.
W

hen U.S. Democratic Presidential Candidate Joseph Biden announced that Kamala Harris would be his running mate for the 2020 presidential election, many rejoiced in having a Black Woman candidate to vote for in this fall’s presidential election. Beyond this, Harris’s position as the potential vice president and her heritage could present a unique opportunity for her to push for increased cooperation within the Inter-American system.

Recent U.S. administrations have tasked the vice president with important roles in Western Hemispheric affairs, meaning that if this trend continues, Harris might be active in addressing challenges facing Latin America and the Caribbean. For instance, both the Obama and Trump administrations’ vice-presidents played an important role in the relations between the United States and its neighbors. Under Obama, Biden was the lead in addressing the 2014 child migration crisis as well as the Alliance for Prosperity, which supported development within the Northern Triangle countries; Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Biden’s successor, Mike Pence has also been no stranger to Latin America. He took President Trump’s place in representing the United States at the 2018 Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru.

Kamala Harris would likely end up playing a similar role in a Biden administration and her family background may play to her advantage in doing so. Her father is Jamaican and her mother came from India, representing two major ethnic groups within the Commonwealth Caribbean. While Harris’ heritage will not shape foreign policy to the Caribbean, it could provide her the window of opportunity needed to rebuild a trust with Caribbean leaders that has suffered under the Trump administration. If successful, the Biden administration has a decent chance to strengthen the Inter-American system.

The strength of this system will be integral for the Biden administration if they wish to tackle the hemisphere’s greatest challenges. However, the states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)—a regional organization that is comprised of 15 Caribbean members—are often overlooked as reliable partners within U.S. policy discourse and more broadly in Inter-American affairs. This is frequently seen in issues related to diplomacy with both Venezuela and Cuba, and to a larger extent, climate change.

The United States and its allies’ plans have suffered either without the collective support of CARICOM or due to the organization unifying in defiance of U.S. policy. On the issue of Venezuela, CARICOM remains divided, but with Cuba, the group’s members annually regard the U.S. blockade to the country as a breach of international and humanitarian law. The fragmentation of CARICOM has proved challenging for the hemisphere’s ability to institute constructive diplomatic conversations in these scenarios. As a voting bloc in regional and international organizations, CARICOM has the potential to collectively promote diplomatic solutions to these crises. However, insufficient support and recognition from Latin America, the United States, and Canada has seen any potential support wasted.

Given the recent history of Vice-Presidents and Harris’s family background, it would be wise for a Biden administration to include improving Caribbean relations within Kamala Harris’ portfolio. Although heritage does not translate to policy, her Jamaican and Indian background would have caught the attention of CARICOM leaders. If Biden and Harris are elected, it may incentivize leaders in the Caribbean, at least initially and as long as it benefits the region, to be more willing to cooperate with U.S. strategy towards the Hemisphere rather than under the current administration. Additionally, it will not be lost on these leaders that Harris has a track record of addressing issues of injustice and climate change, both of which would resonate within the Caribbean.

Harris’ potential involvement with CARICOM members would prove even more vital since the organization is not consistently unified in its approach to the United States. For instance, beyond division on the issue of Venezuela, when U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, visited Jamaica in 2020, leaders in the region were divided on whether they should attend the meeting or not. This can change with Harris in charge as vice president and along with her unique heritage, it could prove a rallying point in the Caribbean to see the United States as a true ally.

If this ambitious feat is achieved, it would usher in a new age of the Inter-American system, one that is participatory of all of the Americas and can work to address both immediate and long-term hemispheric challenges. Harris’s awareness of the Caribbean could mean that not only would the United States refrain from overlooking the Caribbean, but Latin America might as well.

In Harris’ role as vice president, she must move the needle on U.S. foreign policy toward the Americas. Given her heritage, Harris should note that the Caribbean is critical to healthy hemispheric relations. By reaching out to Caribbean and promoting a new mission for collaboration, Kamala Harris can bridge the divide in the Hemisphere and heal the fractures of regional polarization all while pursuing U.S. interests that coincide with that of the Caribbean.

About
Wazim Mowla
:
Wazim Mowla is an MA candidate at American University’s School of International Service and is an expert on Caribbean affairs.
About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is a contributing editor with The Diplomatic Courier and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

A Vice-Presidential Reset for U.S.-Caribbean Affairs

Photo by Dorothea Oldani via Unsplash.

August 21, 2020

W

hen U.S. Democratic Presidential Candidate Joseph Biden announced that Kamala Harris would be his running mate for the 2020 presidential election, many rejoiced in having a Black Woman candidate to vote for in this fall’s presidential election. Beyond this, Harris’s position as the potential vice president and her heritage could present a unique opportunity for her to push for increased cooperation within the Inter-American system.

Recent U.S. administrations have tasked the vice president with important roles in Western Hemispheric affairs, meaning that if this trend continues, Harris might be active in addressing challenges facing Latin America and the Caribbean. For instance, both the Obama and Trump administrations’ vice-presidents played an important role in the relations between the United States and its neighbors. Under Obama, Biden was the lead in addressing the 2014 child migration crisis as well as the Alliance for Prosperity, which supported development within the Northern Triangle countries; Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Biden’s successor, Mike Pence has also been no stranger to Latin America. He took President Trump’s place in representing the United States at the 2018 Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru.

Kamala Harris would likely end up playing a similar role in a Biden administration and her family background may play to her advantage in doing so. Her father is Jamaican and her mother came from India, representing two major ethnic groups within the Commonwealth Caribbean. While Harris’ heritage will not shape foreign policy to the Caribbean, it could provide her the window of opportunity needed to rebuild a trust with Caribbean leaders that has suffered under the Trump administration. If successful, the Biden administration has a decent chance to strengthen the Inter-American system.

The strength of this system will be integral for the Biden administration if they wish to tackle the hemisphere’s greatest challenges. However, the states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)—a regional organization that is comprised of 15 Caribbean members—are often overlooked as reliable partners within U.S. policy discourse and more broadly in Inter-American affairs. This is frequently seen in issues related to diplomacy with both Venezuela and Cuba, and to a larger extent, climate change.

The United States and its allies’ plans have suffered either without the collective support of CARICOM or due to the organization unifying in defiance of U.S. policy. On the issue of Venezuela, CARICOM remains divided, but with Cuba, the group’s members annually regard the U.S. blockade to the country as a breach of international and humanitarian law. The fragmentation of CARICOM has proved challenging for the hemisphere’s ability to institute constructive diplomatic conversations in these scenarios. As a voting bloc in regional and international organizations, CARICOM has the potential to collectively promote diplomatic solutions to these crises. However, insufficient support and recognition from Latin America, the United States, and Canada has seen any potential support wasted.

Given the recent history of Vice-Presidents and Harris’s family background, it would be wise for a Biden administration to include improving Caribbean relations within Kamala Harris’ portfolio. Although heritage does not translate to policy, her Jamaican and Indian background would have caught the attention of CARICOM leaders. If Biden and Harris are elected, it may incentivize leaders in the Caribbean, at least initially and as long as it benefits the region, to be more willing to cooperate with U.S. strategy towards the Hemisphere rather than under the current administration. Additionally, it will not be lost on these leaders that Harris has a track record of addressing issues of injustice and climate change, both of which would resonate within the Caribbean.

Harris’ potential involvement with CARICOM members would prove even more vital since the organization is not consistently unified in its approach to the United States. For instance, beyond division on the issue of Venezuela, when U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, visited Jamaica in 2020, leaders in the region were divided on whether they should attend the meeting or not. This can change with Harris in charge as vice president and along with her unique heritage, it could prove a rallying point in the Caribbean to see the United States as a true ally.

If this ambitious feat is achieved, it would usher in a new age of the Inter-American system, one that is participatory of all of the Americas and can work to address both immediate and long-term hemispheric challenges. Harris’s awareness of the Caribbean could mean that not only would the United States refrain from overlooking the Caribbean, but Latin America might as well.

In Harris’ role as vice president, she must move the needle on U.S. foreign policy toward the Americas. Given her heritage, Harris should note that the Caribbean is critical to healthy hemispheric relations. By reaching out to Caribbean and promoting a new mission for collaboration, Kamala Harris can bridge the divide in the Hemisphere and heal the fractures of regional polarization all while pursuing U.S. interests that coincide with that of the Caribbean.

About
Wazim Mowla
:
Wazim Mowla is an MA candidate at American University’s School of International Service and is an expert on Caribbean affairs.
About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is a contributing editor with The Diplomatic Courier and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.