In the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Democrats and left-wing media sought to portray Donald Trump as the anti-Latino candidate.
However, his record in office speaks otherwise.
Since his inauguration in January, the Trump administration has consistently sought to promote freedom and prosperity across the region. Here are some examples:
Rolling Back Obama’s ‘Cuban Thaw’
In June, Trump took steps to roll back the Obama administration’s “Cuban thaw,” which involved the warming of relations with the communist Cuban dictatorship through the lifting of travel restrictions, increased trade, and the reopening of embassies in both countries.
Under the new Trump regulations, the United States would prevent “individual people-to-people exchanges,” largely used by wealthy Americans to engage in prohibited tourism on the island. Trump made clear the objective of this regulation would be to limit the amount of American money entering the coffers of the Cuban military, which controls the vast majority of Cuba’s tourism industry.
While left-wing figures praised the legacy of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro following his death last November, Trump also expressed solidarity with the Cuban people.
Fidel Castro is dead!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2016
“Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades,” Trump said after Castro’s death, noting that his legacy was “one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”
In a speech to Cuban-Americans in Miami this year, Trump also promised to “expose the crimes of the Castro regime and stand with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom.”
“We know it is best for America to have freedom in our hemisphere, whether in Cuba or Venezuela and to have a future where the people of each country can live out their own dreams,” he continued.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017
Sanctions on Venezuela
Since the outset of his presidency, Trump has repeatedly shown his support for the Venezuelan people with both statements and sanctions designed to exert pressure on the socialist dictatorship amid the country’s unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
Trump has repeatedly warned that the United States will “not stand by as Venezuela crumbles” and has even refused ruled out military action in response to the crisis.
Following the creation of an illegal lawmaking body known as the “constituent assembly,” effectively rendered the country into a dictatorship, the Trump administration has placed personal sanctions on Maduro, which include the freezing of assets and travel restrictions, as well as broader sanctions banning Americans from dealing in Venezuelan government debt or that of its state-run oil company.
In a speech at the United Nations in September, Trump also blamed the socialist ideology that has led to Venezuela’s collapse.
“The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented,” Trump continued. “From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or Communism has been adopted it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.”
Forging Relations with the Region’s Right-Leaning Governments
Trump has forged relationships with some of Latin America’s right-wing governments, including Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Brazilian president Michel Temer, and Argentine leader Mauricio Macri.
Following his election victory last year, Trump and Brazil’s Temer spoke over the phone and agreed to work together to improve business relations between the two largest economies in the Americas.
In February, Trump invited Kuczynski to the White House. The pair discussed a range of issues from Latin American trade to Peruvian immigrants living in the United States.
“Peru has been a fantastic neighbor,” Trump said. “We have had great relationships — better now than ever before. And I have known him for quite a while through reading about the work that he has done.”
Meanwhile, during his meeting with Macri, the pair discussed Trump’s decision to renegotiate NAFTA, as well as how to deepen relations between the two countries.
“If I’m unable to make a fair deal for the United States, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA,” he said. “But we’re going to give renegotiation a good, strong shot.”
Promoting Former SOUTHCOM Chief John Kelly to White House Chief of Staff
In August, Trump promoted General John Kelly to White House chief of staff. A former Commander of United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), a role covering all of Latin America, Kelly built a reputation for his tough approach to communism, violence, and drug trafficking across the region.
Whilst in charge of SOUTHCOM, Kelly repeatedly warned of the increasing presence of the narco-terrorist group Hezbollah, amid growing links between Iran and a number of nations such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Cuba.
Kelly was also a prominent critic of the Obama administration’s approach to Latin America and urged lawmakers to pour greater resources into ensuring the security of the region.
“Unless confronted by an immediate, visible, or uncomfortable crisis, our nation’s tendency is to take the security of the Western Hemisphere for granted,” Kelly said before Congress last year. “I believe this is a mistake.”
MS-13 Task Force
The Trump administration has prioritized the wholesale destruction of the Salvadorian criminal gang MS-13, known for its violence and brutality.
The plan, championed by Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, seeks to imprison and deport MS-13 gang members, as well as stop networks operating out of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
“Together we’re going to restore safety to our streets and peace to our communities and we’re going to destroy the vile, criminal cartel MS-13 and many other gangs,” Trump said in a speech in New York in July.
Big progress being made in ridding our country of MS-13 gang members and gang members in general. MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2017
Meanwhile, Sessions made an unannounced visit to El Salvador in July, while his department announced that the Salvadoran government had charged 113 MS-13 members in a sweep that netted 593 total gangsters in the war-torn nation.