Despite a lack of focus on Latin America, the Trump Administration has carried out some steps in the region.
President Trump’s first month in office has been marred by controversial legislation and rhetoric. The bulk of the new administration’s policies focus on domestic affairs, Europe and ISIS. The main focus of the Trump Administration in the region has been Mexico, regarding NAFTA, immigration and the controversial border wall which was a major campaign promise of the Trump-Pence ticket. Relations have soured between Trump and Peña Nieto due to the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric by the American President. Peña Nieto canceled his visit to Washington which was set to take place earlier this month after Trump reaffirmed that Mexico will foot the bill for the wall.
The Trump Administration has expressed its concerns regarding the economic and political crisis in Venezuela. On February 13th, the U.S. government placed sanctions on the Vice President of Venezuela, Tareck El Aissami for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering. Additionally, Trump spoke with President Mauricio Macri of Argentina last week to discuss relations between the U.S. and Argentina, and the Venezuelan crisis. The President invited Macri to an official visit to the White House and although a date has yet to be announced, the meeting should take place in May as a stopover on Macri’s trip to Japan and China.
Regarding relations with Brazil, Vice President Mike Pence spoke with President Michel Temer earlier this month to discuss the promotion of the bilateral relationship between both countries. Additionally they agreed to remain in close communication to advance a shared vision for prosperity and peace in the region.
The former Ambassador to Brazil under the Obama Administration, Thomas Shannon, is currently serving as the Under Secretary for Political Affairs and he served as Acting Secretary of State during the transition period between Secretary Kerry and Tillerson. As an Obama appointed official Shannon is considered a balancing force in the state department, and although he could be relieved of his position at any time. However, given that he is a Career Foreign Service officer, there is a fair chance he will remain in his capacity. He was well respected in Brazil during his tenure as Ambassador which will facilitate the continuity of dialogue between the United States, Brazil and Latin American in general.