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Historian Joseph S. Tulchin once described U.S.-Latin American relations as a “historical legacy of conflict.” Over the last two years, the Biden administration has neglected regional concerns in Latin America. With a new year ahead, the Biden administration must revaluate its relationship with the region with ample considerations of social geopolitical elements tinted with historic predispositions. Regional concerns cannot continue to be addressed from a preoccupied hardline position. As other nations outside the Western hemisphere strengthen their influence in Latin America, the time to disregard human dignity as imperative to current affairs must end.

A U.S. Progressive Foreign Policy

While the Biden administration has advocated for a foreign policy stipulated to adhere to international human rights norms, it has failed to consider a progressive future centred on human dignity with a responsibility to respect, protect, and promote. Instead, the Biden administration’s policies towards Latin America have focused on bolstering dependant bilateral economic ties without social development investments that foster progressive liberal democratic expectations in a globalised reality, where investments indirectly reinforce violence.

Liberal democratic domestic reflections would improve U.S. foreign policy. To develop a progressive foreign policy centred on democracy, U.S. strategy must reflect on its domestic affairs of egalitarian principles and ensure that foreign objectives mirror the country’s domestic norms of freedom, justice, equality, and equity. Imperialistic wants are the components of capitalism’s degradation and will derail peaceful domestic stability at a subdued propensity. The policies that the U.S has at present have had unfavourable socio-economic outcomes for most of the region’s population.

Legacy of militarisation and police brutality

The U.S. has a long history of training police forces in Latin America with military personnel and it has funded military training in countries such as Brazil since the 1960s. Presently, the U.S provides weapons to repress Colombian protesters. To move beyond the U.S. legacies of militarisation and police brutality, the Biden administration must reflect on the U.S.’s role in military and police violence in the region. If the Biden administration does not support police brutality in the U.S., then foreign policy negotiations must match domestic needs of stability. The U.S. must demilitarise its foreign policy.

Rise of private military contractors and private firms

In recent decades, the U.S. has designated projects to private military contractors (PMCs). The bureaucratic fallbacks of this have strengthened private firms’ influence in government affairs and unrestrained outsourcing in charge of foreign policy derivatives. The 2030 8% budget increase to the Pentagon is projected to increase the number of PMCs worldwide. This affects Latin America, where PMCs have been documented to lead coups, promote private security to the wealthy, and regulate affairs in governance blind spots. Despite previous and contemporary disclosures, the cases have limited oversight or accountability in Latin America.  If not regulated, more PMCs could increase polarisation and trigger forms of illicit violence, socio-political contestation, and outward migration, as has been the case in Africa and the Middle East.

Furthermore, private firms cannot replace government. In this globalised system, markets are volatile. National governments must encourage and create incentives for private actors to address these failings rather than control outcomes. Globalisation through coercion is the surest strategy to ensure tepid complacency. Most of the population in Latin American countries are not in direct cooperation with the private contracts of private firms (MNCs) and have been in the fallback of failed liberal democratic outcomes, which upon their implication, are at times composed of human rights norms. The failure to adhere to human rights with a hardline position on human dignity but instead with exclusive realist notions of securitisation have resulted in popular backlash noted by the rise of populism and an increasing geopolitical contestation where China’s investments could exceed $700 billion by 2035.

Proliferation of populist movements  

Populism in Latin America is addressed as an obstacle of democratic illiberal consequences. Neoliberalism and its failures have given an opening to populist leaders who have justified their positions in campaigns as a response to the economic privatisation of social needs propelled by those of the U.S. Fears of democratic backsliding have resulted in foreign policies that by their causation pressure authoritarian tendencies without a consensus or comprehension on the causes. If history is of importance, in many countries of the world there have been no democratic transitions without elements of populism. Understanding democratic illiberalism should be at the forefront of strategy when addressing democratic backsliding in the region.

Democratic Illiberalism

Economic inequality in Latin America is one of the highest in the world. U.S. economic foreign policies without consideration of social forces that hinder risk degradation of influence. Dollarisation cannot be the sole solution for economic stability, as it encourages further dependency. Moreover, the Biden administration supports anti-corruption measures. Yet without the Biden administration addressing the decades of graft ignited by international cooperation, or the fallbacks of private firms, little to reduce inequality, therefore democratic illiberalism will be achieved, affecting democratic political stability.

Rise of Climate Migration

By 2050, outward migration will continue to increase as a result of climate catastrophes and environmental deterioration. U.S. foreign policy should account for this trend and offset outward climate migration by supporting domestic sustainability in urbanisation efforts through incentives or through economic trade. Instead, Biden’s $10.5 billion report focuses on responsive measures for Latin American migrants and the 2022 Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity plan is deficient. U.S. foreign policy outcomes should assist in the preventive infrastructure of Latin American countries, founded on economic justice, not one which primarily benefits the security of economic elites. Capitalism’s misconceptions of the underdeveloped will only stimulate outward migration until proper development objectives become incorporated into foreign policy.

Cognitive Warfare Tactics

Disruptive technologies and illicit control of knowledge provide room for misinformation campaigns. Electoral validity in a democratic nation is reliant on facts and not falsities. In Latin America, cognitive warfare tactics (CWTs) are meagerly addressed. CWTs alter the perception of another, influence the information sector, and threaten liberal democracy. China’s geopolitical influence includes CWTs, and multinational private firms have supported these incentives. If CWTs are increasing globally, promoting strings of the known causes of democratic backsliding, Latin America is no different. U.S. foreign policy efforts to reduce campaigns that promote inequality, misinformation, and violence should be on the negotiation table.

Towards a U.S foreign policy centred on human dignity

It is of utter importance to glean history as the Biden administration prepares for the future. Past administrations have instilled an ethos of free trade, cemented a new imperialism, a disregard for the impoverished, cut costs on wage labour, and promoted conflict. The Trump administration’s isolationist stance, with radical shifts in negotiations with Brazil and Mexico, provoked securitised regionalism. On the other hand, the Obama doctrine emphasised China’s global influence neglecting Latin American social development. The Biden administration has provided little response to the consequences thus far. It would be constructive if the Biden administration approached such countries with outcomes geared towards closing extreme economic inequality and police militarisation. The U.S.’s foreign policy must shift its legacy of realist securitisation and U.S. capital growth as its mission to one centred on human dignity, which is the responsibility to respect, protect, and promote our affairs with Latin America instead of sole securitisation.

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