Mistaken Interpretations of the US Election

Photo: Adam Schultz / Biden Campaign / Confidencial

The Latin American policies Democrats promote are more relaxed and advantageous to the region. This could be observed in the presidencies of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

By Rafael Rojas* (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – A look at the chief Latin American media shows the majority inclined to consider Joe Biden’s win as the least unfavorable option. This is true across the region’s entire ideological spectrum.

However, underneath that fragile media consensus, a number of errors are being transmitted. This is especially true on the social networks, and in the government and opposition forums.  These reveal the old stereotypes and prejudices.

The first of those errors is the idea that Republicans and Democrats, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, are all the same. The same, because they form part of an old two-party political system of indirect selection. This system, the thinking goes, guarantees that no true alternative can rise to power. Or, they’re the same because they’re both imperialists, so their relations with Latin America will always be disadvantageous.

The allegation that the US system is old and should be reformed isn’t new. It’s been part of the demands from progressive sectors in the US since the 60s at least. However, archaic as the system may be, there are internal differences within it.

Denying such differences within a two-party format is harder than in one-party regimes, like the Soviet or Cuban system. Yet, some Latin Americans defend one-party systems, then claim there’s no freedom of choice in a two-party system. That’s astonishing.

If no differences existed between Trump and Biden, polarization would never have reached the levels of the past few years. The two diverge on the environment, racism, public health international commerce and relations with China and Russia, Cuba and Venezuela.

It’s not only a matter of different styles, which do count. Beyond that, it’s a matter of different programs for both parties. These differences have expanded since Barack Obama’s two presidential terms.

Likewise, analysts say that policies towards Latin America remain the same, because the US hegemony or imperialist essence so dictates.  This claim is also unsustainable, and that hegemony is ever more relative.

Democrats’ policies towards the region have historically been more relaxed and advantageous for both Latin America and the Caribbean. This could be observed in the administrations of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Another error common in Latin America is assuming that Trump’s isolationism is beneficial to the region. Such policies, they claim, lessen Washington’s emphasis on human rights, an autonomous civil society and democratic consolidation. At the same time, they shrink the Democrats’ hemispheric strategy.

That perspective initially united governments of the left and right, such as that of Jair Bolsonaro and Nicolas Maduro. However, changes in Trump’s policies towards Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua refuted this view.

A third mistake has circulated in recent days in analyses of the US elections. This involves claims that a Biden triumph would lead to an abandonment of the alliances Trump has built. These alliances include Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Ivan Duque in Colombia.

Unlike Trump though, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the new political generation headed for the White House have a vision for the State. They won’t impose a logic of immediacy on the government, of destroying everything the past administration has done.

Mexico, Brazil and Colombia have been priorities for the US foreign policy for decades. They won’t stop being so with the arrival of the Democrats at the State Department. Trump’s departure, far from obstructing this tie, will allow them to guide it from a perspective of rational shared diplomacy.

That rationality will probably see the emergence of new areas of conflict between the United States and Latin America. But the manner of confronting them will be more predictable, less arbitrary. That’s why it’s so dangerous for opposition figures to utilize Biden’s win as a mechanism to pressure their governments.

* This article was originally published in “La Razón.”

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