southern Cone did not enter into the United States' conscience. But the United States treatment of her southern neighbors did enter into the awareness of those countries in the Southern Cone,even if they were not directly involved.
If the Southern Cone did not hold the interest of North America,she very much held the interest of other countries in the world. In particular,Germany and Italy. But here I am looking at the colonization of South America by German immigrants.
In the late 19th Century Germany actively pursued maintaining a German colony in Brazil,where the citizens would retain their culture and connection to the motherland. As in all places,those who immigrated to the cities assimilated into society quicker while those in more isolated communities retained their language and cultural connections to their ancestral homeland for a much longer period of time.
"Germany's African colonies had failed to meet expectations. so attention turned to South America as a destination where German colonists could be settled without loss of affiliation with Germany. The Hanseatic Colonization Company counted the maintenance of German identity among its colonists as a primary objective. Already present were the old German settlements of south Brazil. which needed to be drawn closer to the German sphere. These sentiments were summed up in Otto Tannenberg's 1911 work GrossDeutschland. Tannenberg predicted that by 1950. Germany could command the entire Southern Cone of South America. including southern Brazil.
The closer economic, religious. and educational ties that sprang up around the turn of the century bolstered the hopes of the Pan-Germanists. German commercial ships dominated the southern coast of Brazil, providing European merchandise to the region's people and thus drawing German-Brazilians into closer fellowship with Germany.
When WW2 arrived,many of the Southern Cone states chose to stay neutral in light of the close ties many of the countries had with Germany,but also because many of the countries had become(or were transitioning to) military dictatorships ( a common route after independence) and the authoritarian Nazi style rulership appealed.
According to a 2012 article in the Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2117093/Secret-files-reveal-9-000-Nazi-war-criminals-fled-South-America-WWII.html), German prosecutors who examined secret files from Brazil and Chile discovered that as many as 9,000 Nazi officers and collaborators from other countries escaped from Europe to find sanctuary in South American countries. Brazil took in between 1,500 and 2,000 Nazi war criminals, while between 500 and 1,000 settled in Chile. However, by far the largest number—as many as 5,000—relocated to Argentina.
Many of the Nazis who escaped to South America were never brought to justice. SS colonel Walter Rauff, who created mobile gas chambers that killed at least 100,000 people, died in Chile in 1984. Eduard Roschmann, the “Butcher of Riga,” died in Paraguay in 1977. Gustav Wagner, an SS officer known as the “Beast,” died in Brazil in 1980 after the country’s supreme federal court refused to extradite him to Germany because of inaccuracies in the paperwork. Perhaps the most notorious of the fugitives was Dr. Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death” who conducted macabre experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp. He fled to Argentina in 1949 before moving to Paraguay in 1959 and Brazil a year later. Buried under an assumed name after drowning off the Brazilian coast in 1979, Mengele had his identity confirmed only after forensic testing of his remains in 1985.
The lesson I take from this is that, particularly Brazil,but also the other countries of the Southern are not automatically in America's basket by proximity or inhabiting the same western hemisphere anymore than they are in any other major world power's basket. And so far,Asian and European countries are putting more effort into establishing and nurturing that relationship than the United States. And as we have seen historically - outposts that are out of the spotlight for one country are a perfect entry point for another.
But the Southern Cone is no longer isolated from North America with the advent of modern communication and transportation. What happens in Brazil does not stay in Brazil. And that lesson can be taken from the drug trade which has been able to establish an easy pathway to regions as far away as Europe.
From CIA Factbook:
... important transshipment country for Bolivian, Colombian, and Peruvian cocaine headed for Europe; also used by traffickers as a way station for narcotics air transshipments between Peru and Colombia; upsurge in drug-related violence and weapons smuggling; important market for Colombian, Bolivian, and Peruvian cocaine; illicit narcotics proceeds are often laundered through the financial system; significant illicit financial activity in the Tri-Border Area (2008)
Our sole focus should not be to countries half way around the world,when what happens in our own hemisphere will directly affect us to a far more significant degree in the future. The time to establish those bonds is now.
In 2008,it appeared that Brazil would parlay her dominance in the region into a new status as a second tier world power,even going so far as to try her hand at world politics as part of a counterbalance to the United States' influence/power in the world. But with the political and economic downturn she has been experiencing of late,she has not been able to expand that clout.
Brazil's mindset has been shaped by her view of America's historical negative interactions in South America.Those views have not been offset by a great amount of positive interaction from America within Brazil itself. It is other world powers that have sought out Brazil,such as her inclusion in the formation of BRICS.
When Brazil attains political stability and economic strength again,we may find that when she uses that newfound prestige to join nations in creating world policy,she very well may be seated on the other side of the table from us rather than with us in a working partnership.
We can't just think of other countries in terms of how we can get them to do things we want them to do to fulfill our agenda and then ignore them the rest of the time. You have to start long before a "need" arises by treating with them as respected equal partners in the search for solutions to issues that effect us both.
How you treat countries can leave a lasting impression and they can have an affect on world events that will affect us 30 to 50 years in the future.
We need long term strategies,not 4 to 8 year change ups in Foreign Policy that are limited to short and mid term goals.