U.S. Missing Opportunities with Latin America, Chile's Leader Says

By Missy Ryan

"You have a U.S. government that has tried to place democracy front and center in its foreign policy," said AS/COA's Brian Winter to The Washington Post.

The United States is missing opportunities to advance its democratic goals for Latin America by refusing to engage with adversaries in the region, according to Chile’s new president.

Gabriel Boric, a 36-year-old who became president in March after being catapulted into power by a wave of social unrest, objected to the Biden administration’s decision not to invite the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to this week’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles over those countries’ authoritarian ways. […]

Brian Winter, vice president for policy of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, said Boric is a new brand of Latin American leftist.

Winter cited the Chilean leader’s elevation of human rights more than two decades after Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 dictatorship and his effort to address a host of challenges by hewing to the country’s democratic institutions.

Boric stands out among Latin America’s leftist leaders for his willingness to criticize authoritarians like Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega. And unlike leaders who espouse leftist economic ideas but oppose abortion and LGBT rights, like Peru’s Pedro Castillo, he is a social liberal. His Cabinet is majority-female and includes two openly gay officials.

“That’s unique and laudable, but there are no guarantees of success,” Winter said. “There is a chance that Boric and his government don’t land the plane safely.”…

But analysts say the region’s commitment to democracy has waned, in part because such systems have not resolved enduring problems of corruption, insecurity and severe economic inequality. Many in the region no longer feel elections and democratic institutions should be the ticket for entry to trade and other forms of global cooperation, a trend reflected in the region’s growing commercial relationship with China.

“That’s the real tension of that debate,” Winter said. “You have a U.S. government that has tried to place democracy front and center in its foreign policy, and a region that is saying, ‘We really need to engage with everyone, and also don’t make decisions for us.’ ”…

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