Español There is a growing expectation among analysts, diplomats and politicians regarding president elect Donald Trump’s policy toward Latin America. Some fear that Latin America will become even more disaffected or that there will be a shift toward protectionism that reduces our foreign trade. Others, on the contrary, have positive expectations, especially in terms of facing the dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela. A review of the historical changes in US foreign policy might help, I believe, to better understand all possible scenarios.
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We cannot go into profound historical analysis for reasons of space, so let’s begin in the final days of World War II, when the struggle against totalitarianism encouraged democratic reforms in the region. In Guatemala, the United States viewed with great kindness the resignation of Jorge Ubico and the overthrow of the regime that followed him for a few months. But shortly afterward, when the Cold War began against the Soviet Union and Communism, they changed their position: it was not so much a matter of democracy as a firm stance against communism. Thus, friendly relations with Trujillo were resumed in the Dominican Republic and with Somoza in Nicaragua. Such regimes were tolerated and this stance even caused coups against leftist governments.
Then, with the arrival of Jimmy Carter in 1977, a change took place. The fight against pro-Communist guerrillas, encouraged by Fidel Castro from Cuba, moved to second place. Instead, the subject of human rights was promoted. Those who fought against Marxism became enemies, such as the Somozas in Nicaragua and Pinochet in Chile. State coups were neither accepted nor tolerated; rather, non-governmental organizations that opposed the military everywhere were favored.
What can we expect now before the beginning of a new presidency in the United States? It does not appear that Donald Trump has a well-defined ideology, but he will apparently move away from his predecessor’s leftist leanings. A stronger stance on Cuba and Venezuela could be in the cards, which would be very favorable in a regional context. Trump’s statements against free trade, however, cast a shadow over inter-American trade relations.
Let’s hope that, if we act more consistently, we will reverse the human rights policy followed during the more recent administrations of Democratic presidents. It would be a good thing if, instead of persecuting those who fought against communist guerrillas in past decades, US policy is turned against governments that violate elementary human rights in various countries. The hypocrisy of the policy followed so far is striking, and it casts serious doubts over Washington’s true intentions: how can the Obama administration favor Colombia’s FARC while it persecutes the military that fought subversion elsewhere? What human rights are being referred to when countless political prisoners continue to languish in Cuban and Venezuelan prisons while the US engages with these tyrannical governments?
The new administration, therefore, has a pending debt: to show that the United States is the country of freedom and respect for individual rights and not just another version of socialism, the ideology that, in various ways, has negatively affected so many of our people.