Americas, Politics and Government

Tillerson’s Attempt to Mend Ties in Latin America

Christopher Sabatini- 2.9.18

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s five-country trip to Latin America and the Caribbean didn’t start well.

He kicked off the tour last week with a stop at his alma mater, the University of Texas, Austin, where he gave a tin-eared endorsement of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, saying that America’s right to block outside interference in the hemisphere is “as relevant today as it was the day it was written.”

In a region that has suffered countless United States interventions in the name of the Monroe Doctrine, invoking it as a legitimate guide for American foreign policy is only slightly better than advocating the “white man’s burden.”

For the past year, the Trump administration has consistently offended many of the basic tenets of hemispheric relations. What made the embrace of the Monroe Doctrine so surprising — though it was intended as a warning of creeping Chinese influence in the region — was that the unstated purpose of Mr. Tillerson’s six-day swing through Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Colombia and Jamaica was to repair some of that damage from the past year and attempt to shore up regional support for isolating Venezuela’s autocratic government.

While in the end Mr. Tillerson may have achieved his basic goal of securing support for tighter sanctions on the Venezuelan government, it was a narrow victory in a region where the United States has broad, varied interests.

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