A future Joe Biden administration must break with the United States' failed and harmful policies toward Latin America and instead build a new relationship with the region grounded in "diplomacy, multilateralism, and engagement."
That's the call Thursday from 100 progressive groups to the former vice president and Democratic presidential nominee, outlining in a new letter six key areas for reform, such as undoing "the brutal harms" of President Donald Trump's immigration policies.
Signatories to the letter are organizations working on issues related to Latin America and the Caribbean and include Alianza Americas, CODEPINK, Global Exchange, IFCO/Pastors for Peace, and MADRE. The groups sent the same letter to President Donald Trump.
"The Trump administration openly calls its Latin America and Caribbean policy the 'Monroe Doctrine 2.0,' and the Democratic Party hasn't been much better. Its platform calls the entire Western Hemisphere 'America's strategic home base.' The countries and peoples of the Caribbean and Latin America aren't anyone's backyard or home base, they are sovereign and want their relations with Washington to be based on non-intervention, mutual respect, and cooperation for the common good," Leonardo Flores, Latin America campaign coordinator for CODEPINK, said in a statement.
As the groups write, "The Monroe Doctrine—asserting U.S. geopolitical control over the region—served as a pretext for over 100 years of military invasions, support for military dictatorships, the financing of security forces involved in mass human rights violations, economic blackmail, and support for coups against democratically elected governments, among other horrors that have caused many Latin Americans and Caribbeans to flee north in search of safety and opportunity."
The letter notes that a new administration will begin as the Covid-19 pandemic continues it global grip:
In January 2021, the president of the United States will face a hemisphere that will not only still be reeling from the coronavirus but will also likely be experiencing a deep economic recession. The best way for the United States to help is not by seeking to impose its will, but rather by engaging with the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean as equal partners.
To that end, the groups suggest the next president pursue a "New Good Neighbor Policy," referring to the effort put forth by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
A White House working towards such a policy will end economic sanctions—including those targeting Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua—which have brought about "widespread human suffering" and instead aim to "resolve its policy differences through diplomacy, multilateralism, and engagement."
Biden is also urged if he takes office to stop militarization policies, including the dumping of "hundreds of millions of dollars of police and military equipment and training" into the region that have served to advance the failed war on drugs.
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The groups further acknowledge that the U.S. "has frequently carried out military invasions to impose or remove political leaders and it has supported rightwing military coups that have invariably resulted in violent repression" when it must instead "respect the political sovereignty" of other nations.
Another key reform detailed in the letter is for the U.S. to defend human rights in region—a step the groups say must begin by signing and ratifying "international treaties including, but not limited to, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as other covenants relating to racial discrimination, women, children, persons with disabilities, migrants, and torture."
"The next administration must undo the brutal harms of the 2016-2020 Trump administration and must understand how past U.S. economic, security, and environmental policies have fueled mass migration," the groups add.
Simply picking up the playbook of the Obama administration would be unacceptable as well, the groups argue, given that it "deported more people than any administration ever before and built the infrastructure for the Trump administration to carry out violent anti-immigrant policies."
The letter details specific immigration-related actions:
[E]nact a day-one moratorium on all deportations; end mass prosecutions of individuals who cross the border; re-establish asylum procedures at the border; provide an immediate path to citizenship for the Dreamers and for Temporary Protected Status holders; terminate the Muslim Ban; rescind funding for the border wall; rescind the myriad abusive Trump administration's regulatory changes that have denied basic rights to immigrants; rescind the "zero-tolerance" (family separation) policy and other policies that prioritize migration-related prosecutions; reallocate resources away from immigration enforcement agencies and towards community-based alternatives to detention programs; and end private immigration detention.
A new approach to trade is essential as well. The groups point to previous economic interventions in the region that helped "to promote a neoliberal economic agenda that benefits transnational capital and local elites while generating greater inequality, environmental destruction and living conditions for ordinary citizens."
Forging a different path includes ending "investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions found in trade and investment agreements, which allow corporations to sue countries in supranational tribunal over public interest and environmental regulations that affect their expected profits."
"The principles of non-intervention and non-interference, mutual respect, acceptance of our differences, and working together for the common good could form the foundation of a New Good Neighbor policy that would allow the U.S. to restore peace and make a positive contribution to the well-being of people throughout the hemisphere," the letter says.