The new administration displays a multilateral diary , but on crucial issues maintains Trump-era measures
With domestic affairs a priority due to Covid, the new Biden administration's attention to Latin America has generally been relegated to a very low priority. Abroad, negotiations with Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been the focus of US diplomacy, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken taking centre stage. But some regional issues have domestic repercussions in the US, such as migration and drug trafficking, and Biden has put his Vice President, Kamala Harris, at the forefront of these problems management . With Biden's direct dialogue with his hemispheric counterparts hampered by the pandemic, it is Harris who is leading the meetings with the Mexican and Central American authorities, as in the trip she will make in June.
article / Miguel García-Miguel
Once in office, Joe Biden found a very different landscape from the one he had left behind after serving as Barack Obama's vice-president. Donald Trump pursued an isolationist and certainly not paternalistic policy compared to what has often been the character of the US relationship with its Western Hemisphere neighbours. Trump had a dominant and imposing tone at times core topic, such as during the T-MEC negotiations or in the application of sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela, but the rest of the time he disengaged from the region. This lack of involvement was to the liking of populist leaders of different persuasions, such as Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro.
In the next four years, the Biden-Harris administration can be expected to return to multilateralism, action on climate change and the promotion of democracy and human rights, issues that are at the heart of the current US diary . These issues, as well as those related to migratory pressure and the desirability of countering China and Russia in the region with a "vaccine diplomacy" of their own, will shape relations with neighbouring countries. For the moment, however, Biden has maintained Trump's signature measures and is taking his time to detail what his Latin America policy should be.
NORTHERN TRIANGLE: Aid and growing tension with Bukele
During his election campaign, Joe Biden promised that if he became president he would carry out an aid plan for Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that would amount to 4 billion dollars over four years and that would aim to promote the region's development in order to prevent the massive flow of migrants to the United States. Previously, as vice-president, Biden was directly involved in the Alliance for Prosperity that Obama launched in 2014 in the wake of a previous migration crisis, which sought to provide more than 750 million dollars a year to the Northern Triangle; the programme, which Trump reduced budget , did not prevent the new migration boom seen in recent years.
Undoubtedly, the region, one of the poorest in the world, needs incentives for its development development, but it also continues to face serious problems such as its propensity for natural disasters, dependence on foreign companies to exploit its resources, and the poor governance of its politicians. Thus, Washington has included among its priorities the denunciation of corruption in the Northern Triangle countries, publishing lists of corrupt politicians, already begun with Trump and now expanded with Biden. Precisely these denunciations and the anti-democratic drift of El Salvador's president, Nayib Bukele, are turning a relationship that Bukele had cultivated during the Trump era into a hostile one.
MEXICO: Migration and environment
Mexico, as a country with which it shares an extensive border, has always been a point core topic in US foreign policy and one of its priorities. With the arrival of the Biden Administration, more friction with López Obrador is expected than during Trump's presidency. Increased migratory pressure on the US-Mexico border is complicating Biden's presidency and risks damaging the electoral prospects of Vice President Kamala Harris, whom Biden has directly tasked with managing the migration crisis, which this year is breaking a new record. In addition, Mexico's limitations on the presence of the DEA, the US counter-narcotics agency, have strained relations. Biden has not yet travelled to Mexico, despite the fact that visit is one of the first visits made by US presidents.
Biden's environmentalist policy clashes directly with the interests of the Mexican president, who is focused on building a new large refinery instead of promote renewable energies. Precisely one of the points of tension will be the electricity reform that López Obrador plans to carry out, which will further limit the participation of private companies in the electricity sector and promote the use of non-renewable energies, which are in the hands of the state. The reform was recently suspended by a federal judge, but the government is expected to appeal the blockage. The obstacles to liberalisation fit poorly with the renewed agreement Free Trade Agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada (T-MEC).
COLOMBIA: Protests, peace accords and Venezuelan refugees
With Colombia, the Biden administration is in a period of trial and error. Following President Iván Duque's rapprochement with Trump, despite the latter's initial rebuffs, the Colombian government was praised by Biden for having decided to grant temporary protection status to the almost two million Venezuelan refugees living in the country. Biden congratulated Duque in February by letter, but so far there has been no interview between the two, not even by telephone.
The violent protests in Colombia, which have been met by a police management that has been widely criticised by civil service examination, have not undermined the Biden administration's expressed support for Duque for the moment, but the status could become unstable with the prospect of the presidential elections in May 2022. Washington is uneasy about some missteps in the implementation of the 2016 peace accords, such as the assassination of former guerrillas who have laid down their arms and of social leaders. In any case, Colombia is a convenient ally in the fight against drug trafficking, a task in which the two countries have long collaborated closely since the US's push for Plan Colombia.
Finally, Bogotá can also be useful to the US government in managing the Venezuelan crisis, and not only when it comes to retaining immigrants in the Andean country. The new channels of negotiation that Biden wants to open, while maintaining pressure on Maduro, require a regional consensus of support.
CUBA: The unknown of a post-Castro openness, at least economically
The Obama administration, in which Biden was vice president, carried out a historic rapprochement with Cuba by re-establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. Although Trump maintained this diplomatic recognition, he eliminated some provisions that extended the contact with the island and imposed new sanctions. After the harsh policies of his predecessor, Biden will not for the time being stage a return to Obama's policies. The Cuban government did not reciprocate with signs of openness and favouring an immobile regime may have electoral consequences in the US. The possibility of Trump running in 2024 could project a new struggle for the Latino vote in Florida, particularly the Cuban vote, in a state that Biden lost in 2020.
Even so, the Biden Administration will try to loosen some of the sanctions, as has been seen with the authorisation to send remittances to the island. For its part, Cuba will probably play quid pro quo diplomacy and wait for its neighbours to take the first steps towards open policies, basically on economic issues.
VENEZUELA: Options for a credible dialogue
In Venezuela, the recovery of democracy and free elections remain the main focus goal and Biden has maintained the sanctions against the regime of Nicolás Maduro established by Trump. The new administration has moderated its language and taken off the table the possibility of military intervention, which was more rhetoric; however, it still considers Maduro a dictator and recognises Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president.
The priority is a negotiated solution, based on upcoming electoral processes, but talks have only been tentatively opened and so far no clear interlocutors or forums have been established. The US will try to cooperate with multilateral organisations such as the OAS, the group de Lima or the European Union to try to resolve the country's political and economic crisis. Cuba also enters into the equation in some way, as a change in Venezuela would considerably harm the island if the Castro successors decide to continue with the communist model .
Moreover, as with the Cuban issue, the attitude towards Chavismo has electoral consequences in the US, especially in Florida, as seen in the 2020 presidential election, so it is difficult for Biden to ease pressure on Maduro before the mid-term elections in November 2022. Biden has granted Venezuelans in the US temporary protected status.
BRAZIL: The Amazon as a touchstone
Due to the tone of Jair Bolsonaro's presidency, Brazil is another of the countries in the region with which the new administration has worsened its relations compared to the Trump period. Biden's emphasis on the environment and combating climate change pits him against a Bolsonaro who is clearly less sensitive to these issues, and who does not seem to react sufficiently to the increasingly deforested Amazon. However, even if Biden finds the relationship uncomfortable, the US will continue to work with Latin America's leading Economics , whose role remains important in regional development issues.
The year and a half remaining until Brazil's October 2022 presidential election presents a stalemate as the two countries wait for a possible political shift to bring the two countries more in unison, although a return to power of the Workers' Party would not necessarily mean a special consonance, as there was none with either Lula da Silva or Dilma Rousseff even with the Democrats in the White House.
Human rights and vaccines
In addition to the aforementioned countries, some others are also on the US agenda, especially in relation to human rights, such as the case of the democratic regression in Nicaragua or the attention that Bolivia could give to former president Jeanine Áñez.
On the other hand, it is expected that in the coming weeks, with most of the US population already inoculated, the US will proceed to submit million doses of vaccines to Latin American countries. In addition to the real financial aid that these deliveries will represent, they will be a way of counteracting the influence that China and Russia have secured in the region by sending their respective vaccines. If the US-China tug-of-war will mark Biden's presidency, as it will undoubtedly mark this entire decade, one area of contention will be the US "backyard".
[Juan Tovar Ruiz, La doctrina en la política exterior de Estados Unidos: De Truman a Trump ( Madrid: Catarata, 2017) 224 pages].
review / Xabier Ramos Garzón
Every change in the White House leads to an analysis of the outgoing president's policies and speculation about the incoming president's policies. Given the weight of the United States in the world, each administration's vision of international affairs is decisive for the world order. Juan Tovar Ruiz, professor of International Office at the University of Burgos, deals in this book with the essence of each president's foreign policy - mainly from Truman to Trump (Biden's, logically, has yet to be defined) - which in many cases follows a defined roadmap that has come to be called 'doctrine'.
The book's strengths include the fact that it combines several points of view: on the one hand, it covers, from a realist point of view, the structural and internal effects of each policy, and on the other hand, it analyses the ideas and interactions between actors from a constructivist point of view. The author explores decision-making processes and their consequences, considers the ultimate effectiveness of American doctrines in the general context of International Office, and examines the influences, ruptures and continuities between different doctrines over time. Despite the relatively short history of the United States, the country has had an extensive and complex foreign policy, which Tovar, focusing on the last eight decades, synthesises with particular merit, adopting a mainly general viewpoint that highlights the substantive.
The book is divided into seven chapters, organised by historical stages and, within each, by presidents. The first chapter, by way of introduction, covers the period following US independence until the end of World War II. This period is sample as a background core topic in future American ideology, with two particularly decisive positions: the Monroe Doctrine and Wilsonian Idealism. The second chapter deals with the First Cold War, with the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson doctrines. The chapter contextualises the various postulates and identifies the issues that went to core topic in the creation of doctrines that only affected the foreign policy of the time, but became embedded in the core of American political thought. The third chapter deals with the Distension, the period between 1969 and 1979 in which the Nixon and Carter doctrines came into being. The fourth chapter takes us to the Second Cold War and the end of the US-USSR confrontation, a time when we find the doctrines of Reagan and Bush senior. From this point, the following chapters (fifth, sixth and seventh) deal with the post-Cold War period, with the doctrines of Clinton, Bush junior and the more recent - and therefore still subject to study - doctrines of Obama and Trump.
In the conclusions, the author summarises each of the chapters on the basis of academic or political characterisations and makes some qualifications, such as warning that in his opinion Obama's foreign policy is more of a "non-doctrine", as it combines elements of different ideologies and is partly contradictory. Obama dealt with various conflicts in different ways: he dealt realistically with "wars of necessity" (Afghanistan) and agreement with the liberal internationalist approach to conflicts such as Libya. While Obama's flexibility might be considered a weakness by some, as he did not follow a firm and marked policy, it can also be seen as the necessary adaptation to a continuously changing environment. On many occasions a US president, such as Bush Jr., has pursued a rigid foreign policy, ideologically speaking, that ultimately achieved little practical success written request .
Another example of a variant of the conventional doctrine that sample the author gives is the "anti-doctrine" carried out by Trump. The man who was to be president until 2021 implemented a policy characterised by numerous contradictions and variations on the role that the US had been playing in the world, thereby casting doubt and uncertainty on the expected behaviour of the American superpower. This was due to Trump's political inexperience, both domestically and domestically, which caused concern not only among international actors but also at the core of Washington itself.
From the analysis of the different doctrines presented in the book, we can see how each of them is adapted to a specific social, historical and political context, and at the same time they all respond to a shared political tradition of a country that, as a superpower, manifests certain constants when it comes to maintaining peace and guaranteeing security. But these constants should not be confused with universal aspects, as each country has its own particularities and interests: simply adapting US positions to the foreign policy plans of other countries can lead to chaotic failures if these differences are not recognised.
For example, countries like Spain, which depend on EU membership, would not be able to enter into random wars unilaterally as the US has done. However, Spain could adopt some elements, such as in subject of decision-making, as this subject of doctrines makes it much easier to objectify and standardise the processes of analysis and resolutions.
Federal prosecutors charge El Salvador's mara leadership with national security offences
° The US still classifies gangs as a criminal organisation, not as group terrorists, but in the last year it has come to consider some of their leaders as terrorists.
° The department of Justice considers the connection between the decisions taken by the MS-13 leadership from Salvadoran prisons and crimes committed in the USA to be proven.
° In the past five years, US courts have convicted 504 gang members, 73 of whom received life sentences.
Inmates of the maras in Salvadoran prisons, in April 2020 [Gov. of El Salvador].
US authorities have in the past year taken a significant leap in their reaction to the violence of the main Latino street gang, the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. For the first time, federal prosecutors filed terrorism charges against the gang's leaders, opening the door to a review of the classification of MS-13, which has been considered an international criminal organisation in the US since 2012 and could be designated group terrorist, as is already the case in El Salvador.
The focus of the Justice department on violence with a Central American connection, however, may have been due to the Trump administration's prioritisation of the fight against illegal immigration. It is not yet known whether the Biden administration, which is less interested in criminalising immigration, will insist on the category of terrorism. However, police and judicial pressure on gang members responsible for crimes on US soil does not seem likely to diminish for the time being.
In July 2020, the US Justice department released terrorism charges against Armando Eliú Melgar Díaz, alias Gangster Blue, sealed since the previous May in the Eastern District Court of Virginia. The charges included conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, committing cross-border acts of terrorism, financing terrorist actions and conducting narco-terrorist operations. Melgar had lived in Virginia, with some absences, between 2003 and 2016, when he was deported. In November 2018, he was arrested and detained in El Salvador. Prosecutors believe he directed MS-13 criminal activity on the East Coast from El Salvador, apparently ordering and approving assassinations, overseeing drug trafficking businesses, and collecting money for local cliques or organisations.
Having opened this avenue of terrorism charges, which carry heavier penalties, against leaders who allegedly ordered the commission of crimes from El Salvador, the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York proceeded a few months later with the broadest and most far-reaching indictment against MS-13 and its command and control structure in the history of the United States, alleging crimes "against national security". Thus, in January 2021, the U.S. Attorney's Office made public an indictment, secretly formalised the previous month, with indictments against fourteen MS-13 leaders, all of them members of the Ranfla Nacional or gang leadership, which was headed, according to the Public Prosecutor's Office, by Borromeo Enrique Henríquez, aka Diablito de Hollywood. Eleven of them are in Salvadoran prisons and three are fugitives. The charges were similar to those brought against Melgar, but the indictment does not provide details of specific actions. The crimes of different cliques of the MS-19 are attributed to them, since, as part of its leadership, they were ultimately responsible for ordering the commission of many of the crimes. According to the prosecutor announcing the case, "MS-13 is manager of a wave of death and violence that has terrorised communities, leaving neighbourhoods awash in bloodshed". The US proceeded to prepare the respective extradition requests.
In addition to these two cases, which would fit into a conceptual framework that appears to seek to prosecute group terrorist leadership (even though terrorist status has not been applied by the United States to any gang, nor is there consensus on a narrow centralisation of criminal decision-making), several prosecutions of MS-13 members were launched in 2020 for crimes strictly related to murder, kidnapping, drug trafficking, weapons possession, and other organised crime activities. On the same day in July 2020 that the Melgar indictment was announced, the Eastern District Court of New York filed a case against eight members of the organisation and the District Court of Nevada against thirteen others; in August, the Eastern District of Virginia proceeded to arrest eleven more individuals associated with the gang.
These actions showed a commitment to enforce the investigations that had recently intensified, at the end of a presidential mandate that had made the fight against gangs one of the priorities of department Justice. Precisely at the end of 2020, this department published a report taking stock of the "efforts" carried out in this field between 2016 and 2020, graduate "Large-scale response". The report, which estimates that there are some 10,000 gang members in the United States, counts that 749 gang members were charged in US courts during this period; of these, 74% were in the country illegally, 8% were US citizens and 3% were legal residents. These prosecutions led to the conviction of at least 504 individuals, of whom 37 received life sentences.
The Attorney General also opened procedure to apply for the death penalty for two defendants involved in crimes that had a special social resonance. They are Alexi Sáenz, who is accused of seven murders, almost all of them using a machete or a baseball bat, and Elmer Zelaya, accused of coordinating the stabbing of two young men; most of the victims were teenagers. This extreme violence was highlighted by Donald Trump at several points during his term in office and he referred to it last July when the aforementioned terrorism cases were announced. He called the gang members "monsters who murder children", and indicated that the US authorities would not rest until "every member of MS-13" was brought to justice.
For its part, the FBI has formed Transnational Anti-Gang Units (TAGs) with security forces from several Central American countries, which since 2016 have been responsible for hundreds of arrests and have assisted in the extradition to the US of 68 defendants, 35 from Guatemala, 20 from Honduras and 13 from El Salvador.
Barack Obama's 2011 provisions empowering consideration of gangs as international criminal organisations, in the framework of a new National Strategy to Combat Transnational Organised Crime, were used by the Treasury'sdepartment in 2012 to apply that consideration to MS-13. The same categorisation was used in 2017 by the department Justice Department as the basis for the "war on gangs" launched by Trump. In 2018, the congress itself highlighted the dangerousness and incidence of gangs, in actions decided from El Salvador.
In 2019, Attorney General William Barr travelled to El Salvador, where he gathered information from the Salvadoran authorities, whose Supreme Court had already designated the maras as group terrorists in 2015. Alleged evidence of the chain of command, which connects orders for assassinations and other crimes given from Salvadoran prisons and their execution in the United States, reportedly underpinned the 2020 decision to open terrorism cases against gang members in US federal courts.
This change in the subject offence can be core topic in the future of the fight against gangs by offering a number of advantages, as there is no statute of limitations on terrorism charges and they have harsher penalties associated with them. International law also provides a greater arc and leeway for countries fighting terrorism, so cooperation between countries could be greatly enhanced; indeed, making charges comparable in the US and El Salvador could speed up extradition requests.
However, the move is not Exempt controversial. In the same way that international drug trafficking charges against the gang members have been of little use, since they do not properly constitute a transnational drug cartel, it remains to be seen how effective it would be to invoke terrorism charges in this case, given that the maras, at least in the US, do not have the range of features of a terrorist organisation: there is certainly not the element of wanting to be a political actor. In any case, as Steven Dudley, co-director of Insight Crime and author of MS-13: The Making of America's Most Notorious Gang, has said, the US government's decision to charge the visible leaders of MS-13 in El Salvador with terrorism "may be a sign of how poorly they understand this gang or how well they understand their judicial system".
The USSOUTHCOM chief's appearance on Capitol Hill raises the annual Degree alert to Chinese influence and US pushback.
° In his latest appearance, Admiral Craig Faller warned that the US "is losing its positional advantage' and called for "immediate action to reverse this trend".
° In recent years the Southern Command's speech at congress has highlighted the penetration of China, Russia and Iran, hand in hand with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
° Analysis of the Pentagon chief's interventions in the region sample the growing involvement of the Maduro regime in criminal activities.
► visit of the head of the US Southern Command to Montevideo in April 2021 [SouthCom].
The US Southern Command - the military structure within the US Armed Forces responsible for Latin America and the Caribbean - has been progressively raising the alarm about the growing influence of Russia and especially China in the Western Hemisphere, to the detriment of the US position. This, combined with the threat posed by organised crime organisations, especially those involved in drug trafficking, led USSOUTHCOM chief Admiral Craig Faller to confess in March to feeling "an incredible sense of urgency": "the hemisphere we live in is under attack", he said in his annual appearance before the US congress , dedicated to analysing the threats and opportunities the region presents in terms of security.
In his third "posture statement" to the congress since heading Southern Command, Faller warned that the US is losing its "edge" in the hemisphere and argued that "immediate action is needed to reverse the trend". Analysing his 2019 and 2020 speeches, as well as that of his predecessor, Admiral Kurt Tidd, in 2018, there is a worsening perception of the rivalry with China. Increasingly, the reference letter to the Chinese threat is more explicit and occupies more space. What was first seen as economic leverage, through increased trade and credit allocation, is now presented as more global and strategically more dangerous. According to Faller, China is seeking to 'establish a global logistics and infrastructure base in our hemisphere to project and sustain military power over greater distances'.
The change of Administration has not brought about any change in this worsening perception of the risks being generated in Latin America. Although Joe Biden's presidency has meant a change in tone from that of his predecessor, hostility towards Beijing and the desire to closely monitor other authoritarian regimes such as Russia and Venezuela have been maintained. Hence, the "posture statement" presented this year by the head of the Southern Command is consistent with previous ones in pointing to the growing activity of Russia and China in the region (and of Iran, in coordination with Hezbollah), as well as its partnership with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, countries that Faller called "malign regional state actors".
The use of Cuba
One of the constant and recurring threats that is gradually increasing is China's economic diplomacy strategy in several countries in the region: through loans and investments, Beijing incorporates these countries into its international trade network , sometimes integrating them into the New Silk Road initiative. The 2018 statement did not mention the issue number of Latin American nations participating in the initiative; the 2019 statement counted 16, and the 2020 statement spoke of 19, indicating a clear trend that China is gradually increasing its activities and influence in the hemisphere. The 2020 strategy also stated that 25 of the 31 countries in the region have Chinese infrastructure projects, which, as the head of the Southern Command expressly points out, could be used in the future to support Chinese military interests. Added to all this is the COVID-19 crisis, which China has used to increase its regional influence through its potential for medical supplies and vaccines.
Venezuela features prominently in the last four statements. Over the years, the situation progressively worsens and the Southern Command's stance towards Maduro's regime hardens: it goes from not calling him illegitimate to calling him illegitimate, and then openly accuses him of involvement in drug trafficking activities. It underlines its close military collaboration with Russia and with Colombian narco-terrorist groups - the ELN and FARC dissidents - which it hosts on its territory.
Another aspect that is reiterated is the emphasis on Cuba's destabilising role: how Havana interferes in internal affairs in Venezuela and Nicaragua, instructing these oppressive regimes on how to repress opposition movements and demonstrations, sometimes sending its own agents to fulfil this repressive function. In addition, the strategy also addresses the fact that Russia uses Cuba as a base for its intelligence operations towards the US and to project its power in the region.
The Southern Command's statements are in line with the concerns expressed in the document framework Strategic for the Western Hemisphere, produced by the National Security committee in 2020. Although the Trump Administration will have to formulate its own strategic plan for the region, no substantial changes can be expected, given that there is the same interest in restoring democracy for Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba; in promote transparency and fighting corruption; in combating illicit activities, such as drug trafficking and human smuggling; and in addressing China's growing presence in the region.
Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans and pending TPS termination for Central Americans amid a migration surge at the US-Mexico border
The Venezuelan flag near the US Capitol [Rep. Darren Soto].
ANALYSIS / Alexandria Angela Casarano
On March 8, the Biden administration approved Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the cohort of 94,000 to 300,000+ Venezuelans already residing in the United States. Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti await the completion of litigation against the TPS terminations of the Trump administration. Meanwhile, the US-Mexico border faces surges in migration and detention facilities for unaccompanied minors battle overcrowding.
TPS and DED. The case of El Salvador
TPS was established by the Immigration Act of 1990 and was first granted to El Salvador that same year due to a then-ongoing civil war. TPS is a temporary immigration benefit that allows migrants to access education and obtain work authorization (EADs). TPS is granted to specific countries in response to humanitarian, environmental, or other crises for 6, 12, or 18-month periods-with the possibility of repeated extension-at the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security, taking into account the recommendations of the State Department.
The TPS designation of 1990 for El Salvador expired on June 30,1992. However, following the designation of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to El Salvador on June 26, 1992 by George W. Bush, Salvadorans were allowed to remain in the US until December 31, 1994. DED differs from TPS in that it is designated by the US President without the obligation of consultation with the State Department. Additionally, DED is a temporary protection from deportation, not a temporary immigration benefit, which means it does not afford recipients a legal immigration status, although DED also allows for work authorization and access to education.
When DED expired for El Salvador on December 31, 1994, Salvadorans previously protected by the program were granted a 16-month grace period which allowed them to continue working and residing in the US while they applied for other forms of legal immigration status, such as asylum, if they had not already done so.
The federal court system became significantly involved in the status of Salvadoran immigrants in the US beginning in 1985 with the American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh (ABC) case. The ABC class action lawsuit was filed against the US Government by more than 240,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and former Soviet Bloc countries, on the basis of alleged discriminatory treatment of their asylum claims. The ABC Settlement Agreement of January 31, 1991 created a 240,000-member immigrant group (ABC class members) with special legal status, including protection from deportation. Salvadorans protected under TPS and DED until December 31, 1994 were allowed to apply for ABC benefits up until February 16, 1996.
Venezuela and the 2020 Elections
The 1990's Salvadoran immigration saga bears considerable resemblance to the current migratory tribulations of many Latin American immigrants residing in the US today, as the expiration of TPS for four Latin American countries in 2019 and 2020 has resulted in the filing of three major lawsuits currently working their way through the US federal court system.
Approximately 5 million Venezuelans have left their home country since 2015 following the consolidation of Nicolás Maduro, on economic grounds and in pursuit of political asylum. Heavy sanctions placed on Venezuela by the Trump administration have exacerbated-and continue to exacerbate, as the sanctions have to date been left in place by the Biden administration-the severe economic crisis in Venezuela.
An estimated 238,000 Venezuelans are currently residing in Florida, 67,000 of whom were naturalized US citizens and 55,000 of whom were eligible to vote as of 2018. 70% of Venezuelan voters in Florida chose Trump over Biden in the 2020 presidential elections, and in spite of the Democrats' efforts (including the promise of TPS for Venezuelans) to regain the Latino vote of the crucial swing state, Trump won Florida's 29 electoral votes in the 2020 elections. The weight of the Venezuelan vote in Florida has thus made the humanitarian importance of TPS for Venezuela a political issue as well. The defeat in Florida has probably made President Biden more cautious about relieving the pressure on Venezuela's and Cuba's regimes.
The Venezuelan TPS Act was originally proposed to the US Congress on January 15, 2019, but the act failed. However, just before leaving office, Trump personally granted DED to Venezuela on January 19, 2021. Now, with the TPS designation to Venezuela by the Biden administration on March 8, Venezuelans now enjoy a temporary legal immigration status.
The other TPS. Termination and ongoing litigation
Other Latin American countries have not fared so well. At the beginning of 2019, TPS was designated to a total of four Latin American countries: Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti. Nicaragua and Honduras were first designated TPS on January 5, 1999 in response to Hurricane Mitch. El Salvador was redesignated TPS on March 9, 2001 after two earthquakes hit the country. Haiti was first designated TPS on January 21, 2010 after the Haiti earthquake. Since these designations, TPS was continuously renewed for all four countries. However, under the Trump administration, TPS was allowed to expire without renewal for each country, beginning with Nicaragua on January 5, 2019. Haiti followed on July 22, 2019, then El Salvador on September 9, 2019, and lastly Honduras on January 4, 2020.
As of March 2021, Salvadorans account for the largest share of current TPS holders by far, at a total of 247,697, although the newly eligible Venezuelans could potentially overshadow even this high figure. Honduras and Haiti have 79,415 and 55,338 TPS holders respectively, and Nicaragua has much fewer with only 4,421.
The elimination of TPS for Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti would result in the deportation of many immigrants who for a significant continuous period of time have contributed to the workforce, formed families, and rebuilt their lives in the United States. Birthright citizenship further complicates this reality: an estimated 270,000 US citizen children live in a home with one or more parents with TPS, and the elimination of TPS for these parents could result in the separation of families. Additionally, the conditions of Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti-in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, recent natural disasters (i.e. hurricanes Matthew, Eta, and Iota), and other socioeconomic and political issues-remain far from ideal and certainly unstable.
Three major lawsuits were filed against the US Government in response to the TPS terminations of 2019 and 2020: Saget v. Trump (March 2018), Ramos v. Nielsen (March 2018), and Bhattarai et al. v. Nielsen (February 2019). Kirstjen Nielsen served as Secretary of Homeland Security for two years (2017 - 2019) under Trump. Saget v. Trump concerns Haitian TPS holders. Ramos v. Nielsen concerns 250,000 Salvadoran, Nicaraguan, Haitain and Sudanese TPS holders, and has since been consolidated with Bhattarai et al. v. Nielsen which concerns Nepali and Honduran TPS holders.
All three (now two) lawsuits appeal the TPS eliminations for the countries involved on similar grounds, principally the racial animus (i.e. Trump's statement: "[Haitians] all have AIDS") and unlawful actions (i.e. violations of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA)) of the Trump administration. For Saget v. Trump, the US District Court (E.D. New York) blocked the termination of TPS (affecting Haiti only) on April 11, 2019 through the issuing of preliminary injunctions. For Ramos v. Nielson (consolidated with Bhattarai et al. v. Nielson), the US Court of Appeals of the 9th Circuit has rejected these claims and ruled in favour of the termination of TPS (affecting El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, and Sudan) on September 14, 2020. This ruling has since been appealed and is currently awaiting revision.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have honored the orders of the US Courts not to terminate TPS until the litigation for these aforementioned cases is completed. The DHS issued a Federal Register Notice (FRN) on December 9, 2020 which extends TPS for holders from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti until October 14, 2021. The USCIS has similarly cooperated and has ordered that so long as the litigation remains effective, no one will lose TPS. The USCIS has also ordered that in case of TPS elimination once the litigation is completed, Nicaragua and Haiti will have 120 grace days to orderly transition out of TPS, Honduras will have 180, and El Salvador will have 365 (time frames which are proportional to the number of TPS holders from each country, though less so for Haiti).
The Biden Administration's Migration Policy
On the campaign trail, Biden repeatedly emphasized his intentions to reverse the controversial immigration policies of the Trump administration, promising immediate cessation of the construction of the border wall, immediate designation of TPS to Venezuela, and the immediate sending of a bill to create a "clear [legal] roadmap to citizenship" for 11 million+ individuals currently residing in the US without legal immigration status. Biden assumed office on January 20, 2021, and issued an executive order that same day to end the government funding for the construction of the border wall. On February 18, 2021, Biden introduced the US Citizenship Act of 2021 to Congress to provide a legal path to citizenship for immigrants residing in the US illegally, and issued new executive guidelines to limit arrests and deportations by ICE strictly to non-citizen immigrants who have recently crossed the border illegally. Non-citizen immigrants already residing in the US for some time are now only to be arrested/deported by ICE if they pose a threat to public safety (defined by conviction of an aggravated felony (i.e. murder or rape) or of active criminal street gang participation).
Following the TPS designation to Venezuela on March 8, 2021, there has been additional talk of a TPS designation for Guatemala on the grounds of the recent hurricanes which have hit the country.
On March 18, 2021, the Dream and Promise Act passed in the House. With the new 2021 Democrat majority in the Senate, it seems likely that this legislation which has been in the making since 2001 will become a reality before the end of the year. The Dream and Promise Act will make permanent legal immigration status accessible (with certain requirements and restrictions) to individuals who arrived in the US before reaching the age of majority, which is expected to apply to millions of current holders of DACA and TPS.
If the US Citizenship Act of 2021 is passed by Congress as well, together these two acts would make the Biden administration's lofty promises to create a path to citizenship for immigrants residing illegally in the US a reality. Since March 18, 2021, the National TPS Alliance has been hosting an ongoing hunger strike in Washington, DC in order to press for the speedy passage of the acts.
The current migratory surge at the US-Mexico border
While the long-term immigration forecast appears increasingly more positive as Biden's presidency progresses, the immediate immigration situation at the US-Mexico border is quite dire. Between December 2020 and February 2021, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported a 337% increase in the arrival of families, and an 89% increase in the arrival of unaccompanied minors. CBP apprehensions of migrants crossing the border illegally in March 2021 have reached 171,00, which is the highest monthly total since 2006.
Currently, there are an estimated 4,000 unaccompanied minors in CBP custody, and an additional 15,000 unaccompanied minors in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The migratory CBP facility in Donna, TX designated specifically to unaccompanied minors has been filled at 440% to 900% of its COVID-19 capacity of just 500 minors since March 9, 2021. Intended to house children for no more than a 72-hour legal limit, due to the current overwhelmed system, some children have remained in the facility for more than weeks at a time before being transferred on to HHS.
In order to address the overcrowding, the Biden administration announced the opening of the Delphia Emergency Intake Site (next to the Donna facility) on April 6, 2021, which will be used to house up to 1,500 unaccompanied minors. Other new sites have been opened by HHS in Texas and California, and HHS has requested the Pentagon to allow it to temporarily utilize three military facilities in these same two states.
Political polarization has contributed to a great disparity in the interpretation of the recent surge in migration to the US border since Biden took office. Termed a "challenge" by Democrats and a "crisis" by Republicans, both parties offer very different explanations for the cause of the situation, each placing the blame on the other.
Iranian hackers forged pre-election mailings of the Proud Boys, but the actual post-election performance of this and other groups was more disruptive.
If in the 2016 US presidential election foreign meddling operations were led by Russia, in the 2020 election the focus was on Iranian hackers, because of the novelty they represented in a field of operations where Russians and Chinese were equally active, each pursuing their own interests. In particular, Tehran wanted a defeat for Donald Trump so that his Democratic successor would reverse the tough sanctions regime imposed against the Iranian regime. But these cyberspace actions by Iran, Russia and China were ineffective due to the heightened alertness of US security and intelligence agencies. In the end, these outside attempts to discredit US democracy and undermine voter confidence in its electoral system were dwarfed by the damage caused by the domestic chaos itself.
Assault on the Capitol in Washington on 6 January 2021 [TapTheForwardAssist].
article / María Victoria Andarcia
Russia was always in the US security spotlight during the 2020 election year, after its meddling in the presidential election four years earlier. However, while the main concern remained Russia and there were also fears of an expansion of China's operations, Iran made headlines in some of the warnings issued by the US authorities, probably because of the ease with which they were able to attribute various actions to Iranian actors. Despite this multiple front, the development polling did not yield any evidence that foreign disinformation campaigns had been effective. The swift identification of the actors involved and the offensive reaction by US security and intelligence services could have prevented the 2016 status . As the Atlantic Council has noted, this time 'domestic disinformation overshadowed foreign action'.
Given the direct consequences that Joe Biden's arrival in the White House may have on Washington's policy towards Iran, this article pays more attention to Iran's attempts to affect the US election development . The impact of Iranian operations was minimal and had a smaller profile impact than those carried out by Russia in 2016 (which in turn had less involvement than in previous elections).
In May and June 2020, the first movements in Microsoft accounts were recorded, as the company itself would later reveal. An Iranian group called Phosphorus had succeeded in gaining access to the accounts of White House employees and Trump's re-election campaign team. These were early signs that Tehran was setting up some kind of cyber operation. subject
In early August, the Center for Counterintelligence and National Security's director , William Evanina, accused Tehran - as well as Moscow and Beijing - of using disinformation on the internet to "influence voters, unleash disorder and undermine public confidence" in the system. Regarding Iran, it said: "We assess that Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions and President Trump, and to divide the country ahead of the 2020 election". She added that Iranian efforts were focused on spreading disinformation on social media, where it circulated anti-US content. Evanina attributed the motivation for these actions to Iranian perceptions "that President Trump's re-election would result in a continuation of US pressure on Iran in an effort to encourage regime change".
Following the televised discussion between Trump and Biden on 29 September, Twitter deleted 130 accounts that "appeared to originate in Iran" and whose content, which it had placed on knowledge by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was intended to influence public opinion during the discussion presidential election. The company provided only four examples. Two of the accounts were pro-Trump: one Username was @jackQanon (at reference letter to the conspiratorial group QAnon) and the other expressed support for the Proud Boys, a far-right organisation with supremacist links to which Trump had order "be on guard and be vigilant". The other two accounts had expressed pro-Biden messages.
In mid-October, director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, referred on press conference to Iranian and Russian cyber action as a threat to the electoral process. According to Ratcliffe, the Iranian operation consisted primarily of a series of emails purporting to be sent by the group Proud Boys. The emails contained threats of physical force for those who did not vote for Trump, and were intended to instigate violence and damage Trump's image by associating his campaign with radical groups and efforts to intimidate voters. Interestingly, the Proud Boys would later gain prominence for themselves in the post-election rallies in Washington and the takeover of the Capitol.
department While Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Jatibzadeh denied these accusations, stressing that "Iran is indifferent to who wins the US elections", the US authorities insisted on their version and the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned five Iranian entities for attempting to undermine the presidential elections. According to OFAC'sstatement , the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Quds Force used Iranian media as platforms to spread propaganda and disinformation to the US population.
agreement According to OFAC, business Iranian audiovisual media company Bayan Gostar, a regular Revolutionary Guard collaborator, had "planned to influence the election by exploiting social problems within the United States, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and by denigrating US political figures". The Islamic Iranian Radio and Television Union (IRTVU), which OFAC considers a propaganda arm of the Revolutionary Guard, and the International Virtual Media Union "assisted Bayan Gostar in his efforts to reach US audiences". These media outlets "amplified false narratives in English and published derogatory propaganda articles and other content directed at the United States with the intent to sow discord among US audiences".
The US claims that Iranian interference was not limited to the election, which took place on 3 November (with an unprecedented level of advance and postal voting), but continued in the weeks that followed, seeking to take advantage of the turmoil caused by the Trump administration's questioning of the result election. Days before Christmas, the FBI and department 's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) revealed that Iran was allegedly behind a website and several social media accounts aimed at provoking further violence against various US officials. The website entitled "Enemies of the People" contained photographs and information staff of both officials and staff from the private sector who were involved in the process of counting and authenticating votes cast in the election, sometimes in the face of allegations of fraud maintained by Trump and his supporters.
The action attributed to Iran can be interpreted as a way to avenge the drone strike ordered by Washington to assassinate Qasem Soleimani, head of the Qurds Force in Iraq, for whose death on 3 January 2020 Tehran had vowed retaliation. But above all it reveals a continuing effort by Iran to alleviate the effects of the Trump-driven US policy of 'maximum pressure'. Given Biden's stated intention during the election campaign to change US foreign policy towards the Islamic Republic, the latter would have the opportunity to receive a looser US attention if Trump lost the presidential election. Biden had indicated that if he came to power he would change policy towards Iran, possibly returning to the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 on the condition that Iran respect the limits on its nuclear programme agreed at the time. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was considered a milestone in the foreign policy of then President Barack Obama, but then the Trump administration decided not to respect it because it considered that issues such as Iran's missile development and its military interference in other countries in the region had been left out.
A few days before the inauguration of the new US president, Iranian President Hassan Rohani urged Biden to lift the sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic and return to the 2015 nuclear agreement . Iran hopes that the Biden administration will take the first steps to compensate for the actions of the previous administration and thus move towards a possible understanding between the two nations. The decision to return to agreement will not be made immediately as Biden inherits a divided country and it will take time to reverse Trump's policies. With the Iranian presidential elections approaching in June this year, the Biden administration is buying time to attempt a reformulation that will not be easy, as the context of the Middle East has changed substantially over the past five years.
The inclusion of private investment and the requirement of efficient credits differ from the overwhelming amount of loans from Chinese state banks.
The active role of China as lender to an increasing number of countries has forced the United States to try to compete in this area of "soft power". Until last decade the US was clearly ahead of China in official development assistance, but Beijing has used its state-controlled banks to pour loans into ambitious projects worldwide. In order to better compete with China, Washington has created the US International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC), combining the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and with USAID's Development Credit Authority (DCA).
▲ The US agency helped to provide clean, safe, and reliable sanitation for more than 100,000 people in Nairobi, at the end of 2020 [USIDFC].
ARTICLE / Alexandria Casarano
It is not easy to know the complete amount of the international loans given by China in recent years, which skyrocketed from the middle of last decade. Some estimates say that the Chinese state and its subsidiaries have lent about US$ 1.5 trillion in direct loans and trade credits to more than 150 countries around the globe, turning China into the world's largest official creditor.
The two main Chinese foreign investment banks, the Export-Import Bank of China and the China Development Bank, were both established in 1994. The banks have been criticised for their lack of transparency and for blurring the lines between official development assistance (ODA) and commercial financial arrangements. To address this issue, Beijing founded the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) in April of 2018. The CIDCA will oversee all Chinese ODA activity, and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce will oversee all commercial financial arrangements going forward.
An additional complaint about Chinese foreign investment concerns "debt-trap diplomacy." Since the PRC first announced its "One Belt One Road" initiative in 2013, the Chinese government has steadily increased its investment in the developing world even more dramatically than it had in the early 2000's (when Chinese foreign aid was increasing annually by approximately 14%). At the 2018 China-Africa Convention Forum, the PCR pledged to invest US$ 60 billion in Africa that year alone. The Wall Street Journal said of the PRC in 2018 that it was "expanding its investments at a pace some consider reckless." Ray Washburn, president of the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), called the Chinese One Belt One Road initiative a "loan-to-own" program. In 2018, this was certainly the case with the Chinese funded Sri Lankan port project, which led the Sri Lankan government to lease the port to Beijing for a 99-year period as a result of falling behind on payments.
OPIC, founded in 1971 under the Nixon administration, was recommended for elimination in the Trump administration's 2017 budget. However, following the beginning of the US-China trade war in 2018, Washington reversed course completely. President Trump's February 2018 budget recommended increasing OPIC's funding and combining it with other government programs. These recommendations manifested themselves in the Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development (BUILD) Act, which was passed by Congress on October 5, 2018. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) called the BUILD Act "the most important piece of U.S. soft power legislation in more than a decade."
The US International Development Finance Corporation
The principal achievement of the BUILD Act was the creation of the US International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC), which began operation as an independent agency on December 20, 2019. The BUILD Act combined OPIC with USAID's Development Credit Authority to form the USIDFC and established an annual budget of US$ 60 billion for the new organisation, which is more than double OPIC's 2018 budget of US$ 29 billion.
USIDFC's investment commitments by region for the FY 2020. The US$ 29.9 billion is only a fraction of the agency's budget [USIDFC].
According to the Wall Street Journal, OPIC "has been profitable every year for the last 40 years and has contributed US$ 8.5 billion to deficit reduction," a financial success which can primarily be attributed to project management fees. As of 2018, OPIC managed a portfolio valued at US$ 23 billion. OPIC's strong fiscal track record, combined with both the concept of government program streamlining and the larger context of geopolitical competition with China, generated bipartisan support for the BUILD Act and the USIDFC.
The USIDFC has several key new capacities which OPIC lacked. OPIC's business was limited to "loan guarantees, direct lending and political-risk insurance," and suffered under a "congressional cap on its portfolio size and a prohibition on owning equity stakes in projects". The USIDFC, however, is permitted under the BUILD Act to "acquire equity or financial interests in entities as a minority investor."
Both the USIDFC currently and OPIC before its incorporation are classified as Development Finance Institutions (DFIs). DFIs seek to "crowd-in" private investment, that is, attracting private investment that would not occur otherwise. This differs from the Chinese model of state-to-state lending and falls in line with traditional American political and economic philosophy. According to the CSIS, "The USIDFC offers [...] a private sector, market-based solution. Moreover, it fills a clear void that Chinese financing is not filling. China does not support lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and it rarely helps local companies in places like Africa or Afghanistan grow".
In the fiscal year of 2020, the most USIDFC's investments were made in Latin America (US$ 8.5 billion) and Sub-Saharan Africa (US$ 8 billion). Lesser but still significant investments were made in the Indo-Pacific region (US$ 5.4 billion), Eurasia (US$ 3.2 billion), and Middle East (US$ 3 billion). This falls in line with the USIDFC's goal to invest more in lower and lower-middle income countries, as opposed to upper middle countries. OPIC previously had fallen into the pattern of investing predominantly in upper-middle countries, and while the USIDFC is still legally authorised to invest in upper-middle income countries for national security or developmental motives.
These investments serve to further US national interests abroad. According to the USIDFC webpage, "by generating economic opportunities for citizens in developing countries, challenges such as refugees, drug-financed gangs, terrorist organisations, and human trafficking can all be addressed more effectively". Between 2002 and 2014, financial commitments in the DFI sector have increased sevenfold, from US$ 10 billion to US$ 70 billion. In our increasingly globalized world, international interests increasingly overlap with national interests, and public interests increasingly overlap with private interests.
Ongoing USIDFC initiatives
The USIDFC has five ongoing initiatives to further its national interests abroad: 2X Women's Initiative, Connect Africa, Portfolio for Impact and Innovation, Health and Prosperity, and Blue Dot Network. In 2020, the USIDFC "committed to catalyzing an additional US$ 6 billion of private sector investment in global women's economic empowerment" by joining the 2X Women's Initiative which seeks global female empowerment. About US$1 billion for this US$ 6 billion commitment has been specially pledged to Africa. Projects that fall under the 2X Women's Initiative include equity financing for a woman-owned feminine hygiene products online store in Rqanda, and "expanding women's access to affordable mortgages in India".
Continuing the USIDFC's special focus on Africa follows the Connect Africa initiative, under which the USIDFC has pledged US$ 1 billion to promote economic growth and connectivity in Africa. The Connect Africa initiative involves investment in telecommunications, internet access, and infrastructure.
Under the Portfolio for Impact and Innovation initiative, the USIDFC has dedicated US$ 10 million to supporting early-stage businesses. This includes sponsoring the Indian company Varthana, which offers affordable online learning for children whose schools have been shut down due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The Health and Prosperity initiative focuses on "bolstering health systems" and "expanding access to clean water, sanitation, and nutrition". Under the Health and Prosperity initiative, the USIDFC has dedicated US$ 2 billion to projects such as financing a 200+ mile drinking water pipeline in Jordan.
The Blue Dot Network initiative, like the Connect Africa initiative, also invests in infrastructure, but on a global scale. The Blue Dot Network initiative differs from the aforementioned initiatives in being a network. Launched in November 2019, the Blue Dot Network seeks to align the interests of government, private enterprise, and civil society to facilitate the successful development of infrastructure around the globe.
It is important to note that these five initiatives are not entirely separate. Many projects fall under several initiatives at once. The Rwandan feminine products e-store project, for example, falls under both the 2X Women's initiative and the Health and Prosperity initiative.
[Barack Obama, A Promised Land (discussion: Madrid, 2020), 928 pp.]
review / Emili J. Blasco
A president's memoirs are always an attempt to justify his political actions. Having employee George W. Bush used less than five hundred pages in "Decision Points" to try to explain the reasons for a more controversial management in principle, that Barack Obama used almost a thousand pages for the first part of his memoirs (A promised land The fact that no US president has ever required so much space in this exercise of wanting to tie up his bequest.
It is true that Obama has a taste for the pen, with some previous books in which he has already demonstrated good storytelling, and it is possible that this literary inclination has won him over. But probably more decisive has been Obama's vision of himself and his presidency: the conviction of having a mission statement, as the first African-American president, and his ambition to bend the arc of history. As time goes by and Obama starts to become just another in the list of presidents, his book vindicates the historic character of his person and his achievements.
The first third of A Promised Land is particularly interesting. There is a brief overview of his life before entrance in politics and then the detail of his degree program to the White House. This part has the same inspirational charge that made so attractive My Father's Dreams, the book that Obama published in 1995 when he launched his campaign for the Illinois Senate (in Spain it appeared in 2008, following his campaign for the presidency). We can all draw very useful lessons for our own self-improvement staff: the idea of being masters of our destiny, of becoming aware of our deepest identity, and the security that this gives us to carry out many enterprises of great value and transcendence; to put all our efforts into a goal and take advantage of opportunities that may not come again; in final, to always think outside the box (when Obama saw that his work as senator of Illinois had little impact, his decision was not to leave politics, but to jump to the national level: He ran for senator in Washington and from there, just four years later, he reached the White House). The pages are also rich in lessons on political communication and election campaigns.
But when the narrative begins to address the presidential term, which began in January 2009, that inspirational tone drops. What was once a succession of generally positive adjectives towards everyone begins to include diatribes against his Republican opponents. And here is the point that Obama is unable to overcome: giving himself all the moral credit and denying it to those whose votes in the congress disagreed with the legislation promoted by the new president. It is true that Obama had a very frontal civil service examination from the Republican leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives, but they also supported some of his initiatives, as Obama himself acknowledges. For the rest, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Large swathes of Republicans were quick to jump on the bandwagon, as the Tea Party tide in the 2010 midterm elections soon made clear (in a movement that would eventually lead to support for Trump), but Obama had also arrived with the most left-leaning positions in US politics in living memory. With his idealistic drive, Obama had set little example of bipartisan effort in his time in the Illinois and Washington Senate; when some of his reforms from the White House were blocked in the congress, instead of seeking accommodation - accepting a politics of the possible - he took to the streets to pit citizens against politicians who opposed his transformations, further entrenching the trenches of one side against the other.
The British historian Niall Ferguson has pointed out that the Trump phenomenon would not be understood without Obama's previous presidency, although the bitter political divide in the United States is probably a matter of a deep current in which leaders play a less central role than we might suppose. Obama saw himself as ideally suited, because of his cultural mix (black, but raised by his white mother and grandparents), to bridge the widening rift in US society, but he was unable to build the necessary ideological bridges. Bill Clinton faced a similar Republican blockade, in the congress led by Newt Gingrich, and made compromises that were useful: he reduced ideological baggage and brought an economic prosperity that relaxed public life.
A Promised Land includes many of Obama's reflections. He generally provides the context necessary to understand the issues, for example in the gestation of the 2008 financial crisis. In foreign policy he details the state of relations with major powers: animosity towards Putin and suspicion of China, among other issues. There are areas with different possible ways forward where Obama leaves no room for a legitimate alternative position: thus, in a particularly emblematic topic , he charges Netanyahu without admitting any mistakes of his own in his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. This is something that other reviews of the book have noted: the absence of self-criticism (beyond admitting sins of omission in not having been as bold as he might have wished), and the failure to admit that in some respects perhaps the opponent might have been right.
The narrative is well-paced internally, despite the many pages. The volume ends in 2011, at a random point in time determined by the anticipated length of a second submission; however, it has a sufficiently strong climax: the operation against Osama bin Laden, for the first time told in the first person by the person at the highest level of command. Although the Degree involvement of other hands in the essay of the work is unknown, it has a point of lyricism that connects directly with Los sueños de mi padre (My Father's Dreams) and which financial aid leads us to attribute it, at least to a large extent, to the former president himself.
The book contains many episodes of the Obamas' domestic life. Obama's constant compliments to his wife, admiration for his mother-in-law and constant references to his devotion to his two daughters might be considered unnecessary, especially as they recur, in a political book. Nonetheless, they give the story the tone staff that Obama has sought to adopt, as well as giving human warmth to someone who has often been accused of having a public image of being cold, distant and overly reflective.
Joe Biden and Barack Obama in February 2009, one month after arriving at the White House [Pete Souza].
COMMENTARY / Emili J. Blasco
This article was previously published, in a somewhat abbreviated form, in the newspaper 'Expansión'.
One of the great mistakes revealed by the US presidential election is to have underestimated the figure of Donald Trump, believing him to be a mere anecdote, and to have disregarded much of his politics as whimsical. In reality, the Trump phenomenon is a manifestation, if not a consequence, of the current American moment, and some of his major decisions, especially in the international arena, have more to do with domestic imperatives than with fickle whimsy. The latter suggests that there are aspects of foreign policy, manners aside, in which Joe Biden as president may be closer to Trump than to Barack Obama, simply because the world of 2021 is already somewhat different from that of the first half of the previous decade.
First, Biden will have to confront Beijing. Obama began to do so, but the more assertive character of Xi Jinping's China has been accelerating in recent years. In the superpower tug-of-war, especially over the dominance of the new technological age, the US has everything at stake vis-à-vis China. It is true that Biden has referred to the Chinese not as enemies but as competitors, but the trade war was already begun by the administration of which he was vice-president and now the objective rivalry is greater.
Nor is the US's withdrawal the result of Trump's madness. Basically it has to do, to simplify somewhat, with the energy independence achieved by the Americans: they no longer need oil from the Middle East and no longer have to be in all the oceans to ensure the free navigation of tankers. America First' has in a way already been started by Obama and Biden will not go in the opposite direction. So, for example, no major involvement in EU affairs and no firm negotiations for a free trade agreement between the two Atlantic markets can be expected.
On the two major achievements of the Obama era - the agreement nuclear deal with Iran sealed by the US, the EU and Russia, and the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana - Biden will find it difficult to tread the path then defined. There may be attempts at a new rapprochement with Tehran, but there would be greater coordination against it on the part of Israel and the Sunni world, which are now more convergent. Biden may find that less pressure on the ayatollahs pushes Saudi Arabia towards the atom bomb.
As for Cuba, a return to dissent will be more in the hands of the Cuban government than of Biden himself, who in his electoral loss in Florida has been able to read a rejection of any condescension towards Castroism. Some of the new restrictions imposed by Trump on Cuba may be dismantled, but if Havana continues to show no real willingness to change and open up, the White House will no longer have to continue betting on political concessions to credit .
In the case of Venezuela, Biden is likely to roll back a good part of the sanctions, but there is no longer room for a policy of inaction like Obama's. That administration did not confront Chavismo for two reasons. That Administration did not confront Chavismo for two reasons: because it did not want to upset Cuba, given the secret negotiations it was holding with that country to reopen its embassies, and because the regime's level of lethality had not yet become unbearable. Today, international human rights reports are unanimous on the repression and torture of Maduro's government, and the arrival of millions of Venezuelan refugees in the different countries of the region means that it is necessary to take action on the matter. Here it is to be hoped that Biden will be able to act less unilaterally and, while maintaining pressure, seek coordination with the European Union.
It is often the case that those who come to the White House deal with domestic affairs in their first years and then later, especially in a second term, focus on leaving an international bequest . Due to age and health, the new occupant may only serve a four-year term. Without Obama's idealism of wanting to 'bend the arc of history' - Biden is a pragmatist, a product of the US political establishment - or businessman Trump's rush for immediate gain, it is hard to imagine that his administration will take serious risks on the international stage.
Biden has confirmed his commitment to begin his presidency in January by reversing some of Trump's decisions, notably on climate change and the Paris agreement ; on some tariff fronts, such as the outgoing administration's unnecessary punishment of European countries; and on various immigration issues, especially concerning Central America.
In any case, even if the Democratic left wants to push Biden to the margins, believing that they have an ally in Vice President Kamala Harris, the president-elect can make use of his staff moderation: the fact that in the elections he obtained a better result than the party itself gives him, for the moment, sufficient internal authority. The Republicans have also held their own quite well in the Senate and the House of Representatives, so that Biden comes to the White House with less support on Capitol Hill than his predecessors. That, in any case, may help to reinforce one of the Delaware politician's generally most valued traits today: predictability, something that the economies and foreign ministries of many of the world's countries are eagerly awaiting.
The current president made only one visit, also at the framework of the G-20, compared to the six that Bush and Obama made in their first four years.
International travel does not tell the whole story about a president's foreign policy, but it does give some clues. As president, Donald Trump has only travelled once to Latin America, and then only because the G20 summit he was attending was being held in Argentina. It is not that Trump has not dealt with the region - of course, Venezuela policy has been very present in his management- but the fact that he has not made the effort to travel to other countries on the continent reflects the more unilateral character of his policy, which is not very focused on gaining sympathy among his peers.
▲ signature in Mexico in 2018 of the free trade agreement between the three North American countries [department of State, USA].
article / Miguel García-Miguel
With only one visit visit to the region, the US president is the one who has made the fewest official visits since Clinton's first term in office, who also visited the region only once. In contrast, Bush and Obama paid more attention to the neighbouring territory, both with six visits in their first term. Trump focused his diplomatic campaign on Asia and Europe and reserved Latin American affairs for visits by the region's presidents to the White House or his Mar-a-Lago resort.
In reality, the Trump administration spent time on Latin American issues, taking positions more quickly than the Obama administration, as the worsening problem in Venezuela required defining actions. At the same time, Trump has discussed regional issues with Latin American presidents during their visits to the US. There has not, however, been an effort at multilateralism or empathy, going to his meeting in their home countries to deal with their problems there.
The Democratic president made only one visit to the region during his first term in office: visit . refund After the Uphold Democracy operation to bring Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power, on 31 March 1995 Bill Clinton travelled to Haiti for the transition ceremony organised by the United Nations. The operation had consisted of a military intervention by the United States, Poland and Argentina, with UN approval, to overthrow the military board that had forcibly deposed the democratically elected Aristide. During his second term, Clinton paid more attention to regional affairs, with thirteen visits.
Bush: free trade agreements
Bush made his first presidential trip to neighbouring Mexico, where he met with then President Fox to discuss a range of issues. Mexico paid attention to the US government's attention attention to Mexican immigrants, but the two presidents also discussed the functioning of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which came into force in 1994, and joint efforts in the fight against drug trafficking. The US president had the opportunity to visit Mexico three more times during his first term in office for the purpose of attend multilateral meetings. Specifically, in March 2002, he attended the lecture International Meeting on Financing for the development, organised by the United Nations and which resulted in the Monterrey Consensus; Bush also took the opportunity to meet again with the Mexican president. In October of the same year he attended the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit, which that year was held in the Mexican enclave of Los Cabos. Finally, he set foot on Mexican soil once again to attend the Special Summit of the Americas held in Monterrey in 2004.
During his first term in office, Bush pushed for the negotiation of new free trade agreements with several American countries, which was the hallmark of his administration's policy towards the Western Hemisphere. framework As part of this policy, he travelled to Peru and El Salvador on 23 and 24 March 2002. agreement In Peru, he met with the President of Peru and the Presidents of Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador, in order to reach an agreement to renew the ATPA (Andean Trade Promotion Act), by which the US granted tariff freedom on a wide range of exports from these countries. The matter was finally resolved with the enactment in October of the same year of the ATPDEA (Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act), which maintained tariff freedoms in compensation for the fight against drug trafficking, in an attempt to develop the region economically in order to create alternatives to cocaine production. Finally, in the case of El Salvador, he met with the Central American presidents to discuss the possibility of a Free Trade Agreement with the region (known in English as CAFTA) in exchange for a strengthening of security in the areas of the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism. The treaty was ratified three years later by the US congress . Bush revisited Latin America up to eleven times during his second term.
Graph 1. Own elaboration with data of Office of the Historian
Obama: two Summits of the Americas
Obama began his tour of diplomatic visits to Latin America with attendance to the Fifth Summit of the Americas, held in Port-au-Prince (Trinidad and Tobago). The Summit brought together all the leaders of the sovereign countries of the Americas, with the exception of Cuba, and was aimed at coordinating efforts to recover from the recent crisis of 2008, with mentions of the importance of environmental and energy sustainability. Obama returned to attend in 2012 to the VI Summit of the Americas held this time in Cartagena de Indias (Colombia). No representatives from Ecuador or Nicaragua attended this summit in protest at the exclusion of Cuba to date. Neither the President of Haiti nor Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez attended, citing medical reasons. At the summit, the issues of Economics and security were once again discussed, with the war on drugs and organised crime being of particular relevance, as well as the development of environmental policies. He also took advantage of this visit to announce, together with Juan Manuel Santos, the effective entrance of the Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and the US, negotiated by the Bush Administration and ratified after some delay by the US congress . The Democratic president also had the opportunity to visit the region on the occasion of the G-20 meeting in Mexico, meeting , but this time the main focus of topic was on solutions to curb the European debt crisis.
In terms of bilateral meetings, Obama undertook a diplomatic tour of Brazil, Chile and El Salvador between 19 and 23 March 2010, meeting with their respective presidents. He used the occasion to resume relations with the Brazilian left that had governed the country since 2002, to reiterate his economic and political alliance with Chile, and to announce a $200 million fund to strengthen security in Central America. During his second term in office, he made up to seven visits, including the resumption of diplomatic relations with Cuba, which had been paused since the triumph of the Revolution.
Donald Trump only visited Latin America on one occasion to attend meeting the G-20, a meeting that was not even regional, held in Buenos Aires in December 2018. Among the various agreements reached were the reform of the World Trade Organisation and the commitment of the attendees to implement the measures adopted at the Paris agreement , with the exception of the US, since the president had already reiterated his determination to withdraw from the agreement. Taking advantage of the visit, he signed the T-MEC (Treaty between Mexico, the United States and Canada, the new name for the renewed NAFTA, the renegotiation of which Trump had demanded) and met with the Chinese president in the context of the trade war. Trump, on the other hand, did not attend the VIII Summit of the Americas held in Peru in April 2018; the trip, which was also supposed to take him to Colombia, was cancelled at the last minute because the US president preferred to remain in Washington in the face of a possible escalation of the Syrian crisis.
The reason for the few visits to the region has been that Trump has directed his diplomatic campaign towards Europe, Asia and to a lesser extent the Middle East, in the context of the trade war with China and the loss of power on the US international stage.
Graph 2. Own elaboration with data of Office of the Historian
Only one trip, but monitoring of the region
Despite having hardly travelled to the rest of the continent, the Republican candidate has paid attention to the region's affairs, but without leaving Washington, as up to seven Latin American presidents have visited the White House. The main focus of the meetings has been the economic development and the reinforcement of security, as usual. Depending on the reality of each country, the meetings revolved more around the possibility of future trade agreements, the fight against drugs and organised crime, preventing the flow of illegal immigration to the United States, and the search to strengthen political alliances. Although the US government website does not list it as an official visit , Donald Trump also met at the White House in February 2020 with Juan Guaidó, recognised as president in charge of Venezuela.
Precisely, if there has been a common topic to all these meetings, it has been the status economic and political crisis in Venezuela. Trump has sought allies in the region to encircle and put pressure on Maduro's government, which is not only an example of continuous human rights violations, but also destabilises the region. The ironclad civil service examination to the regime served Donald Trump as propaganda to gain popularity and try to save the Latino vote in the November 3 elections, and that had its award at least in the state of Florida.
Graph 3. Own elaboration with data of Office of the Historian