LIMA – President Donald Trump wants Latin America to pursue strong economic and bilateral investment ties with the United States and benefit from its prosperity, the US head of state’s top adviser on Latin America said in an interview with EFE in Peru’s capital.
Mauricio Claver-Carone added that if the region instead enters China’s orbit it will end up mired in dependency, debt and corruption.
The White House National Security Council’s senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs made his remarks at the end of a tour of South America in which he reaffirmed the US’s support for the “transitions” taking place on that continent but warned about what he said were the region’s “unnatural” economic relations with the Asian giant.
What were the objectives of this trip with regard to Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru?
Obviously the priorities for this trip were the two transitions that have been taking place (in Ecuador and Bolivia) from radicalism, the socialism of the 21st century, to democracies, the rule of law and transparency ... and now comes the arduous work toward economic prosperity. These democratic transitions are a model for the few countries, thank God, that remain in that radicalism, Venezuela and Nicaragua, to see how they can turn the page and seek out a more open, prosperous and democratic future.
Your trip delivered an economic message to a region that feels it’s been ignored by the United States. Is that accurate?
This administration has launched the first economic growth initiative for the region in decades, “America Crece” (Growth in the Americas). The point is that the US is the most dynamic economy and the beneficiaries of that should be, first of all, the people of the US and, secondly, our neighbors, who should be our partners first and foremost.
Trump, when he refers to America First, he would love for all the production of (US) companies to take place in the US and for employment to grow there. But if that’s not possible, the production shouldn’t go to China, but rather to the south.
What does that stance exactly mean for the region?
Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru have had unnatural trade relations with China, and it would be good for there to be a strengthening of their ties with the US because at the end of the day what we’ve seen with China are the worst habits of the past. Dependency, debt and corruption, that’s what it’s brought to the Western Hemisphere, things of the 20th century, which was a lost century for Latin America.
We want a new focus on transparency, prosperity and free and fair markets, which are what the US has always offered.
Then how do you account for the perception that it was the US that isolated itself and distanced itself from the region?
A perception with respect to when? America Crece is the US’s first regional initiative since 1991...
Trump sees the region as his allies and neighbors. He complains about spending US resources in far away places like Syria and says, ‘Why don’t we use those resources here with our neighbors, who share our values?’
Bolivia, whose interim president you’ve supported, is facing elections soon (May 3). How do you assess the electoral process in that country?
It’s a very open process. For the first time in more than 15 years we’re seeing transparency in Bolivia. They’re working with us, with NGOs, international organizations, so that process is open, with nothing to hide, the opposite of what Evo Morales had done.
They’ll have to vote in May. What if there’s another victory by the Movement toward Socialism (led by Morales, who was forced from office last year and is now living in exile in Argentina), which is the majority party in that country? How will you see that possible triumph?
The US government doesn’t interfere in Bolivia’s internal politics. That’s a sovereign affair. We do support standards for all: transparency, democracy and protections against fraud and corruption.
A year has passed since (opposition leader) Juan Guaido assumed the interim presidency of Venezuela (in a thus-far unsuccessful bid to oust leftist head of state Nicolas Maduro). How do you assess that year, which has seen little progress? Could anything have been done better?
I disagree with that analysis in the sense that since Guaido assumed (the interim presidency) and we adopted our policy of maximum pressure we’ve seen more progress and more pressure on the dictatorship than what had been seen in the previous 12 years.
We see a regime that’s isolated. The coalition for democracy is the largest in modern history. A sanctions system is being created. There’s immense economic pressure on (Maduro’s) regime and we continue to see the popular sentiment, in which there’s not one poll that doesn’t show that Guaido is Venezuela’s most important and most beloved political figure.
The economic pressure on Venezuela is connected to the migrant crisis. What can be done in that sense?
The facts show that the exodus (of Venezuelans, mainly to other countries of the region) is the fault of Maduro, mismanagement and ungovernability. It began before the (US’s) maximum-pressure sanctions were imposed and it won’t get better – no matter what we do – until Maduro leaves power and elections and a democratic transition are allowed.
There’s no reason for Venezuela to be in crisis. They have all the resources in the world and should be one of the region’s most successful countries. It’s clear to us, just as it is to the Venezuelan people, that this situation won’t get better until Maduro leaves power. That’s why we’ll maintain pressure on the regime and on individuals who are doing harm.