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Washington's 'Blind Eye' Toward Human Rights Abuses in Latin America

September 29, 2020

With a record number of Latinos eligible to cast their ballot in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, the future of U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America has become a pressing issue for many of them—as well as for both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden...

“The key, in my view, is to stand for principles and U.S. interests such as democracy, open markets, and the rule of law, and to be ready to partner with any nation broadly guided by these same values, while being unwilling to overlook abuses when they are perpetrated by those perceived as friends,” said Eric Farnsworth, who worked on Latin America in the Clinton administration.

“It is also critically important, of course, that the United States abide by these principles itself, or else credibility suffers significantly, and the ability to promote such a values-based agenda is dramatically reduced,” said Farnsworth, now vice president of the Council of the Americas.

Part of the problem when it comes to Latin America is domestic politics, Farnsworth says, with Democrats strident on abuses in right-wing countries seen as close to the United States, and Republicans generally harsh on left-wing countries while seemingly offering a free pass to others. “The politicization of U.S. policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean has been an unfortunate reality at least since the 1980s, making sustainable progress over time more difficult,” Farnsworth said...

“The rhetorical tone would change immediately, from ‘rapists and murderers’ to ‘partners and neighbors,’” said Farnsworth, ticking off a list of probable policy reversals. The Obama-era engagement with Cuba would likely be revisited, while the Mexican border wall and the ineffective maximum pressure campaign on Venezuela would be halted in favor of a negotiated solution to the political impasse. Human rights, the environment, and regional pandemic response would all be likely priorities...

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