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Latin America and the Caribbean in the Era of Great Power Competition
In Latin America
Cooper Bargabus
Summer 21 Cohort
Jul 29, 2021
I always find it interesting to see the strategies that other countries are embracing through documents like these. The Chinese government seems to emphasizing their hopes for mutually beneficial cooperation. They have highlighted a desire to further develop stable economic relations through free trade agreements an industrial investment. Many LAC countries have benefitted significantly from the growth and exports markets created by Chinese trade, so they will likely embrace this. However, as these countries integrate further with China they may become dependent on them. We see a similar dynamic playing out with China's promise to provide loans to LAC countries as part of the Belt and Road initiative. While this may help develop infrastructure in the region, we have also seen many of the countries involved in this program end up saddled with significant debt. These countries would then be pressured to go along with what China says or risk them demanding immediate payment or even seizing assets. It will be vital for the US to provide an economic alterative to this entrapment. I also found the emphasis China put on supporting local governments interesting. Stability is a primary goal of LAC governments, so they will likely be open to receiving help in this area. This will likely especially be the case with authoritarian and illiberal regimes, who may admire the Chinese style of governance and accept their support in areas like policing and mass surveillance. This will not only strengthen authoritarianism, but also create more avenues for China to establish a commercial and military presence in the region. To further these objectives, they seem to be emphasizing winning the battle for public opinion. This document lays out plans for collaboration in areas like the media, academia, and NGOs that could easily be leveraged to promote pro-China sentiment. To combat this, it will be essential for the US to not only up our own messaging, but also to provide a compelling plan to benefit the region that will gain public support and provide a viable alternative to China.
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Latin America and the Caribbean in the Era of Great Power Competition
In Latin America
Cooper Bargabus
Summer 21 Cohort
Jul 27, 2021
This article does a good job of explaining the importance of the LAC region to the US. We not only benefit from trade and other forms of regional cooperation, but also from the security that our influence there provides. This is why its concerning that nations like Iran and Russia are bolstering autocratic regimes and attempting to establish a presence there. Unless the US works to substantially engage with the LAC countries and work with them to address security issues, we could quickly see our adversaries gain a significant foothold on our doorstep. It seems that China currently poses the most significant threat to US influence in this area. While the US still makes up the majority of trade with these countries, their commercial activity with China has been increasing substantially in recent years. We have also seen China use other soft power tactics like Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure investments and vaccine diplomacy to gain leverage in this area. The US can offset this by working to build more more comprehensive free trade agreements and providing alternate forms of financing to regional nations. We can also work to provide alternatives to China in 5G and other areas where Chinese companies pose a legitimate regional security risk. However, what may be more dangerous then any of this is China's military and technological support for authoritarian regimes in the region. This influence will be more difficult to combat, as we don't have a substantial commercial relationship with these countries that we can leverage. However, I think the US can play a role in containing this sort of authoritarianism by supporting democracy in nations that are vulnerable to backsliding.
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Latin America and the Caribbean in the Era of Great Power Competition
In Latin America
Cooper Bargabus
Summer 21 Cohort
Jul 26, 2021
The Latin American and Caribbean regions (LAC) are of vital interest due to our close proximity to them. There are a number of lucrative trade deals the US has in this region, including the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement worth nearly $53 billion. It is important that we play help ensure regional stability, as we have seen the negative spillover effects like drug trafficking and illegal migration that have resulted from insecurity in the LAC. We can play a role in directly combatting drug cartels through programs like Plan Columbia, which helped the Columbian military reduce cocaine production in the country by 72%. Aid like the $4 billion pledged by the Biden administration to Central America can also help improve living conditions and cut down on the root causes of instability. Additionally, ensuring that they receive enough vaccine doses will help these countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, we should confront authoritarian governments like Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua that are circumventing democratic and regional norms. This region has become significantly less stable in recent weeks. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse was a strong blow to the already tumultuous political system in Haiti. We have already seen increases in violence and criminal activity due to the power vacuum created by his overthrow. There has also been widespread protests against the Cuban government, some of which have been violently suppressed by police forces there. The Biden administration has taken some action in both of these instances, dispatching technical officials to Haiti and sanctioning top Cuban officials. However, as these situations worsen it will remain to be seen if further steps are taken.
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Cooper Bargabus
Summer 21 Cohort
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