U.S. 2020: Bernie Sanders on the Issues That Affect Latin America
U.S. 2020: Bernie Sanders on the Issues That Affect Latin America
We look at where the Vermont senator stands on immigration, trade, security, climate change, and Venezuela.
Though he was an early leader in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary contest, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders now trails former Vice President Joe Biden in the delegate count and national polls after the latter was able to consolidate support for his ticket around Super Tuesday. Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is the one other remaining candidate.
Sanders served as the state’s at-large representative in the U.S. House from 1991 until 2007, when he moved to the Senate. In the upper house, his committee assignments are by and large focused on domestic issues. He’s been an independent for most of his political career, though he invariably caucuses with the Democrats and signed a loyalty pledge in filing for the party’s 2020 nomination race. He was Hillary Clinton’s principal primary challenger for the nomination in 2016. Here’s a look at his positions on climate change, immigration, security, trade, and Venezuela, as well as notable statements on regional issues during the campaign.
- Sanders proposes a $16.3 trillion plan to address climate change. He points out that climate change is a top concern, giving the example of the Amazon fires.
- He has been outspoken about Jair Bolsonaro’s actions harming the Amazon rainforest, calling the Brazilian president a “threat to working people, minorities, journalists, and a habitable planet.”
- Sanders backs the Green New Deal, proposing to convert America into a total renewable-energy country by 2030 and becoming a carbon-free economy by 2050. He also would commit to global emissions reductions, providing $200 billion to the Green Climate Fund, and rejoining the Paris Agreement.
- Sanders pointed out the lack of environmental provisions in United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, “I don’t know how in 2020 you could do that.” He voted against the trade deal.
- He says he would amend the Stafford Act to ensure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency can address recovery and community rebuilding after natural disasters, citing the case of Puerto Rico, with 130,000 people who left the island in the wake of Hurricane María due to lack of disaster aid.
- Sanders joins other candidates in calling for an end to the Remain in Mexico program and the cooperative asylum agreements the Trump administration inked with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. He then proposes to convene a hemispheric summit with the leaders of the Northern Triangle countries and Mexico to discuss the root causes of migration and how to address them.
- Sanders, in his second bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, would put a temporary halt on all deportations and decriminalize border crossings, instead making them a civil offense.
- He would establish a five-year path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
- He also supports extending legal protections for DACA and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) recipients and those who are eligible for the two programs, with the goal of ensuring that 85 percent of undocumented immigrants who have lived and worked in the United States for at least five years can stay without the threat of deportation.
- The senator would also extend TPS designations. In 2016, he called on then-President Barack Obama to stop deporting Central American immigrants fleeing violence in the region, saying they should instead be offered TPS.
- Sanders has indicated that he is willing to extend border security funding for better screening practices to stem the flow of migrants and asylum seekers.
- The senator would support a federal law against gun trafficking. He says he would refocus border enforcement to stop the flow of weapons and drugs at ports of entry.
- He has said that the demand for drugs in the United States is “absolutely fueling Mexican cartels and illegal drug runners” on U.S. soil. He says that the real question to address is why Americans increasingly turn to drugs, and for this matter the country needs more “educational and workplace opportunities.”
- He confirmed he would take executive action to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and legalize it at the federal level.
- He also states that as president he will work to stop human trafficking.
- He supports an assault weapons ban.
- While Sanders says on his website that “trade is a good thing,” he also says that the trade deals inked by Washington “were written by large multinational corporations for multinational corporations.” His campaign website says he supports “fair trade” deals that prevent outsourcing and include labor, environmental, and human rights standards.
- He has been a vocal critic and opponent of CAFTA, NAFTA, and TPP.
- The senator opposed USMCA, referring to it as “NAFTA 2.0” as a way to condemn it while slamming it for, in particular, not protecting the environment. During a February 7 Democratic debate, he said the new pact won't stop the outsourcing of U.S. jobs, adding, "There’s not one word in that trade agreement that deals with climate change. And I don’t know how in 2020 you could do that."
- The senator is a cosponsor of a Senate resolution that would prohibit the funding of any military operations in Venezuela without express congressional approval. He has said that a hypothetical U.S. military intervention in the country would be “disastrous.”
- He co-signed the June letter on TPS.
- He does not support broad economic sanctions and his administration “would not be in the business of regime change” and calls for negotiations with the Maduro government and free and fair elections.
- Sanders has one of the more complicated stances on Venezuela, for which he’s been critiqued from both the right and the left. The senator indeed seemed amenable to chavismo’s model of state largesse at one time and has twice declined to call Maduro a dictator when questioned by journalist Jorge Ramos during his current campaign. In a February 22, 2019, interview with the Univision anchor, Sanders said he did not consider Guaidó to be the legitimate president of Venezuela.
- That said, the senator takes pains to distinguish his democratic socialist ideology from what he sees as authoritarian communism in Venezuela, whose economy he labels “a disaster.” He calls comparisons between the two models to be “nonsense” and “extremely unfair,” likening his vision to the example of Canada and the Scandinavian countries instead. In a September 2019 Democratic debate, he said that “anybody that does what Maduro does is a vicious tyrant.” and he’s repeatedly criticized Maduro for his “violent crackdown” against civil society.
- In the 2016 election cycle, a campaign email in Sanders’ name alluded to Chávez as a “dead communist dictator.”
- The day after the long-time Bolivian President Evo Morales stepped down amid an election crisis, Sanders tweeted his concern about “what appears to be a coup” in the Andean country. He reiterated that characterization on a Meet the Press appearance on February 9.
- In an episode of 60 Minutes that aired February 23 regarding his assessment of Fidel Castro, Sanders cited the deceased head of state's literacy program in Cuba, saying, “We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing, even though Fidel Castro did it?” When interviewer Anderson Cooper noted the large number of imprisoned dissidents in Cuba, Sanders responded, “That’s right, and we condemn that.”
- When the topic came up at a debate two nights later, Sanders rearticulated his position and added that former President Barack Obama had voiced similar opinions on the topic. Biden took issue with this and said that Obama had condemned the authoritarian regime, while Sanders had not. “Categorically untrue,” Sanders responded. “Cuba, Nicaragua—authoritarianism of any stripe is bad. That is different than saying that governments occasionally do things that are good.”
- Alan Gross, a U.S. aid worker who was jailed in Cuba for five years, said that Sanders, while visiting him in prison as part of a delegation, remarked, “I don't know what’s so wrong with this country.” Sanders denies Gross’ account.
- Sanders has repeatedly voiced his and voted in opposition to military interventions, including by the United States in Latin America.