by Marco Gandásegui, hijo
Last week the president of the United States, Donald Trump, made a phone call to his Panamanian counterpart, Juan Carlos Varela. Varela said that Trump “congratulated him for his administration” for the “good that’s coming to the country” and that soon he wanted receive him in Washington.
According to other sources, Trump also spoke to Varela about Venezuela. The relations between Panama and Caracas are good. Everything indicates, according to those who analyzed the phone call, that the US president wants to change this tie, which is above all based on commercial interests. In the case of relations between Panama and the United States — and with the rest of the region — in the backdrop there is the ever-present analogy of the carrot and the stick. The United States may offer a “carrot” in exchange for some favor by the country in question. The carrot may be in kind, in cash or, usually, a promise not to use the ‘stick’ against the interests of the affected.
Trump still hasn’t stated in any explicit way his policy toward the Latin American region. However, his denigration of Mexican leaders (and in passing that country’s people) was expressed in his first campaign speech in 2015, when he announced his decision to build a wall. Although all of the oligarchies of Latin America think that they have “special relations” with the United States, all are seen with disdain by the North American establishment. Trump makes this explicitly known. Trump speaks not only in his own name or in the name of an extreme sector of public opinion. He speaks for the ruling class of his country, as its founding fathers clearly expressed it almost 250 years ago.
Trump’s calls to his colleagues around the world follow a very clear pattern. It helps to refer to the analysis of Cuban journalist Néstor García to follow the chronology. The pattern — probably designed by Trump’s advisers — first of all, privileges the rulers of countries with Anglo-Saxon’roots: Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Followed by Japan, the honorable ally of the Anglo Saxon countries. He called rulers who are sitting on huge oil fields in Africa and the Middle East. It would have to be added, then, calls to to India, South Africa and Israel (the US aircraft carrier in the Eastern Mediterranean). In Latin America, he contacted countries with policies closer to US interests. It seems that the intention is to build a ‘political’ wall around Venezuela. Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, and Colombia are the closest points to the Bolivarian homeland. He also called the president of Argentina and sat in the White House with the president of Peru, both considered an important part of the ‘rearguard’ of a future offensive against Caracas.
He had a one-hour conversation with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and another more formal talk with the leader of China. His apparent admiration for the Russian leader has often been publicized. He called the president of France and the chancellor of Germany, with whom he exchanged diplomatic greetings. He also called European leaders in Spain, Italy and Ukraine. He ignored the rest of the members of the European Community and of NATO.
In Latin America he initially did not call the leaders of Mexico, Central America or supposedly allied countries like Chile, Brazil, Paraguay or Uruguay. Nor did he make any effort to build a bridge — even if symbolic — to the ALBA countries.
The direction that Trump’s foreign policy will take is not based on his phone calls. They may, however, reflect a trend. He has his inclinations, the powerful American establishment has others. Trump wants to see China’s “containment” and an “alliance” with Russia. He wants to destroy the Islamic state and “take oil from Iraq,” as well as collect what he considers to be old debts owed by Europe.
In the case of Latin America, Trump’s policy is reflected in his campaign against Mexico, which continues despite his already having occupied the White House more than a month ago. Perhaps it will focus its attention on Venezuela, due to the oil reserves beneath its soil. He has already accused the vice president of that country of being a drug trafficker, without evidence. (It’s a formula widely used by Washington to discredit). The United States has the OAS as a tool to activate the “Charter for Democracy.” But it needs the support of President Varela and the other leaders in the region to first strike the diplomatic blow, and then to deploy military force if necessary.
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