Vice President Harris will visit Guatemala and Mexico starting Sunday in the first foreign trip of her tenure, amid political unrest in Latin America that complicates her task of addressing the root causes of regional migration.
The trip is meant to mark a reset in U.S. attitudes toward Latin America after four years of transactional, militarized migration enforcement under former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump touts record, blasts Dems in return to stage Trump demands China pay ‘reparations’ for role in coronavirus pandemic Trump endorses Rep. Ted Budd for Senate MORE.
Rhetorically, Harris’s expressed vision is a polar opposite of the Trump administration’s, when the Department of Homeland Security took an often-criticized lead role in regional diplomacy, forcing so-called “safe third country agreements” on Central American nations.
But political realities at home and abroad could push Harris to end up where Trump’s envoys started: Demanding more immigration enforcement from foreign governments.
President BidenJoe BidenTrump touts record, blasts Dems in return to stage Trump demands China pay ‘reparations’ for role in coronavirus pandemic Lincoln Project co-founder: Trump’s words ‘will surely kill again’ MORE‘s approach to Latin American relations is in many ways a return to normalcy, after an exceptional period under Trump.
That’s particularly true of the U.S. relationship with Mexico, where the diplomatic paradigm for decades was a mutual policy of compartmentalization to avoid disagreements in one area spilling over into other areas.
“Trump obviously blew that up, for example mixing migration with punitive tariffs,” said Arturo Sarukhan, a former Mexican ambassador to the United States.
“Whether [Mexican President Andrés Manuel] López Obrador has been told, or briefed, or understands this, Biden and the Biden administration will return to compartmentalizing different issues of the relationship,” Sarukhan added.
López Obrador, a populist who in many ways has broken the mold of his predecessors, has lately taken to launching provocative statements accusing the United States of funding “coup plotters” through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
He’s particularly taken aim at two non-governmental organizations, Article 19, a freedom-of-the-press advocacy group, and Mexicanos Unidos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad (Mexicans United Against Corruption and Impunity, or MCCI), for receiving funds from the U.S. government.
López Obrador has interchangeably criticized the NGOs and the media for receiving “corn,” a Mexican slang term for bribery, from the U.S. Embassy.
On Wednesday, López Obrador warned the embassy is distributing “corn with weevils” — essentially, a poisoned chalice — in its support for Mexican NGOs.
The Biden administration, however, has remained silent on López Obrador’s provocations, while pushing more aggressively against the leaders of Guatemala and El Salvador, Presidents Alejandro Giammattei and Nayib Bukele, respectively.
While Honduras is also within Harris’s portfolio, there is little to no expectation for the Biden administration to engage with its embattled president, Juan Orlando…