What is Latin America waiting for to stop looking north?

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In the face of new threats of mass deportation and the re-election campaign of the president who issues them, the region has more reasons to question its relationship with the United States

United States flag and map of Latin America
Leer en español: ¿Que está esperando América Latina para dejar de mirar hacia el norte?

Among foreign politics scholars, there is a term in Latin that has been used to describe the preponderance of the United States in political decision-making in Latin America: it is called réspice polum doctrine. The term translates to 'look towards the polar star' and alludes to the tendency of many Latin American States to resort to the United States as a reference for development and as a hemispheric authority.

The doctrine subsists until today, as much for the States as among the population, that they see towards the north with admiration even when the political conjuncture shows an American executive power determined to limit the cooperation with Latin America. What has happened with the Trump government must be, then, another opportunity to reconsider the image we have of the United States in our region.

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Last week, Trump expressed his intention to coordinate a massive deportation operation with the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of the United States) that would target more than 2,000 families subject to orders of deportation. Presumably, at the suggestion of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Trump decided to postpone the operation for two weeks in the hope that the two parties agree on a solution to the immigration problem that afflicts the president.

The decision to postpone it can be read as an ultimatum to the Democratic caucus to give up on the immigration issue because the reality is that two weeks is too little to reach a consensus on such a thorny issue.

A demonstration of disinterest

What we should infer from Latin America, however, is that Trump is determined to cut ties with Latin communities within his country. The suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras shows that it is not interested in associating with the Latino population outside its borders.

Under Trump, the United States projects itself as a country with no interest in cooperating with Latin America. While one can argue the validity of stricter immigration policy and greater austerity in the delivery of economic aid for development, there is a total absence of support measures that promote continuity in a cooperative relationship between the United States and Latin America. There is no evidence to suggest that this is a change to another way of handling the cooperation agenda between the parties, while the evidence is enough to affirm that the drastic reduction of the agenda is already underway.

Perhaps with the exception of Mexico, which had to abide by the renegotiation of NAFTA instead of its elimination and that avoided the imposition of new tariffs by reacting with a military presence on the border to Trump's migratory concerns, the Latin American countries that the United States moves away have not received alternative offers.

Time to look in another direction

For the Latin American governments, particularly in Central America, which see their previously occupied agenda with the United States disappear, the moment is now to reconsider their relationship with the North.

Why should we look towards the polar star, if the polar star does not even look at us out of the corner of its eyes?

The relationship of Latin America with the United States has been, for more than a century, intensely asymmetric in favor of the American giant, and still persisted because it offered something to the south: priority access to one of the largest markets in the world, support of the strongest army in the world and economic aid, even if it has been conditioned.

But if instead, the United States chooses not to offer anything, then let's look elsewhere.


LatinAmerican Post | Editorial Team

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