The American Presidential Elections and Latin America
October 9, 2020 9:52 AM
The issue of immigration from Latin America is still holding a pivotal position in the American elections, it is also of great significance for Latin American nations, especially Central American countries.
Uncertainty around the US election is expected to have an impact on dollar, rupee and gold.
By Dr. Aparaajita Pandey
Latin America has long been an inextricable part of American politics. Willingly or unwillingly Latin American nations have often found themselves in the middle of presidential campaigns, political rhetoric, foreign policy agendas, and trade negotiation with the US and as the US presidential elections draw closer, much to the chagrin of some Latin American nations, they have once again become a constituent of future promises and electoral speeches.
While some of it can be disregarded is political hyperbole, it is imperative for Latin America and the Caribbean to both comprehend and apprehend the approach that Trump or Biden could take towards the region. As the Republicans and the Democrats campaign for the forthcoming Presidential elections, the Trump and the Biden camps have also recognised the significance of the Latino vote. It would be prudent for Latin America to decode the Biden and Trump’s plausible strategy towards the region in the near future. As both parties settle in for the final few weeks of campaigning, their intentions with the region should have steadily grown clearer, however, it would not be wrong to say that neither Trump nor the Biden administration has taken a radically different stand on Latin America and the Caribbean from their opponent.
The ambiguity on both sides on the political aisle in the US regarding Latin America and the Caribbean has amplified the Presidential conundrum for the region. The political stance regarding important Latin American issues remains murky and this lack of clarity does not inspire confidence in the region. While the Trump administration has made a habit of reckless rhetoric, the Biden campaign has made no explicit claims of major policy change. Beginning with the oldest bone of contention, the Monroe Doctrine has disappeared and reappeared frequently in the US’ Presidential magic shows since 1823. While the Obama administration was explicitly done with the Doctrine, the Trump administration brought it back. Biden campaign has made cryptic comments about the doctrine where they once relegated it to ‘university faculty lounges’ as a purely theoretical relic of the past and in the same breath mentioned that the foreign threat to Latin America has changed in nature and is now from ‘predatory Chinese businesses and strategic Russian in-roads’, they went on to state that these incursions in the western hemisphere will always be a concern for the US; thereby, breathing life into the very same relic of a Doctrine. While some might argue that Monroe Doctrine no longer holds true or that the politico-economic conditions of Latin America are different, one must not forget that the Monroe Doctrine has been twisted and turned for decades by the US to justify its foreign policy goals, and the future Presidential campaigns show no unequivocal signs of change.
The issue of immigration from Latin America is still holding a pivotal position in the American elections, it is also of great significance for Latin American nations, especially Central American countries. The caravans of immigrants making their way to the US have slowed down partially due to the spread of the Corona Virus and also due to the American policy of relegating anti-immigration duties to Mexico. As more migrants make Mexico their temporary home, the Trump administration lauded themselves for stifling the flow of illegal migrants into the US, however, the Biden campaign has been quick to point out that the transfer of policing duties to Mexico is not even remotely close to being categorised as policy. The Biden campaign has stated that alternate solutions are required to effectively manage the flow of immigrants and asylum seekers; while they have opined that addressing the problem of maladministration and rampant crime in certain Central American nations is essential, the Biden campaign has not clarified their possible policy on the issue.
The Biden campaign has also stated that the American policy of sanctions on Venezuela is ineffective and alternate solutions to the problem must be found. However, the probable policy change has not been publically discussed by the Biden campaign. While it seems likely that dialogue and negotiations will be a part of the ‘alternate solutions’, the Venezuelan counterpart to a possible Biden Presidency remains unclear. Biden campaign like the Trump administration has also endorsed Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, and Guaido is still nowhere close to any real Presidency, it remains unclear if Biden would be willing to initiate diplomatic ties with Maduro. The Trump administration in the past had considered dialogue with the Maduro administration but soon decided otherwise.
The Trump administration had identified friends and foes in Latin America, there was once a ‘Troika of Tyranny’ and Bolsonaro and Duque who were friends. The Biden campaign has the rhetoric of supporting democratic regimes and holding countries responsible for any violations of human rights. While it is true that right of centre regimes across the western hemisphere would possibly act as a support mechanism for each other, it is unlikely that any significant change occurs in the list of traditional American allies and opponents in the Latin American region.
The US stands of the precipice of possible regime change; however, a policy change seems implausible with regards to Latin America and the Caribbean. While the Trump and the Biden campaigns belong to two opposite ends of the political spectrum, their possible policies appear to be quite similar in nature and little or no difference should be expected from the eventual outcome. It would be a better approach for the states in the region to concentrate inwards and work towards establishing robust political and economic structures while redressing the social inequalities. Latin America and the Caribbean like the rest of the world are especially vulnerable presently, but it is the regions prerogative to rebuild themselves. While the road to reconstruction is long and arduous it is also the only plausible path for the Latin American and the Caribbean region that would allow a decoupling from their neighbours to the north and their political interventions in the region.
(The author is an Asst. Professor in the Department of Public Policy, Amity University and has a PhD from the Centre of Canadian, US, and Latin American Studies, JNU. Views expressed are personal.)