By Beatrice E. Rangel
The first week of March was bountiful in surprises.
Secretary Kerry's sudden cancellation of his trip to Cuba came as a cold shower to an expectant hemisphere that fears a refugee crisis in the Caribbean, as Venezuela stops sending oil to Cuba and its economy melts down. Indeed many saw the journey as a way to start undoing the Gordian knot of Cuban-U.S. relations which includes an ever elusive soft landing in Venezuela.
Fortunately for our hemisphere and the world, the event took place before March's ides. To be precise, according to the Roman Calendar we now are in the Nones of March with the Ides taking place around the 15th safely away from President Obama's so far still-planned trip to Havana.
State department spokespersons toned down the suspension by insinuating that the U.S. Embassy in Havana could not handle two top echelon trips in a month given that president Obama was scheduled to visit Cuba on March 21-22.
Official accounts however have not been convincing enough to halt the gossip mill which has already produced at least three very flimsy explanations.
First that President Obama does not want to negatively impact primary elections outcomes in Florida where the Cuban American community carries a heavy political weight and is divided about his rapprochement to Havana. This, of course is nonsense, as the overwhelming majority of Cuban Americans are Millennials who care far more for the Dalai Lama than for Cuba.
Others have indicated that lack of progress concerning Human Rights has been the triggering factor in suspending the trip. This bears much more sense, as how could President Obama reaffirm the status of a national security threat from Venezuela on account of its regime's horrendous violations of human rights while turning a blind eye to same policy in Cuba.
The third justification announced the proximity of a great opening on the part of Cuba to heretofore staunch opposition to deregulation, media freedom and dissent which will lead to a new agreement which in turn will facilitate the removal of the embargo.
Should anybody ask me to bet on these notions, I would vote for a hybrid between the second and the third, as there has been a lot of recent exchanges between the Vatican and the White House and I do not believe these exchanges revolve around the next Papal Encyclical.
Then there was the never ending Venezuelan tragedy with president Obama ratifying its status as national security threat to the U.S. for a second year.
And while I truly respect President Obama's vision and therefore understand that he needed to take such a step in order to nail down the government officials in Venezuela who also are drug kingpins, I believe Venezuela to only be a threat its people, the Colombian people and South America's progress.
To be sure, Venezuela's energy reserves are no longer immediately essential to the U.S. survival as an industrial power. Neither is Venezuela's economic might a force to be reckoned with in the hemisphere.
Further, Venezuela today lacks the military muscle and political resolve to undertake a major attack against the U.S.
But the Venezuelan regime has effective tools to influence Colombia and to disrupt progress in South America all the way to Peru.
And it will use such tools at its sole discretion given than even their relation with Cuba has deteriorated over the past three months.
Proof of the pudding is the fact that, according to SIPRI which has nothing to do with the Evil Empire, Venezuela was the largest importer of weapons in the region in 2015. This coming from a country that is subjecting its people to death for lack of medicines and starvation for lack of food is truly shocking. These weapons, of course, are the means to suffocate internal dissent and to disrupt life in neighboring countries.
And on the U.S. campaign trail events are moving to a closure with Mr. Trump clearly about to become the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton the Democratic Party nominee.
Mr. Trump's ascent to power has proved to be miraculous. He has so far defied every single tenet for a successful political campaign. He lacks a platform; he has done away with political correctness; he has expressed views that, at face value, could be taken as anti-women, anti-black, anti-Hispanic, and most dangerously anti-dissent.
And instead of seeing his numbers sink, he has enjoyed the greatest support ride ever to be witnessed in this country since F.D.R. Worse, he has changed the political game to make it virtually impossible for any aspiring politician to succeed without behaving like Mr. Trump. This has sent Ben Carson to the freezer while turning his two surviving rivals into bad behavior copies of Mr. Trump.
Although the US institutional framework is sturdy enough to survive this shake-up, one wonders what the future will bring in a hemisphere where populism has been the greatest obstacle to development South of the Rio Grande. Will Latin America continue to make progress in institution building or will they draw the conclusion that U.S. populism is the way to progress in the 21st century?Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.
Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet seriesBeatrice Rangel: The Demise of Civility in the Americas!!
Beatrice Rangel: The Americas from Boutros Boutros-Ghali to Ban Ki Moon
Beatrice Rangel: The Pope's Difficult Stopover in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: Farewell to The “Diplomacy of Reason”
Beatrice Rangel: 2 Diseases in Latin America -- Different Prescriptions, Very Different Outcomes
Beatrice Rangel: On Health Alerts and the Long Arm of Justice in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: When Crime Meets Glory
Beatrice Rangel: Playing Hansel and Gretel in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: Good News/Bad News Starts The Monkey Leap Year
Beatrice Rangel: The Gifts of Christmas!!!!!!
Beatrice Rangel: Crying Wolf in Venezuela
Beatrice Rangel: A 21st Century Tale of Two Cities
Beatrice Rangel: Are the Americas Ready for President Trump?
Beatrice Rangel: On Predictions of War & Global Confusion
Beatrice Rangel: Paris and the Return of Fear
Beatrice Rangel: Marijuana & Latin America's Next Trade Corridor
Beatrice Rangel: Of Burning Airplanes & Argentinean Tsunamis
Beatrice Rangel: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the Americas!!
Beatrice Rangel: Buena Vista's Magic Covers the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: Pride and Perjury in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: Trompe L’oeils Proliferate in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: The Economic Consequences of Peace in Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: Colombia, the FARC & the Makings of Gangland in Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: When Extreme Weather Meets Extreme Politics Calamities are Bound to Happen
Beatrice Rangel: When Ladies Hit 70
Beatrice Rangel: About Uninformed Elites and Gullible Leaders
Beatrice Rangel: On US-Engineered Soft Landings in Cuba and Venezuela
Beatrice Rangel: On the Many Ways Cecil Matters
Beatrice Rangel: Blue Moons Lead to Extraordinary Happenings in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: On Why Embassy Openings Do Not Necessarily Herald Different Policies
Beatrice Rangel: When Jupiter meets Venus
Beatrice Rangel: When Markets and Manners Crash
Beatrice Rangel: From Grexit to Exit, Contagion is in the Air
Beatrice Rangel: An Infuriated God & An Environmental Crusader Mark the Summer Solstice
Beatrice Rangel: Between Ionesco & the Falklands Syndrome
Beatrice Rangel: The Ugly Americas
Beatrice Rangel: How FIFA Corrupted the Beautiful Game in the Americas and World
Beatrice Rangel: Could the US RICO Act Be Applied to Latin America?
Beatrice Rangel: On the Discreet Charm of Commodities for Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: The End of the Chinese Free Lunch in the Americas!!
Beatrice Rangel: The Crooked Twig of Democracy in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: Of a White Knight for Three Latin American Ladies in Distress
Beatrice Rangel: Withdrawal Symptoms?
Beatrice Rangel: The Un-Mannered Summit
Beatrice Rangel: Easter Miracles in Latin America and the World
Beatrice Rangel: Two Islands, Two Legacies & One Challenge - Modernity
Beatrice Rangel: Killing Me Softly -- the Obama Administration’s Legacy in Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: Of Upcoming Dynasties and Exhausted Ideas in Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: Of Thunderous Silences, Quiet Noises and Flash Backs in Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: Latin America's Dangerous Exports to Europe & the Demise of an Old Fox
Beatrice Rangel: Of Sweet Deals, Sugar Daddies, Direct Mail & Obama’s Care
Beatrice Rangel: Of Latin American Singing Birds, Femme Fatales & Empty Shelves
Beatrice Rangel: When Flying Dragons & Rage Infusions Turn Against Their Latin American Masters
Beatrice Rangel: Holy Haberdashery!!! Is Fire Building Under the Surface in the Americas??
Beatrice Rangel: 2015 -- A Year for Balance in the Americas???
Beatrice Rangel: Pope Francis Looks at the Americas In His Christmas Remarks
Beatrice Rangel: The Paint Brush Hanging from the Wall in Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: A Future for the Americas??
Beatrice Rangel: Going Forward, Going Backward -- It's the Americas!!
Beatrice Rangel: An Eerily Familiar Week in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: Tale of Two Walls
Beatrice Rangel: Across the Americas, We the PEOPLE
Beatrice Rangel: Across Latin America, The Populist Beat Goes On!!
Beatrice Rangel: Oh My, The Patron of the Eternal Feminine Has Left Us!!!
Beatrice Rangel: Communism from China to Cuba Finds Corruption!!!
Beatrice Rangel: From Rio to Hong Kong Discontent Taps the East to Find a New Way
Beatrice Rangel: Will Latin America Miss the Broadband Development Target?
Beatrice Rangel: Kissinger’s World Order and Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: The Third Attempt -- Will Modernity Prevail in Latin America?
Rangel: While US is Away, Latin America Rethinks Development Paths
Rangel: In the Midst of Riots, a Star is Born in Brazil
Rangel: In Mexico Cinderella Gets to the Ball while Colombia Gets a Chance at Peace