National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien will unveil a US government strategy for the Americas during a visit to South Florida this Sunday, before his trip to Colombia and Panama.
According to a White House document reviewed by the Nuevo Herald, the Strategic Framework for the Western Hemisphere was created with the input of various agencies and encompasses the “five pillars” of President Donald Trump’s vision for the region: “to secure the homeland ”; foster economic growth, promote democracy and the rule of law, counter foreign influence, and strengthen alliances with like-minded partners.
The framework is part of a broader national security strategy that is a classified document, said a high-ranking administration official. According to the White House, a similar exercise was last carried out in 2004, in the last year of President George W. Bush’s first term, which draws a parallel with the situation of President Trump, who is seeking re-election in November. .
O’Brien, who leads the National Security Council, will present a summary of the strategy during a speech at an event with Colombian and Venezuelan immigrants in West Palm Beach on Sunday.
“President Trump considers the Western Hemisphere to be an incredibly important area for the United States that has been neglected for too long,” O’Brien told el Nuevo Herald. “He believes that the Western Hemisphere is really fundamental to the national and economic security of the United States.”
Foreign diplomats and critics of the Trump administration have said its Latin American foreign policy has focused too much on Venezuela and Cuba. President Trump has only traveled to the region once, to attend the G-20 Summit in Argentina in 2018.
“Donald Trump’s Latin American policy has been driven by bigotry, engineered by ideologues and defined by harassment,” said Mark Feierstein, former director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council during Barack Obama’s presidency.
“It has largely focused on two countries, Cuba and Venezuela, and on its own terms it has failed,” he added. “The Cuban and Venezuelan people are worse off than three and a half years ago, and are no closer to enjoying democratic freedoms.”
But the White House cited the more than a dozen meetings with Latin American and Caribbean leaders as an example of Trump’s leadership in the region.
An economic agenda
In the Herald interview, O’Brien did not address the criticism but highlighted the administration’s efforts to promote private investment in Latin America, which will be an important part of his trip to Colombia and Panama. He is expected to announce a new initiative to boost private investment in rural Colombia.
“We will continue negotiating some agreements in Colombia. On my trip I will bring Adam Boehler, director of the United States’ International Development Finance Corporation. And he has a big checkbook, ”he said. The official added that he will speak with Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo about the “América Crece” initiative, which focuses on promoting private sector investment in infrastructure in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The administration will soon launch another initiative to promote the relocation of US companies from Asia to Latin America, current director for the Western Hemisphere on the National Security Council, Mauricio Claver-Carone, said on Thursday in a call with reporters.
“I think they are going to see more companies coming back to the Americas, many pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies, because they realize, under the threat of a pandemic and the political uncertainty in China at this time, that it is preferable to be in the Western Hemisphere.” O’Brien said.
The advisor mentioned Mexico as an example.
“During the COVID crisis, much of our supply chain was in Mexico and those supplies kept coming,” he said. “We were able to call the president [Andrés] López Obrador if we had a problem. It really worked well while it didn’t work well with many of the overseas factories, especially those in China. “
Influence of China and immigration
China’s influence in the region is another concern mentioned in the Strategic Framework. In a call with reporters on Friday, Michael Kozak, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, said the United States was advising the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean to be wary of borrowing from China “19th century style. That might be attractive at first, but could result in asset forfeiture and crippling debt.
“It is not like in Western countries, that is, if there is a bad debt or a bad loan, it is resolved or something is paid over time. The Chinese come in, and they will confiscate a port or take a railroad if a country owes them, “said O’Brien, who denounced the Chinese government’s most recent attempts to use foreign aid in exchange for political influence during the COVID-19 pandemic. .
After initial criticism, the United States increased aid to foreign countries battling the virus. The White House said the administration donated more than $ 137 million to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean for that purpose, a figure still below its needs. O’Brien will deliver the first 50 of the 250 fans that the United States government promised to Panama.
Also included in the US strategy towards Latin America is President Trump’s agenda to guarantee that immigration is “legal and safe.” But these policies, including the separation of families at the border, the Remain in Mexico program and various agreements with Central American nations to accept asylum seekers, have been widely criticized and generated diplomatic friction. Some have been challenged in US courts.
However, the presidential adviser referred to the asylum cooperation agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as great achievements.
“What we cannot have is an open border without control,” he said, adding that those who aspire to come to the United States must do so “in the right way,” requesting it through the embassies.
But President Trump’s policies have also imposed obstacles on legal immigrants and asylum seekers. The family reunification program for Cubans has been suspended since 2017, and many Venezuelans fleeing the Nicolás Maduro regime have had their asylum applications denied and deported.
“If we could return democracy to Venezuela, there would not be these flows of asylum seekers,” said the presidential adviser. “It cannot simply be that if there is a problem in a nation, the answer is to go to the United States. Other large countries in the hemisphere must also be a destination ”.
Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres