.
I

nside the entrance of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) sits a bust of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, a president viewed favorably throughout Latin America for his Alliance for Progress that sought to promote growth in the region. However, despite IDB’s creation often being associated with this initiative, Latin American leaders pushed for the Bank and it formed during the Eisenhower administration. Despite this, Eisenhower’s legacy in Latin America is marked by involvement in the 1954 Guatemalan coup and his response to Castro’s rise. Similarly, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is often credited for ushering in a Golden Age of Inter-American cooperation through the Good Neighbor Policy. Yet elements of the Good Neighbor Policy began during the Hoover Administration.

While the Trump administration’s policies towards Latin America have harmed the relationship, there are some elements of the administration’s regional policy that could be expanded to promote improved relations with the region. In Biden’s efforts to improve hemispheric affairs, he would be wise to learn from the legacies of Kennedy and FDR and not toss out all of Trump’s Latin American policies, but rather rebrand those elements that have the potential to promote more collaboration in the Americas.

Despite President Trump’s decision to be the first U.S. president to skip the Summit of the Americas in 2018 and the President’s lack of visits to the region, Latin America and the Caribbean have received a good deal of attention from high ranking officials and received cabinet level visits on several occasions. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has visited several countries in the region that have not had secretarial visits in recent history, including Paraguay, Guyana, and Suriname. Similarly, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis made sure to visit Latin America. This level of attention has led some to say that the Trump administration is reinvigorating U.S.-Latin American foreign policy and the Inter-American system. As region that the United States is often accused of ignoring, this level of attention is beneficial and can improve relations between North and South America. While the key priorities will look different under a Biden administration, maintaining this level of interaction will be key to ensuring a close working relationship with the region.

Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks concerning Venezuela to the Lima Group Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, at the Foreign Ministry in Bogota, Colombia. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

One area where the Trump administration has made important inroads and promoted regional cooperation is within defense relationships in the region. In addition to naming Brazil as a Major Non-NATO Ally, U.S. Southern Command has worked to strengthen partnerships across the region. In fact, SouthCom is so devoted to the idea of partnership that in their 2019 strategy that it uses the word partner (or some variation of it) 64 times in the eight-page document. These partnerships can lead to closer relations in other areas and allow the United States to support drug interdiction efforts and natural disaster response in a more collective and effective manner. As such, Biden should continue to expand these military-to-military partnerships so as to be able to work more closely with the region to address collective challenges. This could be particularly beneficial to on issues of climate change resilience and disaster response given the impacts that hurricanes have across the Caribbean.

The Trump Administration’s America Crecé program also has the potential to improve U.S.-Latin American relations if it is adjusted and integrated into a broader vision for the Hemisphere. While the Trump administration has framed much of this program as a mechanism for combatting Chinese influence in the region, the program offers much more promise and space for collaboration. As the United States and Latin America seek to recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding ways to collaborate and generate growth across the Americas is in the interest of all countries. The economic ties that connect the region as well as the proximity of countries offers the opportunity for economic growth to be mutually beneficial to all countries in the region and support one another. The Biden administration should view economic growth in the region as a way not only of supporting U.S. interests and growth, but as a means for improving relations with the region. While changing the tenor of the purpose of America Crecé away from one of boosting U.S. influence vis-à-vis China to one of mutual cooperation is necessary, the initiative sets out a framework that allows for mutual benefit and economic cooperation.

One key area where Trump took a keen interest in Latin America was the so-called “Troika of Tyranny;” Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. The Trump administration was right to confront challenges to democracy in the Americas and a Biden administration should continue to push for democracy in the region. However, the Trump administration’s approach to defining threats to democracy in the region was skewed by political preferences rather than recognizing threats to democracy in the region. While the administration paid close attention to democratic crises in countries like Venezuela, it ignored challenges to democracy occurring in countries that the region viewed as allies. For instance, following questions of the legitimacy of the 2017 Honduran election, President Trump quickly congratulated incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez on his electoral victory. While the Biden administration should continue to support democracy in the Americas, it should do so with an eye to protecting democracy in all countries of the region regardless of ideology. Only then can the United States speak with authority and legitimacy in being an advocate of democracy in the Americas.

As the Biden Administration develops its foreign policy towards Latin America, not all of Trump’s plans should be thrown out. The Biden administration should salvage these components and build upon them to develop a sound regional policy that seeks to support regional integration and collaboration. Building upon these elements rather than discarding areas where positive actions have been taken can allow a Biden administration to not only improve Inter-American relations, but create a legacy of Hemispheric cooperation along the lines of JFK or FDR. With the United States hosting the ninth Summit of the Americas in 2021, the Biden administration has a chance to lay out this vision and usher in a new Golden Age in Hemispheric Affairs. However, this will not be accomplished if sound policies are aborted on the basis of which administration started them.

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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Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater

Vice President Mike Pence meets with Colombian President Ivan Duque and Venezuelan President Juan Guaido to discuss the humanitarian situation in Venezuela Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, at the Foreign Ministry in Bogota, Colombia. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

November 14, 2020

I

nside the entrance of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) sits a bust of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, a president viewed favorably throughout Latin America for his Alliance for Progress that sought to promote growth in the region. However, despite IDB’s creation often being associated with this initiative, Latin American leaders pushed for the Bank and it formed during the Eisenhower administration. Despite this, Eisenhower’s legacy in Latin America is marked by involvement in the 1954 Guatemalan coup and his response to Castro’s rise. Similarly, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is often credited for ushering in a Golden Age of Inter-American cooperation through the Good Neighbor Policy. Yet elements of the Good Neighbor Policy began during the Hoover Administration.

While the Trump administration’s policies towards Latin America have harmed the relationship, there are some elements of the administration’s regional policy that could be expanded to promote improved relations with the region. In Biden’s efforts to improve hemispheric affairs, he would be wise to learn from the legacies of Kennedy and FDR and not toss out all of Trump’s Latin American policies, but rather rebrand those elements that have the potential to promote more collaboration in the Americas.

Despite President Trump’s decision to be the first U.S. president to skip the Summit of the Americas in 2018 and the President’s lack of visits to the region, Latin America and the Caribbean have received a good deal of attention from high ranking officials and received cabinet level visits on several occasions. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has visited several countries in the region that have not had secretarial visits in recent history, including Paraguay, Guyana, and Suriname. Similarly, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis made sure to visit Latin America. This level of attention has led some to say that the Trump administration is reinvigorating U.S.-Latin American foreign policy and the Inter-American system. As region that the United States is often accused of ignoring, this level of attention is beneficial and can improve relations between North and South America. While the key priorities will look different under a Biden administration, maintaining this level of interaction will be key to ensuring a close working relationship with the region.

Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks concerning Venezuela to the Lima Group Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, at the Foreign Ministry in Bogota, Colombia. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

One area where the Trump administration has made important inroads and promoted regional cooperation is within defense relationships in the region. In addition to naming Brazil as a Major Non-NATO Ally, U.S. Southern Command has worked to strengthen partnerships across the region. In fact, SouthCom is so devoted to the idea of partnership that in their 2019 strategy that it uses the word partner (or some variation of it) 64 times in the eight-page document. These partnerships can lead to closer relations in other areas and allow the United States to support drug interdiction efforts and natural disaster response in a more collective and effective manner. As such, Biden should continue to expand these military-to-military partnerships so as to be able to work more closely with the region to address collective challenges. This could be particularly beneficial to on issues of climate change resilience and disaster response given the impacts that hurricanes have across the Caribbean.

The Trump Administration’s America Crecé program also has the potential to improve U.S.-Latin American relations if it is adjusted and integrated into a broader vision for the Hemisphere. While the Trump administration has framed much of this program as a mechanism for combatting Chinese influence in the region, the program offers much more promise and space for collaboration. As the United States and Latin America seek to recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding ways to collaborate and generate growth across the Americas is in the interest of all countries. The economic ties that connect the region as well as the proximity of countries offers the opportunity for economic growth to be mutually beneficial to all countries in the region and support one another. The Biden administration should view economic growth in the region as a way not only of supporting U.S. interests and growth, but as a means for improving relations with the region. While changing the tenor of the purpose of America Crecé away from one of boosting U.S. influence vis-à-vis China to one of mutual cooperation is necessary, the initiative sets out a framework that allows for mutual benefit and economic cooperation.

One key area where Trump took a keen interest in Latin America was the so-called “Troika of Tyranny;” Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. The Trump administration was right to confront challenges to democracy in the Americas and a Biden administration should continue to push for democracy in the region. However, the Trump administration’s approach to defining threats to democracy in the region was skewed by political preferences rather than recognizing threats to democracy in the region. While the administration paid close attention to democratic crises in countries like Venezuela, it ignored challenges to democracy occurring in countries that the region viewed as allies. For instance, following questions of the legitimacy of the 2017 Honduran election, President Trump quickly congratulated incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez on his electoral victory. While the Biden administration should continue to support democracy in the Americas, it should do so with an eye to protecting democracy in all countries of the region regardless of ideology. Only then can the United States speak with authority and legitimacy in being an advocate of democracy in the Americas.

As the Biden Administration develops its foreign policy towards Latin America, not all of Trump’s plans should be thrown out. The Biden administration should salvage these components and build upon them to develop a sound regional policy that seeks to support regional integration and collaboration. Building upon these elements rather than discarding areas where positive actions have been taken can allow a Biden administration to not only improve Inter-American relations, but create a legacy of Hemispheric cooperation along the lines of JFK or FDR. With the United States hosting the ninth Summit of the Americas in 2021, the Biden administration has a chance to lay out this vision and usher in a new Golden Age in Hemispheric Affairs. However, this will not be accomplished if sound policies are aborted on the basis of which administration started them.

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.