The Biden presidency is yet to bring change, but more importantly, it brings hope not only to its neighbours but also to a vastly diverse American people. It would be interesting to see if it lives up to the expectations of their voters.
By Dr Aparaajita Pandey
As the long-drawn vote-counting process finally yielded results and it became certain that the world was in for a Biden presidency; speculations began more definitively than they had been for weeks on what the next four years held for the world. The semiotics of a democrat victory after a particularly vicious Trump presidency is quite clear. A society that’s inclusive and a leader who doesn’t rely on hateful political rhetoric. The reverberations of popular expectations from politics in the US have a proclivity of influencing the patterns of politics in the western hemisphere. A similar trend can now be expected.
Though the Latino vote for Biden in the US was splintered and he was able to garner a much smaller percentage of votes among the traditional Latino vote base in Texas than Hilary Clinton during the last presidential election despite the result; the US relations with Latin America are predicted to experience an upward swing. Joe Biden who was also the Vice – President during the Obama years has had a particular interest in Latin America during his political career, he has built personal relationships with many of the Latin American leaders and has been tracing the trajectory of their careers.
During his time as the Vice President, he visited Latin America a total of sixteen times, higher than Obama and Trump put together. Biden has been vocal in the past about the intrinsic linking of stability in Latin America with stability around the southern US border. The Biden Presidency is being perceived as a continuation of the mostly affable Obama administration. The Trump presidency is understood as an aberration or a disruption in the evolution of stronger ties between Latin America and the US. While Bolton was quick to resurrect the Monroe Doctrine and use phrases like ‘our hemisphere’; Biden has claimed to believe that the US should be a ‘driving force’ in the Latin American region and that they must work together to ‘enable all countries to prosper and grow’.
Latin America today stands more politically and economically unstable than it has been in the past decade. The region was already experiencing recession, violence, instability, fleeing presidents, and protesting people before the outbreak of the Corona Virus. Now in addition to the aforementioned, the continent is crumbling under the pressure of a global pandemic with an inadequate and mostly decrepit public health system. The region also shows clear fault lines in their political terrain with some leaders who have been previously anointed with the title of ‘Tropical Trump’ and a growing number of clearly left-leaning of socialist adjacent regimes. A disillusion from the centre-right and right-wing governments in the region has become apparent with the Argentine and Bolivian elections. The plebiscite of a new constitution in Chile is a watershed not just in Chilean but also Latin American history in general as Chile has been the bastion of neo-liberal stability and prosperity in the continent for decades.
As protests in states grow and voters become fatigued with their present political leadership, it would not be wrong to speculate about a faint possibility of another pink- tide in the region. It would most certainly be in keeping with the theme of the hemisphere. As Biden once envisioned – ‘a hemisphere that was secure, middle class, and democratic form the northern reaches of Canada to the southern tip of Chile’. While Biden does talk about amicable relations between Latin America and the US; he has acknowledged the need to address the root cause of the problem of illegal migration from Central America to the US.
The northern triangle or the Central American nations of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have been the largest source of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers to the US in the recent past. An issue that was one of the foundational pillars of Trump’s rhetoric still remains unaddressed by the Trump regime. While rhetoric, travel bans, and dismissal of asylum seekers and the snatching away of their children were all a part of the Trump presidency, the root of this problem which is the wide-spread violence and instability that people face in the northern triangle was never addressed. Biden has a plan to aid stability and prosperity in the region, the ‘Biden Plan for Central America’ is based in continuous engagement with the region and also foreign aid of four billion USD over the next four years. It’s an attempt to aid the improvement of living conditions and building opportunities for growth and progress in the northern triangle thereby, stymieing the need for seeking asylum or migrating to the US.
Biden as a catholic also has an added advantage in dealing with a region that is a largely catholic and quite religious. The Biden presidency is yet to bring change, but more importantly, it brings hope not only to its neighbours but also to a vastly diverse American people. It would be interesting to see if it lives up to the expectations of their voters.
(The author is an Asst. Professor at the Institute of Public Policy, Amity University and a PhD from Centre for Canadian, US, and Latin American Studies, JNU. Views are personal).