January 19, 2017 By FTI Consulting
Beyond immigration and trade with Mexico, president-elect Donald Trump and his team have remained conspicuously silent about Latin America. Trump did complain a few times about President Barack Obama’s “terrible deal” with Cuba, and his nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, testified at his confirmation hearing that he would advise the president to veto any changes to the Cuban embargo.
Trump has also identified Brazil as one of the exporters “taking advantage” of the US. But where the new government will stand on issues like peacemaking in Colombia, Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, bilateral relations with Brazil or violence in Central America still remains largely unknown.
There have been some clues, however. For instance, the second echelon of the new administration will have a few known anti-Chavista and anti-Castro advocates. It remains to be seen to what extent they will shape policymaking in the region – particularly with regard to left-wing governments in Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador – but the cautious approach of the Obama years will give way to something new, and possibly much more confrontational.
Last week, the president-elect received a group with Latin American interests at Trump Tower. They were a heterogeneous crowd: a former Guatemalan ambassador to Washington, a former State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary appointed by Obama, the CEO of a PR group focusing on the Latino community and a Florida businessman who had worked with Trump. According to one of the participants, they mostly discussed immigration, but also the situation in Venezuela and Argentina. Trump asked about Venezuelan opposition leaders who remain in jail and said he personally knew Argentinian President Mauricio Macri and expected the Argentinian economy to grow again soon.
Latin America does not have a South China Sea, ISIS or Ukraine, so its importance for U.S. national security and foreign policy is secondary. And Trump’s engagement with the region has been limited to domestically-driven issues: immigration and “protecting” U.S. jobs. As president, however, this will have to change. Crucial questions remain unaddressed.
This week, our team outlines Argentina’s “pre-campaign” season ahead of the October legislative elections. We have also been looking at the winners and losers in Colombia’s fiscal reform, as well as two key issues regarding Mexico: the political fallout of the “gasolinazo” and how Luis Videgaray is emerging as a sort of prime minister and potential candidate for president in 2018.