- The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a strongly bipartisan resolution praising Central America’s anti-corruption efforts, like the UN-sponsored CICIG in Guatemala and the OAS-run MACCIH in Honduras. WOLA praised the resolution in a statement.
- Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) introduced a bipartisan resolution reaffirming the “strategic partnership” with Mexico. The resolution—made necessary by bouts of Mexico-bashing at the highest levels of the current U.S. administration—hails bilateral defense ties, although it also mentions human rights concerns in Mexico.
- In Honduras, U.S. Ambassador James Nealon told reporters, “We’ve adopted the policy of not working with the military police [Honduras’s Military Public Order Police, or PMOP] because for us it is much better to focus on reform of the National Police, I believe we all agree that democratic countries should have a civilian National Police that’s at the service of the people, which is why we’ve made the decision to focus on this civilian police reform process and not divert ourselves with the Military Police.” Nealon added, “I believe we all agree, too, that the military’s presence in the streets has to be temporary, it can’t replace the National Police, that doesn’t make sense.”
- The future of U.S. aid to post-conflict Colombia came up, in vague but generally hopeful terms, in a few statements from officials.
Colombian Ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzón, interviewed by the Washington Times:
“Mr. Pinzon has said he remains confident that the U.S. will provide nearly a half-billion dollars pledged under President Obama for Peace Colombia, although Colombia must ‘make its case’ to Congress and the White House that the money will be well spent.
“The shift from President Obama to President Trump ‘is not as schizophrenic as some make it out to be for us,’ the ambassador said, ‘because support for Colombia has long been strongly bipartisan.’
“…The biggest difficulty in the transition is one shared by virtually every embassy in town: the slow pace of appointments and confirmations for key posts across the State Department and other key agencies. ‘In many cases, we don’t yet have the people in place we need to talk to, and those in the very senior positions are very busy,’ he said.”
Ambassador Pinzón, in an interview with WLRN’s Tim Padgett:
“[W]e can have a working relationship with President Trump. I’m absolutely sure. I’ve been speaking with some of the secretaries of the Cabinet. President Santos and President Trump have spoken twice already, so…”
Padgett: “And Colombia isn’t too concerned about the rhetoric against Latinos and immigrants?”
Pinzón: “Well, we care for our people. We want the respect for their rights, their human rights. But on the other hand, we are respectful of internal U.S. politics and internal U.S. regulations.”
An unnamed State Department official in a discussion of global de-mining support:
“Right now as the United States works through its budget process both for the current budget here that we’re in right now, Fiscal Year 2017, as well as the next budget year, we are evaluating how our assistance funds can be best utilized to support the highest U.S. priorities. Supporting the peace process in Colombia has traditionally been a high priority for the United States. We look forward to working with the Colombian Government in order to make sure that our assistance dollars are utilized as effectively as possible.”
- Mic.com reports that businessmen with ties to Donald Trump’s son met with White House National Security Council staff, and top advisor Steve Bannon, to plead the case for lifting sanctions on Venezuela. To prove their bona fides, one of the businessmen even placed a call to Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez from an NSC official’s office.
- Amid further breakdowns in Venezuela’s democratic order, the U.S. approach continues to be a subject of debate. “Our goal is to support the functioning of democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela, and not seek Venezuela’s suspension from the OAS in the short term,” a State Department official told reporters. Another Washington Post editorial urged the State Department to push for Venezuela’s suspension from the OAS, although a regional consensus in favor of this doesn’t exist yet. WOLA contends that the present approach makes sense, as “heavy-handed U.S. involvement” is likely to be counterproductive.
- Brazilian President Michael Temer is considering a visit to the White House, a topic discussed in a March 18 phone call with Donald Trump.
- A Colombian Navy submarine is in Mayport, Florida, for training under the U.S. Navy’s “Diesel Electric Submarine Initiative” (DESI), described as “an international training program for anti-submarine warfare.” An article at Southern Command’s Diálogo website notes, “The program focuses specifically on the United States’ cooperation with its South American partner nations that own submarines, such as Colombia, Peru, and Chile. DESI seeks to expand to include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, France, and Germany.”
- U.S. Army personnel will be in Belize from March 25 through early June building medical clinics, classrooms, and similar facilities alongside the Belizean Defense Force. The total value of these few months of projects is $10 million, about 10 times what the State Department’s development and humanitarian programs deliver to Belize in a year.