In the past few years I have been deeply interested in one topic in particular: the relationship between the United States and Latin America. While I am Venezuelan, I have spent much of my life in the United States. I often ask why did the US lose Latin America?
Besides frequently traveling to the U.S. when I was young, I ended up moving to the states when I was 17 years old, right after high school. I went to Philadelphia, to improve my English at a language institute at Saint Joseph’s University.
I then decided to go to college in the United States, at the Wilkes Honors College of FAU, which was perhaps the most transformative time in my life.
After all these years of living and interacting with Americans, I have learned to love the U.S., its culture, and it’s way of doing things.
Similarly, from a political perspective, the United States is a country we all have a lot to learn from. Despite all its problems, the U.S. is still the freest country in the world in many respects. It has an innovative private sector, a thriving academic sector, and overall, it is a country of countless opportunities.
For this reason, it saddens me that the United States have grown apart from each other. For us in Latin America, the United States should be an example to follow, a country to emulate. Instead, we often blame it for our own failures.
Similarly, for the United States, Latin America should be its greatest ally, its natural ally. We have the resources their economy needs, and a stronger Latin America would be essential to increase America’s own security. So, from an economic, diplomatic, and geopolitical perspective, an inter-american alliance would be America’s greatest foreign policy.
However, this has never been the mainstream view in Washington. Historically, the United States has always underrated Latin America’s potential, minimizing its status as a mere “backyard.”
Because of this, Washington has never focused on strengthening Latin America. Instead, they have spent much of their time in Europe and the Middle East.
Even worse, because of the U.S. lack of long-term strategy in Latin America, Washington has never been afraid of carrying on morally shameful policies in Latin America, such as supporting dictators or decimating the sovereignty of our nations.
In fact, this is what the United States seems to be doing right now in Venezuela.
Amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States and much of the democratic world have been looking for alternative sources of energy.
And according to some reports, these sources include Venezuela, a nation that have been heavily sanctioned since August 2017, and especially since early 2019.
During the first week of March, Joe Biden sent US officials to Caracas to meet with Nicolas Maduro, the head of the Venezuelan regime.
While the meeting was officially done to discuss the release of six American oil executives that are currently in prison in Venezuela, there are sources confirming that the meeting was aimed at lifting some of the sanctions that the U.S. has imposed on Venezuela.
It is allegedly said that the conversations are pushed mainly by Chevron, the US oil giant who has been operating in Venezuela, and currently owns four join ventures in Venezuela.
If these reports are true, then the United States would be once again dealing with Latin America as it has always done.
In contrast, what the United States should be doing is finding ways to use its sanctions to advance democracy and rule of law in Venezuela, wherever possible. It should also be working alongside volatile democracies like Colombia, and to avoid the rise of radicalism and extremism in that country. And similarly, it should be funding civil society initiatives across the region, from funding NGOs in poor areas to granting scholarships for Latin American students to study in the U.S.
All of these tactics should be part of a long-term strategy of engagement between the United States and Latin America. A strategy that is not based on a top-down approach, but on engaging with Latin America’s civil society.
If the United States does this, then Washington would have a chance to regain Latin America’s trust and love. And with it, it would be gaining a key partner in the world, from an economic and geopolitical perspective.
But if the United States keeps handling Latin America like it has been doing for years, then the region will keep pivoting to countries like China and Iran, partnerships that in no way or form benefit the U.S.
Jorge also writes for Libertatio on Substack see our work here