While European Union Woos Latin America and the Caribbean, the U.S. Plays Hard to Get | Opinion


While the United States continues to view Latin America and Caribbean countries as simply the root of their immigration problem, the European Union (EU) is salivating to reactivate its relations in that region. The EU has the right focus.

Latin America and the Caribbean are far more than a migraine for the United States. Europe views the region as holding creative solutions to some of its economic and trade problems. Ironically, this ally follows China and Russia in that thinking.

Is the Biden administration concerned that it is losing political influence to those targeting a region it neglects? It doesn’t seem so.

That is a bitter pill to swallow for those of us who live in South Florida and know that what happens in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Haiti impacts our state tremendously.

In Brussels this month, the European Union and CELAC — the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States — held a significant “let’s work together” summit. Just about every Latin American president attended, including the new breed of left-leaning democratically elected leaders, from Colombia, Brazil and other countries, who also share a lack of deference to the United States as a world leader.

U.S. foes invited

In fact, the two-day conference brazenly invited well-established U.S. enemies, including Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, giving them undeserved legitimacy, unfortunately.

Cuba and Venezuela are on the U.S. list of “state sponsors of terrorism.” But, the EU reasons, Venezuela is rich in oil, and Cuba exports cigars and sugar.

The U.S.’ hardline stance and sanctions on those countries didn’t matter at the EU-CELAC conference. In fact, at the summit’s conclusion, participants issued a statement denouncing the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba.

The EU and its guests from Latin America and the Caribbean sent a clear message that this is not about what the United States wants or approves of, or who has been accused of human-rights violations by the United Nations. Instead, it’s about who can benefit by exporting to Europe, stunned by how the war in Ukraine has disrupted its oil supply line.

Instead of looking east for exports and economic growth, Europe, which has its own problems, is now looking west and then south to our closest neighbors, whom we’ve put on the back burner. As a testament, President Biden has not traveled to Latin America since he became president.

To their credit, Miami-Dade congressional members frequently try to alert the Biden administration to address issues related to Cuba or Venezuela. Silence is often the response.

In a recent Miami Herald op-ed, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio asked the administration to tighten its policies against Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela. No word on whether Rubio, an expert in the region, was heard.

But now, with Europe, China and Russia as possible friends, Maduro need not fear U.S. sanctions. He has other customers waiting in the wings.

And the Biden administration seems as unconcerned about the new European interest in Latin America as it does about the advances from Russian and Chinese in the region, including China’s spy station in Cuba.

The conference ended with encouraging remarks by EU President Charles Michel, of Belgium, about this new alliance: “We stand before you with a sense of accomplishment and the feeling that a promising, optimistic page is turning in relations between the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean and the European Union.”

Michel said the groundwork is laid for business, economic, trade and climate change partnerships. Politics is taking a back seat to creating a sustainable future for all.

‘Hope and promise’

Where does the United States fit into any of this? Is the Biden administration even sure?

The EU’s 27 countries are courting Latin American and Caribbean countries as trading partners, promising that dealing with them will also help enrich their economies.

They announced that the partners would now meet every two years. (The U.S.’s Summit of the Americas is held every four years.)

In an editorial in the Spanish newspaper El Pais, there is a belief that EU can change the economy of Latin and Caribbean countries. That would stem the flow of immigrants from these countries into the United States. It’s a hard nut to crack, but they’re willing to try:

“There are currently 200 million Latin Americans living in poverty, women occupy only 15% of managerial positions and the poorest 50% accumulate only 1% of the wealth,” the editorial said. “This partnership is the last train from Europe to Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s a train full of possibilities, hope, and promise of progress for the two regions, which Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean should not miss.”

The Biden administration should be worried it’s not aboard that train and that as a result — to mix a metaphor or two — it’s missing the boat.

Source: Yahoo News