The United States has focused too much on strengthening security over other aid in Latin America, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will say on Wednesday, announcing the White House’s commitment to promoting democracy in the region.
Blinken is touring Ecuador and Colombia at a time when US President Joe Biden seeks to defend stable democracies while authoritarianism and populism spread through Latin America.
Both countries receive security training from the United States and are run by conservatives, known for taking controversial measures. Colombian forces killed dozens of anti-government protesters this year, and Ecuador announced a state of emergency on Tuesday just before Blinken’s visit.
“Our record of improving civil security in the region’s democracies has been uneven,” Blinken will say in a speech this Wednesday in Quito, according to excerpts released in advance.
“This is because, too often, we have tried to solve this problem by relying too much on the training and equipment of security forces, and too little on other tools.”
“We have focused too much on addressing the symptoms of organized crime, such as homicides and drug trafficking, and too little on the root causes. We are working to correct this imbalance ”.
In his speech, Blinken highlights a greater effort by the Biden administration to fight corruption in the region, for example, through the rejection of visas for officials involved in bribery.
The United States, along with its frequent calls for elections, will also be more attentive to the economic situation in the region and to the improvement of labor, health and education laws, the Secretary of State will announce.
“This should be obvious, but the reality is that we have often put more energy into strengthening civil and political rights – such as free and fair elections, the rule of law, freedom of expression and assembly – than in strengthening economic rights. and social of the people ”.
The Biden government, as did his predecessor, the Republican Donald Trump, has increased the pressure on the authorities of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, whose illegitimate government, led by Nicolás Maduro, rose from the dialogue table with the opposition, supported by Washington.
Questions about democracy are also growing in the most populous country in the region, Brazil, where its president Jair Bolsonaro has mimicked Trump’s speech of sowing doubts about the legitimacy of the next general elections, which will be held in October 2022.
“We are in a moment of democratic reckoning,” Blinken is going to say.
While democracy in recent decades has brought “unprecedented prosperity” to Latin America, the future depends on whether elected leaders can “deliver on the issues that matter most to the people.”
His call to focus on the economy comes at a time when China has increased infrastructure lending in Latin America, which worries Washington, which sees the risk that Beijing’s growing presence in the region will lead to an increase. long-term authoritarianism.
In Ecuador, which has received billions of dollars in Chinese loans to finance electricity or oil projects, Blinken is going to say that it is not asking countries to “choose between the United States and China,” but rather more scrutiny over the Beijing investments in sensitive areas.
Although much smaller than Chinese loans, the United States recently announced $ 150 million in loans for small Ecuadorian businesses run by women.
Concern for rights
Blinken will travel to Colombia on Wednesday to meet with the country’s president, Iván Duque, a faithful ally of Trump.
Biden has been outspoken in his support for Duque, but has yet to meet with him.
In a letter to Blinken, Human Rights Watch said that Duque has led police brutality “unprecedented in recent Colombian history,” in reference to the violent crackdown on protests against tax reform.
“A strong response from the Biden government could help prevent further human rights violations,” wrote the NGO’s head for the Americas, José Miguel Vicanco.
Duque responded that Colombia lives in a fragile peace since the peace accords signed in 2016 between the government and the FARC, and that it seeks to “work effectively” with the United States.
In an attempt to expand the alliance with Washington, Duque will speak with Blinken about two of Biden’s priorities: climate change and migration.
The Secretary of State will meet in Bogotá with ministers from the region to develop a common plan to address the increased flow of Haitian migrants seeking to reach the United States.
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