In the spotlight: Joe Biden’s dubious Latin American foreign policy

By Mason Quah


JOE Biden’s policy positions on Latin America have been cast into the spotlight after the Democratic nominee weighed in on Cuba’s human rights record.

The question of how the US responds to Venezuela particularly has been made into a key domestic issue despite the broad similarities in how both candidates view the country.

Alongside this, recent comments made by the VP have cast into question his commitment to Obama’s Cuban policy of slowly easing tensions towards the country.

In a statement made on the VP’s twitter, he attributes Cuba joining the UN human rights council last year as a failure of Trump’s administration to properly oppose them.

Concerned at how this could undermine US diplomacy and betray Cuba’s political prisoners, he vows to take a harder stance in “empowering the Cuban people and defending human rights.”

Were Biden so concerned about the membership of the Human Rights council and the track records of its members, it would be expected he have comments to give on newly appointed Poland’s persecution of LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Rwanda just completed a term on the Human Rights council, a nation where abortions are outlawed and no justice has been seen for the 1994 genocide.

Biden’s singling out of Cuba and Venezuela is indicative of the cold war mindset that underlies his commitment to US backed regime change. 

Screenshot 2020-05-22 at 13.45.08
Image: Gage Skidmore @Flickr

In contrasting statements, Biden has pledged a return to Obama-era policies of reengaging with Cuba. Whatever his true views are of the island nation, recapturing the Obama mythos has been a key part of Biden’s popularity.

Balancing both positions, he pledged last month to fostering positive relations with Cuba while still increasing US sanctions to punish their backing of Maduro in Venezuela. Even the relatively mild thawing seen under Obama is unlikely to come back in earnest if Biden enacts harsher sanctions than those already imposed.

The much greater concern is his commitment to exerting American influences elsewhere on the continents. Biden has talked a big game on how he has historically opposed Maduro, calling him a “tyrant”, and has endorsed Juan Guaido as legitimate president on the nation.

Redaction Politics spoke to the Venezuela Solidarity Campaigns’ Francisco Dominguez, who is also Head of the Latin American Research Group at Middlesex University.

While the organisation does not hold a position on US elections, Dominguez is fearful that neither of the presidential candidates will halt the policy of regime change.

This concern is illustrated by the history both parties have of intervening in Venezuelan politics.

Mr Dominguez said: “It was during Obama’s administration that a Presidential Executive Order was issued (9 March 2015) which declared Venezuela represented an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” thus leading the US to declare a state of national emergency.

“This began the US system of sanctions against Venezuela which have been massively ratcheted up by Trump.”

While it is clear that both US parties are committed to deposing Maduro, a 2020 Biden presidency will be taking control of a very different nation to the uncontested hegemon of only 4 years previously.

Dominguez points to the economic crisis continuing to grow and the weakening of US influence both locally and globally.

He added: “He (Biden) may have to focus on different priorities rather than costly and futile regime change efforts in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. On the other hand the ‘regime change’ machinery in the US is huge, powerful and very influential in both the Republican and Democratic parties such that president Biden might not be allowed to deviate.”

This worst case scenario may be devastating to the Venezuelan people, but Dominguez does not believe it will be successful in constructing a US backed regime.

“If we take his current stance as his policy for the region as president, then the US will continue to fail and fail, weakening right wing governments and allies, as Trump has done with Guaido, in a nightmarish downward spiral of violence and political defeats for the US,” he said.

It is clear that the Bolivarian Revolution is here to stay and the US is unable to change that be that by Trump or Biden.

There is no presidential candidate committed to withdrawing American influence from political meddling in Latin America.

The best hope is a stagnation of tensions as America focuses inwards on combating the Coronavirus crisis, the worst is a doubling down on the economic sanctions and mercenary attacks that are responsible for Venezuela’s current humanitarian crisis.

Joe Biden’s team was contacted for comment.

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