To date, Latin America is not at all the region where the US President Donald Trump can count on popular support. From the beginning of the electoral campaign of the current head of the White House, the Latin American mass media were replicating his statements about immigrants from the “dirty holes”, which at that time were widely perceived at their own expense, and the intent to wall off from Mexico, hit the pride of many Latin Americans. Trump’s working visit to South America was eagerly awaited in the region, mostly in connection with the annual Summit of the Americas, which will take place in Peru on the 13-14 of April. The cancellation of the first trip of Donald Trump to Latin America, which was scheduled for the end of this week, was the 10th of April like “thunder from the blue”. How did the Latin Americans react to such action? And how much were expected the countries of the region of this visit?
The White House Press Secretary, Sarah Saunders, reported on the 10th of April that Donald Trump will remain in the country, because of his employment in developing and preparing a response to the chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma (Eastern Ghouta), located 10 kilometers from Damascus. Two days before, Donald Trump accused Russia and Iran of supporting the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad, who, as he said, was destroying his own people. During the statement of the Press Secretary, it was noted that the president will remain in the US to monitor the rapidly developing events in the world and undertake operational decisions.
According to a number of humanitarian organizations, on the night of the 7th of April, the helicopter dropped a barrel bomb with chemicals over the city of Douma, which at the moment is defined as the last hotbed of resistance of jihadists and insurgents in the region. Most of the victims – civilians – are women and children, as the activists emphasize. According to the latest information, at least 42 people died, and more than 500 people went to hospitals.
Sarah Sanders said in her statement that at the Summit of the Americas in Lima, instead of Trump, the USA will be represented by the Vice President Mike Pence. As reported earlier by the White House, the US leader planned to go on his first “tour” in Latin America, the program of which included the visit to Peru, as well as Colombia. After the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Donald Trump intended to go to the Colombian capital Bogotá. But now this plan is canceled.
As early as the beginning of the year, when planning the first visit to Latin America of Donald Trump, it was reported that the US president, within the framework of his first Latin American tour, will raise issues of border security, democracy and mutually beneficial trade with partners in the region. Latin Americans were looking forward to the visit of the first person of the USA with impatience, because Latin America is a region that was more influenced by the victory of the billionaire in the presidential elections of the “northern” neighbor.
If you look at the map of the world with your eyes to the South, then the first country, that attracted attention, will be Mexico. After the arrival of Donald Trump to power in the White House, the Mexican authorities still seriously fear for relations with the United States. Firstly, from the beginning, Trump showed his intolerance to illegal immigrants, and most of them, as well as legal migrants, according to official statistics, it was from Mexico – in 2014 the number of diasporas was 28% of the total number of foreigners permanently residing in the USA.
If you really believe Trump’s words, then on the border with the “southern” neighbor, he intends to construct a real wall. This construction, he said, will be paid by Mexico itself – in the likely plans of Trump to impose a tax on migrant home remittances. After such statements, during his electoral campaign, the Mexicans were really scared of his speech, even when Trump was still a candidate from the Republican Party.
Secondly, moving away from the socio-economic fear of a clean economy, it is worth emphasizing that the Mexico’s membership in the NAFTA, like the free trade agreement itself between the USA, Canada and Mexico, the current US leader also does not suit. According to him, this agreement “was the worst deal in history”. The environment of the elected president even before the elections developed an action plan for the first 100 days after Trump’s entry into office. One of the points of this plan is the adoption of a formal decision on the withdrawal of the United States from the NAFTA or the preservation of membership in the NAFTA provided a drastic revision of the terms of the agreement.
The sharp statements affected not only the “southern” neighbor of the United States, but also a number of other countries in the region. It is worth recalling that in December of 2014, the former US leader Barack Obama announced a decision to restore relations with Cuba, since the policy of isolating the Island of Liberty has not yielded results. In 2015, after more than a 50-year hiatus in Washington and Havana, the embassies of both countries were reopened, and many of the restrictions that were applied against Cuba were lifted. However, the new administration of Trump immediately took a more categorical position in relation to the Cuban authorities.
Over the past year, Washington tightened the sanctions regime against Venezuela, personal restrictions were imposed against the President of the Bolivarian Republic, Nicolás Maduro, whom Trump repeatedly called dictator. Earlier, the US president even expressed the hope that the EU countries will also follow the example of the US administration and impose sanctions on the Venezuelan authorities, and also said that they do not exclude the possibility of military operations in Venezuela.
In Latin America, the sense of anxiety about the US policy in the region continues to increase. First and foremost, Latin American countries are concerned about the trade and financial relations what are being built with the United States, as well as their future prospects.
Currently, the region is showing the first signs of economic recovery. The repeated statements by Trump about economic measures in the region, in particular, the US president’s plans to tighten migration rules, the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico, duties on Mexican goods, and the transfer of the US automotive plants from Mexico to the US led to the depreciation of national currencies not only in Mexico, but also in a number of Latin American countries that are in the common production chain.
However, the United States is most likely to hit the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the greatest blow to the countries of Latin America.
For these and many other reasons, at the upcoming Summit of the Americas, Latin American countries intend to jointly with the United States give a worthy response to new challenges and maintain their access to the international financial market. Despite the fact that the Vice-President will represent the USA in the Summit, Latin American leaders are disappointed that they will not be able to face the current first person of the “northern” neighbor.
The Summit of the Americas will once again raise not only regional but also global issues in the field of economy, trade and security. The results of this major regional event will necessarily affect the course of the development of relations between the USA and Latin American countries. How will the Summit of the Americas take place, and will the Vice-President of the United States find common points of contact with regional leaders – is still unclear. However, it’s time for the White House administration to finally realize that the policy in Latin America should be aimed not at building the walls, but on building bridges.