President-elect Joe Biden knows Latin America well – he was ultimately responsible for foreign policy with the region under the Obama Presidency. Despite this, the democrats lost ground in the American Latino vote in the 2020 US election, so what does a Biden presidency mean for the region?
Biden’s triumph is important for many in Europe because it could mean the return of a globalist strategy for the US. An international relations professor in Argentina doesn’t see this benefit extending to Latin America, “I don’t see big changes for the region. Biden is more positive and diplomatic in style than Trump but I don’t think the actual foreign policy for Latin America will change much.”
“I don’t see big changes for the region.”
International relations professor, Argentina
A senior adviser to the Workers’ Party (PT) in Brazil agrees, “In truth, US foreign policy towards Latin America hasn’t changed much for a long time and I don’t think it will change now. Biden favours global institutional relations and governance that may be more in tune with Europe but doesn’t mean much in Latin America.”
Both sources believe a Biden administration will not fundamentally reset relations with Latin America and is even likely to maintain some inherited policies such as the strong military alliance with Brazil, which is shared with Colombia. Biden may also seek to follow up on the America Crece initiative [a programme that seeks to catalyse private investment in infrastructure in Latin America and The Caribbean] to counter China’s geopolitical gains in the region.
There is hope among some leftist governments in Latin America that Biden may be more aligned with their interests but our sources don’t agree. A Mexican political commentator states bluntly, “Biden is not left wing.” The Argentinian professor expands, “It is a relief to the world that Trump has not been re-elected, but from there to think that Biden will support leftist governments is too far. I don’t see foreign policy towards Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba or Bolivia changing much.”
Brazil is an interesting case to watch – Bolsonaro has an ideological affinity for Trump and openly declared his support for him. A country risk analyst at a Brazilian bank believes this could end Bolsonaro’s re-election hopes, “Bolsonaro’s strategy was to leave the BRICs behind and become the US’ partner in Latin America. A Biden Presidency will be a blow to Bolsonaro and his re-election bid. He will have to work hard to build bridges.”
“A Biden Presidency will be a blow to Bolsonaro and his re-election bid.”
Country risk analysts, Brazilian bank
On the surface, it appears that a Biden Presidency will be positive for Latin America with more collaboration, resilience and stability. Local experts are sceptical but ultimately actions will speak louder than words.