It is a fact that the upcoming elections in the United States will have a significant impact on relations with almost all the countries around the world, especially with our Latin American and the Caribbean neighbors. Why? Because these countries are facing great challenges, and with the exception of Brazil and Venezuela, have been by and large ignored by the current administration. This policy of overlooking the region has been a significant departure from the previous approach of prior administrations.
As a result, the question then becomes; where does Latin America and Caribbean stand currently? What will happen if the Trump administration remains in power or if former Vice President Joe Biden is elected in November? Let us take a moment to dive into what is happening with our Latin American and Caribbean neighbors. One of the most important issues to examine is the influence of China across the region as a dominant force, particularly in terms of trade and investment. The country has positioned itself as the chief exporter and the source of capital for important infrastructure projects such as ports and highways across the region.
What strategies should be implemented in order to improve the relations between the U.S. and its neighbors around the region?
The candidate who prevails in November must prioritize improving relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. In doing so, the United States will be able to strengthen economic relations and establish as well as renew effective bilateral and multilateral trade relations. It will also have to address the ongoing immigration crisis at the border and will be in a position to define clear and specific policies regarding Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. It is critical not to lose perspective that Haiti continues to suffer as the region’s most impoverished nation and without Washington’s support their future will remain dire.
Moreover, Cuba will continue to be a challenge to the United States. In the over 60 years since the Cuban Revolution, there has not been a significant improvement in relations between the two countries. The next administration should seek to gain Cuban recognition for the civil rights of its citizens, promote a path to open trade relations, and to abandon the ban on travel restrictions.
Develop a strategic plan in which all the entire region has a critical role
It is critical for the next administration to establish a strategic plan which includes all key regional participants. Rather than continuing to implement greater restrictions and inhumane policies to stop immigrants from crossing the border, the United States should engage its neighbors in Central America to develop strategies together to address the problem and its challenges.
Cultivate Cooperation Regionally
Economic assistance packages, law and order training, intelligence collaboration, trade deals, and the support to strengthen democracies in the region should be the major pillars of U.S. policy toward the region. Therefore, cooperative agreements must be part of the policy framework of the next four years.
It is also of great importance for the U.S. and the region to work together on addressing climate change and promoting poverty reduction across the Western Hemisphere. Both issues are at the very core of daily life and should bring the region together to have an impact on our region and around the world.
Aid in Economic Recovery brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic
To ensure long-term recovery from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, especially in terms of restoration of economic and health security, bilateral and multi-lateral relations between the region and the U.S. has to become a beacon of fortitude.
The tourism industry has been badly battered around the region. A significant segment of the sector closed for months in a row, and even now, of the few that are trying to re-open, the challenges are almost impossible to tackle. As a result, it is critical to identify strategies to promote tourism around the region, offering support by sharing data as well as best practices that can aid in a quicker and more resilient recovery.
Implement Communications Strategies
It will also be essential to develop and implement communication strategies across the region to position the U.S. as a good neighbor who cares about what is happening and is always willing to lend a hand when needed.
Equally, it will be important to promote collaboration with regional NGOs, participating in every forum available where public policies and the challenges impacting the entire region are being discussed. This will be fundamental to gain the trust in the region. Becoming their voices and publicly acknowledge their triumphs should be part of that narrative.
Regardless of who wins the next elections, the message to Latin America and the Caribbean is that they must be prepared to engage with a new Washington in 2021; with a new agenda that will position their countries and strengthen ties with the capital. With this strategic approach and message, the US will become the best ally.