Business Intelligence
Tillerson’s Trip to Latin America: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Photo: Mr. Tillerson during his visit to Peru. Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Perú/Flickr

Photo: Mr. Tillerson during his visit to Peru. Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Perú/Flickr

23rd February 2018

By Cynthia Arnson, Director, Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson International   Center for Scholars
With a handful of notable exceptions, the tone and substance of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent swing through five Latin American and Caribbean countries made it almost hard to remember that he works for the Trump administration.  Over the past year, the President’s public and private discourse, from the border wall to “shithole” countries, has poisoned U.S.-Latin American relations and caused U.S. standing in the region to plummet.  So anything resembling normal and even informed diplomacy was a welcome departure.
Critics have been quick to seize on some of the trip’s more troubling moments.  These include Tillerson’s affirmation about the continued relevance of the Monroe Doctrine, a pointed reference to China’s “imperial” ambitions in Latin America, and a suggestion that the United States would welcome a move by the Venezuelan armed forces to oust President Nicolás Maduro. The statements—two in response to questions and one in his prepared remarks—showed a woeful ignorance of U.S. history in the region or of Latin American repudiation of military coups.  Similarly, the trade, investment, and financial relationship with China is one that South American countries have benefited from—and actively seek.
Yet judging from the public statements in all five countries, the bilateral encounters were remarkably nuanced and multi-faceted.  It will be some time before …

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