The past week in U.S. policy toward Latin America
- The OAS Permanent Council met on March 28 to discuss Venezuela for three highly contentious hours. The meeting, supported by the U.S. and other governments, did not end up invoking the OAS Democratic Charter to suspend Venezuela, as Secretary-General Luis Almagro has been urging. (The United States had been one of 14 governments to sign a letter calling on Venezuela to free political prisoners, respect the opposition-run legislature, and call local elections.) Before the meeting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) warned Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador that they might face U.S. aid cuts if they opposed the diplomatic effort against Venezuela; all three ignored Rubio and voted for Venezuela’s unsuccessful motion to cancel the OAS meeting altogether.
- A Bloomberg editorial recommended that the U.S. government “lead from behind” on Venezuela, working with the region to push for a solution to the country’s political crisis. “Filling empty ambassadorial slots at the OAS and Argentina wouldn’t hurt,” Bloomberg notes.
- Speaking of empty seats, both a New York Times editorial and a column from the Miami Herald’s Andrés Oppenheimer excoriated the Trump administration’s decision to boycott March 21 sessions of the OAS Inter-American Human Rights Commission examining U.S. migration policies. “The failure to send representatives puts the United States in ignominious company,” the Times wrote. “During the commission’s most recent session, only the governments of Cuba and Nicaragua chose not to face their critics.”
- The commander of the U.S. Southern Command’s Marine component said that, for the third straight year, a contingent of about 300 U.S. Marines will spend the summer in Central America, working out of the U.S. facility at a Honduran military base in Palmerola.
- The president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, was in Washington last week. A Homeland Security Department press release about Hernández’s meeting with Secretary John Kelly gushed about Honduras’s “recent successes,” maintaining the admiring tone that Gen. Kelly adopted when he commanded U.S. Southern Command between 2012 and 2016. When Hernández visited the U.S. Congress, he was confronted by protesters, including friends and relatives of murdered human rights defender Berta Cáceres, chanting “murderer.” In November, Hernández will be on Honduras’s presidential ballot seeking re-election, although eight years ago he supported a coup that purportedly intended to prevent then-President Manuel Zelaya from seeking re-election.
- The world’s fastest-strengthening currency since January 20, 2017 is the Mexican peso. “[T]he foreign exchange rates may be telling us that the Trump administration’s policies are no longer being viewed as quite so harmful to Mexico — and to other emerging markets,” Jeff Sommer explains in the New York Times.
- The Economist explores policy options for dealing with Colombia’s booming coca crop, including the longtime U.S. government favorite, aerial herbicide fumigation. For now, though, “the Americans are not publicly advocating a return to spraying—not least because proposed cuts to foreign aid would make it hard to pay for.”
- A Washington Post column by three historians compares Donald Trump to Argentine strongman Juan Perón. “By representing himself as the embodiment of the American spirit and its everyday people (despite the fact that he lost the popular vote), Trump has invented himself a popular mandate to turn the country upside down.” This is not encouraging since, 62 years after Perón’s first and longest period in power, Argentina still hasn’t gotten out from under his legacy.