Now, America is Worried About the US

Aug 23, 2016 | Opinions

by María Teresa Romero

Currently, there are concerns and expectations worldwide and especially in Latin America about the US presidential electoral process even more than in previous occasions. They are living in fear and rejection for the situation.

This is because, on the one hand, the process is revealing the decline of the bipartisan system in the best democracy in the world. There have been signs of dangerous phenomena such as anti-politics and anti-party groups. Latin Americans know by experience how harmful they can be.

However, basically, the concern comes from the Donald Trump’s high chance of becoming the next US president. Beyond his populist, racist and xenophobic rethoric, In Latin America, there is a well-founded perception – that Mr. Trump is not prepared to face and deal with this complex and changing region. Where, there is not a country or group of nations with a undisputed leadership. This is a region that in politics, after two decades influenced by the radical left, finally, tends to center right, but it is still little cohesive and very polarized. It has a big number of concertation forums and severe institutional crisis (such as Venezuela and Brazil). Furthermore, this region is in economic recession and suffers the scourges of corruption, drug trafficking, and terrorism, affecting the security and stability of its democracies.

Added to this, it is the unique Trump’s foreign policy, which combines a strong isolationist tendency with a dangerous martial and nationalist glorification. If the Republican candidate becomes president, – whose slogan is “Make America Great Again” – he will focused on political and economic national issues, rather than his neighbors’ foreign policy. However, it does not mean that he is going to avoid conflicts and confrontation with them. It is possible that he goes back over conflicts in inter-American relations, like in George W. Bush era. But not just with XXI century dictatorships like Cuba and Venezuela, but with allied countries such as Mexico and Colombia. If Trump wins, US won’t look for new political alliances, instead Clinton would focus on that. Actually, if Trump wins, many relationships with friendly countries will diminish.

It is evident that most of Latin Americans prefer Democrat Hillary Clinton in the White House. She guarantees alliance policies with friendly countries, based on mutual respect, no intervention, diplomatic restraint and political firmness. She also represents the continuity of Barack Obama’s foreign policy, which has been well accepted by Latin Americans. The most recent survey showed that 65% of respondents claimed to have a good or very good opinion about US. Clinton, certainly, would pay more attention than Trump to this region. She has repeatedly said “No region is more important than Latin America”.

Furthermore, Clinton can be expected to expand the US trade and keep supporting the free trade agenda. This, in spite of showing in the current campaign some opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). She declared when she was US Secretary of State that she supported the initiative (She called it as “the gold standard”). Now, she is not convinced that the agreement may generate jobs for US workers. Donald Trump, in the other hand, wants to overhaul the current free trade. For him, trades like NAFTA and any other that don’t “get a much better deal for America” must be renegotiated. He proclaims a protectionist policy that defends US workers.

Regarding the fighting against the narco-insurgency, Clinton will probably continue to invest in places like the northern triangle of Central America and Colombia, as well as the Andean Subregion in general. For Clinton, the Plan Colombia is part of her husband’s legacy. She is not going to leave it out when she gets to the White House.

On the other hand, what Trump or Clinton do about illegal immigration also will affect the relationships with Latin America, particularly with Mexico and Central America. Generally speaking, Clinton and Democrats in the White House will lean toward promoting the regularization. Hillary, doubtless, would use her presidential authority to keep and introduce decrees like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that allows young undocumented immigrants to work for two years, avoiding deportation. Also, she would exert pressure to bring a more inclusive reform of the migration policy, although a Lower House majority Republican would block her efforts. Trump, otherwise, would try to implement his anti-immigration campaign promises, and will seek approval for a merciless reform against illegal immigrants, executing mass deportations.

However, who guarantees that Hillary is going to be the next US President? Despite supporting her, Latin Americans see her candidacy with concern and doubt. Besides the high level of distrust inspired by her, the “bad name” of “conventional politician of the establishment” and even “liar” given by her opposition, and the use of a personal mail account to manage official matters when she was Secretary of State (2009-2013), could affect her seriously. If the FBI consider that Clinton broke the law, they could recommend Loretta Lynch, the current Attorney General, to present charges against Clinton. This is not impossible in the current chaotic US politics.