Latin America has not been a priority for the government of Donald Trump, nor will it occupy a very prominent place in the agenda of the new president of the United States, Joe Biden, embedded in other domestic and international urgencies.
But the Democrat knows the region like no one else because when he was vice president he was appointed by Barack Obama as the person in charge of the area, to which he has traveled many times and that is why it is expected that the relationship may perhaps have a higher profile. The crisis in Venezuela will continue to be one of the issues that most concerns the United States.
“Biden is perhaps the president with the most experience with Latin America in the history of the United States, at least in recent history. He is a person who understands the region, who has spent a lot of time in the area, has an understanding of the strategic importance of Latin America. In that sense, I think we can expect the region to have a high profile compared to the profile that another president with similar characteristics would have had. Obviously, there are general challenges in foreign policy, and especially in domestic policy that will demand the attention of the team that enters, “he told Clarion Michael Camilleri, who served in the Obama-Biden administration as a Western Hemisphere advisor to the State Department’s Strategy team.
For Camilleri, there will be several changes regarding the Trump administration. “Probably with Cuba we are going to see at least a partial reestablishment of the measures that the Obama administration had adopted. It seems to me that in front of Brazil we are going to see a clear difference in the relationship of what today is called the romance between Jair Bolsonaro and Trump. Clearly, there will not be the same level of affinity between the two presidents. The question is whether there could be a bilateral cooperation relationship on some issues, especially on climate change, ”he said.
The relationship with the government of Nicolás Maduro, in Venezuela, will be a policy priority for the region. Photo: REUTERS
Change of tone
One of the most important concerns of the United States in the region is Venezuela. Consulted by Clarion, Arturo Valenzuela, who was advisor for Latin America to the National Security Council during the Obama administration, said that “any way out for Venezuela, particularly with the problems that are occurring with the oil industry at the international level and being a country that has depending too much on one product, it’s going to be very difficult. “
According to Valenzuela, “obviously it is important, but I think that, unlike the Trump administration, which only became obsessed with the matter but did not achieve any effective solution, it is going to be an important issue for Biden, although he has to face a joint work and not only with Latin American countries but also with European countries ”.
Camilleri added about Venezuela that “the changes are going to be more modest and will take a little longer to become clear. What we could have immediately is a transformation of the tone. The concern for democracy and human rights violations in Venezuela will not change, and this has been consistent for many years. But we are not going to listen to Trump’s belligerent, ideological and ultimately empty rhetoric. That is going to disappear ”.
Another topic where there is possibly a twist is on Cuba. Obama and Raúl Castro had thawed bilateral relations, even the American had traveled to Havana. But Trump tightened the bond again.
Bararck Obama and Raúl Castro, in the historic visit to the island of the former Democratic president. Photo: AP
In this regard, Valenzuela pointed out that “President Obama’s policy was not one of rapprochement with the government of Cuba, it was a policy that dealt with how to bring the United States closer to the world and rather to the citizens of Cuba. How to try to encourage a situation where citizens could regain a certain autonomy from the government for the first time in a long time. From that, to strengthen the foundations for a transition. “
The expert added that “Biden should advance carefully and with some patience. We must begin to build a kind of autonomy for civil society in Cuba from the dominance of what is one of the last totalitarian governments in the world. Biden would seek to deal with to build relationships more directly with the population. Today, after the collapse of Venezuela and when there are no more subsidies from Caracas for Cuba, the Cuban economy is in a very disastrous situation. “
The main promises of the president of the United States Joe Biden. / AFP
The role of China
On Chinese influence in the region, Camilleri noted that the US concern on the issue “is going to continue. But I think the strategy is going to be different. “
Camilleri recalled that “the Trump administration spoke a lot about this, it tried to impose its vision of the Chinese threat in the region, but without many results. I think that in the Biden administration we will see less of that rhetoric, at least in public. and an acknowledgment that you not only have to talk about the issue but you have to compete, that finally you have to offer something ”.
Asked about the possibilities of Biden arriving more investments to the region, he pointed out: “The United States is not China, it does not direct its companies where to invest and therefore, it is not a decision that is made in the White House. These are autonomous decisions that US investors make based on market conditions. There are things that the government can do to facilitate and encourage. But ultimately it will depend on the conditions offered by the countries ”.