The Hispanic ‘anti-red wave’ against Biden’s Latin America policy

While much of the post-election controversy has focused on imaginary “red waves” and “blue walls,” there is a real “anti-red wave” sweeping Florida. It was led by Hispanic voters, delivering a historic victory to Republican candidates statewide while delivering a stark rebuke to the Biden administration’s policy of appeasing communist dictators, socialist governments and China’s expansion into Latin America and the Caribbean.

Home to the nation’s largest diaspora of Americans of Cuban, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan and Colombian descent, among others, these Florida communities rallied to the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Marco Rubio and House members like Reps. Mario Diaz- Balart and Maria Elvira Salazar in an effort to counter the Biden administration’s obsession with dismantling policies — regardless of the consequences — designed during the Trump administration to assert and contain America’s adversaries in the region, while strengthening and America’s friends are rewarded. The contrast in approaches could not be clearer.

Last week, Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro strolled the halls of the COP-27 climate summit in Egypt, nonchalant, as he chatted with the likes of French President Emmanuel Macron and US envoy John Kerry. This was unthinkable just two years ago, when we led the largest coalition for democracy since World War II, with nearly 80 countries recognizing the legitimate constitutional government of interim President Juan Guaido, and designed one of the most extensive range of sanctions ever, including toward PdVSA, the Venezuelan oil company used as a piggy bank to bolster socialist regimes across the region.

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Mr. Maduro has also been charged with narcoterrorism, and a $15 million reward has been placed for his capture. The pressure is so intense that a few weeks before the November 2020 elections, Mr. Maduro sent an envoy to discuss locations in the Caribbean for his exile, if President Donald Trump wins re-election.

Meanwhile, in July 2021, Cubans led nationwide protests inspired by the theme “Patria y Vida” (“Homeland and Life”) against a regime severely crippled by new sanctions. These Trump-era sanctions strategically targeted the military’s economic monopoly, and for the first time since the 1996 enactment of the Libertad Act authorized Title III lawsuits against foreign companies that trafficked in property stolen from Americans. However, the regime of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has brutally repressed these protests, and hundreds of democracy advocates remain in prison without consequence. On the contrary, the Biden administration now seeks to normalize relations with both Messrs. Diaz-Canel and Maduro.

In Nicaragua, emboldened by the impunity of his allies in Caracas and Havana, President Daniel Ortega fully transitioned into a totalitarian dictator and arrested every potential opposition candidate and even the clergy. This is a far cry from Mr. Ortega’s desire to negotiate a democratic transition under the weight of our 2019 executive order and the Nica Act, which authorized and implemented sanctions against his energy and financial services conglomerates.

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Dictatorships aside, an ideological “red wave” of elected socialist governments has swept through the region, thanks to the blatant inconsistencies of the Biden administration, rewarding regional critics of US policy toward Russia and Venezuela, like Mexico and Argentina, of the White House visits, while it will not give a little commercial advantage to the allies in Ecuador and Uruguay. It celebrates the election of “former” terrorist Gustavo Petro in Colombia with a phone call from President Biden within an hour, after keeping his center-right predecessor, Iván Duque, on ice without contact in a few months.

The Biden administration has never had a kind word for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and has accused Central American leaders of being corrupt — yet is expressing excitement over the recent election of Brazilian socialist leader Lula da Silva, the most corrupt politician in the modern history of the region.

This creates fertile ground for China to further expand. In December 2019, we launched an initiative named “America Crece” (“Growth in the Americas”), which consists of energy and infrastructure agreements with countries to stimulate and secure US investment in these sectors, and counter Chinese state-owned entities. From its inception to January 2021, 16 countries in the region have signed “America Crece” agreements, while the last Belt and Road deal with China in the region was signed in April 2019. In other words, the US ran the scoreboard 16-0. Unfortunately, it was terminated on the first day of the Biden administration, along with a timely “coming soon” initiative, simply because of partisan shortsightedness.

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Meanwhile, at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which China joined in 2009 after paying a highly questionable $350 million “kickback,” three Chinese funds were created to jointly finance nearly 100 Latin projects America and the Caribbean with over $6. billion of IDB money over the past decade – with US taxpayers footing an exorbitant 30% of the bill – is finally being shut down. This issue is ripe for a congressional investigation into how this happened. Instead, the Biden administration is looking to return these Chinese funds.

The new Congress and its leaders, both Republicans and Democrats, would be wise to heed the call of the Hispanic “anti-red” wave and prioritize efforts to recalibrate Mr. Biden’s misguided policies toward hemisphere. As the saying goes, “good policy is good politics.”

• Mauricio Claver-Carone was deputy assistant to the president and senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council from 2018 to 2020. He was president of the Inter-American Development Bank from 2020 to 2022.


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